Monday, September 30, 2013

Pride Goeth Before A Fall

I've made great strides on the house the past couple of days.  On Friday I scraped, caulked, and primed the clapboards that Dylan and I (mostly Dylan) hung the day before.

On Saturday, in between the rain, I accomplished a whole list of things without incident or injury:

Cranked open the basement trapdoor
Located the correct (unlabeled) breaker for the outside lights
(And labeled the breaker so I don't have to go through that again.)
Did not get trapped in the scary basement.
(Even though I ran up and down the steps at least four times.)
Cut an electrical cable to the proper length
Stripped the cable
Installed a new outside light
Tested the light (It works!)
Slammed the basement trapdoor shut without mashing my fingers or toes
Got the first coat of paint on the back wall

Picked up that big pile of junk in the middle of the yard
Mopped the floors in the laundry room and kitchen 
Went back outside to admire the back wall again

Boy, I sure did get a lot done.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself.  Pretty proud indeed.

And then I walked into the kitchen, stepped on a cat toy on the wet floor, skated halfway across the room, and nearly knocked myself unconscious when I slid into the closed kitchen door.

Pride literally goeth before a fall.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I love the word "serendipity".  I like the happy way it sounds; I like even better the idea of happy accidents, of stumbling upon good luck.  (I like the movie Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale too.)  I don't find serendipity too often, and maybe you don't either...but maybe that's part of what makes serendipity so wonderful.

A little serendipity happened this week, and this is my story of it.

Tuesday night I was at work when my son texted me to ask: "You need some help on your house?"

Out of the blue, no prompting from me, and neither he nor his wife are readers of this blog, so there's no explanation for it besides pure serendipity.

I quickly ran through my head all the things I need to get done before winter, and which ones I could do alone and which ones I truly need help with, and while I was sorting that all out, Dylan sent another text.  "Did you ever get those clapboards put on?  If not, I'll be over Thursday afternoon to help with that."

Serendipity, I tell you.

So Wednesday afternoon I started doing this:
Which I finished in about 45 minutes and then forgot to take a photo.  You get the idea, though.  

Thursday afternoon Dylan came over right on time, and then the exciting stuff started happening.

"Jeez, Mom, where did you find these things?" he asked.  "These boards look like they're a hundred years old."

"Most recently they were in Chris's basement, down the street," I explained, "but before that they were on that old house out east of town, Old Oaks.  You know, the Slusher place?  So yeah, those boards are more than a hundred years old.  I think that house was built in the 1870s."

He laughed.  "Most people would just buy new stuff.  Not you!"

"New stuff costs like $250," I countered, "and it's not as good.  This is from old-growth cedar, and even better, it was free."

"Do not take a picture of me, Mother."

"I'm not.  I'm taking a picture of what you've done so far."

Oh, looky there, I accidentally got Dylan in the 'bout that?

Three hours later, including a break to get drinks at the gas station and sit down a minute or two, we were done.  (And by "we", I mean Dylan was done working and I was done holding clapboards and mostly watching him.)

"Isn't it beautiful?!" I said when we stepped back to look at it.  "Doesn't it look amazing?"

Dylan was skeptical.  "It might look beautiful when you get done scraping all that old paint off and caulking in those seams and painting it.  Right now it looks like a mess."

I think it's beautiful already.  I think it looks like serendipity.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rose Colored Blinders

They say some folks wear rose colored glasses.  Me, I wear rose colored blinders.  They keep me from seeing anything except what's right in front of me, and even that is tinted pinkish and positive.  I like it here in the narrow little view between my blinders.  But sometimes, just every once in a great while, it's good to take off those blinders and get a little dose of reality.  Like when you wake up and realize that somehow it got to be the end of September awfully fast and it'd be a good idea to figure out what needs to be done on the house before winter.

I've showed y'all the nice-looking part of the front of the house, but here's the other piece of it, over towards the west side:

It's a little slice of ugly in the middle of that nice gray paint, isn't it?  I'd like to get the really loose paint scraped off and have this part of the house at least primed before winter.  I don't like the thought of those clapboards going through winter bare.  They need a coat, even if it's just a coat of primer. The part of the house up under the eaves is still yellow too, but the paint's not flaking so badly there, so it can make it through the winter like that.

I walked down the west side of the house really, really slow so I could take a good look at it.  It's the only side of the house that's done, and I wanted to rest on my laurels a little bit and get up my courage to look at the rest of the house.  (Truthfully, there are a couple little pieces of trim to paint and a window to repair before cold weather, but in comparison to the rest of the house....  Yeah.)

Then around to the back of the house....

Oh lordy be.  It's an unmitigated disaster back here.  The house is all different colors, and not in a Victorian Painted Lady way, either.  That's not pretty, but it's not really the trouble back here, either.  The gutters need to be cleaned out again and the flashing between the tall part of the house and the shorter part needs to be fixed so it doesn't leak at all.  I've gotten up there a couple of times and now the leak's smaller and it only happens when there's pouring rain or a lot of wind, but I want the leak gone.  That's a priority.  Those clapboards Chris gave me ought to be put on the house before winter, too, or stacked in the scary basement until spring.  (They would already be on the house--three weeks ago--if Mare had showed up to help me when he said he would, but the less said about that the better.)

On to the east side...

