the way we were

27 03 2010

You know the scene… years after they’d gone their separate ways,  a random encounter on the streets of New York and Hubbell (Robert Redford) realizes that he’s still in love with Katie (Barbra Streisand) but deep in his heart he knows he never could have lived up to her expectations of him.  So they utter bittersweet good-byes and go their separate ways.  Roll credits…

So it is with certain relationships in our lives – some things just don’t work out.  As much as we’d like to make changes – do things another way – be something else…it’s impossible.  I’m wondering if that is the story of my relationship with this house.

A few weeks ago during an insomnious rant as per my m.o., I was wandering around the halls of the interwebs at some ungodly hour of the inky blackness.  I revisited a blog I follow (Holyoke Home) about a couple restoring a row house with lots more energy and resources than I’ll ever have.

In one of her recent posts she talked about the journey of dating her home.  We’ve always known, at least from the mortgage papers we’ve had in our hands, that the house was built in 1905.  But what has fascinated me more was wanting to see what it looked like.  Somehow that night through the magic of getting lost in the webesphere, I emailed the city archivist who got in touch with me hours later to say he had photos from some city assessment in 1936 with pictures.

Thus opened my brand new can of worms.  I sat there screaming at my computer, “I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT!”  I knew there was supposed to be a window in the bathroom.  I knew there was a reason there was a flat roof on the front porch.  I knew it looked better without vinyl siding…I knew it…I knew..

So with copies of photos in hand I ran to a few shops around town and got the 411 on where I could go to get some of the details right.  Walking into the warehouse/workshop of RJRaven Architectural Windows and Doors was no less than amazing.  And after a short chat about possibilities, he said I’d be a fool to not try to get the house back looking like it once did.  Oh and by the way, to re-do the attic window and upper porch railing would only set me back some $6000 or so, roughly speaking.  Would it end up being like pearls on a pig if I don’t strip off the siding too to take it back to the clapboard and cedar shakes two-tone?  The Dr. will hear NOTHING of that pipe dream.

But I know what I know.  I will bet good money that the cedar shakes are still on the front and side of the house.  I will bet that under the stupid vinyl wrap just under the roof – the sweet dentil detail that I saw as I did a digital zoom-in, still exists.  And on and on I could go.  But it gets me no where for right now.

Landscaping has to be done this year.  Exterior paint has to be done (another reason I wanted old pictures). Then the pitiful bathroom – next the hunter green kitchen – and all the wood floors that have yet to be refinished.  There will never be enough time or money to do all I have dreamed about doing to this house.

But unlike Katie and Hubbel – I’m going to stick with the relationship – as flawed as it is.  We have gotten things done…little by little.  These are the moments I need to stop and look over the laundry list of “un-sexy” things we’ve accomplished – stripping all the oak woodwork on the first floor, restoring the entry way which meant taking down some walls, a new furnace / air-conditioning unit, a tankless water heater, some re-plumbing and re-wiring, a new roof and gutters, attic windows that work, glass block basement windows, new toilets and buckets and buckets of paint.

That is an incomplete list but it was easier to write than to accomplish.  Life is bigger than this house and takes priority.  Meanwhile, it has served to be a home and haven regardless of all its imperfections.  So back to picking out paint chips for the summer’s project of putting the 80’s teal and mauve (the true gag of the colors don’t ring true on this photo) to rest once and for all.

Barbra…sing us out.

“If we had the chance to do all again – tell me, would we? Could we?…”

color wheel

20 11 2009

Twenty-plus giant bags of brown paper stuffed with yellow confetti.  Azure skies top the Indian Summer days.  Two Norways and one Sugar Maple spread their arms to form a hunter green canopy that shade the windows from heat, now stand like lacey webs – bare. The dance of the sun across the sky is lower now. The music is changing – the notes are more somber.

Inky darkness falls but midnight is yet far away.  We turn out all the lights and sit staring at the cadmium orange, yellow and red blaze in the fireplace.  Stifling a shiver, I focus on the light.

One more maize day.  The red and silver ladder stands ready as I arm myself with a bottle of liquid turquoise and stuff my pockets with black and white newsprint.  I make circle after circle till the tiny bubbles and wavy lines entombed in the century old glass sparkle and shine like tiny prisms.

Twilight again turns the sky to a cerulean pool.  The burnt amber room turns to cinnamon with dimmed lamps.  My three favorite windows in the house – the three dressed in nothing but their golden oak frames – are my portals to sanity.  Tonight they stand with clean faces ready to welcome the southern light.

