Canoeing in the Slough of Despair

pen and inkBeing up the proverbial creek without a paddle is just too common a state for most of us mortals. What’s remarkable is not the frequency of its occurrence, though, but how often we paddled up there our very own selves and even quite willfully pitched out the paddle on arrival. Having gotten ourselves into the trouble in the first place doesn’t make it any more tolerable, let alone palatable, but if we learn to pay better attention, there might be a hope of return from the brink after all.

Retracing my footsteps to find where I went astray, maybe even to undo some of the damage, isn’t always possible even when the place where I’ve gotten myself in dire straits isn’t literally a trackless stream. But if I keep my eyes open and engage my wits and will, I might at least remember the way next time I start to veer in that direction, and learn not to step in that same river twice.

I’m fallible enough, but perhaps not irremediably so. Still, I’ll always welcome a good rescue. Throw me that life jacket, won’t you?

All in the Details (Small and Large), Part 3

At last we come to the changes made via some refurbishing and renovations in the Jack and Jill bath and, most significantly, in the master en suite. Let’s be honest: a large part of the quality of life for many of us revolves around having access to a good bathroom–or several. You do know what I mean. Oh, joy!

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Jack & Jill just got a refresher course . . .

I will simply say right now that we are mighty satisfied, contented even, at having a whole batch of fairly unfussy yet fully functional and nicely spiffed up bathrooms gracing our living quarters these days. Life is ever so good.

In the Jack and Jill bath between TV room and office, the original tub tile of pale chartreuse is here to stay, being sturdily cemented in and expensive and tough to remove, so it was essential to work around that, as well as keeping the existing dark woodwork intact. Okay, then, I stuck with that and the extant bronze-toned hardware. Even the ’80s light fixture would be a bit too pricy to replace at this point. But I didn’t have to do especially huge things besides tackling that main expense-inducer and complicator of things, replacement of the sink, counter and faucet. The new granite is complemented by a small but deep and flat-bottomed sink of porcelain that allows easy cleaning of the sink and of things set in it, particularly with its new higher-rise faucet. I confess I’m mystified why more people don’t opt for single-lever controls on faucets when that allows hands-free on/off/temperature control, a very common need among people washing their, well, dirty hands, I would think! Along with the faucet, I added new tub and shower hardware to replace the old corroded parts, new curtains there (a vinyl waterproof one and an accent set of sage green sheers to cool the tile color) and a little carved valance (too narrow for the window width, but it’s a start) over the translucent shade-covered window. All three of our bathrooms recently got grand new Toto commodes, dual flush toilets that are a massive improvement over the original antiquities that used to struggle to serve our household and guests.

The last change in the Jack and Jill was to replace the dated frame-less mirror with a simple framed one and trade out the glass shades of the over-sink light fixture with some more modern and artful ones. They’re described as ‘gold and blue’, but the color in the glass is in effect softer than that (more neutral, like sand and grey on white). They gently combine with the delicacy and prettiness of the granite color and texture and it all softens the tile’s green further and lends a quiet calm to the space.


Next to my husband’s grandfather’s shaving mirror in the J&J bath is a delightfully amusing photo of Paul Gauguin sitting at Alphonse Mucha’s harmonium while wearing an appropriately bohemian deshabille shirttail-over-no-pants getup. Old school bathroom humor, I suppose!

The Big Bang of this phase of project happiness chez nous was of course the master bath suite redo. It felt like a long time coming even though it was only two years’ waiting on the wish list. So much happiness in getting our hands on it now. First up: we had a Solatube skylight installed in the space that was previously lit only by a weak ceiling light and two arrow-slit windows in the shower. Solatube now offers a nice combination contraption, which we chose, that includes the light tube for natural sunlight collection, an internal electric light for nighttime, and an integrated fan vent whose motor attaches to the roof joists and so is quietly distant. And a whole lot more effective than our 30-year-old fan, to boot. The constant wash of daylight in the space is a remarkably cool alternative to big windows. Wouldn’t it be lovely to install some in the living room, dining room . . . .


Doors to his and my respective vanities flank our lovely, simple old bedroom armoire (that’s his grandmother’s cocktail dress hanging there, by the way). I left a strip of the dark-stained wood unpainted on the vanity door jambs to complement all of the mahogany and teak in our master bedroom furnishings and tie the spaces together.

The master bath reno actually started during the original freshening up for our moving in, when we knew we wanted doors installed in the openings between the master bedroom and the two separate vanity areas that flank the shower/toilet room and through which it’s entered. Those six-paneled doors were installed then but never finish-painted over the pre-primed starter coat. At long last, they’re fully clothed. I changed out the door handles, putting brushed nickel lever handles on both those and the vanity-to-shower doors, regular knobs of that color on the walk-in closet doors on each side, and new silvery hinges on everything, white door stops on them, new silver colored hinges on all of the cabinetry, and so forth. I’d already changed the light fixtures in the vanities from bright brass 12-light ’70s theatre dressing room atrocities to simpler nickel and glass lamps. I had put nickel knobs on the cabinetry throughout the suite to start. Now it was time to finish up everything else with some fresher and more modern goodness.


