Sunday, March 31, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

Learning From Mistakes

Y'all probably noticed that Charlie's been missing from my posts for awhile.  He's been missing from my life for about that long, too.  I wanted to tell you about it before now but...well, some things are easy to write about, and some things are not.

His arrest last May on felony DWI charges changed everything.  It shattered forever my belief (in spite of ample evidence to the contrary) that he was working on bettering himself, it drove a considerable wedge between my police officer son and me, and it turned Charlie into a bitter recluse who blamed everyone but himself for his troubles.  We were both holding onto a lot of simmering anger that occasionally bubbled over into screaming matches in which I called him stupid and he called me snooty.  We were both right: getting arrested for drunk driving for the fifth time is incredibly stupid; saying "I am better than you" when a guy accuses you of snootiness proves his point.  And so that gulf between us widened until, eventually, we just couldn't cross it any more...or maybe we stopped wanting to.  We quit talking at all sometime in January.  I found out through the small-town grapevine that he's in prison now doing a 120-day sentence, so his lawyer must have been successful in pleading down the charges to a lesser felony.

It does occur to me that railing at someone for not learning from his mistakes while simultaneously making the same error is the worst kind of hypocrisy.  The last three men I've been involved with have been alcoholics.  That is more than coincidence; that's intentional.  I have a pretty good idea of why I pick drunkards.  Having had my heart ripped out and stomped on in the worst way about three decades ago, I'm now careful not to give it to anyone who might actually take care of it because the risk is too great, so I pick men who I know are not worthy of my affection, only pretend to give them my heart while actually keeping it safely tucked away untouched, and then when they treat me badly I get the satisfaction of knowing I was right all along.  (That was difficult to admit.)

The other, simpler, thing at work here is that I like to fix what's broken.  That explains healthy decisions, like buying an old house and being an emergency services dispatcher, and also not-so-healthy decisions, like men.  The trick seems to be recognizing what I can fix and what I cannot.  I'm better at that when it comes to  houses, so I'll stick with that for awhile.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Two Day Job

One of the unfortunate things about sleeping during the day is that sometimes you're still in your jammies when a friend knocks on your door at 5 pm.  Wednesday was one of those days, and when I shuffled to the door in my pink plaid flannel jammie pants, LifeFlight t-shirt, and fuzzy gray slippers, I saw Mare at the door.  (Brief backstory for anyone who doesn't remember Mare: We dated a very long time ago, he taught me pretty much everything I know about old houses, when I'm not feeling murderous towards him I consider him one of my best friends, and he helped me rebuild the front porch a few years ago.) You know what happens when it's 30-some degrees outside and a woman is wearing a t-shirt and no bra and she opens the door?  Yeah, that.  And you can bet Mare noticed.

"Well, hello there!" Mare said.  "You look happy to see me."

"Hey, creeper, my eyes are up here," I said, and grabbed a coat off the hook next to the door.

For almost 15 years, Mare and I have had this sort of ESP thing going on.  I think about him, or more precisely I think about a project on which I could use his help, and the man mysteriously shows up at my door within the next day or so.  It wouldn't be so unusual if he still lived down the street, but his house is two hours away from mine.

Anyhow, I showed him the ceiling in the Room of Shame.

"Holy Moly!" he said.

"Ain't it pretty?" I asked.

"Yeah, pretty awful!" he declared.

So I explained how I wanted to tear the dropped ceiling out, and the asbestos, too, and put something else up and Mare said, "Meh, that's nothin'.  It'd be kinda fun.  A two day job."

On the way into the Room of Shame he noticed that I finished the bathroom and told me he thought it looked nice.  "Is it really, really done?" he asked.  (The man knows me too well.)  "It is, mostly," I said, "but I really need a vent fan in here, it still doesn't have any HVAC, and I lost the only outlet when I removed that old light fixture."  Mare pondered this a minute.  "We could branch off from the ductwork in the basement for the HVAC, add an outlet from the back side of the wall since you're gonna tear up the other bathroom eventually anyway, and it wouldn't be that big a deal to put in a fart fan.  A two day job."

