23 February 2014

There is a Lesson in This . . .

I need to replace my iPod.

There are a variety of reasons that this burden I have taken upon myself--this onerous, tedious, messy, stinky, inconvenient burden of painting our kitchen cabinets--is not going well.

So I am going to take the easy way out and blame Apple. My current iPod, with its broken button, is my third iPod. In the first, the battery stopped charging so the device was only usable in a dock that charges it while playing. The second I left on a plane coming home from China, deathly ill (in fact, the illness that led to my ultimate, permanent hair loss). It was not returned. The third is the P.o.S. I have right now.

This tedious task is less boring if I listen to a story while I labor, so I've been listening to one of the current teen romance-post apocalypse--dystopian-thriller series. I finished Divergent yesterday, and today I began Insurgent. It is a pain in the ass to have to unplug my iPod from my headphones to stop the story so that I can assess my job and decide my next course of action, instead of just hitting a button so that I can pause. It is a pain in the ass to then go to an outlet somewhere to plug in my iPod and wake up its screen, and then unplug it so that I can then plug in my headphone cord. It takes much longer to do this than it takes to write it, and I resent every moment of it. And so, I try to do it as rarely as possible.

I have been moving slowly along on this project, carefully priming and cutting in and coating surfaces assiduously, and it was frustrating this morning to see how drippy everything is. I have done vast swaths of wall painting in our house, and fancied myself an excellent amateur painter. Unfortunately (I have discovered over the past week), I need to refine my definition of my skills. I am an excellent amateur WALL painter, over a semi-porous, semi-breathable surface; and painting a semi-gloss trim paint onto finished wood and laminate (!) is not, actually, much like that at all.  

I did a little sanding this morning, in an attempt to remove the worst of the blemishes. I am long past trying to keep my work site neat and tidy and healthful, and so I did nothing to cover the dish cabinets (which are still full of dishes). I will remember to rinse them off before I eat off of them . . . no I won't. I already haven't. At least the food cabinets were still covered with plastic. I had stopped plasticizing after doing those first cabinets, because it was another pain in the ass to tape plastic sheets inside them, out of the way of where I wanted to paint. Of course, all of the food will be emptied out of closed containers before being ingested . . . and so it would've been healthier to cover the dishes. This and myriad other regrets have peppered my story listening.

All along, there have been signs that this particular task was not supposed to be mine, but I ignored my irritation and soldiered on. I've been working the swing shift, because I can't seem to get myself to work before mid-afternoon. Once I'm finally going, though, the momentum has been carrying me along.

This evening, this momentum carried me to the head of the festering boil. I turned on my story and started by finishing the first (and only, I've decided) coat of surface paint on the insides of the cabinet doors, down in the garage (I am going to paint the surface coat on the outside of the doors upstairs, once everything on the rest of the cabinets  is done and the doors are reinstalled). I then took my supplies up to the kitchen, story droning on, where I continued painting, this time a second finish coat, of everything there. I covered the bits that I'd sanded this morning, and carefully continued my process of cutting in. I took special care to guard against drips, and when I used up my paint, about 2/3 of the way through the kitchen, I returned to the garage, still listening to my story (of course), grabbed the paint can, and came back up.

About 40 minutes later I finished a second coat of surface paint, right hand cramping, and stood back to survey my work. The drips didn't look any worse, and in some places looked better. Okay! It's going to be okay! I thought, through my story. I took a satisfied breath. I felt lighter.

I noticed, absently at first, as I gazed around admiring my work, that a section I'd recently painted looked matte instead of shiny. I touched it lightly. It felt cool and smooth, but not slick. It felt matte. The story droned on. I looked again at the surface, more intently, and realized that it was matte, and the color was very slightly whiter than what I'd expected. I whipped my head around to where I'd set the paint can on the floor and, sure enough, since going back to the garage to refill, I had been painting with primer. The story droned.

POP! went the festering boil. I yanked my offending iPod out of the pocket of my coveralls, ripped out the headphone cord, and burst into slightly hysterical laughter. I gathered my gear and took it downstairs to clean up. Clearly I was done for the day.

