Freeing Our Front Door

Most of the surfaces in the house need to be stripped–they either have old lead paint or one coat of latex sloppily applied before the flippers put the house on the market. Next time I’ll invest in a heat gun instead of chemicals.

Christmas is around the corner, and I’m ready to decorate. I always start with the “outdoor” decorations, which for us are mostly located indoors. I’m that boring person who likes a single candle in each window, a big beautiful wreath on the front door, and not much else. Simple, but appropriate for our 110-year-old red-brick American Foursquare with 48 wavy-glass, wood windows. (Yes, 48 windows. And they all need to be restored and covered by storms before they rot away!)

I noticed this summer that our front door (and back door and basement door and carriage house doors) needed some attention. It had been painted green about 10 years ago, and that paint was failing. I could see layers of other paint beneath the green, and I knew I needed to strip the door for new paint to adhere well and look nice.

I’m getting pretty good at stripping paint. My first project here was restoring a transom window that hangs between our kitchen and mudroom, and it gave me lots of practice with different types of stripping solutions. Based on my window experience, I thought I could strip the front door in about 1 week. It took 3. There were 7 layers of latex paint, lead paint, and stain to dissolve and scrape before I finally hit wood.

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The restored door reveals the original wood details, wavy glass, and door knob plus a new unlacquered brass kickplate…and security system decal.

I almost stopped a million times. As each layer fell in sticky clumps on the drop cloth, I’d stand back and consider if the door was good enough to get some fresh paint. It never was good enough, and I’m so glad I didn’t settle. Because I was shocked to discover this door is solid mahogany, and it deserves to be admired every time it opens and closes.

I used marine-grade urethane and a gel stain that matches the color of the interior pocket doors. It’s dark and rich and only took 4 coats to heal and seal the wood. (Stripping is not a gentle process, especially when you’re working on a vertical surface).

I finished the project by affixing an unlacquered brass kickplate to the bottom of the door, replacing the hinges, and polishing the doorknob and backplates. But all that shiny stuff doesn’t compete with the wood door’s tiny dental molding, wavy glass, and intricate woodgrain. The result is beyond my expectations.

I almost wish I hadn’t ordered that wreath. The door it will cover deserves all the attention this year!

Small Room, Big Project

If you read Monday’s post, it’s possible you think I’ve been hiding under my covers for 4 months snuggling Copper. There was some of that, sure. But my primary coping mechanism in almost any situation is physical productivity. That’s probably because it gives me (1) the grand illusion that I have control and (2) the satisfaction of a job well done.

Back in January we moved from Denver to Chattanooga, and we bought a 100-year-old arts-and-crafts home. It was renovated “to the studs” about 10 years ago, but a LOT of what you can see was slapped together. Window moldings aren’t joined properly; nothing is caulked; paint combinations are atrocious; there is bead board and flat paint everywhere. I knew all this when we bought it. I thought, Sanding, painting, staining–I can do all of that. I’d like to do all of that!

But of course, every little project I’ve started has ended up taking about 5-times longer than it should have due to corners cut by the flippers. Here’s one of those stories:

The Hobbit Bathroom

If you’re over 6’1″ tall, you can forget standing up straight in here. Our below-the-stairs half-bathroom comes by it’s nickname honestly.

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Before

As I was working on the upstairs bathroom (a project that has been in progress since February and deserves a series of blog posts all its own), I thought, While I have the paint out, I’ll go ahead and hit the walls in the Hobbit bath.

It shouldn’t have taken more than an hour because the room is so small. As far as I could see, the only problems in the Hobbit bath were on the walls. The renovators had used flat paint, so years of hand washing at the pedestal sink had put water stains all over that wall. Yuck.

But as I took down the hardware and plastered over old nail holes, I realized there was a reason flat paint had been used. Flat paint hides imperfections, and these walls were full of imperfections. No one had bothered to sand and smooth the new drywall after it was installed. One coat of flat paint had been slapped directly over the lumps and bumps of mudded tape and gritty drywall dust.

