Creating Quality Time With My Son and a Power Sander


Originally published July 15, 2014 at the fabulous TueNight.

I love junk. I like old stuff. Interesting shapes. Putting together odd combinations and using items for something other than what they were intended to be used for.

I was also an obsessive flea marketer and garage saler before it was considered stylish. (Is it considered stylish?) I was an upcycler before upcycle was a word.

My husband, Andrew, is an enabler like no other. He humors me on early weekend drives while we follow signs to the next sale or as I pull out my phone to scope them out using iGarageSale and Garage Sale Rover. My teenage sons? They tolerate it. Sometimes.

My oldest son just finished his freshman year of college. He’s an art major. He’s quiet and he likes his solitude. But I really wanted to figure out a way to spend time with him — something that involved a shared goal.

And then it came to me! This kid has the best taste. He’s always decorating his future home in his head, and I am often the delighted recipient of links to gorgeous furniture he’s found online, as well as unusually beautiful ensembles and fabulous homes. Plus, my son knows his way around tools. The natural conclusion was that we make a sofa table together. I’d been looking for one for some time and could not seem to find what I wanted. And much to my joy, when I asked if he would help, he was all in.

So one Saturday not long after, when my fabulous sister-in-law Liz asked me if I wanted to go barn sale-ing, I jumped at the chance. And I brought my son along, too. We took measurements for the table and started the hunt.

We found an old door at our first stop, which was a cute vintage marketplace called Sweet Clover. The piece was leaning unobtrusively against the wall with a $50 price tag. It had lots of personality, in addition to lots and lots of splinters. But hey, we have a power sander.

Fifty bucks seemed a little steep, especially in light of the fact that we were simply planning to take it apart and use a third of it, but before we even had a chance to haggle, the vendor told us she was pulling all her merchandise out that day and “how does $30 sound?”

It sounded great. Sold.

The door fit easily in the minivan and the three of us talked about what kind of legs it might pair well with as we drove home. We decided to order midcentury iron pin-style legs from eBay that night. And the next day, my son and I started disassembling. We pulled nails. We struggled to get the rusty hardware off. It wasn’t easy, especially since we wanted it to stay intact so we could put it back together once the wood was finished.

We sweat. We cursed. We cut wood. Together.

My son and I thought about finishes and tested different ones. We strategized and struggled. We cursed more. But we sure did laugh. And it’s amazing where the conversation can go when you’re not trying to make a conversation.

And did I say we sanded? Oh yes. We sanded and sanded and sanded. Then came the polyurethane and even more sanding. And more poly.

Then we put it all together.

The result was the best five days of my summer. We didn’t just make a table; we made a memory.


You know what sucks?

vacuum cleaner

Are you ever doing something totally mundane and get a memory flash? Well, that happened to me yesterday and it was so odd and funny to me. Let me back up a sec.

We have a new shower. It’s lovely, really lovely. Did we plan to get a new shower? No, we did not.

At any rate, the construction of this shower had a few rippling effects. One: The house got really, really dusty and dirty. And that is not to say that the crew didn’t clean up after themselves. It’s just dirty stuff. Two: Rosemary, who cleans our home bi-weekly, couldn’t come last week because of the construction. Why am I sharing all this? It’s a long way around to telling you that I spent a good part of yesterday cleaning the house. It was filthy. Filthy.

I scrubbed and rubbed and cleaned and vacuumed.

I don’t know if you vacuum your hard floor surfaces, but I do. Our vacuum allows us to turn off the brush so the wood floor doesn’t scratch. It’s nice. And it does a better job than sweeping. So, I vacuum, then use a Sh-Mop to dry mop, and then go back over it again with the Sh-Mop and Method Squirt & Mop.

So I did a lot of vacuuming yesterday. Hardly the most exciting news of all time. But when I finished, I was exhausted. Burned out. Numb. And, without thinking, I started wrapping the cord.

No, not in just an oval. But around and around and crisscross and crisscross and around and around. And the plug hit in the wrong place. Know what I mean? It hit so I couldn’t connect it to the cord to make it stay. So I unwrapped it and tried again in a different pattern.

I just wanted the plug to hook onto the cord.

And that’s when I had the vision. The vision of wrapping the cord on the Hoover that we used growing up. I did that same thing. The around and around and the crisscross and crisscross and around. All with the same goal as I had yesterday; to get the plug to stay put.

It was just so weird that I had this muscle memory, this automatic action.

Who does that? Are you an all-around wrapper or a crisscross wrapper? Does your plug just fly in the wind or connect to the cord?

Shower the people.

There is nothing more exciting than planning a home improvement project. Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating a tad. Or more than a tad.

It is exciting, though. To consider options, plan and choose.

It’s a little less exciting when you find out that your shower needs to be ripped out because the leaks are corroding the wood under the floor, water is leaking into the basement, and it’s all deteriorating. Oh, and you need to choose the tiles and hardware for the replacement work tomorrow. Yes, 24 hours.

I took to Pinterest and spent hours and hours searching for showers I liked. Keeping in mind that I had to match the walls and existing floor, it was still fun to check out the possibilities.

In the photo, the middle tile is our current floor. The small tiles will be the new shower floor. The brown glass tiles are the shower walls and the thin tile is the finishing border. It’s going to look a lot different than our generic orange-y, beige-y square ceramic tiles.

Construction starts Monday.

The Ritz

photo credit
photo credit

Some of you long-time readers might know I have a bed linen issue. I’ve written about my preferences here and lots of times before and after that. I like really nice white cotton sheets and I like to wash them a specific way so they smell and feel really nice. Hotel -like, I might say.

But you know what else makes your bed feel like a room at the Ritz? Ironing your pillowcases.
I cleaned house today. Big time. And when I went to change our sheets, I decided to go for it. I ironed them. They’re smooth and perfect.

