Archive for June, 2010

The Reluctant Redecorator
June 17, 2010

Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.          –Samuel Johnson (1755) 

Change is good, or so some say. This subject has lately been debated ad nauseam in political circles, but the truth is that there are many people who like things just the way they are. 

Pewperson readers know that our recent appliance purchases were the first time in my life I had ever bought new ones for no other reason than to make a change. They weren’t broken. They were just out of date. I am one who is so obstinately frugal sometimes, I know it is frustrating to my husband. 

Oh, he likes it that I’m not a shopper or a redecorator. Once I have things the way I want, well that’s good enough for me. I guess I take after my grandmother and my mother whose frugal genes I obviously inherited and who seldom if ever moved things around at their respective houses. The thing he likes about that is that I don’t spend money frivolously. 

But what he doesn’t like is that things that are decades old look decades old. So it was Joel who took the lead in our home update project. It was time, I know, but I would have dragged my feet and fretted about the cost, so I deferred to him, reasoning that he’s the one who earns the bucks to pay for all this. My job is to try to conserve them. 

So, over the past few weeks, workmen have been swarming here and there to repair things that need it, touch up things that need it, clean, repaint, install, etc. etc. Every day brings a new delight; it feels so decadent! 

One of Joel’s visions was to replace the white sheetrock ceiling of our “veranda” and port cochere. Never in a million years would I have ever thought to do that. Last week, the crew ripped out the old and installed, sanded, stained, and sealed the new. It’s unbelievable the difference this one project has made. These rather dingy and nondescript spaces have now been transformed into handsome and elegant ones (see photo above). 

I feel so sorry for the mama mourning dove who has nested on the top of one of the columns near the veranda ceiling. She has bravely protected her eggs amidst the demo, noisy hammering and smelly staining process. Whenever I go out there, she looks at me alertly, hoping I’m no threat. 

Yesterday I could see that she has at least one chick, so I told the men who are now repainting the exterior of the house to just paint around her and come back later to finish that one spot. I just couldn’t bear to disturb her anymore. 

Once the guys are finished outside, they will once again invade inside to make changes in the kitchen. New counter tops, sink and paint will complete our makeover without really altering the footprint. I’m both excited about it and dreading it. 

Dreading it, because of the noise, dust, smell, but mostly because I will have to empty out all the cabinets and pantry of their contents and retreat into the other room. It will be like packing up to move, except I can just cart everything into the other room without wrapping things too securely. 

Sounds like my summer will not be a leisurely one, but I am psyching myself up for the task. After Shannon returns home and settles in, she can assist in this major project, which will make it less onerous. 

It’s been fourteen years since we last moved, the longest we’ve ever lived in any one home. Moving makes one clean up, throw away, donate, get back to the basics. “Change” does the same. It’s now time for me to do that, so here we go! The end result will be well worth it. 

Look for some before and after photos later this summer. 

Note: pewperson will return July 2.

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A Delicate Choreography
June 11, 2010

Who will change old lamps for new ones?      -Arabian Nights 

In the midst of all the new appliance installation, garage apartment renovation and other long overdue minor repairs and updates, the house got power washed yesterday (in preparation for a re-painting) AND the yard got mowed, beds weeded and walkways blown. 

(an aside: I’ve always wondered why the past tense of “mow” is “mowed”, while the past tense of “blow” is “blew”. Why not mew and blew? Or mowed and blowed?) 

Wow, everything looks so clean and neat outside! It’s been years since our last touch up paint job, and that was just to the doors, shutters and window surrounds. The brick is fine, but the siding hasn’t been repainted since who knows when. Everything was covered with a dingy coat of dust and pollen; it now looks 100% better even before the re-painting actually begins. 

The gate slats that a bored Bailey once chewed as a puppy have now been replaced and repainted. It’s amazing what a difference a fresh coat of paint makes! 

Today the plumber is here, installing the new toilet and sink in the garage apartment. The electrician will come tomorrow to install an exhaust fan and a few new fixtures in there. Then all that remains in there is carpet installation. 

Back when we came up with this idea, I thought it was going to be overwhelming to coordinate the logistics of the various workmen (repairman, painter, plumber, electrician, etc.) without a “general contractor”, but it has all run pretty well according to schedule thus far. I liken it to choreographing a dance, with each person playing his role at a particular time while trying to avoid running into one another. 

After the garage apartment and kitchen work is complete, then comes the driveway, which  is going to be a major hassle. First, the old one will need to be jack hammered and hauled away. Then a cement base will be installed with pavers placed on top. No more potholes! And no more money afterwards; we are at the end of the street and have a large circular drive with a long entry lane. Repaving the whole thing will cost a bundle. 

We’ll have to park at our neighbors’ house and walk home; the thought of unloading groceries like that is just peachy. But I’m not going to complain, because I’ll be so glad to get this long overdue project done. Besides, walking is good for us, especially while carrying heavy things! Let’s hope it doesn’t rain much during this stretch. 

I must admit that I’m getting a bit weary of men tromping in and out, making a lot of noise and leaving a lot of dust. They do their best to clean up, but it’s cursory until they are finished. I mean, why bother if they are just going to make another mess tomorrow? 