Then conversation turned to my plans to scrape and paint the rest of the west wall of the house and the whole back of the house (if it ever warms up enough so I can) and I said, "But before I can paint the back of the house I have to tear out all those uneven clapboards on that door patch and replace them all the way across from the end of the addition to the edge of the back door.  I'll need your help for that."  And Mare said, "That's not that much.  A two day job."

While we were standing outside on the patio (me with my winter coat well wrapped around my, um, chest) Mare said, "Whatever happened to the floor on that side porch?  You fall through it yet?"  I explained I hadn't yet fallen through it, but since it's in very bad shape that's a real possibility, and he said, "That porch is pretty small.  It wouldn't take long to replace the floor."  Y'all know what came next:  "A two day job."

Now I'm not very good at math, but the way I figure it, I'll be spending eight work days with Mare.  If past history's any indication, it oughta be interesting.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ain't Got No Alibi

I was never a cheerleader, but the ceiling in my back bedroom (aka the Room of Shame) inspires me to break out a cheer.

Ready? Oh-kay!

Wait.  I gotta show y'all something first.

 Look at that dropped ceiling.  Pretty bad, huh?  Nice water stains over there on the side too.

Ready?  Oh-kay!

Wait.  You gotta see this, too.

Above the dropped ceiling, guess what?  Another yucky ceiling!  I think it's acoustic tile, probably asbestos.

Ready?  Oh-kay!

Wait, wait.  One more.  No, really, y'all have to see this.
A close-up of the second ceiling.  Part of it's gone.  That's what makes it really special.  Alright, now we're ready.  Pick up those pom-poms.

Ready?  Oh-kay!

U-G-L-Y!  You ain't got no alibi!  You're UGLY!  Hey, hey, you're ugly!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Geeked Out

I'm gonna get all geeked out here for a minute, so bear with me.  I'll try to keep it short.

For those of you who use Google Reader to keep up on this blog and others, you may have heard that Google Reader will be discontinued as of July 1st.  What that means for Google Reader fans is that you'll have to find another reader service to keep up on your favorite blogs.

I used Feedburner, but rumor has it that they might not be long for the world, either.

So, I'm changing over to Bloglovin.  I'd appreciate it if you'd follow me there, if you use a reader to keep up on your blogs.  Just click the link below.  Easy peasy.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Thanks for following me!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Room of Shame

Well, it's snowing here again. Spring officially began on Wednesday and it's twenty-some degrees outside and snowing.  In March.  This is unacceptable.  I have half a house to scrape and paint here, for goodness sake, and I don't want to miss too many baseball games to do it, so Mother Nature needs to get her stuff together.  Since it appears she's not going to do that any time soon, I'm having to find things to do on the inside of the house.

So I started cleaning up the Room of Shame.  That's proof these are desperate times, indeed.

Several hours and five trash bags later, the room looks a whole lot better:

Just try to imagine how bad it was before.
A whole lot better than what, I'm not sure.  A landfill, maybe?  Most of this stuff is destined for the family yard sale in May, so it's really not as bad as it looks.  Those curtains are staying though.  Nothing like foam-backed, pinch-pleated curtains from a 1970s hotel room.  No really, they are from a hotel room.  The people who owned this house before me also owned the Lexington Hotel, and most of the curtains that were in the house when I moved in probably came from there. These are the last of the hotel curtains.  What's extra cool about the curtains to the left in the photo is that the curtain rod is like seven feet long, so the curtains cover not only the window, but most of the wall too.  At least they cover part of the craptastic paneling on the walls.

I'd planned to take several pictures of the other awesome stuff in this room, like the dropped ceiling and the gap between the floor and the wall, but then I saw this:

And I got the heck out of there.  Maybe next week.

Friday, March 22, 2013

An Important Addendum

A few days ago I published the how-to of painting vinyl floors.  I went into some detail, read it carefully, and felt that I had left nothing out.

Now, however, I find I must add an important addendum to my previous instructions:

If, like me, you have a trap door in the middle of said painted floor
 be sure you don't paint the freakin' thing shut.

Oh yes, I did.

But if, like me, you do have a trap door in the middle of a painted floor and you, like me, do in fact paint it shut to the point that you are completely unable to open the trap door by attaching the hook to the ring in the door and then cranking it open with a boat winch, rest assured that it takes only five or six minutes with a putty knife and a hammer to cut through the paint.

