Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's A Phase

So today has not been a particularly good day.

The past couple of days I've been oddly positive about the situation with Charlie. Today I had to get up early and drive him to work because he lost his license yesterday. (In Missouri, refusing a breathalyzer means you lose your license for a year--but not until 15 days after your arrest.) He was in an unusually dark mood, certain he's going to prison, and was making a to-do list with that in mind: find somewhere to store the boat, dig up the garden, give the landlord notice he's breaking his lease, quit his job, and so on. I was brave and positive until I let him out of my car. Then I cried the whole way home.

Somehow when I turned my Little Giant ladder into scaffolding, I managed to ever so slightly bend the top part of one of its legs, so now the outer ladder won't fit over the inner ladder and, until that's fixed, I can't use the Little Giant for anything but scaffolding.  That wouldn't be so much of a huge problem, given that I have a ginormous amount of paint to scrape and it's easier to do on scaffolding, except that the ground's so uneven in my yard that I can't get the scaffolding positioned in such a way that it's not tippy without having it so far away from the wall that I can't reach it to scrape.  Seriously considering digging up my yard.  But not today.

I was making really good progress on the house today until I ran the scraper over a nailhead and took a big chunk out of the carbide blade.  I'd done the same thing a couple of days ago, so I couldn't just turn the blade around.  I went to get Charlie's carbide scraper and then remembered that his blade was in the same shape.  The local hardware store doesn't carry carbide blades (we have some on order, though) and the closest store that does is 26 miles away.  Once you chip up the carbide blade badly enough, you can't use it to scrape without gouging into the clapboards and trim on the house.  Argh.

While I was trying to figure out what to do about that, the mail lady stopped by and said that she and her husband had looked at this house several years ago.  "It has the cutest little bathroom with a clawfoot tub in it," she said.  Not anymore.  The Sucky Previous Owners just got a whole lot suckier.  I launched my scraper into the grass and went for a drive to scream and cry.

Then I thought, hey, I'm already having a bad day so why not call the funeral home and find out why they haven't put a headstone on my brother's grave yet.  The answer?  Because they're waiting for his funeral bill to be paid.  (I am not responsible for that; his estate is.)  And how much is the funeral bill?  Eleven thousand dollars.  Holy schidt.  Now it looks like Rodger might not have a headstone until sometime after the estate's closed in December.  And then I'll have to pay for it because I'm guessing after the medical bills, there won't be any money left. 

Tonight I have mandatory training at work.  Charlie has to check in with electronic monitoring by 10 pm at his Aunt Tiny's house.  I won't be home by then, Charlie doesn't have a driver's license, and Tiny doesn't drive after dark.  Still not sure how we're going to figure that one out.

So I had a good cry, and I screamed, and on a gravel road east of town I pulled the car over so I could kick the tires and throw rocks into a field.  That didn't really make me feel any better.

But this did:

I found Thom shortly after Sean died, and the shred of sanity I still have left after Sean's car wreck and all the other junk in my life since then is almost completely due to the wise and gentle Thom Rutledge.

Everything is a phase.


Repeat as necessary.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pitiful Progress

Here's my  meager progress for today:
Pitiful.  It was nice weather today and I was hoping to get a lot more done.  However, I have the upper body strength of a six-year-old, so it's slow going.  I took a break mid-afternoon to whine to my friend John about how difficult it is to remove the paint. 

"Use a heat gun," he said.

"I'm afraid I'll burn the house down," I told him. 

"I'd be a little worried about that too," he admitted, "but keep it moving, hold it on there just until the paint softens, and you'll be okay."

So I tried it.  To absolutely no effect.  In fact, I think I heard the paint laughing at me. 

Back to the carbide scraper I went.  By the end of the summer, maybe I'll muscle up to the strength of a ten-year-old.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Picture's Worth...

Progress as of about 3 pm Tuesday afternoon.
The wood in the siding is so clear and beautiful that
 it seems a shame to cover it up with primer and paint.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Curiouser and Curiouser

I promised a photo yesterday, but circumstances beyond my control caused a hiatus in the work on the house. 

