Thursday, July 30, 2009

White Trash Bob

A few months ago, my across-the-street neighbor Bob insisted that I give him a cool nickname. "Everybody else has a cool nickname," he said, "and I'm just Bob." I objected, "No,'re Across-The-Street Bob." He said that wasn't good enough and suggested I refer to him henceforth and always as White Trash Bob. Who am I to argue with a man who's wired my garbage disposal, loaned me tools, bought me cups of coffee and bread pudding when the going gets tough, disconnected my doorbell, and even salvaged 1870s clapboards for me to use on the side porch? White Trash Bob it is.

Monday afternoon White Trash Bob showed up in my side yard and declared it was time to go to River Reader (the local bookstore) for a cold drink. Arguing with this man is futile, so I wrapped my paintbrush in a Wal-Mart bag and walked uptown with him. I knew he had something on his mind. In the air-conditioned comfort of River Reader, over cold cans of pop, he dropped it: "Darlin, why are you killing yourself on that house? It's still gonna be there tomorrow. You don't have to finish it by this deadline of yours. Just do what you can, when you can, and it'll all get done. Or it won't, and then you'll be a contributor to the decay of our neighborhood." That Bob, he always gives both sides of an issue.

But maybe, just maybe, Bob is right. In fact, I've never known him to be wrong. Honestly. So on Tuesday I slept late, put the second coat of yellow paint on the side porch, took a nap, painted the corner pieces of the side porch green, and then went to Taco Night at The Red Dawg Saloon. And on Wednesday I contributed to the decay of our neighborhood by doing nothing. Now it's the wee hours of Thursday morning at work. We'll see how I feel 12 hours from now after I've had some sleep.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Adding Insects to Injury, and Grrrl Power

I was supposed to have help today. My friend Cookie, a big tough firefighter guy, offered to help me with the house. But today, he was a no-show. Stood up for house-painting. That's a first. I don't think our friend Ryan shouting, "Dude! Have you actually seen her house?!!" a week or so ago at breakfast had anything to do with Cookie's absence today. Surely not.

But I soldiered on, determined to get a lot of work done on that side porch. Towards the end of last fall, my enthusiasm for scraping paint and filling another thousand nail holes and cracks waned and I'd left the side porch completely unfinished. So today I scraped and painted the side porch (while silently cursing Cookie) and in between all that got three more windows painted. At which point I realized that I'd somehow miscounted windows and I still have seven windows to go. (2 on the east side + 3 on the front + 2 on the west side = 7) Oh well, what's another couple windows in the scheme of things?

Y'all remember I previously did battle with the mud-dawber nests on one wall. That left three walls still full of 'em. I thought I'd thoroughly gassed the mud-dawbers last week...but I thought wrong. Many of the nests which I had thought to be vacante were actually occupado. How do I know this? Because breaking apart those mud nests with a scraper revealed their yucky little larvae, all wrapped up in green leaves like teeny, nasty, little sushi rolls. Blech. (Damn Cookie anyhow. If he was here, this particular nastiness would be his job....) As if the disgusting wasp nests weren't enough to deal with, about midway through the afternoon I noticed my heel sticking to the sole of my rubber flip-flop. What the heck? I looked down to see my shoe covered in blood which was streaming down my leg. After rinsing off my leg with the garden hose, the extent of my injury became visible: a very small puncture wound about the size of, say, the head of a finishing nail. Must've missed one—with the hammer at least, if not with my leg. (And because I know someone will ask, yes, my tetanus shot is current.) Band-Aid and back to work.
As I was putting the second coat of paint on a very small section of side porch, my bestie Sharon called. "You and Cookie gettin a lot done today?" she asked. "Cookie who?" I growled. She sighed, "You have got to be kiddin me. Well...I'm mad at men today already, so after work I'll come over and we'll kick butt on that porch. We don't need no men to help us!"
Sharon, at least, is as good as her word. She painted the lower half of one end of the porch while I painted the upper half of the other end. Then we traded. My end of the porch was smaller, so I painted the porch ceiling blue while she finished up. Painting goes so much faster when you're grumbling to your best friend about the unreliability of men these days.
Pretty soon we had the whole porch clad in its first coat of yellow (the photos were taken before we finished for the day) and the ceiling turned from dusty white to Blue Envelope blue. (It's an odd blue, I think, but pretty close to the shade of blue that's the bottom layer of paint on the ceiling.) Kick butt we did.
And tomorrow, more butt-kicking, although solo again. I'll put the second coat of paint on the side porch, paint the corner pieces over there green, and tackle the last of the front windows with those itty-bitty muntins. Photos to follow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Little Bit Done

