Monday, March 31, 2014

A Rainy Weekend, YouTube and a Hammer

"First window done! I can do this! Well, me and YouTube!"
I was in the funk of all funks last week. Don't know why. I know it happens to everyone, but I work hard at keeping funk storms on my radar so I'm prepared to react. I didn't see this one coming and I saw no way out once it hit. So, for a few days I let it rain down on me. And it poured. Then, like a wet dog, I shook myself dry and moved on. Enough was enough!

One of the things bothering me was that there were a few projects to be done in my house that I classified as a little over my head. I had purchased 2" wide, plantations style blinds to replace vinyl mini blinds that had seen their best days. And they were sitting in boxes, piled on the dining room table next to a miter box I also purchased to cut and install new oak trim over my kitchen cabinets. The previous owners had trim up there that simply did not match the cabinets and it drove me bananas every time I looked up. And since replacing the cabinets are not on my calendar or in my budget right now, the least I could do was make myself happy with the right trim. Agree? Well...

The term "easier said then done" might apply here. But I've recently discovered the greatest video "how-to" source available...YouTube! So, I will beat funk with fortitude and take on my own projects. Now, I'm not great with written directions, but visually show me what needs to be done and I've got a chance. Literally, go to and type into the search box whatever you need to learn, and it's there! "How to make bread?" There. "How to do needlepoint ?" There. "How to hang and shorten 2" wide Levelor plantation blinds?" There! "How to use a miter box?" Freaking there!!! I kid you not!

So I poured some coffee, turned off the TV, fired up the laptop and took notes. First the blinds. I watched the 3 minute video twice to make sure I understood. Then, I took my tool bag out of the closet, plugged in my drill and took aim. And as it turned out, installing the blinds, not so difficult. However, shortening them reduced my language to that of a trucker...with Tourette's Syndrome. I said words I didn't know I knew. On my knees, hair hanging in my face, glasses riding down the wave of sweat from my brow, I was trying to thread a small string through an even smaller hole. And this was to be repeated several times.

On the video, the "guide string" slipped right in. In my hand, the string fabric spread and held onto the outside of the hole each time I tried to push it through. Several attempts later, sheer frustration set in. I realized I had to get a hold of myself before solving the problem. So I stood up and went into the bathroom to wipe my face and pull my hair back. I picked up the hair spray to help contain the mess on top of my head, when I had an epiphany!
The dreaded Miter box...

I ran back to the blind, pulled the string end straight and sprayed it with hair spray! No more fabric spreading. It slipped right through! I can't believe something so simple, made me stand up and do the "Happy" dance in my living room! I can't believe that something I do everyday helped with a problem I hope never to have again! Finished four windows and a door in twice the time the instructions said it would take, but I'm okay with that. Now to address that yellow box that has been staring at me for days.
... is amazing! Perfect 45 degree angle!

First, I will admit that math is my weakness. I don't like it. I don't always understand it. How I mange to balance a budget each month is always a mystery to me. But that aside, I knew to replace the existing trim, I would have to cut two pieces of wood on a 45 degree angle to meet in the corner. And the angles had to be opposite cuts to fit exactly. What else could I do but go to I typed in "miter box" and all sorts of video's popped up. I watched several before attempting to make the first cut...and then did it wrong. But it was a simple fix and, in half an hour, I solved an issue that had been bugging me for months while waiting for someone else to do it!

Can't even see where I patched two pieces together!
In spite of an almost 48 hour downpour outside, it was a beautiful day inside! I had accomplished something that I thought I couldn't do on my own. I felt invigorated, to be sure. This was hard work. I realized I hadn't eaten all day and in a spirited moment, decided to make something  that I hadn't cooked since my sons lived with me. Fried chicken!

Cooked in my perfectly trimmed kitchen!

I was inspired! As the chicken was cooking, I started cleaning up my tools. I looked around the room in search of my next project, when it hit me. I sat my Ryobi tool bag down,(a bag I carry with as much pride as my Coach), went to my laptop, opened YouTube and typed in "how to take a wall down". May need a bigger saw...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Repurpose..A word that says it all!

Anything can be repurposed?
Not sure how this happened, but I have a lot of interior design friends on social media. I think it started on Twitter when I “followed” a designer whose writing style I liked. She “followed” me back and before I knew it, I was in a morning carousel of chatter with designers and those of similar passions. And I love it!.

 I love reading about their ideas, their visions and their missions. I've used so many of their suggestions when recently redecorating my own home. I would often post a picture of a project I was working on and ask for opinions. And boy…did I get them.  I've even picked up their lingo. The word “repurpose” has almost completely eliminated “renovation” from their dictionary. And this word speaks to me!


