For Starters, I’ll Fix a Couple of Things

Yeah, one is The List—tonight I’m starting to write down/compile the broad generalizations and a few specifics of what I plan to do in the way of self-betterment during this school year, whilst continuing in my role of Chief of Support Staff and Household Administration chez Sparks. I’m looking to make my schedule, and especially my partner’s, as easefully manageable as I can, without feeling like there’s no room for spontaneity or getting through-and-around the surprises that life promises to bring. That’s the first scheduled item, really, making a schedule. How’s that for an awe-inspiring bit of tautological joy!

Meanwhile, the daylight hours have seemed better spent on home-maintenance and daily prep tasks than the dangerously hunched position I’m trying to avoid by slouching too long over the computer most days. While it’s a fairly natural consequence of being a daily blogger, the wholly sedentary life is not conducive to great health in the long term, let alone to the satisfied sleepiness one ought to feel at the end of a reasonably active day. So that’s part of the plan, too; I want to be sure I don’t procrastinate about getting useful stuff done around the ol’ palace here until it requires professional intervention at great expense, and doing it myself a tad sooner will get me out of my chair more often.

It’s obvious that I’m neither an abstemious sort nor averse to acquiring, using, admiring, and otherwise indulging in Things & Stuff, or stuff and nonsense, if you will, but I’m also not wholly against being frugal and economical in a few ways. First among them is to look for opportunities to improve, repurpose, upgrade, and use to the last atom those things I have that aren’t of particular aesthetic or sentimental nature.

Things in that vein? Shoes. Yes, I have an admittedly stereotypical tendency to swoon and squeal over all kinds of fabulous shoes, but for the most part, I limit my actual acquisition of them to ones that are reasonably comfortable for walking, resistant to the kinds of weather in which they’re worn, and not horrendously expensive for the amount of mileage I can get from them. But when I find those great shoes that fulfill and surpass my requirements to the degree that they become favorites, I will treat them with great gentleness and give them spa treatment days at the local cobbler’s shop, spending as much again over their lifetimes as two more pair of shoes might cost.

Photo: Once, my shoes were like this.

Photo of Lifestride ‘Hart’ shoe, courtesy of eBay.com.**

When I travel, despite my being a veteran planner-organizer-logistics manager, and not too bad with those skills, I still over-pack and under-plan; this summer, every time we got on a plane I knew I would find a day or three ahead for which I had not brought precisely what I wished I had. The temperatures and the weather were consistently different, on this summer’s trips, than what was predicted, so I was often a little warmer or colder than expected, and my shoes not quite what the weather demanded. Our Halifax visit was downright hot for some of the time, and warm for most, but our one day of real exploration on the coast was very blustery and rainy. I still had my old flat Mary Janes** along, and the support was still quite serviceable, but the straps were shot and the rough terrain we were visiting promised to yank them right off my feet. Thankfully, I’d discovered that the best air-travel substitute for an alarm-ringing belt was a wide band of hook-and-loop tape, so I tore my “belt” in half  and used the shorter pieces to wrap my shoes around the instep and secure them. Added traction, into the bargain. The end of the useful life of the shoes in their original state, but it did the trick.

Photo: Velcro Magic

Looks goofy, but it works, in a pinch.

Most of the fix-it stuff around home is far more mundane, of course. Lots of dish washing today (by hand and by machine), some  house cleaning and tidying, a bunch of online and phone and postal transactions, and the fixing of a thing or two that’s gone a shade too long unfixed. Occasionally, it’s even time to haul out my hand tools, but anything heavy-duty gets handed over to the pros nowadays. Today’s busyness included repairing a minor bit of mess that required an uncommon set of those tools:

Photo: One of These Things is Not Like the Others...

Sing it with me now: “One of These Things is Not Like the Others…” What do pliers, screw anchors, screwdrivers, a hammer, and poultry shears have in common?