I can barely wait for bedtime.

Scams, power & friends.

It sure has been an eventful week. I can’t possibly tell you everything. So I’ll boil it down to the highlights.

Some douchebag (I can’t think of a better way to describe the dude) called my parents’ house and told my 80 year old father that his grandson – my son – was in a Haitian prison and needed money to get out. To make it more realistic, he even had some kid cry on the phone. To my 75% deaf father. I’m grateful that my dad called me and I could tell him that it was absolutely untrue and that he shouldn’t worry. But you know what? It made me very, very angry. I hate predators. I hate that some asshole stressed my dad out. Of course he suspected that it wasn’t quite right. But it seemed possible enough that it was worrisome. Enough that he couldn’t quite ignore it and hang up on the bastard.

I called the police. Not helpful, but I felt better.

If you haven’t heard about the derecho, you haven’t been paying attention.

It was a crazy storm.

We went to sleep on Friday during the storm. Should I have insisted we all sleep in the basement? Probably. But I didn’t. Fortunately, we were fine. No trees through the windows. No house damage at all. Phew. However, we lost power. Us and our 2 million closest friends.

Ehhh. No big deal. We had candles. Flashlights. Games. Saturday, we chopped the trees that were blocking our driveway and headed out for the daytrip that we had planned to the eastern shore. No worries!

And when we got home, all was well. Well, all except that the house was QUITE WARM. Quite. But we set up the boys in the basement where it was cooler and Andrew and I dealt with the warm temps. No worries!

Except the food was all spoiled. Oh well, it’s not as if we just stocked up on everything at Costco. Oh wait, we did. Crap.

Sunday morning. Somehow, it just keep getting hotter. By later that day, we decided we couldn’t sleep here another night. And that leads me to….

So the house was hot. Very hot. And while it wasn’t easy for me, I picked up the phone and called our wonderful friends. “Can we crash at your house?” And of course (and no surprise) they said, “yes.” And added, “we’re glad you asked.”

And I think they meant it. Even though their kids are away and they had the house to themselves. (wink, wink) And even though it was the eve of their 17 year anniversary. And even though we were going to create a tremendous amount of laundry including sheets and towels. And by the time we gotten there, they’d set up air mattresses for the boys and turned the guest room into an oasis for Andrew and me.

It was perfect. And then, the next morning we got our computers and our notebooks and we set up shop in the dining room (me) and the office (Andrew). Basically> We took over the house.

And we were so grateful.

When the power at our house came back on Monday late in the day, we transfered all our technology back home. And now, just over 24 hours later, I can barely say how much we appreciate that we could have this continuity. And I can barely describe how grateful we are to our friends. Everyone should have friends this wonderful. We are truly blessed.

Now, our house is back to normal. The well is working, so we can flush the toilet (woo hoo) and take showers. The temperature is perfect. The lights are on. Basically, it’s like it always was but now we appreciate it more.

So that’s my week. How was yours?

Does anybody really know what time it is?

About a month ago, Liz and I took a mini roadtrip to Gypsy Vintage. It’s a small monthly barnsale and, we learned, that Sunday is just a little too late. The hoards on Saturday evidently do some major picking.

But still, I found 2 things to love.

This castor oil bottle. The dried roses are remnants from a lovely bouquet that I’d held onto. I love them in this bottle.

The other was a 3+ foot diameter rusted double circle. While a little bent, it had some charm. I didn’t really know what I’d do with it, but while we chatted at the store, some interesting ideas were thrown out. I knew it had possibilities. And it was very inexpensive.

Back at home, my oldest son saw the circle and reminded me that we’ve been looking for a big clock and, you know what? This would make a great clock.

He was right. Today, we finished the project and hung the clock. I particularly love his idea that the movement be off-center. And we consciously left the dents and dings on the circle.

Our work here is done.

Potato sack art.

Many years ago, something was delivered here wrapped in an old potato sack. And for some reason, I saved the sack. I thought it had character. It’s been used as a table leaf protector, a drop cloth, and who knows what else.

But every time I saw it, I thought, “One day I’m going to do something with that.”

Fast forward to a really crappy yard sale. (I love yard sales!)

I bought a 28″ x 42″ piece of art for $.50. It was orange and brown owls on faded fabric. Seriously awful. But I thought the canvas stretchers were worth the price. I’d do something with it. Paint over the fabric and do something funky.

And I did paint over the owls. And though I stared at the newly prepared canvas and tried to envision something, nothing came to me. The fabric was too flimsy for painting – even with the new coating.

So it sat in the workshop gathering dust, spiderwebs, and stinkbugs.

Until this:

Notice the upholstery nails in the sides. $1.79 at the hardware store.

I really love it and I knew one day I’d be glad I held onto that potato sack.

Everything okay?

Someone recently asked me:

You sure are baking a lot and I know you. Is everything okay?

Yes. Everything is okay.

Thanks for asking.

I do bake to relax. And because I love the smell in the house.

It’s also a way for me to unplug and to just be. I need more just being.

It’s all good.

PS: The Lavash Crackers were delicious!

The view from here.

I love my office. I love every single thing in here. The upcycled wall hanging that Andrew made for me, the gorgeous orchids, the photos of my kids the money tree bonsai (over there to the left) from a wonderful client.

And over there to the right is the copper recycled photo album filled with birthday memories. My slinky. And bottom left is the baby food jar full of little love notes from one of my sons.

And what you don’t see are the hat the another son made me, a photo of our whole family at Deep Creek Lake in 2001. A painting that was a gift to my grandparents in the 50’s. And ceramic boot bookends that we bought at on a whim in Kansas City.

I love my office. I love being surrounded by beautiful memories and the people I love.