Its clear intent is to take something that’s time, style, or age, has rendered it useless. Out of fashion, out of date, passed its prime, and turn it into something spectacular. A purpose resurrected! "Purpose" is a noun, a singular state of motivation or grounds. "Repurpose" is a verb; a plan of action, a resolve, a determination. A word that great, that powerful, can't be limited to inanimate objects. We should be able to repurpose our dreams, our goals...our souls! The thought of being able to this makes me downright giddy.

Even Humpty Dumpty needed to repurpose. When this children's verse was originally scripted in the early 1700's, it was a warning that sometimes things beyond our control change, and even an intervention by a large group of men can't fix it. The first version was a little different than the one that became more popular. But, I like this one better;

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Four-score Men and Four-score more,
Could not put Humpty Dumpty where he was before

So many of us have found ourselves shattered like a broken egg shell at the base of a life's wall. Not even being able to vision getting back to where we were before. Joblessness, divorce, illness, grief...anything can be the culprit that knocks us off our perch. If we're lucky, someone will be there to help us up and back together. But scaling the wall again, now that's a whole other venture. One that is usually done alone. So...


Refurbish, reconfigure, refuel and regenerate! (Lots of RE-asons to do so!) Even if your base assembly is still a little wobbly from the fall, adjust your settings to the new you. Do you even need that particular wall to climb? There are others. I've watched so many people who've had to alter their climbs. In my own personal quest, I've decided I just don't want to sit back on the wall...I want to stand on it. I want to stand firmly while shielding my eyes from the glare of the sun. I want to be able to see what's coming. I don't want to sit on the wall. I want to own it. Even at my age, I can repurpose my goals and not live in the nouns of "me", "myself" or "you". I want to throw a rock into the water and ride the verbs of the ripple downstream. How ever far it goes.

In Lewis Carrol's "Through the Looking Glass", (which is slightly more hardcore than the more famous "Alice in Wonderland"), Alice comes across a rather dominant Humpty, still sitting on his high brick wall, and gets into a discussion on the proper use of words. He appears to have a premonition of the fall about to come. He warns Alice to be careful about the words she chooses. "They've a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they're the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with".  So true, my friend. Your wisdom so far ahead of its time. And repurpose is a verb you were about to learn!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wee Bit of the Memories of Ireland

The girls of Ireland...we haven't aged at all!
A few years back, 15 to be exact, my friends and I joined in with others who were planning a pub tour of Ireland. A visit to this relatively small but centuries old island had been on my "bucket list", long before that was even a popular term to describe things you wanted to do before you...well, no longer need a bucket. We had read about a group that was planning to land in Dublin, then cross the lush, green, and rolling countryside by bus, stopping at many of its' historic pubs and landmarks along the way. Ireland, pubs and a designated driver! How could we not go on this trip? And so we did.

Travelling through Europe always serves as a reminder to me of how young our own country is. Sipping Guinness from a pint in Durty Nelly's Pub, in County Claire, is surreal. This ancient pub was established in 1620 and since renovated somewhat. But in the rear of the building, an original  room left untouched, boast stone ceilings that barely cleared my 5'7 head. My friends, most taller than me, actually had to stoop over when standing. The popularity of this tiny pub sitting in the shadow of the infamous Bunratty Castle, is so grand that many American bars have tried to duplicate its' ambiance with hearty stouts and rich stews. And although an Irish Pub in Boston comes pretty close (minus the low ceilings) a bucket list visit to this infamous establishment is well worth it.

It is rather hard to travel through Ireland and not be overwhelmed by its history. The stone relics of once grand cathedrals and Celtic crosses, broken, yet strongly embedded in the rich earth. Remnants of age and a centuries old religious war between the Catholics and the Protestants. A fight that still flares in Northern Ireland today. Living in a country whose birth was based on freedom, it is hard for me to comprehend the anger and passion that comes with the struggle to achieve it.   

Ireland truly fascinated me. And its people are among the warmest this group has met upon our travels. Sitting in an small  pub outside of Innisfree on a rainy afternoon, resting from a day of shopping on quaint cobble stoned streets, an elderly gentleman in a grey tweed jacket struck up a conversation with me about dreams. I may have written about this lovely gentlemen before, but the final thing he said, haunts me to this day and bears repeating. “I retired a few years ago,” he lamented. “Now, I come down here most afternoons for a pint or two…or three, if truth be told, and dream about things that could have been.” Intrigued, and loving the way the words roll through his thick Irish brogue, I encouraged him to continue. “If you could have only one dream still come true, what would it be?” 

His blue eyes twinkled, “Aye, that one is easy. I would buy a plane ticket and fly to New York City?” I was a little surprised. “Really?” He put his pint down and turned to me, “Aye. I would spend a few days in the city and then buy another ticket for a Greyhound bus that was bound for California. I would see a lot of your grand country along the way.” As I looked over at the bog burning in the stone hearth, I couldn't help but think of the irony of our conversation. “Wow”, I said to him. “I am living one of my dreams sitting here in your country.” He picked up his pint and replied…..”Then you dream too small”.