Make that eight windows still un-painted.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Un-Done

Okay, okay, clamoring readers (all three or four of you) I have some photos. Maybe not exactly what you were hoping for, though. As y'all who have been reading this for a while know, my little mind sometimes works in strange ways, so I took photos of what I haven't completed rather than what I have. The List of the Un-Done, once again:

The front of the house above the parlor bump-out....and the new porch without brackets....
The area above the dining room bay, one of the nine un-done windows, and two more windows way in the back....
The screen porch frames that are still bare wood...and the front of the house under the porch roof that's white....and two more unpainted windows....(and inside the screened-in porch, two kitties who'd rather be play-fighting in the yard) The tall part of the east side, which Floyd thinks will take me four hours to paint completely....once I borrow his ladder, that is....and another window....

Last but not least, the little side porch. Note the mud-dawber nests on the wall next to the yellow wall....and the holes for the stovepipe and the dryer vent...and the seventh of nine unpainted windows....
But what's this?! Why, it's a close-up photo of the finished front windows! Both eyes now have mascara! The black muntins and stained glass panes show up lots better with the long sheers, too. Thanks, everyone, for the idea.
And there you have it, the complete list of The Un-Done, to be followed shortly by more photos of The Done.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Progress As Promised

Here in Missouri, the Department of Transportation puts up signs when they begin a new project. "New pavement by July 2009" or something like that. And when the project nears completion, they put up other signs that read "Progress As Promised". Back on Friday, I promised progress on my four days off, as well as before-and-after photos. Well...I have lots of progress to tell you about, but no photos to show you. (The camera is telling me the memory card is full, but it's not, so no photos until I figure that out.)

Saturday, the happy occasion of my mom's 82nd birthday, I surprised her with some danish (danishes?) from Panera Bread. Panera is one of her favorite places to eat, but she won't buy those treats for herself. Then I went home to rest up before shopping with her. Typical of Mom, she bought two things as presents for other people and nothing for herself. Typical of me, I bought two things for the house (two Add-A-Rods) and nothing else. I still wish I'd bought that big platter with the rooster on it and the Fiesta salt and pepper shakers....

Now about that progress....On the west side of the house, the last little section needing a second coat of yellow paint now has one, the guttering is all painted cream, and the kitchen window looks spiffy. That was indeed the kitchen storm window in the back of the shed under the tomato cages, so after hauling it out of there and cleaning and painting it, I put it back on the kitchen window. Hopefully, no more frost on the inside of the kitchen window this winter.

And speaking of windows....I decided to go ahead and buy longer sheers for the front windows so the black muntins around the stained glass panes would show up better, so on Sunday night I raised the curtain rods from mid-window to top and hung the new sheers. What a difference that made, both inside and out! (Darnit, I wish I had a picture to show you.) On Monday I painted all the little muntins and the sash black on the other front window, did the same for one of the narrow windows on the side of the front parlor bump-out, painted all the window trim cream, and with my son's help re-hung the storm window during, appropriately, a rainstorm. Then I painted a little bit more of the house that's under the front porch roof and filled in some nail holes that I missed last fall.

And then....I braved the side porch. I should mention here that bugs freak me out. Freak. Me. Out. Dead or alive, I don't like 'em. I especially don't like the kind of bugs that fly and/or sting. So last fall when Larry and I discovered 50 or 60 mud-dawber nests under the shingles on the side porch I freaked out, screamed, jumped off the porch and vowed not to go back there until I absolutely have to. Guess what? Now I have to. So I put on my big-girl pants and my little paper mask so I wouldn't breathe in mud-dawber-nest-dirt, picked up my scraper, and commenced to removing the nests from the house. It horrifies me. It's like Cities of the Underworld for mud-dawbers. The catacombs under the streets of France. The Valley of the Kings in Egypt. All those dead mud-dawbers entombed in those nests....Ewww. Ick. Jeez. But I persevered until the yucky brown outdoor carpet glued to the porch floor was covered with mud-dawber debris. Then I cut that carpet into strips, ripped it off the floor, and threw it in the trash. The floor looks better than I thought it would overall, but the outer edges have a lot of water damage and the floor will need to be replaced sometime. I'm planning to do that immediately after I fall through it and not a moment before then.