Just when I thought things couldn't get any weirder around here, I learned Friday that WTB and Mrs. WTB have split up after something like 40 years of marriage.  The word "whomperjawed" pretty accurately describes my reaction.  So when WTB asked me if I'd help her move, I felt I owed it to both of them.  To WTB, certainly, for all the work he's done for me (remember when he built my picket fence?) and to Mrs. WTB for loaning out WTB's free labor and for all her encouragement in my crazy projects.  She's mostly settled in to her house across town and I might be able to squeeze in a couple hours' work on the house yet tonight. 

But before I do, here's what we've accomplished so far:
The house looks pretty bad right now.  My motivation is thinking how nice she'll look once we're done.  I try not to think of all the work in between before we get to that point.

I filed my Application for Certificate of Appropriateness from the City's Historic Preservation Commission.  They don't meet until the third Wednesday in June, so I won't have my paint colors approved until then.  I got an email from the Building Inspector a couple of days ago saying that I need a building permit to paint.  What the what?!  That's odd, but okay.  I filled that out and she signed off on it, so now we can scrape away without fear of running afoul of the law.  (As long as we follow EPA guidelines for working with lead paint.)

As I scrape it down to bare wood, I'm uncovering lots and lots of layers of paint.  (An eighth-inch thick in places.)  The very bottom layer is indeed dove gray, so the little old man was right.  It's also been a sort of tan color, and painted white many many times, and the trim's been black or very dark green as well as white and gray at one time. 

My plan is to scrape one section at a time down to bare wood, caulk and make repairs where needed (there shouldn't be much of that), and then primer before moving on to another section of the house.  I think that's a bit less daunting than trying to scrape a whole side at one time. 

The COA states "All work must be completed within 180 days of approval or an extension must be filed."  I laughed. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Very Bad Thing

A couple of days ago I mentioned in passing that a very bad thing had happened and promised to tell you about it later, so here it is. 

I have to tell this in the starkest possible terms because it's not a sympathetic tale.  Last Tuesday (the 15th) Charlie got a DWI.  He has prior alcohol offenses from his younger, wilder days and Missouri's laws are such that he's been charged with a felony.  The circumstances of his arrest aren't worth mentioning because what it boils down to is this:  he made the careless decision to drive after he'd had 3 or 4 beers and he knows better.  He has an attorney who said he'll do all he can, but there's not much room for haggling so Charlie's likely facing prison time.  How much, we don't know yet.  His court date's in mid-June and between now and then the prosecutor and the lawyer will come to some kind of an agreement, so we'll know then what Charlie's facing.

Understandably, this is a double-edged sword for me.  On the one hand, I believe that there's no excuse for drinking and driving and that folks should have to accept the consequences of their stupidity and carelessness.  On the other hand, selfishly, I don't want him to go to prison.  Since we've been together, Charlie has, in his quiet way, become indispensable to me.  He's my best friend and a true companion and the first man in a long, long time that I've been able to really see myself settling down with.  I've noticed (and y'all probably have too) that sometimes when I'm talking about the house I say "we" instead of "I".  Charlie's the first guy who ever had Kelly House projects of his own. 

And now, as he said the other night, "I might lose everything I've worked for."  His own house, his job, and his freedom are on the line.  My happy little life has been turned upside-down.  I'm equal parts angry, terrified, and sad about that. 

Robert Frost once said, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life. It goes on."  It sure does.  Regular programming resumes here tomorrow, with pictures too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In Which I Meet The New Building Inspector

We have a new building inspector in town.  My first inkling that a new "building sheriff" was in town was when I saw warning notices taped to the front doors of two houses in my neighborhood.  The first house (a cute little Victorian catty-corner from my house) is a foreclosure and has had a tarped roof for close to three years.  The other one (another Vic down the street) is in such bad shape that I think the only recourse may be to tear it down.  Then I started hearing talk around town about her:  she told the guy who owns the old Chinese restaurant that he couldn't paint the bottom half of his building pumpkin orange, she made the folks at Maid-Rite repaint their faded sign out front, she made people clean up the junk stacked in their yards, she's issuing warnings right and left. 