Gray.  It came sooner than expected.  Dropped like a thick scrim in front of the sun, there were no pale yellow rays to dance across the polished crystal.  Just gray.  But sooner than I’d like,  there will be a brilliant day when light will be intensified by the surrounding white and my windows will magnify those reflected rays. Then, imitating the Mouser, I will find a reason to stop and bask in that warmth in hopes of surviving another winter.

of all the things…

18 02 2009

dsc_00013I knew I was in trouble.  I heard him coming down the stairs to fix himself something for lunch.  With a wide scraper in my hand, down on my knees, I was pulling up linoleum tiles from the kitchen floor.

“Of all the things you COULD be doing…what prompted you to do this NOW?”  There is no right answer to that question. This 100 year old house – a constant work in progress- sometimes just begs for attention.  So I answered honestly…it sounded like the most fun option.  The other options were ironing, sorting through boxes of God-knows-what that I’ve stashed in Best Boy’s room while he’s gone for 10 days, cleaning the attic, basement, garage or any and all closets and on and on.

When we first walked through this house over a decade ago, the kitchen was the one room that I really disliked.  It had gotten an update in the early 70’s that just doesn’t fit the character of the house.  There are plenty of cupboards and space but bottle green laminate countertops with hunter green country themed wallpaper hurt me.  With that make-over came the pièce de résistance of slapping adhesive tiles over a wood floor-maybe just the sub-floor, but wood plank nonetheless.

So, very little by little, I am unearthing a new old kitchen floor. The process isn’t hard…just messy and toxic.  Sounds like my life.  I pry up the tiles with a wide paint scraper.  What is left underneath is so sticky that as I step back, my shoes are cemented to the floor and I inadvertently step out of them. After I pry them loose and put them back on, I dump some gel adhesive remover over the space and spread it out.  That stinks the place up like crazy so doors and windows are cracked.   The directions say to leave it 20 minutes and I leave it for twice that time frame.  Scrape up the goop that looks like what the cat coughs up and re-gel it for another round.  While I wait, I write this, eat a ham sandwich, make a run to the post office and get high from the fumes.

What’s not to love about this project?  Seriously, I think what I like is that it stays.  When I’m done with each little section that I tackle, it’s done.  It’s not like laundry that gets dirty again every time I turn around.  Or like cooking where you make a big effort and are left with nothing to show but people licking their chops.  I can admire my progress and don’t feel like I’m moving backwards.

At this point I’m quite sure that there are plenty of you asking why I don’t just tackle the whole thing at once and be done with it.  The answer is – because I am old.  I got a blister on the heel of my hand from jamming the scraper under the tiles to pry them off. After finishing that little section, my hands and wrists hurt like crazy. By far the best reason for doing it a little at a time is that it gives me the perfect out when I don’t want to do other things and get inspired to continue the fifty tile count down.

Who knows – maybe by this summer I’ll be done and we’ll have the whole thing sanded and refinished.  That would leave us with just eight more rooms and the stairs to do. At least they aren’t covered in sticky goo. Gotta love The Money Pit!

talkin’ turkey

26 11 2008

Somehow I’ve always related Thanksgiving with a time that I do a year-in-review.  Maybe it is to prepare me for those unexpected “let’s share around the table something you’re thankful for…” situations I so often find myself in.  I know it makes more sense at the turn of the new year but I can no longer account for how my brain works or doesn’t for that matter.

This has been one busy year…but don’t I feel like that every year?  All I had to do was to go back through my iPhoto library and email account to see what has been going on in the previous dozen months to remember.  Alot has gone down – some good, some not so good, some hopeful and some really depressing.  It really is easy to get sidetracked and just focus on present circumstances (like the call 10 minutes ago from the car repair shop advising of a $1000 fix). That is not a place for my creative brain to dwell if I need energy.  

So where have we been…what makes me hopeful…what am I thankful for – even if it is being thankful just to be done with something:

A magical night when the gypsies came to sing.




The hope of a movie to make and options on book rights secured…even if there is no money in sight yet.  Just the dreams can be enough. ‘Coz that’s what Dot&Cross boys have taught us to do.


A relatively quick and “easy” time at hospice.


Uncertain days ahead but certain of the task at hand.


Hundreds of thousands of miles traveled across some of the most dangerous places on the planet and safe returns with pretty little baubles in hand.




Not more than four visits to the hospital..maybe a couple more between all of us…but none that kept us there days and days.

Shadows that aren’t scary.



Lots of songs and movies “in the can”.


Very unsexy but necessary house repairs on a foursquare built in 1905.


Days that Bella gets a bath.


And the courage to jump into the raging river of the internet in my own little lifeboat called “1eyedmonkee”. 

For these few things I’m grateful and for the ones who share the journey holding me up.  There are a million more things I’ve failed to mention…but what will I blog about for the days and minutes to come if I tell you everything right now?