So what's left to be done in the house-painting project? Dig this: the trim on nine windows (six large ones, two small ones, and one medium-sized one), the upper part of the east side of the house, the side porch (which is small—nine feet long and three feet wide), the area above the front parlor bump-out, the rest of the house under the front porch roof, the second coat on the area above the dining room bay, and the screen panel frames on the east side of the house. Oh, and the porch brackets need to be nailed in place. That's it. No really, it's not all that much. I know it sounds like a lot, but it's not. Really. I'm giddy just thinking about how close I am to finishing this massive, crazy project. Or maybe I'm delirious. Either way, I'm gonna make that August 10th deadline.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"Clear The Mechanism"

Every other Friday it happens. I sit here at work on the eve of my four days off and start planning the attack on the house.

First I check the weather: Saturday and Sunday, sunny; Monday, mostly sunny; and Tuesday, partly sunny. High of 86. Okay, weather's a go.

Next I check my schedule for prior commitments: Saturday morning is committed to sleep until about noon. After that it's an afternoon of hanging out with my mama, browsing antique stores, and eating either a late lunch or an early supper on the occasion of her 82nd birthday. I'll try to get some photos of my camera-shy but cute little mom. The rest of the weekend is open.

Then I mentally review my supplies: paintbrushes still Saran-wrapped (yes, I cheat and don't rinse em out); ladders not in use by anyone else; miscellaneous tools all lined up on the porch; plenty of Gatorade in the fridge; but two paint cans almost empty. Make a mental note to buy a gallon of cream paint and a gallon of yellow paint.

And then the craziness starts. I start to review what needs to be done. The front of the house looks weird with only one window black and cream, and the holes (from a stovepipe and a dryer vent) on the side porch need to be fixed, and the new porch needs to be painted, and the house under the front porch roof is still white (but I can do that on a rainy day), and the upper part of the house all around needs painting but maybe I should wait to borrow Floyd's ladder and do that all at once, and the downspouts need to be put back on the house but I don't know if I can manage that alone, and all the rest of the windows need to be painted, and I need to see if that storm window in the back of the shed might be the missing storm from the kitchen window, and...and...and...and all these thoughts bounce around in my head like a ping-pong ball for an hour or so while I plan and re-plan and re-plan again. Until I remember Kevin Costner's character in "For Love of the Game". He's standing on the pitcher's mound trying to get a no-hitter in his last game ever and he takes a breath and thinks, "Clear the mechanism," sighs, and pitches a perfect game. So I sigh. And I clear the mechanism that is my hamster-wheel brain.

At last, I have a plan: Saturday, after sleep, is a play day. Sunday will be a long slog of working on the front windows, as much as I can get done in one day. On Monday, if I'm not sick of working on the windows, I'll finish up the front parlor windows and move on to the west side of the house, where a small section still needs a second coat of yellow paint and some other work needs to be done before I can call that side of the house completed. (Except for the high part.) On Tuesday, I'll work on the east side of the house or declare it Side-Porch Day and make some headway on that long-neglected porch.

Stay tuned for before-and-after photos, but not necessarily of the above-mentioned projects. Sometimes my mechanism doesn't clear just because I tell it to.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Haven't done one of these in a while...Not because I don't have anything to be thankful for, but because Thursday usually comes and goes without my noticing.

1. I'm thankful that Ryan and the boys were across the street. Yesterday a West Peculiar (Mo.) fire engine was struck by a semi at highway speed. You can read the article and see the photos here. My friend Ryan and my friend Carrie's boyfriend were on that engine crew, but were across the street cleaning up from a previous wreck when their own apparatus was involved in a bad wreck. I'm very glad they weren't in the engine.

2. I'm thankful for my best friend Sharon. We're almost inseparable on our days off. We eat together (usually at the Mexican place), we talk endlessly on the phone, we wander Wal-Mart together late at night, and this week she came over to help me paint my house. On her vacation, no less. I don't know what I'd do without her phone calls saying, "Let's go to supper and talk about boys."

3. I'm thankful my cats eat flies. I had the front door open periodically Monday and Tuesday painting the trim, and a lot of flies got in the house. Louie and Marie catch the flies and eat them. It's a cooperative effort—Marie knocks them out of the air, Louie mashes them, and then one or the other of them eats them. This is both hilarious to watch and useful, since it's much easier to sleep without flies buzzing around one's head.

4. I'm thankful I figured out Bluetooth. When I bought my Soul, I noticed that on the steering wheel were little phone icons, so I had a vague idea that my phone might be able to be linked into the vehicle somehow using Bluetooth, but I had no idea how to do it. For two months now I've assumed that this technology was far too complicated for me to venture into. Happily, I was wrong. Five minutes after reading the owner's manual I made my first hands-free call.