After all I heard, I expected her to look something like this:

Ursula from The Little Mermaid

In reality, she looks a bit like the actress Maura Tierney and I found her to be quite intelligent and pleasant.  I would not want to be in her shoes.  The mindset of "It's my property and I can do whatever the hell I want to with it" is rampant around here, and city ordinances relating to nuisances and Historic District violations have, in the past, been enforced hit-and-miss or not at all.  Add to that the good-ole-boys who don't want a woman telling them what to do, and the tendency of native Lexingtonians to view newcomers with a large amount of suspicion, and the woman can't help but become a lightning rod.  I, for one, am glad to see that she's trying to clean up the town and enforce the ordinances fairly and equally.  (Give me just a minute here to step down from my soapbox...)

Okay.  Now the reason I met the new Building Inspector is because I have well and truly lost my mind and I'm planning to repaint my whole entire house.  Because I live in the Old Neighborhoods National Register Historic District, I have to have my exterior paint colors approved.  (Incidentally, there are three other National Register Historic Districts in my little town of 4,700 people:  the Commercial District, surrounding the 1847 Lafayette County Courthouse; Highland Avenue, the mostly pre-Civil War houses built on the bluff overlooking the Missouri River; and Wentworth Military Academy, in operation as a private military school since 1880.) 

I stapled paint chips onto my Application for Certificate of Appropriateness (yes, that's really what it's called) along with an explanation:  Body of house, either Woodlawn Colonial Gray or Montepelier Ashlar Gray (I'm leaning towards Montpelier); Trim and window frames: Woodlawn Bedroom White; Window sashes, Lincoln Cottage Black (the color they are now); and other trim details, such as porch post bands and porch bracket details, Mark Twain House Ombra Gray.  All colors are Valspar National Trust For Historic Preservation Colors.   

After approval, I have--gulp!--180 days to complete the work or file for an extension.  To which Charlie said, "We better get to scrapin."  Not so fast.  The Bulding Inspector wanted to be sure we're compliant with EPA recommendations for lead paint removal, so she told me we have to wear long sleeves and pants, masks, eye protection, and we have to put plastic down on the ground and clean up the paint debris every night.  Long sleeves?  In June and July??  Oh well, I still like her.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Off The Rails

 A couple of things happened last week that caused my stay-cation to jump the tracks.  This is the second of those things, but I'm telling you about it first. 

See, I was out there Friday happily (well, sort of) scraping paint when a nice little old man stopped by and said, "I sure am glad you're getting rid of that yellow!"

"You don't like the yellow?"  I asked him.

"It's alright," he said, "but it's not the color it was in the first place."

Now, this little old man looked quite elderly, but not 125 years old, which is at least how old he'd have to be to know what the house looked like in the first place. 

He elaborated.  "When I was a little boy, I lived down the street.  The house was dove gray then with white trim and the windows were black like you've got them now."

By my estimate, said little old man is in his mid-80s, which would make his Little Boy Era circa the 1930s.  That was when Aub Kelly, a son of the man who built my house, lived here but before he turned it into two apartments.  I know from an old newspaper article that the house got a new coat of paint in 1906 and the house looks light with lighter trim in a photo taken around that same time.  (See poorly-reproduced 1906 photo at right sidebar.)  In the course of scraping paint, I've found pale gray on the house but thought maybe it was primer.  Now I think the little old man may indeed be right.

Here's where I make a full confession.  Pay attention, y'all, because this confession is important to everything that follows.  My confession is this:  I did not do a good job of prepping the house before I painted it.  Not a good job at all.  Paint might cover a multitude of sins, but it does not cover a very poor prep job.  I did not scrape off all the alligatored paint.  I did not heed the advice of a professional house painter that the house already had too many coats of paint on it.  I was more concerned with the immediate (sort of) gratification of a newly-painted house than I was about the future of that paint long-term. 

