Thursday, October 23, 2014

Knowing My Limits

I've made some noise lately about preferring real blogs rather than ones where everything is relentlessly and perfectly staged. So in the interest of embracing that philosophy I'd like to disclose:

1. There was a pair of jockey shorts on my living room coffee table all week. Clean, yes (and thankfully), but nevertheless--underpants.

2. My children's diet has lately been a modern American nightmare of breaded frozen meat things, processed cheese food, and canned soup.

3. I still don't have any decent photos for a blog post.

Despite the fact I was on total overload in several areas of my life, instead of being a grown-up-type woman about it I decided to leave town. Twice. While I'll blog about those October trips in a bit, getting away from the scene of the crime (and really, jockey shorts on your coffee table is sort of a crime) helped me make some sanity-saving decisions about when it's time for do-it-yourself to become don't-do-it-yourself.

My conclusions:

I am not going to deal with those #$%@-ing shutters another minute. 


Those old wood shutters that seemed so promising in the beginning:


Became this: 



I decided that while it was entirely possible to rehabilitate them, it wasn't without hours and hours of tedium (and additionally purchased tools) that added up, time-versus-money-wise, to new sets of shutters being the marginally less expensive way to go. Also? I was pretty sure this job was going to be at least infuriating and possibly soul-killing. To the curb they go. I feel better already.

Sometimes, getting out the checkbook is the right thing to do. 

Did I mention that I discovered a patch of dry-rotted siding and window sill on the northwest corner of the house this summer? Or take pictures of said dry-rot? No. Because honestly, it nauseated me to look at it. I admit I fretted around for a solid two months about what to do, until I realized that winter was coming, and I just couldn't take it on. I didn't have the tools, the time, or the expertise. More importantly, I didn't want to do it. I found a handyman that showed up, patched the siding, did a good job for a fair price, finished in a short day, put up my new storm windows on the front of the house too, and took a load of worry off my mind.


I'll be following up with a little caulk and paint, but I can do that part. The sense of relief on the rest was worth every penny. I'm also hiring out the sliding glass door replacement, and maybe even some of the house painting next summer.

I need to run the house, not the other way around.

I've posted about home improvement/family life balance many times before, and I am still struggling to make it work the right way. I made some good decisions in that regard so far this year, but they still felt more like random (and desperate) concessions than a well-thought-out plan. I'd like to get away from feeling like I'm alternating between scrambling around like a lunatic with a paint scraper or completely ignoring an enormous pile of work. Another problem? Home improvement has completely overtaken housekeeping, and it shows (please refer to aforementioned jockey shorts). A little more sleep might be nice, too. So once the exterior work season has wrapped up for the year, I'm going to take the extra free time to right the household and re-examine my strategies. I might even get the laundry off the coffee table.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

High to Climb, Far to Fall



I don't know who said it. It may very well have been my Dad since he's got a gift for phrasing things just this way, but every time I start up a ladder I think:

"It ain't that high to climb, but it's plenty far to fall." 

I'm still mentally chewing on whether that has any greater philosophical applications, but it sure is true about how nervous I am about ladder work. I work very slowly and deliberately up there, and I don't work longer than an hour at a time without breaks.

Which is why there aren't a heck of a lot of pictures about my window-glazing work, not even quick cell phone shots.

Pictures or not, please know this: since late August, I've been in an intimate relationship with this tub of goo:


Just between you and me, I'm glad it's over. The tub is empty, I'm running out of warm weather, and I am done.

I would like to gloat, however, about how proud I am that I replaced a broken window pane all by myself. From beginning to end, that was me.

Here it is mid-situation, after I'd removed the broken pane and put in a cardboard and sheet plastic temporary filler, but before I'd put in the replacement pane (the fire rescue sticker is also gone from the window now)


I feel irrationally proud about this. Like, Freddy Mercury singing "We Are the Champions" to a sold-out Wembley Stadium proud.

The little black thing right of center on the bottom window sill of the top window is
my putty knife, which I didn't realize I'd left up there until I looked at the photo. 
It's not very exciting to look at, is it?

The windows were finished at the end of September, and the storm windows have arrived. They'll be mounted next week, and this face of the house will be done, at least as far as windows are concerned.