5. I'm thankful for French toast. Since Sean passed away, I haven't cooked at all. Until Sunday night, when I made French toast for supper with a minimum of tears. Whisking together an egg, cream, cinnamon, sugar and a little nutmeg, just like Sean used to, made me feel better instead of worse, just as I thought it might. And, making perfect French toast with thick slices of bread made me feel brave enough to want to cook a "real" meal on my upcoming days off.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Paint Is Magical

For years and years now whenever someone says, "That ratty old house needs to be torn down!" I'm one of the first to pipe up with, "Nah, it just needs a coat of paint!" I firmly believe in the almost magical quality of fresh paint to transform an old house. (Sometimes for the worse, but that's a post for another time.) Anyhoo...yesterday I had to be reminded of this when I was grumbling about my ratty aluminum storm door. "I want a glass full-view door," I whined, "instead of this crappy, ugly door." My friend Sharon (who came over on her vacation yesterday to help me paint—what an awesome friend!!) gave me a sidelong glance and said, "Maybe it'd look better with a coat of paint." So I took her advice—heck, the trim around the door needed to be painted anyhow—and painted the yucky door. And I must say, it doesn't look nearly so yucky anymore. It almost looks nice. I think I can live with it for another year or so while more pressing purchases are made.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

August 10th

The 10th of August. August 10, 2008 is the day the shingle-ripping ended. It's the day my friend Harriet stopped her car in the middle of the street to applaud. It's the day I counted no less than 40 trash bags of shingles and tar paper in my yard. It's the day I returned the trusty Stanley Wonder Bar to White Trash Bob with a wee tear in my eye.

So it's fitting, I think, that I'm aiming for August 10, 2009 as the day the painting ends. It's possible. Between now and then, if I'm counting right—and I have been awake for hours and hours, so my counting could be faulty—but if I'm counting right, I have 15 days off. With good weather, determination, and a little bit of help, it's possible. You heard it here first.

Friday, July 10, 2009

That A-Hole Across the Street

There really is a reason for that strange post title...A very funny reason, which I'll get to in a minute. But first, an update on Dylan and Sarah's kitchen. After Sarah's dad and Dylan finished fixing the sill plate, Dylan had to reinforce the cinder block basement wall with Quik-Rete. (And by the way, that "thing" on Dylan's shoulder is a tattoo of Saint Michael, and you can see the inspiration for it here.)

Then (or maybe before) Dylan and Sarah's dad completely tore out the old kitchen floor....and somehow caused a small gas leak which had to be repaired...

And put in new floor joists, and Dylan dug a hole in the dirt crawl space for the new kitchen duct work...

And then Sarah's dad did a little electrical work so they can turn the light above the sink on and off with a switch instead of by unscrewing the light bulb...And they put a new subfloor in...

And that's where they've stopped for now. Note the stove on the back porch. I think the fridge is out there, too, or maybe in the dining room.
Now for the funny story: Dylan and Sarah live across the street from the Lion's Club building, which is frequently rented out for parties. ("Frequently" meaning "every darn weekend".) Lately the same group of 50-60 people has rented out the Lion's Club every darn weekend and partied way past the 2 a.m. rental agreement. They park their cars in Dylan's side yard, have loud drunken conversations in the middle of the street, throw beer cans and other litter into Dylan's yard, and generally make Dylan and Sarah's life on the weekends a little slice of Hell. Dylan has been over there several times to bring these issues to their attention. Words have been exchanged. Dylan's badge has been shown. On a couple of occasions, he's had to call for backup from an on-duty cop. And still it persists. So the last time the partying got out of hand, Dylan burst out the front door of his house, strode across the street, yanked open the door of the Lion's Club, and yelled into the drunken crowd that he wanted to speak to the person who signed the rental agreement. A very drunk young man appeared and said, "Dude, dude, dude...calm down. We'll clear out. Just don't get that a##hole from across the street over here!" Dylan went toe-to-toe with him, showed his badge, and said, "I am that a##hole from across the street! Now get out!" That's my boy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thanks, Carl