I tossed the paint pan liner with the remains of the offending paint into the trash and rinsed out my brush, trying to chuckle at the ridiculous absurdity of inadvertently extending this task that I was so desperate to be done with, but mostly feeling like a baffled, injured, heartbroken child. I found Ian and explained what had happened, and then burst into slightly hysterical tears.

While it is true that the iPod contributed to this disaster (and it's really not a disaster, I know that), it was not really at fault all by itself. Ian is a thoughtful, intuitive man, and we agreed that there was a lesson to learn here, and while Apple can't be blamed for all of it, our first action was to sit down at my computer and order me a new Google cell phone--NOT an iPod--which will replace my aging Android and act as my book player from here on out.

As far as other lessons, they are manifold. I thought I had learned this first lesson with editing school, but clearly I had learned only a version of it: earning money is not enough of a motivator for me, to make up for the tedium of a job I don't like. The subtlety I'm learning here is that saving money is, likewise, not enough of a motivator to make up for the tedium of a job I don't like. If I were doing this job only because I wanted to enjoy white cabinets, that would've been one thing--I would've willingly engaged in all the billion little bits, and tedium wouldn't have figured. But at this comfortable stage of my comfortable upper-middle class life, the idea of saving money, or even earning more on a future home sale, is not a motivator.

Another lesson is that I am not a detail-above-all-else-oriented person, neither in editing* nor in this particular painting job. I just can't be bothered--at least, not for very long. I take care of my things, I appreciate beauty and fine craftsmanship, and I can focus quite well on the details of creations that I am avidly interested in doing simply because I want to do them. But I have my limits on exactness no matter what I'm doing, and when I row my ducks, they look like grade schoolers lining up for recess, not graduates of Annapolis.

Perhaps the most important lesson though, as we move inexorably toward building our dream, our forever home, on Orcas Island, is that I do not, in fact, have any interest--any interest at all--in doing work on it myself so that we can save money. It's good to find this out before we start writing the checks.

*Ian just pointed out that, in fact, I am very much enjoying the detail work of editing this post, so it would've been more correct to say "editing other people's work." 

21 February 2014

Another Job I Don't Particularly Like

I set aside this week to paint the kitchen cabinets. They were a very basic, dated, oak (1990, I read on the sticker inside the door under the sink), with oak-printed laminate (!) end pieces and underpieces, and yellowing, increasingly grimy wood edge pieces on the counters, and a streaked and grimy wood back splash. They were ugly.

I always disliked these cabinets, from the moment I took possession of the house. They fit aesthetically--more or less--with the lavender carpet in the hall and bedrooms, and the vinyl floors in the bathroom and the kitchen, and the faux marble tub surround; but I ripped out the carpet and finished the fir floors under it, as well as the original oak in the living and dining rooms, before I even moved in.

Over the years we've back-dated (instead of updated) most of the rest of the elements of our home. We remodeled the entire bathroom, moving the toilet from its original spot (in a direct line down the hall from the front door), changing the vinyl floor and the linoleum surround and the press-board-and-laminate vanity to hex tiles and wainscoting and a pedestal sink, and donating the '50s  iron tub and replacing it with a refurbished clawfoot.

At some point in the early years when I was out of town, Ian replaced the hideous vinyl on the kitchen floor with classic black and white Marmoleum squares, and the house really began to look its age--but in a nice, newly done, sturdy modern way.

All except for those kitchen cabinets, which became more and more glaringly out of place as the rest of our home coalesced into a classic Seattle Craftsman whole.

We had a local realtor in recently and the thing she noticed--the one thing that was truly not like the others, was those cabinets. As ugly, out-of-place oak, they really make the kitchen look like it needs to be replaced. But, she suggested, painted white with glass knobs, a buyer will nod thoughtfully and say "Yeah, I could live with this."

"Oh, I could paint those!" I said, with smug, misguided enthusiasm. And so we ordered some little glass knobs from Rejuvenation, I set aside my week for work, and just like that, lickety-split, our kitchen looks great.


If only that were true.

What's actually true is that I've been having a devil of a time getting myself going on this project each day (note: it's 12:07 pm right now and I have yet to do any work other than decide that I do, at some point today, need to do work). The problem is many-faceted.