Our bedroom drapes were hanging strangely. Not sure why it took me quite so long to figure out that the right side of the curtain rod had lost its moorings; the screws securing the bracket on that end had pulled right out of the wall and were hanging there, looking rather forlorn, and doing pretty nearly nothing to keep the drapes from falling on the floor. When I went to move the bracket farther along, I was quickly reminded that the header behind the wallboard prevented any kind of useful anchors from sinking all the way through in the way that would successfully grip the drywall and help keep the bracket in place longer. So I got out the strongest bypass cutters I had, which happened to be my poultry shears, and lopped the plastic anchors down to half their length. A little harder to start in the drywall, yes, but they fit snugly against the hidden header and were sunk far enough in to grip both the wall and the screws’ full length. Funny, how much better the drapes hang when they’re properly supported. Oops. But that’s how home maintenance goes. Dribs and drabs, bits and bobs.Photo: Fix That Curtain Rod, Dang It!

Then, sleep, and on to the next day’s tasks. At least our bedroom curtains close properly again! So—well, good night, then. We shall see what tomorrow brings.

I Did It Myself…*to* Myself

Do It Yourself (DIY) projects, when well executed and realized, are impressive and admirable. They double one’s pleasure in the end product by being not only beautiful and useful as desired but also the satisfying result of her own skilled labors. Personal investment increase value exponentially.

I can claim a few DIY accomplishments on my resume, happily, despite my ordinary limitations of resource, monetary or of expertise or ability for the project in hand. But having mentioned hands, I must also confess to having a DITY (Do It TO Yourself) record as well. On the occasion of the hand-made hand injury, I was fortunate that my second of inattention resulted in no worse mishap than a tiny nip on my finger.

Being an artist, I did however do this with a certain degree of style: when I stuck my finger with a single tooth of my nice, sharp little hand saw (too aptly named, perhaps?), I did manage to insert the steel into the only small spot on my hand that already had a visible scar. Puncture becomes punctuation, so to speak.

As always, the tiniest wound is magnified by other pains, not least of them the injury to ego and dignity when on the instant of infliction I succumb to a combination of reactions that to the uninjured could only have a sort of serio-comic ridiculousness perfect for cutting me down to size. The unpleasantness of having made an unwanted incision in my personage is compounded by the leap back that threatens to throw me over a chair and onto my tailbone; the pinching clamp of fingers on the cut to stanch the bleeding hurts almost more  than the initial stab; the yell of pain that, in my nephew’s youthful terminology ‘scares my ears’ is also loud enough for the neighbors to hear and enjoy. On top of all this is the diminution of my sanguine pride, reminding me that my handy skills are sorely limited no matter what I tell myself.

Does this prevent my attempting further DIY projects? Hardly! Being by nature a timid and lazy and not-so-brilliant craftsman hasn’t made me give up but instead tends to make me plan and work things out fairly exhaustively before I begin, and to assume that I’ll make mistakes or need help before I finish. It all slows me down, to be sure—and that’s not a bad thing, mind you. Any DIY work is bound to be only as polished as patience and occasionally remedial work can make it.

When I speed up too much, I get sloppy and unfocused; I make silly mistakes like sticking my finger on a saw tooth/a saw tooth into my finger. Luckily for me, I didn’t have a power saw going there, so all I lost was a few minutes, my composure, and a few red cells rather than a digit. In return, I got a good reminder to sharpen my attention, to use tools with greater care, and to call in expert help when needed.

After all, I’d far rather sacrifice some dollars and a touch of my DIY pride than an appendage. This is how I’ve survived to my advanced age without losing any body parts or breaking any bones. I have recovered numerous times from being an (or falling on my) ass. Self image is ever so much more resilient than such things. Arguably, a little too much so in my case, or I wouldn’t tend to get into these fixes at all.

Of course, getting into a fix is something I can easily do all by myself. For that task, I do have all of the necessary experience and expertise.Digital Illustration: In Which I am a Silly Ass

DI-Why-Not

Here at the ol’ Sparks Ranch (well, just a ranch-style house, but we are in Texas after all), DIY projects happen for a variety of reasons, but there are three main motivators that have the best chance of eventually getting me involved in them. The first is that I get, ahem, the spark of an idea for something that could be better than it is. The second is that I don’t often have the moolah to purchase such an item or bit of action ready-made and fabulous. And the third is that sometimes just the right piece of the puzzle arrives on my doorstep to nudge me into  motion after all.

These three inspirations converged recently when my longstanding desire to spiff up our built-in bar–an item I’d never been accustomed to having in my home, but what the heck, it came with the house–complicated by my unwillingness to spend much on the project, met with the gift of our renovating next-door neighbor’s removal of the built-in bottle and stemware rack from the bar in her house. (Thank you, LM!) As our houses are of similar vintage and share close cousins of the woodwork stain variety, the ejected cabinet was a close enough match to those already in the lower half of our bar to make a fine fit.