After which you can then crank the door open and notify your only child via text that you are descending into the Scary Rat Basement.

Me: I'm going down into the basement now.  I'll text you when I come back up.  If you don't hear from me, please come over and check on me.
Dylan: You can't take your phone with you?
Me:  Yes, but what if the door slams shut and I am trapped down there?
Dylan:  How would you get trapped?  It's not like the door locks when it shuts.
Me:  I don't think I could push the door open enough to get out if it slammed shut.
Dylan:  I don't think you are so frail that you need to be checked on every time you go down a few stairs.  If you are, then I'm putting you into a home.
Me:  And also, what if I fall down the stairs and I am knocked unconscious?
Dylan:  And what if an alien space ship came down and abducted you??
Me:  That's exactly the kind of shit I'm talkin' about.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Every Day I'm Shufflin'

For weeks now I've been trying to decide whether or not I should move my bedroom, and if so, where.  (Where in this house, I mean; another house or outdoors just won't work.)  My family and a couple of friends have weighed in and I still can't make up my mind, so now I'll get all y'all involved in the discussion.

The scrawly light gray lines are windows.  The light gray boxes are closets,
and they really do stick out in the room like that.
Click on the photo to embiggen.
I drew up this floor plan so y'all can see what I'm talking about.  Yes, even though it looks like a six-year-old did it, it's really my, ahem, artistry.  Some of the proportions aren't quite right, but you get the idea.

I'll take you on a little written tour of the three bedrooms and lay out the good stuff and the bad stuff with each one.

The back parlor/front bedroom:  At the front of the house just "behind" the entryway.
Good stuff:  Nice big room, pretty fireplace (originally coal-burning, now non-working), great big closet, linen press next to the fireplace for storage, not too much light for day sleeping.
Bad stuff:  Not much wall space, so the only place the bed can go is in the front corner (lower left corner in the floor plan); it's kinda noisy, being at the front of the house.

The middle bedroom:  Where my bedroom is now.
Good stuff: Has attached full bath, has a small closet, and is probably the most quiet of the three bedrooms.  It also gets a lot of light from the big window (30"x84"), the window in the porch door, and the four transom windows.
Bad stuff:  No wall space, like maddeningly so.  This bedroom has five doors ( five!) not counting the closet.  The widest wall in the room is the kitchen/bedroom wall, which is about 3 inches wider than my queen-sized bed.  No room for a nightstand or even the tiniest of little tables unless I block the closet door.  Weirds me out that my bedroom has a door to the outside.  Too bright for day sleeping.

The back bedroom:  Part of the post-1910 addition to the house.
Good stuff: Attached full bath, small closet, more options for arranging furniture.  My bed could go against the east wall (bottom wall of the floor plan) long-wise, or with the head of the bed against that wall, or even at an angle in the corner (lower right corner of the floor plan), or with the head of the bed centered on the west (top) wall.
Bad stuff:  Smallest of the three bedrooms; needs the most work.  Also known as The Room of Shame because it's essentially a storage unit.

So there you have it.  From a renovation standpoint, all three rooms need some work, so that's not a huge consideration in the making up of my mind.  (Although of the three, the back bedroom clearly needs the most work.)  What would you do if you were me?  Which room would you move to, or would you stay put?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Painted Vinyl Floor, Version 2.0

Yesterday I finished painting the laundry room floor.  (The laundry room as a whole is still not done.  But almost.)  I learned some things between last time (when I painted the bathroom floor) and now.  Also, a couple of people had questions about how I got the floor to look like that, and I realized that I never did really explain how to do it.  So here goes nothin'.

When I started out the laundry room floor was that peel-and-stick vinyl tile stuff.  It wasn't horrible, but I didn't like it anymore and it just wasn't going to work with my plan for re-doing the laundry room.  First, I cleaned up the floor really well.  I mean, down on the floor on my hands and knees with a scrubby sponge.  If the floor had been really shiny (like a lot of roll vinyl flooring is) I would've sanded off the shiny finish.  That helps the primer to "grab" the floor so it sticks and doesn't wear off so easily.  If you sand the floor, then you have to vacuum up all the sanding dust and clean the floor again before the next step.