I'm on to seeing what I can get accomplished before it's too cold during the daylight hours to paint. Last weekend I worked on some trim:


Working toward making a little more mauve disappear:


And right now my screen porch is a makeshift priming station for siding lumber. More on that situation in a future post:


Everything is a scramble (except on the ladder, please) to make it before truly cold weather sets in, and I still haven't decided what to do about my broken sliding glass door.

It's too bad I can't fix it with another tub of goo.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Thank You Note to the Hive Mind


As much as we tend to joke about the "hive mind" when it comes to the internet, I've begun to take it seriously. Especially when all the while I've been absent from regular blogging, the bloggers I read regularly are all writing as if they've been inside my head the entire time I've been up a ladder (which has been a lot lately).

While I've been thinking about the dangers of perfectionism, they've been writing about it. And about comparing ourselves to impossible standards. And about all those difficult, emotional decisions we make about how we own the life we have and the place in which it unfolds.

Rita at This Sorta Old Life posted about when blogging and home ownership, both, become complicated just like any long-term relationship does, and then later about the keeping-up-with-the Jones' and self-esteem pitfalls of Pinterest. Meryl over at Picardy Project posted about finding the sometimes very fine balance between inspiration and pressure on the internet; and of course, many of us have been watching and talking about the departure of the lovely Petersiks from blogging over at Young House Love.

It's a good thing. It's like we're all having a conversation about what's valuable in our home life, in writing, and in sharing our lives with others. All of these bloggers, and I'd like to include myself in that bunch if I can, have realized that while our physical world has weight in our psyches and it's the reason we pick up those paintbrushes and power tools, so much of how we create and live in our homes is much bigger than that. It's complicated, and it's hard. And I'm so grateful to have met, through the magic of the internet, bloggers who have the courage to wrestle with that idea.

I'd also like to thank them for keeping me company in my own version of not-so-perfect reality. Over here at On the Doorstep, my version of "real" hasn't been all that pretty, completely lacking in crisp chevron stripes or trendy brass accents, and even, really, pictures. It's been more about jumbled piles of hand tools and uh.........swearing. There has been some swearing.

But there has also been some progress and some set-backs, some decisions made, some road trips, and some lovely, messy, loud meals around the kitchen table. And a feeling that I need to get back to writing about my life, just to make some sense of it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Little Break from Windows (literally)

Hi there! I disappeared for awhile, but now I'm back to check in.

Last time I wrote for the blog I published this post about the history of the house, and how "it felt like home, immediately. I felt like it needed me. I felt like I needed it."

All that airy-fairy spiritual gassing is well and good when poring over old photos, but the last two weeks has been where the rubber meets the road on this "need" stuff.

I've been scraping, sanding, painting, and glazing windows. It's been hot, tedious, sometimes frustrating work. Sometimes so much so that I haven't taken the time to take photos, or even very good ones:


It's the first window pane where the glazing looked like I might halfway know what I am doing (I ended up redoing that wavy/rough little bit on the vertical muntin). But it's the only photo documentation I have.

Bad blogger.

But just when I felt that I might be getting the hang of this job and making some progress, something else happened. I came home from work one day, and while still standing in the front foyer, heard a peculiar crackling sound, like the sound of plastic wrap on steroids. It was coming from the kitchen.

I was thinking fire, actually. Fire!

Noah and I ran into the kitchen and saw this:


That's the fixed panel of my sliding glass door. The only thing fortunate about this is no one was hurt. It's also two-layer thermal glass, and the outside panel of glass that broke.

But it's also a mystery. It's covered by yet another layer of storm glass on the screen porch side, and nothing struck the window. No one was in the room. I suspect torsion of the frame, or a flaw in the glass (it's a really low-quality door). But I don't know for sure.

I was so relieved it wasn't something far worse that I was curiously unmoved by the fact that this is going to be an expensive replacement job. I feel like the house pulled a bait-and-switch on me just to keep me from pitching a tantrum about the broken window. And really, it worked.

I have been dithering for well over a year between some work in the kitchen (replacing this door, the flooring, and the dishwasher) and some work in the basement, unable to really make up my mind between the two. I guess my mind got made up for me.

But colder weather is on its way too, and I'm pushing forward yet another weekend on the window glazing project.

I'll check back in soon. Back to work!