Bailey can’t wait until this is all over; he is totally confused by the strangers who come in without knocking, make scary loud noises and leave paint fumes in their wake. Wherever I am, he is right beside me; I hate to go anywhere while the workers are here, because I think he would absolutely have a nervous breakdown. Shadow? He can’t hear a thing, so it doesn’t bother him much. He actually enjoys getting in the way to see what the guys are doing. Curiosity may kill a dog if he doesn’t watch out! At the very least, I envision a paw or a nose in the paint tray.

Despite longing to have my nice, quiet house back, I’ve got to say that it is exciting to see all the improvements. We have a great team of hard working guys. If you ever need home repairs, large or small, I’ll be delighted to share their contact info (handymen, painters, electrician, plumber). 

But first, let them finish OUR job… then it can be your turn!

A Glimpse Into the Past
June 4, 2010

Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past.  – T.S. Eliot (1936) 

In our instantly connected world, it may seem a quaint thing to send handwritten notes, letters, cards and the like. When was the last time you got a real letter from someone in the mail? I don’t know about you, but whenever I receive such a thing, that very special envelope always stands out amongst the assorted bills and junk mail. 

Recently, while going through my mother in law’s “stuff” that we had packed up and stored when she moved last year, I found a folder FILLED with post cards, dating from over a hundred years ago. These cards had been written to her mother when she was a teenager; they were from assorted friends and family, probably written daily in some cases. It’s how they communicated with one another. Postage was one cent. The mail was delivered twice a day. 

The cards are all little pieces of art, with sentiments for various occasions printed on the front (some are rather saucy for the era! My favorite depicts a woman preparing to tee off at the 8th hole of a golf course. The caption says, “I took a tramp through the links.” copyright 1908). They are all addressed to Miss Eddith Fletcher, Brookeland, Tex. 

(Brookeland was up near Jasper in east Texas. When Lake Sam Rayburn was created, what was left of Brookeland sank beneath the water, never more to be seen on the map.) 

There are several cards from her husband to be (Joel’s grandfather). He pestered her to marry him, and she did at age 17 (in 1912)! What an elegant handwriting he had. One had a sentiment on the front that said, “Isn’t it nice to be in love-” And he wrote on the back, “How are you feeling today? Hope you are well… LeRoy” It was dated April 29, 1911. 

But the cards that really caught my eye were the ones that seemed so very familiar to me, maybe because I see these very same sentiments expressed here in the 21st century, one hundred years later, via e-mail, facebook, twitter,  or texting. 

Examples:

  • This looks like me when Father caught ____ with me. (1908)
  • Hello, if you knew how much I loved you, you would think that I was crazy. (1908)
  • I have seen you play with these cats, and you look sweet to me. (1907)
  • Hello, Eddith, I heard that Homer came to see you twice on Sunday. I guess you all had a nice time. Hope so, anyway. So bye bye. (1908)
  • Eddith, I am not so mad as you heard I was. I can’t tell you who told me, for he told me not to tell you, but it was not Homer. (1908)
  •  Guess who? Good bye. (1910)
  • Love is sweet, but oh, how bitter to love a girl and then cannot get her. I don’t know what is the reason you did not answer my card, but I reckon it was because you don’t like me. Answer soon to the one that loves you best. (1908)
  • Say, why didn’t you send that card you told me you had wrote (sic). Have you been talking to anybody? I guess you see LeRoy has another hat just like mine. Don’t you believe anything ___ tells you for I have been going with my girl all the time. But I don’t want you to talk to anybody. (1910)
  • Dear Miss Fletcher, What do you folks do for a good time, go to the train? We do not do much of that over here. Give my best wishes to all (1911)
  • Hello Eddith, I would sure like to know what that is that you had to tell me. Are you going to church tonight? (1908)
  • Say, I heard you have been talking to somebody. I hope you will have a good time. Don’t believe what Scott tells you. I might come home on Sunday. (1910)
  • Hello, what are you mad at me about? If I have done anything to make you mad, I am very sorry of it. “from me” (1908)
  • I am home for a few days, but will not be here long. The watermelons sure are fine. (1909)

I first met Eddith (aka “Gramps”) when she was 79 years old. What a fascinating glimpse these cards give us into the years of her youth! And what a permanent testament to those days these cards are. 

What I want to know is who will read our current tweets, e-mails and facebook posts 100 years from now? I fear that this entire generation of communications will be lost forever. How will our grandkids get a similar glimpse into our lives? I have heard that the Library of Congress will be saving all the Twitter communications, but come on! Who on earth will want to wade through all that chatter, much less document what it says about us as a society? 

I wonder how will we communicate 100 years from now. Who will be looking at what exists of our writing? What can we do to preserve our personal history? 

All this from one who has complained about how her mother in law never threw anything away and who is having to wade through it. The fact is that I cannot keep it all, so after reserving certain samples, I plan to inquire at the various historical societies to see if they would be interested in these cards and other items, or direct me to someone who is. 

I just can’t throw them away!