Well, I don't think I dream small at all, but I do manage to keep my dreams in the realm of possibility! His comment left me very conscious of the thin line that lays between a goal and a dream. That being said, every March, the warm memories of my realized dream of going to Ireland come rushing back to me. One especially, with a mouth watering taste that, in spite of many efforts, I have yet to duplicate.

The actual events that led to our ending up there is a little clouded 15 years later, but our entire group was welcomed into the basement of a church where a gathering of ladies were serving tea and scones. And I don't know if it was getting out of the November wind, or the warmth of their famously strong, steaming tea, but the scones were absolutely heavenly. A bite through the light and crusty exterior went into a velvet texture that was simply wonderful. They were served with a strawberry jam equal to nothing I've ever had.

Funny what memories we tend to keep. Of course I'll always remember the ocean view and salty winds on the Cliffs of Moher, the beauty of the Waterford Crystal factory, the endless rolling hills and stoned walls of Ireland's massive country sides. But the laughter of friends, a scone in a church basement, and a conversation in a pub on a rainy day are the memories I treasure.

And with that, I will end with a short poem that I found hanging in a pub bathroom. I scribbled it on a paper towel, that is so torn and tattered, I had to do a little research for some of its words. The author is unknown, but, it's the last line that I often use when mustering courage to face a tough opponent. Another treasured memory...

"Some Guinness was spilled on the barroom floor
when the pub was shut for the night.
Out of his hole crept a wee brown mouse
and stood in the pale moonlight.
He lapped up the frothy brew from the floor,
then back on his haunches he sat.
And all night long you could hear him roar,
'Bring on the goddam cat!' "

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bad Winter or Bad Karma?

It has been the winter to end all winters. It is now March and we have been enduring harsh conditions since early November. And all of us northerners who claim to love our seasons have been whining. Especially me. We are still shoveling snow when we should be planting bulbs. And it’s getting old.

Seriously, as I write this, there is a small Robin sitting on an iced branch outside of my window, looking in, as if to say “I'm so over this..." He looked pitiful. I stood at the window staring back at him. Neither one of us moved for a very long time. Various shades of grey have been the only colors on this winter's palate, but his defiance to stay on that icy branch with his red breast puffed out seemed to  say...

And it will. This time last year, I was sitting in a septic tank waiting for someone to flush. Less than a year later, I'm far removed from that toxic sludge mainly because of a group of women who surrounded me, supported me, and saved me from swirling down the drain. I am renewed, rejuvenated, and grateful. But now, a hovering cloud seems to be moving around our circle, testing our resolves to remain independent and strong, and I'm not sure how to help. And, trust me, help is owed.

"Everybody's got something" Robin Roberts

And it is true! Everyone has some sort of issue. The perfectly coiffed woman standing in front of you at the store may be ill, or maybe her husband is. Or, worst of all, maybe it's her child whose sick. You just don't know. She smiles and holds her loaf of bread as if her only worry in the world is what to pack for tomorrows lunch. But maybe, (and sadly the odds are not in our favor here) maybe she is standing there in her Ann Taylor suit, holding the bread, and wondering how much longer she'll have a job.

Somethings we can help with, others are beyond us. I so wish the problems plaguing those in my circle now were just relationship issues. We all have something to bring to the table on that topic. The words and wine would flow. But unfortunately, it seems too many women of a certain age are not only wrestling with gravity, they are clinging to hold onto their careers as well. Almost half of my small group is grappling with this problem now, or will be within the next year or two. A climate of corporate mergers have left too many of my friends, both personally and on social media, out in the rain and out of the running.

"Sometimes, life just hits you in the head with a brick" Steve Jobs

Most times, the brick is younger with less experience. And when your position is not being eliminated...your'e just simply being replaced, the force of that brick comes like a cinder block. I'm fortunately not in this situation. Yet. But I find it totally bothersome that this is happening all around me to women of similar age. Ignored are the years of service, the dedication, the early mornings and late nights. Disregard the winter storms and icy roads that they navigated through when most others stayed home. Throw some severance at them and move 'em along. It's more than sad, it's demoralizing.

" I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it." Maya Angelou 

For the past year, I have had that quote posted to where I can see it at least once a day. It reminds me that you are not always lost just because the path has changed. We are a resilient gender. I have watched many women, in the past few years, rebound and reinvent themselves when life has altered their course. I know those struggling around me now will do the same. They're understandably worried and scared and I wish I had more than words and a shoulder to offer them.

And all of this was going through my mind as that bird sitting on a frozen branch continued to look though my window. We were eye to eye, neither willing to surrender our spots. It's been a hard winter with a little bad Karma thrown in. We both seem to understand that. But his presence is so much more relevant than mine. I stand inside, protected from the elements, worried about my friends, and he sits on an ice covered branch, his mere existence a promise for brighter and warmer days. He wins.