From the vanity on my side of the suite you can see that marvelous skylighted walk-in-shower room. So inviting! The vanity space is a comfortable spot, too, where I can enjoy the folk art painting of the family farm in Norway (L) and the little embroidered alpine plant my mother stitched (by my mirrored closet door).

I kept the light sage walls through the suite happily–it’s so calming and almost spa-like to me, even though our particular, personal ‘spa’ is not all that high-end. The shower we had replace our old bathtub now is the closest we’re likely to get to a spa, however, and we’re enjoying it immensely already. The men we brought in for this their second round of work on our home gave us a lovely refuge where we can scrub up for the day. They demolished the old, tough olive green tile, pulled out the beat up cast iron tub, and tiled in a lovely naturally soothing walk-in shower with sandy tan square and rectangular tiles, a floor of sweet tiny brick-shaped paler tiles and soft tan sanded grout. I bought a nice brushed nickel shower head with a single lever valve and a secondary spray head, a spice rack to use as a shampoo-and-implements holder, a wall dispenser for tea tree oil soap, and a fold-down teak shower seat.


Closeups of the new look of the master shower. The ‘Lucky Bamboo’ in the window is not the only one that loves it in here now!

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I had already begun work on the other parts of the master washroom before we got to this wrestle-out-the-tub phase, but now they got some fresh paint and new hardware to wrap up the process.

The granite contractor who installed our marvelous kitchen counters and sills two years ago brought his wonderful crew back in and set in our vanity tops and under-mount sinks that match the Jack and Jill’s, and our plumber installed the new faucets I’d bought, and when the crew completed a few more tasks of fix-it mania around the house their work was done. Once they built our haven of cleanliness it was my turn to get back to work. I primed and painted all of the dark wainscoting and cabinetry in the bathroom suite white, replaced the whole-wall mirrors over the vanities with smaller white-framed mirrors and hung a white wood medicine cabinet next to each of ours, rehung the full length mirrors on our closet doors, reassembled all of the cabinets with new silver colored hinges, padded stops, magnetic latches, and a vast quantity of swear words, and finished with the clean reorganization of drawers and shelves and reintroduction of wall art and such amenities.

The long and the short of it, the small and the large, is that we have a lot of upgrades around the house to show for relatively few days’ total labor and machinations. I will very happily not deal with such messes and involvement again any time soon, but it is as always a tremendous pleasure to have things this much closer to our ideal. In the usual way, it will undoubtedly uncover the next set of changes to build a new wish list upon, and that is simply the way that this inveterate changer-of-all-things operates. And the way that life flows, no matter what. These are the details on which our reality is truly based.

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Note that the light coming in here is all sunlight from that small skylight in the adjacent shower room. And yes, His (L) and Hers (R) vanities. It’s dandy to have so much space–and we each have a full walk-in closet of our own attached to these, plus the shared shower room between. Living like royalty, indeed; that IS, after all, our style . . .

A Date with Heraclitus

We all have a certain number of fixed elements in the schedules of our lives. At least, we think we do. And most of the time, we manage to keep them in fair order and stick to them. That, in itself, is really rather near to miraculous.

Every one of you who has crashed breathlessly through the door at four seconds to ten for the 18th weekly meeting of your Steering Committee, after an epic morning battling with a cracked molar, a stuck zipper, a closed freeway exit and a sinkhole that opened directly under your reserved parking space–only to find last night’s emergency notice scrawled on the white board, informing everyone that the meeting had to be moved to the Annex back on the other side of town–you know what I’m talking about.


Well, I know why *that* Mourning Dove was crying . . .

Best laid plans, Ha! Old Reliable, Ho-ho-ho! Change happens, endlessly. Who am I to argue against the great philosopher who says so?

No matter how wizardly we are in arranging our lives, planning and organizing and arranging to the finest and most delicate degree of control, all of the skill and dedication in the world can’t stop the flow of life’s river from going where, when and how it will.

The good news is that despite the vicissitudes of our ever-changing reality. We manage, and we do so well enough most of the time that we can maintain the illusion, perhaps even the delusion, that we can predict and control our lives’ events for the most part. The very fact that things ‘gang aft agley‘ as they do keeps us on the alert and trains us to be flexible when we must, inventive when we can, and swift to recover when all else fails. Change, as we all must finally allow, is the only true constant.


Some days even the repair equipment is just not up to the task . . .

Now, should I post this today, I wonder? Or should I write another post and save this one for another day, when something comes up unexpectedly–and it will–and disrupts my plan for that day’s post? Always good to have a get-out-of-jail-free pass tucked in my back pocket, I should think . . .