This is a really flattering angle because it makes the back addition of the house look gigantic, and so in the photo it appears that most of the east side is done.  In reality, not so much.  The addition is about the same width as the side porch and the yellow mammoth up front.  So, about one-third of the east side of the house is done.  Sort of.  Well, not really.  That window in the addition needs to be repaired, caulked and primed (preferably, painted) before winter because part of it is bare wood.  The gutters over here need to be cleaned out, too.  Something needs to be done about the floor of the side porch, because it won't survive another winter without some serious help.  I mean, serious help. Either it needs to get that help or be written off as a lost cause and allowed to die a slow and terrible death over the winter.

So.  Now I know what needs to be done to get her all tucked in before cold weather:  gutters cleaned out, some primer put on, flashing fixed, repairs here and there, porch triaged....

I'm putting those blinders back on.  They let me see one thing at a time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

If Weights Could Talk

The other day I was poking around under the side porch--more about that in a later post--and I found this thing in the dirt under the porch.  It's metal, about a foot long, and heavy.  I asked on Twitter and Facebook, what the heck is it??  "It's a window sash counter weight," my friend Jim said.  Others agreed.

I'd seen window sash weights before, but not ones that look like this.  The ones I'd seen were much smaller, square, and much lighter in weight.  For smaller windows, I suppose.

But that got me thinking...

How did this window weight get under the side porch?  Who put it there and why?  Did it come from this house?

I'll probably never know the answers to those questions.  If only window weights could talk...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fiddly Bits

Here's a short list of things to know about me:  I don't like painting trim.  I'm at the age where I have to look over the top of my glasses to see things up close.  I detest doing little fiddly things that take hours and hours and require me to concentrate really hard. 

Y'all knew all that stuff already, right?  I sure did.  I mean, I know me.  I know how I am.  I know what makes me want to scream and throw things.  And yet, painting the little fiddly bits of the porch posts three different colors and painting the brackets to match still seemed like a good idea.  It stopped seeming like a good idea about halfway through the first afternoon.  

By the second afternoon, I was questioning both my intelligence and my sanity.  So was my neighbor Floyd. 

"Dark gray stripes on white posts," he observed.  "Boy, you're brave, aren't you?"  

"No, I am not." I said.  "I am out of my mind."

Friends, that dark gray stuff about did me in.  

However, I managed to keep some shred of my sanity together long enough to finish the porch posts and brackets, even though I wanted to throw my teeny-tiny paintbrush into the street. 

Believe me when I tell y'all, I am very glad there are no more posts and brackets on this house.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

One Day's Work


This is one day's work.

Oh, I know it doesn't look like one day's work, but it is.

That pale blue ceiling, now not streaky.
The crisp white trim around the door.
The black sash around the transom window.
A second coat of paint on everything pale gray.
One piece of trim painted, there on the right.

Please excuse the half-dead geranium.
She had nothing to do with this.
And pay no mind to those paint cans huddled together.
They'll only be there a little while until they're put to work again.

One day's work.
This is what happens when I sleep until noon.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Long Story Long

Some things I can predict.  Like the weather being dangerously hot every one of my days off last week. That prediction caused me to actually plan ahead for once and consider that four days of being trapped indoors would be a good time to make some progress on the ceiling in the back bedroom.  Y'all remember that ceiling, right?  The one with three layers of ugliness and, as an extra bonus, a petrified rat in the insulation.  When I got off work last Wednesday morning, I very nearly went to Lowe's to buy the planks for the new ceiling.  But I was tired and cranky, so I drove home instead.

Some things I cannot predict.  Like walking in the house to see Louis Cat sprawled out on the laundry room floor with his eyes glassy and his breathing shallow and raspy.  That was an oh-schidt moment.  Y'all know that Louis is my little sweetheart and that I love him so much that The Hottie Priest told me it's almost a sin. (Probably calling Father Stephen "The Hottie Priest" is a sin, too, but I digress.)

Anyhow.  I called the vet but she couldn't see him because she was in surgery, so she told me I should take him to the animal hospital in Concordia, 30 miles away.  I was scared.  Louis was scared.  Cats just don't feel the same way about car rides that dogs do.

Florian is very happy
that his friend
is home.
Louis had fever, but right away the vet ruled out really terrifying stuff like poisoning, heart failure, respiratory failure, leukemia, AIDS, and thyroid trouble.  Dr. Liz suspected a urinary tract infection and said that Louis would have to stay until he provided enough pee to confirm this diagnosis.  I waited around for a couple of hours, but since Louis showed no inclination to pee and I'd been awake for a really long time, I reluctantly drove home.  Louis began a hunger strike and the hospital began pee-pee watch.  The pee-pee watch lasted about 30 hours, until Dr. Liz decided that since Louis wasn't voluntarily providing a sample she'd catheterize him.  Apparently the sight of the catheter was enough to motivate Louis to pee.  Poor guy.  Dr. Liz's diagnosis of UTI was confirmed.  Louis still had fever, so he had to stay again Thursday night. The hunger strike lasted until Friday afternoon, when Louis's captors--I mean, the animal hospital--caved in and let him come home.  Louis is still a little bit cranky, but he's feeling much better.

All this is a long way of telling y'all that I didn't work on the house last week at all.  Maybe this week will be better.