And now, I am paying for those mistakes.  Two years later, I have peeling paint.  A lot of peeling paint.  At first, I thought it was just a few spots here and there.  Then I thought it was just the east side of the house and convinced myself  it somehow got more weather than the rest of the house.  Then White Trash Bob came over and said, "Oh my God, you have to scrape that whole section of the house from top to bottom."  Then Charlie came over to help me paint and said grimly, "There's more peeling paint than you think there is."  It's not the fault of the paint--I'm using Valspar Duramax, which consistently gets good reviews.  It's the prep job, or lack thereof.  The "new" part of the house (added on in the 1930s or so) which has only a couple of coats of paint is not peeling at all, not anywhere.  The new trim pieces and porch posts are not peeling at all. Unfortunately, that's about one-fourth of the house exterior.  The rest of the house has peeling paint, in some places so bad that you can strip a whole clapboard with the end of a spoon.  (A fact which I discovered while dramatically demonstrating to Charlie how bad the situation is while eating yogurt.)

Friday when Charlie came over after work he found me sitting on the front porch steps, elbows on knees, forehead on arms.  I didn't look up when he sat down by me.  (The Very Bad Thing that happened earlier that week, and which he's directly responsible for, is partly--okay, mostly--the cause of my dejected state, but I'll tell you about that thing later.)  He hugged me and waited for me to explain myself.  "This little old man came by..." and then I told him the whole thing, everything that I've just told you, and he was quiet for a minute like he is when he's considering whether he ought to say out loud what he's thinking, and then he said, "Honey, I been thinkin that we just need to start all over with the paint on this house." 

So that's what we're going to do.  Down to the bare wood.  Start all over.  Pale gray with off-white trim.  (After approval of the paint chips by the Historic Preservation Commission, of course.)  We might have gone completely off the rails on this one, but I think it's the right thing to do for the house.  I think Mrs. Kelly would approve. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I am a shift and a half away from my staycation.  Five nights of no work.  Five nights.  And because of Union rules, I can't be mandatoried in because I have scheduled vacation days at the end of my regular days off.  God bless the IAFF.  For real.  To say that I am looking forward to my staycation is a colossal understatement.

Naps will be taken.  Copiously.  Extravagantly.

Frittata will be cooked for breakfast...which may be 3 in the afternoon.  (See above.)

Porching will be conducted.

Baseball will be watched.  In person.  I already have tickets for two games and might go to a third.  (I must admit that I really did cry over Danny Duffy's injury.  Such a nice kid and our best pitcher, out for the year.  I don't care what Jimmy Dugan says, sometimes there is crying in baseball.)

Hornsby's will be consumed.  (Amber Draft, not Crisp Apple, if anyone's keeping track.)

Midnight walks will be taken. 

Fresh asparagus will be bought, cooked, and eaten. 

Those are the definites.  Nothing and nobody shall keep me from the preceding list. (Imagine me channeling Scarlett O'Hara here.  "As God as my witness....")   I have some mights, too.

I might scrape paint.

I might caulk.

I might paint baseboards.  (Well, okay, I probably won't do that.  Let's not get completely crazy here.)

I might spray-paint the register covers that have been in the other parlor since January.

Or not.  It's staycation, after all.  Almost anything could happen.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Arthritis & Ribeyes

I had big plans for today.  My plan was to get this entire part of the house scraped and caulked so that next week I can paint it.  (This is still the east wall of the house, but this is on the other side of the side porch.)  You can see what I accomplished.  All of the left half of the wall is scraped.  No caulk.  Nothing done on the right half of the wall.  And that storm window's still on the house.  About two hours into my work day, the arthritis in my right knee decided to make itself known.  I soldiered on.  But then my right elbow decided to join in too, and I knew I was pretty much done for the day.  I took some Aleve, sat for a bit, considered putting some caulk on the part I'd scraped, and then the phone rang.

Charlie said he was putting ribeyes on the grill for supper tonight. 

That swung the decision in favor of quitting for the day.  (Actually, in any decision involving steak, the steak will win.)