Sometimes I get discouraged. Like last week, when I broke one of the dining room storm windows while trying to put it back up. (I patched it with clear tape. Looks real nice.) Or like I did on Sunday, when I looked at how much of the house I have left to paint. (The high parts, the porches, 14 windows, and almost all the guttering.) Or like I did on Monday, when I cut my right forearm and almost fell off the ladder trying to put up a storm window by myself. And so Monday evening I gave in to my discouragement. I acted like a girl. I leaned my forehead against the house and put a paper towel on my bleeding arm and cried. "Need some help?" I heard someone ask and, still sniffling, I turned to see who it was. My neighbor Carl. He and a friend of his picked up the storm window and propped it into place. "Now get up there on that ladder and put those screws in, kid. We're not standing here all day. You know, things are pretty bad when you have to depend on two old guys to help you. Where the hell are those firemen you work with? Where's that boyfriend of yours?" I bit my bottom lip hard, climbed the ladder and while putting the screws back in, explained that the firemen are a bunch of whiners and my boyfriend disappeared sometime during the Great Overtime War of last month. "Well, I'll be damned, honey," Carl said. "Looks like no one wants to work. Don't worry about it. Just look how far you've come. And I'm still having that party for you when you finish the house. Hang in there, the end's in sight." We finished hanging the storm window and I climbed down from the ladder, wiped away my tears, and said to Carl, "Thanks so much. For everything. I'm knockin off early today." He awkwardly patted my shoulder and walked back across the street to sit on his porch with his friend and drink cold beer.
And me? I soaked in a hot bathtub, supervised by Baby Cat, while drinking a big glass of cold wine and listening to The Wreckers. And afterwards, I wrapped up in my big fluffy robe and dug out photos of the house from last summer. The one in this post was taken the last week of June last year. Carl's right, I have come a long way. Thanks again, Carl.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Thanks, Nate

This post is for Nate. Y'all know Nate, formerly of North Dakota, late of New York City...yeah, that Nate. See, way back when I was picking paint colors I temporarily lost the nerve to paint the window sashes black like they were originally. "It'll be too much of a contrast with the yellow house," I said. "It'll look funny with the storm windows," I said. But Nate would have none of it. He encouraged me to paint them black, and suggested I paint the storm windows, too. He said his mom painted the storms on his parents' house and it worked out fine. And then he said the words that have stayed with me all this time (words which I am quoting as best I remember, because I'm darned if I can find his original comment): "I think you should paint the window sashes dark. Without it, the house will seem like a beautifully made-up face without mascara."

And I am very happy to say that Nate is absolutely right! Window on the left, with mascara. Window on the right, without it.
And a closer look, so you can see that I painted the storm window, too. Window on the left, Liza Minnelli. Window on the, not Liza. I happen to love Liza Minnelli, but like her or not, you have to admit the black eyeliner and mascara is her trademark look and she just wouldn't be the same without it. And neither would the Kelly House. Thanks, Nate!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Friday, July 3, 2009

Meanwhile, Across Town...

The whole west side of my house is now yellow....but I forgot to take photos. Anyway, as exciting as it is to me, for you looking at pictures of my newly-painted house is probably about as exciting as, well, watching paint dry. So I thought I'd share with you what's going on across town at my son's house.

My son bought his house, a little 1930s bungalow, about a year ago and moved into it with typical male disregard for the bright red trim throughout the house, the blue fish painted on the side of the bathtub, the giant stain on the laundry room linoleum that appears to be bodily fluids, and the ugly little kitchen.

Then he got married. And his new bride was moved nearly to tears by the ugliness of the kitchen. Looking in from the laundry room: And facing the opposite way, looking in from the living room:
"It's so ugly," she said to me one night on the phone. "The cabinet doors either don't open or don't stay shut, that plastic brick is terrible, only two of the drawers work, the light above the sink you have to turn on and off by unscrewing the light bulb, and the white floor always looks dirty...." She sighed. "I wish we could take the money we got as wedding gifts and fix up the kitchen." Being the supportive and loving mother-in-law that I am, I said I saw no reason why they shouldn't do that. Everyone needs a nice kitchen. Then I showed her the stock cabinets and countertops on the Lowe's website. I am an enabler.
So Dylan and Sarah tore out the cabinets. Then they tore up the ugly vinyl flooring. Then Sarah's dad and a local contractor came over. "Uh-oh," her dad said solemnly. "There's a lot of water damage on that outside wall and the floor under the cabinets." Now the kitchen has half a floor and the sill plate had to be replaced. Uh-oh indeed. Now the kitchen looks like this:

And because the kitchen wall seemed to be going a little wonky without the floor and the sill plate, Dylan's truck was holding up that part of the house. Uh-oh.

And now the sill plate's fixed. Not so much uh-oh anymore.

Except that they don't have a floor in the kitchen, the fridge and stove are in the laundry room, and the kids are eating at McDonald's an awful lot. Stay tuned for further updates.