Porch Work

I started this blog six years ago to keep track of the renovation work we were doing on the new old house we’d just acquired. It was a house and acres filled with history on both sides of our families and I wanted to document it. You can read that story here.

We’ve become complacent lately, and though the place is far from finished, the work we did this past winter is far from noteworthy. (What bathroom?)

Except for the last few weeks.

I finally found time and money (they don’t usually go together) to get window box planters for the front windows.

I also found time to paint the other front door that’s been white forever. Let me tell you — painting  those muntins around each pane of glass was a definite pain. (A small DIY tip: If you ever have to paint a door with many glass panes, don’t bother taping it off. I laboriously taped every one, and it just didn’t work. The best thing to do is just paint on the glass, and then scrape off the paint when it is dry). I also spray painted the metal chair and put it next to the door. And lest it sound as if I did all the work, the door trim had to be put up, primed, and painted too. The carpenter did that.

So now that the front is finished — it only took six years —  we can concentrate on the back.

The Back Porch. I’ve written about it before — here and here. I always say I have a love-hate relationship with it. And now? Now the hate parts are mostly gone:

  • The ugly sliding glass doors that were so cloudy it always looked like a foggy day? GONE!
  • The ugliest screen door ever? GONE!
  • Thirty-three year old indoor-outdoor carpet? GONE!
  • The closet that once held the largest hornet’s nest ever documented? GONE! (The door was opened cautiously every single time.)
  • The cedar shakes that were un-sweepable, un-scrubbable, and un-cleanable? GONE!

What’s left? Well, at this point, it’s still ugly.

Once the cedar shakes were taken off, the old clapboard siding was in remarkably good shape. If you were under the delusion that cedar is an insect-repellent wood, you are Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Under each one of those cedar shingles lived at least two stink bugs, an unknown cocoon, and/or a wasp nest. Taking off those shingles was one of the more disgusting jobs I’ve had. I got really good at killing stink bugs with one blow from the hammer. After awhile I didn’t even notice the smell, and although I got buzzed by more than one wasp/hornet/carpenter bee, I didn’t get stung.

This cupboard is now gone. The siding on the inside of the closet was painted porch red and will have to be painted white, but the porch looks much larger without it.

Here is Mr. H. C. Getting rid of the ugliest screen door ever made. He put it out by the road with a “free” sign next to it. True confession: I told him not to bother–no one would take it. It was gone within an hour. I think the guy took it for the aluminum.

It was a Memorial-Day-Work-In and while we were taking down the closet we discovered this writing on a 2×4:  it dated the closet from another Memorial-Day- Work-In in 1985.

It seemed appropriate that Mr. H.C.’s parents were putting the closet up on a Memorial Day weekend, and we were taking it down on a Memorial Day weekend thirty-three years later.

The Circle of Life, indeed.

50. Perfectionism, Part 1: the curse

All our lives we’re told, “Do your best.” “If you do your best, that’s all anyone can ask.”
And what, exactly, is our best?
How many times can we have a do over?
When and how do we draw the line between “our best” and OCD?
And who ultimately gives us the final grade? Friends? Lovers? Bosses? Ourselves? Society? God?
Oh my. These are such hard questions I’d better stop now and have a cup of tea. I hope you’re having one with me…


Several events have precipitated these musings on perfectionism.

  • The Color of my Kitchen

I spent (or wasted) hours poring over paint samples. After purchasing a sample jar of Benjamin Moore Blooming Grove, I fell in love. There were even signs to let me know I’d chosen well:

I bought a gallon at a store that shall remain nameless. I do have to say that when the mixologist opened the can to show me the paint, I said, “That’s too yellow.”
“No,” he assured me. “It’s Blooming Grove. It will dry darker.”

Blooming grove samples on kitchen wall
On the wall is the paint from the sample can. The cabinet door is divided in half–the bottom is the sample can; the top is from the gallon that would dry darker.
I have struggled with this. I don’t want to be the whiny perfectionist lady customer demanding a new gallon be mixed because it isn’t exactly right.
Nevertheless, one can plainly see that it isn’t  exactly right.
Does God want me obsessing over a paint color, because, in the scheme of the universe, paint color just isn’t that important. I know this. Where does the line fall here?

  • The Last Glitch in the Kitchen Window Process

Two weeks ago we were ready to put up the windows in the kitchen. The left side just had to be finish coated and we were ready to go. As I sat down to paint them (paint poured and brush dipped) I could see that the primer on the glazing wasn’t sticking. So instead of finish coating, I spent the next three hours peeling little strips of paint/primer off the glazed window panes.
There are no photos of this event.
And then instead of putting up windows, we were back to priming/drying/painting/drying.
It was discouraging.
And I wondered as I was sitting on the floor in the late afternoon sun peeling off little strips, “Is this normal?”
Would other people just say, “Oh for goodness sake, just paint the stupid windows and put them up!”

I wanted to do that. But I knew it was peeling. Done poorly. Failed event. Where does the line fall here?

  • Life in General; Rehabbing a Cottage in Particular

I don’t mind little imperfections in wood or paint or people — I myself have little imperfections.
I am not a complete dorky perfectionist all the time. (The jury is still out on Mr. H.C.)
I have buried uncleaned paintbrushes in the bottom of a garbage can because A. I didn’t want to clean them, or B. I did clean them but not good enough and they dried out stiff and I didn’t want any other perfectionist who lives in the house to find them.
I mean, really, one could spend hours cleaning a paintbrush. Or peeling paint from an imperfectly primed window…Or redoing a board because it is a quarter inch off…Or choosing the right color of paint… I don’t have any answers here folks. The age old question — blessing or curse — is still a question. But I can tell you that just last week I read a quote from Thomas Merton (much wiser than I…) who said this:

We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life.

That gives me hope. So does the wise quote from Mr. H. C. who says to me all the time — there’s nothing perfect in this world.

And now I have to go demand a new gallon of paint. (Nicely, of course.)