Between the arthritis and the ribeyes, I didn't get much done today.  Maybe next week will be better.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Snap! Clunk!

When I shut one of the windows in the front room, this is what I heard:



The snap was the rope in the window sash breaking.

The clunk was the counterweight dropping to the bottom of the window.

I may or may not have cried a little.

In theory, I know how to fix it.  I'll have to pry off a piece of trim on either side of the window, take the window out, pry off the little piece of trim that hides the rope and pulley system, pull out the broken rope, string a new rope through the weight, and put everything back like it was.  I've seen other people fix windows this way, but I have never done it.  Hence, I know how it's done in theory but not in practice. 

I'll add this to the to-do list.  Sigh.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Clapboards Not Baseboards

Charlie called me this morning from work.  "Whatcha doin?"

I sighed.  "I'm thinkin about maybe puttin some paint on those baseboards."

"You're still not done with that?!" he said.  (He knows full well that I'm not done with it, because I haven't asked him to come over and help me move furniture.)

That motivated me.

But not to paint baseboards.

Instead, I removed three more storm windows, stacked them at the back of the house, and pried another window open.  Then I painted the other half of the east side of the house, which I started on (again) two weeks ago.

Charlie called me again on his way home from work.  "How's those baseboards comin?"  I could hear the laughter behind his voice.

"Actually, I'm outside paintin the house," I said.

He laughed and laughed.  "You're supposed to be inside paintin baseboards, not outside paintin clapboards.  I knew it!  I knew it when I saw it didn't rain today!"

I laughed too.  "How'd you know I didn't stay inside?"

Charlie said, "Because I know you!  You do what you wanna do, not what you say you're gonna do."

I'd say that's a pretty accurate assessment.

Maybe I'll paint those baseboards tomorrow.  Or not. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Help, Please

Help, please.  Someone who is good at math and figuring out these things, please help.  Because if I think about this any longer, I might hurt myself from banging my head on the wall.

See, I'm trying to figure out how many pieces of picture rail to buy.  I am told that picture rail comes in lengths of 16 feet and 7 feet.  (That 7' length seems odd to me...why not 8 ft??)  At first, I had a what-the-hell attitude towards it:  the room's about 15 by 15, that's 60 feet of picture rail, done.  Then it occurred to me that subtracting the width of the doors and the window might save me some cash.  Um, yeah, because without those I figure I need about 45 feet of rail.  I think.  Or I could be wrong.

Then I got to thinking about how many cuts I would have to make and how many pieces I could get out of each length of rail.  (And by "I", of course I really mean Charlie.)  That's when my head started to hurt.

Hey, let's put it in the form of a word problem.  Some people--not me--are good at those.  That'll make it easier to understand. 

If Jayne is buying picture rail for her front parlor, and the dimensions of the room are as shown in the photo, and picture rail comes in lengths of 7' and 16', how many pieces of picture rail of each length will Jayne need to buy in order to have the least amount of wasted lumber?

Sharpen those pencils.  Click on the photo to bigify it if you need to.  Hum the theme from Jeopardy.  And help me out, please. 

The Trunk

I have two things on my to-do list for my days off:

1.  Buy picture rail.
2.  Scrape some of the paint off that old trunk.

The first thing will happen on Friday.  It will.  Unless I get distracted.

The second thing will be begun later today (after a long nap) and will be finished...sometime before 2016.  It will.  Unless I get distracted.  (This is, after all, the home of four-year projects which certainly didn't start out that way.)

I bought the trunk at an auction in early March and it's been sitting on my back porch ever since.  Two or three other people bid against me for it, which initially made me fear that my competitive nature would cause me to overbid my budget of 50 bucks.  I ended up paying $37.50 for it.  It's hard to imagine what it might look like when all that paint's stripped off of it, but I'm hoping that it turns out well enough to be used for a side table somewhere in my house.  Preliminary tapping and scratching on it leads me to think that those strap-looking things on it are wooden and the rest of it is tin.  In my mind's eye the hardware on it is brass and when it's done it'll look very vintage cool.  I'll let y'all know.