The next thing to do is to put down primer.  I used Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer. That stuff is awesome--it covers really well, doesn't smell too terrible, and wears like iron.  I come from a long line of people who believe that if a little does a little good, a lot will do a lot of good, so I put down two coats.  The instructions on the can say that you can recoat in an hour, but I waited more like 3 hours just to be on the safe side. I spared my knees and my back some trouble by using a paint roller attached to a broom handle.  I am a wuss, so you might not need to do that, but I do think it's easier than crawling around on the floor.

After the second coat of primer, I waited about 4 more hours before I put down the floor paint.  If you google, there's a big debate among painters about how long you should wait between primer and paint.  I am not patient, so I painted the same day I primed.  If I were a really cautious person, though, I would wait a whole week, since the Zinsser can instructions advise that the primer reaches full hardness in seven days.  So far, nothing terrible has happened because I didn't wait a week, and the paint's been on the floor a month and a day.  The paint I used is Valspar Porch & Floor Paint.  (The color is Magnet Dapple; you can get it in almost any color.) This is some tough paint, folks.  It's held up to doggie claws, water, sand, furniture being dragged across it, my engineer boots and my work boots, and cat barf.  I actually tried to scratch it with sandpaper and with my car keys, just to test it, and it barely scuffed it.  No primer showed through at all.  I put two coats on, again with a roller attached to a broom handle, and waited about two hours between coats.

If you want a solid-color floor, you could stop at this point.  When I stenciled my bathroom floor, I put two coats of Minwax Crystal Clear over everything after I finished stenciling.  I did that because I thought it would make the floor more durable.  You know what?  After the field testing I mentioned earlier, I really don't think the Minwax is needed.  The floor seems plenty tough for normal use without putting any poly on it.  I suppose if you own a dance hall or something, you  might want to go ahead and poly it up.  Or if you wanted the floor to be really shiny you could use the Minwax, because by itself the Valspar floor paint isn't very shiny.  (The paint's still wet in the photo of the solid gray floor.)

I, however, am a stenciled-floor fan, so I soldiered on.  By "soldiered on" I mean that it took me a month to stencil the floor because I am lazy and unmotivated and prone to periods of hibernation in cold weather.  If I were a productive, organized person I estimate the stenciling portion of the floor would have taken me about four hours.  Four hours, not four weeks.  But I procrastinate.

For the stenciled part I used Valspar Porch & Floor Paint again.  (I had it tinted to Luna, the same color as my ceiling, but it looks white on the floor.)  After doing an allover pattern on the bathroom floor, I vowed to never go through that tedium again.  It looks nice, but it took me forever.  For--ev--er.  This time I went with a small (6" or so) stencil and centered it in the middle of every other tile square.  I didn't care if the design was imperfect, so I just eyeballed the center of the tile.  You can see in the photos that some of the designs are a little crooked, but that's okay with me.  I taped down the edges of the stencil with painter's tape because that's what I had, but a lot of people use the spray adhesive stuff. I think that would probably make the stencil lay smoother to the floor and have less chance of moving out of place, but that's just my guess.  I used a little foam square for the stenciling.  (The same stuff foam brushes are made out of; not a sponge.)  I put a little paint in a plastic lid, dipped the foam in lightly, and then pressed the foam on another plastic lid a couple times to get rid of the excess paint.  Less paint is better than more.  Too much paint means that the edges of the design won't be nice and clear because the paint seeps under the stencil.  I practiced first on a piece of painted cardboard to get the hang of it.  Be sure you turn the foam square this way and that so you can't see the edges of the foam in your stencil.  After you use the foam a few times, it gets kinda gunky with paint, so you have to throw it away and get a clean piece of foam.  If the design starts looking blobby and uneven, that's when you know to replace the foam.  Also, remember to wipe the paint off your stencil every so often; otherwise, your foam will pick up paint from the stencil and the design will start to look messy.  Don't let paint dry on the stencil, either, because then the stencil won't lay flat.  I learned this the hard way.  I'm starting to sound like a Bossy Beulah, so I'll stop now.

I think I pretty much covered it all, but if I left something out or you have questions, just let me know and I'll try to help. Y'all know that I am not an expert by any means.  Heck, most of the time I actually have no idea what I'm doing so I just bumble along and everything usually turns out this is just what worked for me.  Your results may vary. Especially if you have more patience and know-how than I do.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May you always have
Walls for the winds,
A roof for the rain,
Tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you,
Those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Crazy Confession

Nice weather on my days off has me thinking about scraping some more paint off the house.  My goal is to finish up the west wall and the back (north) wall before the end of the year.  Let's take a look...