One, I have had a cold for longer than I like (chemo at the wrong time of my healing cycle set me back a week), and so I really don't have the energy I normally have when doing household projects.

Two, there are a thousand--no, a billion--piddly little details. Unscrew 47 things. Don't lose the 763 pieces you've just unscrewed. Clean the hinges. TSP. Sand. Wipe. Wipe again. Set up work space. Turn on iPod by plugging it in to turn on touch screen, because the button that used to do that stopped working after just more than a year, and Apple wouldn't fix it. Put on headphones. Put on respirator. Adjust glasses, which are weighted down by headphones and respirator. Put on gloves/coveralls. Paint primer. Bang head, somehow in spite of respirator and headphones, several times against shelf in garage. Swear.

Three, this does not technically need to be done before next February when we put the house on the market. And by doing the project now, we will almost definitely have to spend time touching it up next year. Back in the days of dreamy planning about a nicer-looking kitchen, one of my main motivations for doing it soon was so we would be able to enjoy it ourselves. That motivation has taken the way-back seat, however. UGH! I'm going to have to spend more time in here next year! is riding shotgun.

Four, THIS IS BORING. Much like the tedium of cancer treatment, there are proscribed steps to take, a lot of hassle and discomfort in the short term, and meager compensations along the way. For example, from two days ago (read with decreasing enthusiasm): I've primed one side of the cabinet doors! And I am now 1/4 of the way done with the cabinet door process. IF, in fact, I only need to do one coat of primer and one coat of paint. Otherwise . . . I'm 1/8 of the way done. SIGH. Success is so distant as to seem unattainable.

My only motivation left on this project is the fact that I have made the kitchen (and, by extension, the dining room table) largely unusable until everything's done and the doors are reinstalled.

Ooh--look: 12:57pm! Lunch time! I can't start yet . . .

12 February 2014

Morning Medicine

Mom and I sharing morning greetings from our respective hospital beds.

Who is whom? Who can tell? Which one is the mother? Which one is the daughter? Oh, happy times.

one-fingered on my phone

10 February 2014

Sturdier Stuff than Me

I just heard from Marsh, and Mom's surgery is done and it went great. Evidently, they gave her an epidural and a local anesthetic, but did not knock her out, and so, curious as ever, she asked questions non-stop during her procedure. "What are you doing now?", & etc.

I'm going to go pass out now.

Under the Knife

Mom is in the O.R. at Virginia Mason as I write this, getting her right hip replaced after about a year of intensifying pain.

I was planning to be in the waiting room today, and she asked me to stay with her tonight in her hospital room, which I was happy to do. Friday, however, winter weather and a moderately compromised immune system conspired together, and I came down with a massive head cold--just in time to make it a really bad idea for me to be around recovering surgery patients.

Marsh is manning the waiting room and the smartphone alone (and he'll be snoring in the bed next to Mom's tonight--she was planning to bring her long gripper tool to pinch him awake if he doesn't hear her calling). I'm meandering around the house, slowly working through basic chores that can be accomplished even with my thick head (chock full of snot).

My thoughts have been waxing philosophical as I meander around--putting some towels away, collecting the mail and recycling it--and I've been thinking about major life events, and less eventful long-term changes.

A hip replacement is an old-lady surgery. Mom is far from old in a lot of ways, but she's getting up there chronologically. Ian and I, at the starting line of middle age, are, as you know, deeply into our plans for moving away . . . right as our parents are moving inexorably toward needing more care.

I have complicated feelings about all of this: from trust that our most-important elders will continue to thrive for many more years; to nervous recognition that Ian and I are throwing in our lot with a community we only slightly know, and planning to spend our own (we hope) distant dotage there; to an irrational annoyance that, just as we begin to create our glowing future life, life is reminding us of potentialities other than perfect, unblemished bliss.

But mostly, I'm nervous about my mom being in surgery, and worried that something will go wrong no matter how unlikely that is, and that her life will take a dramatic turn from independent, delighted involvement in myriad activities, to something challenging and sad. I'm the one who spends time with difficult health issues, and I'd like it to stay that way.

I love you, Mom.