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I spent an entire day sanding then washing the walls. Next I primed the whole room, including the ceiling. I had not sanded the ceiling because it looked okay aside from the hairspray on it. Primer would cover the hairspray, right?

Little-known fact: hairspray + Kilz = crackle-plaster. With one roll of primer I had the ugliest textured ceiling you could imagine. It took David’s strength to sand that mess and the rest of the ceiling before I could finally paint.

Whenever David gets involved in a project, it’s a safe bet that expectations will rise. During an ill-planned trip to Lowe’s the weekend of this disaster, he decided I should tile the wet wall behind the sink. Who was I to say no?

So my 1-hour project became a 4-day project, and I’ve had a total work stoppage on the upstairs bathroom. But the results speak for themselves, and I now have the confidence to tile the entire upstairs bathroom.

I figure that will take me a week, so I better reserve a month!

Fast-Forwarding to Mother’s Day

My calendar can’t possibly be correct: is it the end of April already?

Since my last post we’ve moved across the country (again), bought a 1900s Foursquare in a transitional downtown neighborhood, watched bath water rain from the coffers in the dining room, and cut a hole in a master-bedroom wall. All with a basset hound puppy (sometimes literally) underfoot.

Life seems to be approaching equilibrium. After 3 months Chattanooga is less mysterious, there is drywall on our dining room ceiling, and Copper is nearly house trained. What seemed scary has become good: we love our co-ed and senior-adult neighbors, destruction has given way to renovation, and Copper is nearly house trained. It is time that I stop spending my days in crisis-response mode and return to writing.

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Hoping my fur-baby will give me the “Mother’s Day” gift of his being housetrained!

I do so none-too-soon. Forgetting for the moment that backlog of books I have to write, my May calendar is full of Barren-related guest blog posts, radio interviews, and Facebook page hosting. I’m even doing a couple of giveaways. Though no one has said, “We want to talk to you now because it’s close to Mother’s Day,” I know the holiday is the impetus for at least 2 interviews. That makes me nervous.

In the last few years, I’ve read many blogs and articles that blast Mother’s Day. They like to highlight all the ways the day and its celebrations in church hurt women who struggle to be mothers or have lost a child. While I certainly agree that Mother’s Day can inflame fertility wounds and I freely admit to ditching church services on several second-Sundays in May, I am not and have never been anti–Mother’s Day.

Why? Because on Mother’s Day I honor my mother (and do my best not to think about myself).

When I was growing up, Mother’s Day was a big deal. It was the second-most-attended church service of the year (after Easter but before Christmas), and it was one of the few Sundays my family went out for lunch instead of going home to sandwiches. When we’d get to church, the children would be drafted to pass out carnations to all the moms: white for moms whose own mothers had died, red for the mothers whose mothers were living, and yellow for the mothers who had lost children. It was easy to know who got what because all the moms were already wearing white, red, or yellow corsages when they got to church.

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My mom sports her handmade-by-me corsage.

As an adult I’ve enjoyed buying my mother’s–and eventually my mother-in-law’s–corsages. Roses and carnations are the traditional flower choice, but I like to shake it up. Gardenias, irises, daisies, and even orchids have decorated my mothers’ dresses over the years. Sometimes I’ve made the corsage; sometimes I’ve bought one.

About five years ago, we realized my mom was the only woman at her church who still wore a flower on Mother’s Day. Every year I ask if she still wants me to get her one, and every year she says yes! She says that she loves telling everyone how her daughter bought (or made) that corsage just for her. And I love doing it.

So in the coming weeks when I’m asked to talk or write about how Mother’s Day makes me feel and I admit that no holiday does more to remind me of my fleshly desires and wounds, I’ll do my best to remember the woman who gave me life. She deserves no less celebration for the years she sacrificed to raising me just because my own dreams of motherhood have not been achieved. In fact, she deserves more because of the extra love she’s showered on me during my years of pain and miscarriage.

Keep reading Healthy and Hopeful in May for “Mother’s Day Survival Tips for the ‘Barren’ Woman” and a great book-necklace giveaway!