Here's the west wall:

At first glance, not too bad.  That one section that's still yellow is the only part of the wall that isn't scraped and painted.  That being said, that wall has some really tough paint on it.  Really tough.  So tough that I tried to put Peel-Away on it last year because I was desperate.  (It didn't work as well as you might think.)  That's gonna take a while to scrape.  Besides the scraping, I need to do three other things: replace a piece of rotted window trim on the laundry room end of the wall; replace some chair rail on the dining room bay where its roof meets its walls; and replace the clapboards over the old basement window.  By way of explanation, there's chair rail up under the eaves on the rest of the house and chair rail on the bump-out on the front parlor, so there should be chair rail on the dining room bay, too, but for some reason it's gone.  That basement window was removed to run the electrical for the air conditioner into the basement and was patched up with plywood, insulation, and crooked clapboards.  I think that's probably where critters are running into the basement, too, so that needs to be fixed for practical reasons as well as pretty ones.

Here's the north wall:

I made a pretty good start on it last year, but there's still a long way to go.  Again, there's more there than meets the eye.  See all those junky-looking crooked clapboards where the old back door used to be?  I'm tearing those off the house.  Rather than try to patch new ones back in and forever be discontent with seeing the edges of that patch (I am not a carpenter), I'm going to replace the whole length of clapboards from the edge of the shorter addition over to the back door.  That will also eliminate the junky patchwork next to the back door, which used to be a window.

So yes, I do have my work cut out for me.  I should be dreading it.  I should start lifting weights now to get my noodly arms back in shape.  I should be crying myself to sleep just thinking of the hours and hours of work ahead of me.  But you know what?  I'm not.  And here's my crazy confession for the week:  I kinda miss scraping paint.  I know, I know, it's a horrible job and it takes forever and it makes my arm muscles scream for mercy, but still...I kinda miss it.  I miss being bone-tired at the end of the day from physical labor.  I miss being able to look back at the end of the day and see visible results of all my work that day.  (Even if it's a far smaller patch of bare wood than I'd hoped for.)  I miss that seeing the house turn from flaking yellow paint to bare wood to white primer to smooth gray paint.  I actually miss all that.

Somebody remind me that I said this come July, okay?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Signs of Spring

I think Spring might finally be on her way to Missouri, although she's dragging her feet about it a little bit.  (Or maybe I'm just extra-anxious for winter to be over.)  In between the patches of snow still left in my back yard, I can see green here and there where Esther's daffodils and iris are starting to pop through.  I hear geese flying back north almost every day.  The Royals are at the top of the Cactus League in Spring Training.      There's water over the road on the highway that runs along next to the river.

And my bathroom roof is leaking again.  Dangit.

See how the roof of the addition to the house is flat? (Yes, I did in fact get in the Wayback Machine to obtain this photo, thanks for asking.  That's the back of the house in 2009.)  And see where the taller part of the addition meets the shorter part?  The leak is right there.  I'm guessing that two big snows (one with blowing winds which piled the snow up in that corner) followed by two days of rain were more than the patch on the roof could handle.  The water's not pouring in.  So far it's not even dripping.  The only way I can tell there's a leak is that the wallpaper on the bathroom ceiling is discolored.  If it's dry on my days off this week (not likely) I'll have to climb up there and patch the roof again.  When Spring really gets here, I'll have someone who actually knows what they're doing come out and give me recommendations on a better fix.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Very Rare Photo

Y'all have heard about those scientists who bicker about whether or not a certain creature is real because they've seen it but they don't have a photo to prove it's real?  Well, in my family that's kinda how my momma is.  Those of us in the family know she exists but other people only hear about her.  All my life my momma's been behind the camera, taking pictures of all of us, but few pictures of her exist.  That's why I was especially happy when my daughter-in-law, Sarah, managed to secretly snap this photo of her the other night.  (Especially since I was at work and couldn't be there in person.)  The cute baby is Cheyenne, my son and daughter-in-law's niece, and you can tell my mom's just tickled to get to hold her.