More talk. Less doing. Revising our expectations--and our work process

Last month, Cane drafted a post I never got edited/published. It went mostly like this:

We are not strong finishers. We LOVE to start projects though. It’s one of the things that we do best.

thissortaoldlife cane tearing up carpet

That time early in a project when it’s all possibility and excitement is the best part. When you sit around and think of all the different things you can do… that’s the part for us.

scattered paint chips

Finishing is boring. Often that’s not creative work at all. It’s all business, you know. Who would get excited about standing up on a ladder painting a house?

thissortaoldlife cane caulking the windows

And before you can paint, you have to caulk and scrape and prime…

Sitting around drinking wine and looking at paint chips, that’s a different story. Or walking through a neighborhood finding cool color schemes.

thissortaoldlife orange and grey Portland house

We liked the orange and grey colors of this house.

It’s the thinking and pre-planning and conversations that we like. I can’t tell you how many days out on the town we’ve gotten out of our exterior paint project.

We eventually get things done. As much as we don’t much like finishing, we also don’t like leaving things hanging too long.

Part of the problem for us is that we are not linear people. We almost never do anything from start to finish without being interrupted by a bunch of other half related tasks.

Here’s how it goes:  I’m working on cleaning the kitchen. I see a screwdriver on the counter. I walk down to the garage to put it away. As I’m putting it away I notice how messy my workbench is so I start to organize that. As I’m organizing the workbench I find a light switch plate that I meant to change. Might as well do that while I’m thinking about it. I take the screwdriver back upstairs and change the light switch plate. This leads to a conversation about light fixtures which leads to some Craigslist searching for a new light fixture to replace the one we don’t like. This will lead to a day down on Hawthorne looking at light fixtures which may or may not lead to a new light fixture.

library light 3

Did the kitchen get cleaned? Eventually. But look at how much other stuff I did in the meantime.. That’s the way both Rita and I work. It doesn’t drive us crazy at all because we are both like that.

When Rita came home to find I had ripped out all the carpet on the stairs she hardly batted an eye. She hated the carpet as much as I did, but neither of us had a plan for what to do after I got the carpet removed.

This drives our kids crazy. A common comment lately is ” When are you guys going to stop breaking the house and actually fix something?”

this sorta old life grace mad face

Grace was not pleased when she learned that we’d torn up the stairs and were painting the family room right before her 8th grade graduation party.

Because this is how we work, we have a lot of projects going on right now:

Current Summer Punch List

1. Exterior repaint. This is a huge one. We are doing the work ourselves. I’ve actually never done an exterior repaint so I’m probably blissfully unaware of how daunting the task actually is. I’ve started some of the work though and have the front of the house ready for primer. Still not sure how to get way up and paint the high-up parts.

this sorta old life paint swatches exterior paint

Here you can see the paint colors we’re testing out. You can also see in the garage Ella’s bike, which I recently painted yellow to match my scooter. A house painting procrastination project.

2. Bathroom renovation. Another huge project. We did manage to get a new tub installed and plumbing done. We are working on tile now. We have flooring, painting, storage, and a new vanity left to do. (Note from Rita: The tiling project is since done, which you can see here.)

this sorta old life bathroom renovation

3. Refinish the deck. We have a large deck out back that needs a new coat of stain. I need to get that done before the fall. I already pressure washed it and got it all cleaned up so it’s ready to go.

whole deck

You can see here that the deck floor needs some work.

4. Stair renovation. Since I ripped out the carpet I need to fix the stairs. I’ll be installing new treads and risers. Have I done this before? No. Do I know what I’m doing? Maybe?

thissortaoldlife entry stairs with ugly paint

Rita painted the stairs brown, trying to make them look OK for Grace’s party. We’re calling this one a fail.

5. Carpet removal. I haven’t “broken” the floor downstairs yet, but we have to remove the carpet from the family room. The carpet is glued to a cement slab. I plan to get the carpet and glue up and try a clear poly floor finish. Keep it old school, you know. How hard can that be? I’m sure the glue will come right up. :)

thissortaoldlife bad carpet

6. Landscaping. I need to cut back some bushes in the back yard so I have a place to put the ladder to paint. My idea was to dig them up and extend the lawn. I started this already. I have one bush half dug out. It looks like a hairy meteorite hit the back yard and made a crater. Wonder if I’ll be able to actually dig these out?

this sorta old life back yard bushes

7. Chair redo. Rita is working on painting a chair that I convinced her buy at a garage sale last summer (which isn’t hard because she’s got kind of a chair addiction). She’s going to make new covers for the cushions as well. It’s going to be spectacular when it’s done.

thissortaoldlife chair detail

I think that’s it for now. The summer is young though. There is still plenty of time for more shenanigans. We were thinking about removing some wallpaper around the house. I was also thinking about building a window seat/bench in the kitchen. Oh, and the girls would like a tree house in the back yard. I’m thinking that if I manage to finish up one of these big projects I could easily start a couple of more small ones. That sounds right doesn’t it?

How many projects are you juggling this summer?

That was then, this is now

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Kinda light-hearted, kinda we-know-we’re-a-little-dysfunctional-but-it-works-for-us–right?

That was the view back in June, when–for a couple of teachers recently released for a WHOLE SUMMER OFF–all things seem possible.

cane and rita headshot thissortaoldlife

Back in June, we were feeling pretty great about all we’d accomplish this summer.

But now it’s mid-July, we can see the coming school year peeking at us from around the corner of August, and this week our hearts were so heavy we kinda dropped them on each other.

OK, that metaphor’s not working so well.

Let’s just say it how it went down in plain language:

As I was about to leave for the millionth trip of driving to pick up a child and Cane was once again on the ladder by himself, painting this behemoth of a split-level and it’s million T-111 grooves, the frustrations and resentments about our house projects that each of us has been managing became, suddenly, unmanageable.

No pretty pictures to illustrate that moment. Hard to snap a picture when you’re feeling unappreciated and overworked and exhausted and bewildered (which described both of us). But maybe these will explain some of it:

thissortaoldlife cane painting with long pole

And this is one of the easier walls. See all those white grooves? Cane painted each one with a brush. Twice.

thissortaoldlife rita grouting

I spent pretty much three days alone in the bathroom, grouting the tile. Just me, my tub of grout, and Don Draper.

Once I calmed down (because I was the one who had a meltdown), we stopped working on the house so we could  figure out where we were and how we got there. From that, we figured out some things.

A big one? Even though we sometimes think we need less talk and more doing, this summer we’ve needed more talk and less doing. Not, however, more of the kind of talk Cane was talking about. (The fun planning/dreaming/wine drinking kind.) More of a kind that’s all new for us. We’ll fill you in on that in part two of this already too-long post.

Hope you’ll stay tuned…(we promise, it’s a happy ending)