What began as a modest set of lower cabinets, a set-in [and nearly stainless] bar sink with a cheap but functional faucet, a nasty very fake looking ‘wood’ laminate countertop and some glass shelves on a simple bracket style rack is now, I think a reasonable bit better: it’s both a fair amount more functional and a little less sketchy looking, and I think I won’t be quite so worried about keeping it closed constantly as I had been in its shaggier state.

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Homely yet functional. Kind of like me. But I always want to be a little better, so why shouldn’t my house!

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Now, with more storage! And a little bit more finished look, despite its humble beginnings.

What I did: first, I remembered that I’m now over half a century old and therefore should not lift a couple-hundred-pounds cabinet up and bolt it into place solo, something I would undoubtedly have been dumb enough to try in times past. Okay, and I was silly enough to lift the thing onto the counter by myself before I decided that not being hoist on my own petard was a really appealing concept. So after I cleared all of the previous bits out of the spot and plugged up the screw holes from the old shelves, I hired a carpenter friend to come and heft the oak box up, herk it into position, and bolt it generally in place with me. I’m cheap but not [entirely] insane.

I masked off the space and did the most gruesome part of the job: prepping and spray painting the countertop and the lower half of the walls, along with the sink and faucet, with my old friend Hammerite paint in the bronzy brown hammered finish. The walls and hardware (including the light switch and outlet) were all in extremely rough shape and it seemed to me the better part of valor to just embrace the rugged look and be a tiny bit old-school industrial in style. Then I brought in all of the scraps of trim and moldings I had left over from our previous reno projects here, along with my little hand-saw and miter setup, and pieced together some legs to support the front of the already weighty empty cabinet and horizontal supports for shelves over the sink, cut two short shelves out of a couple of old bookshelves no longer in use elsewhere, and then trimmed out the whole conglomeration. Under all of the paint, if you look too closely, you’ll see that it’s one wild concatenation of mismatched trim profiles and caulked, spackled, sanded and glued odd parts, but I did my best to pull it all together with the finishes by painting the bottom half all in Hammerite and the top half (including the ceiling) in plenty of primer and a finish coat of satin latex in simple cream.

I borrowed a couple of unused curtain rod finials to hide some of the weirder joinery at the corners and loaded the cabinets, and I believe I’m now within an nth of Done with this particular DIY. Or, if I’m to be honest, I suppose I should admit it’s DIM (Did It Myself–and yes, dimly enough). I just took the globe off of the ceiling light and stuck a reproduction Edison bulb in the fixture for now; eventually, I’ll want to either move the fixture itself or get a swag to relocate the bulb over the sink, so it doesn’t sit right next to the wine rack and heat it up, however briefly I keep the light turned on in there. And I’m going to put some of those little chalkboard labels on the front of the ‘new’ cabinet in those flat spaces so I can write in what’s in the rack and change it as the inventory changes. At the moment, I’m done with what I have materials on hand to do, so I think I’ll just enjoy it. Probably ought to sit down and have a drink!

Cheers! Sláinte! Salut! Prost! Egészségedre! Here’s Mud in Your Eye! Skål!photo

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I have Slain the Housework Monster

It’s not your standard condition, that of being born loving to clean and tidy things. Some of us, as we get older, build up our own versions of tolerance and even gradually, a craving for neatness and blissfully shiny-clean stuff that grows strong enough to not only require that we do the work to make it possible but even, sometimes, to teach us to like it a bit. I’ve been fortunate to meander my way into the latter category, but of course the journey wasn’t without its bumps and twists. Because I was born with a natural aversion to Effort. Besides which, I figure if something is not actively imploding, it probably doesn’t need all that much help from me.

digital painting from a photo

If it ain’t broke . . .

No surprise, then, if I looked at the laundry basket with something like loathing, even in my extreme youth when it was my mother who had done all of the labor of collecting, washing and folding all of the dirty clothes and filled the basket with them before I ever laid eyes on it. The mere idea of what it had taken to get from Point A (filthy kid coming in from playing in the woods) to Point B (pretty basket of neatly folded clean clothes) horrified me. The very thought of all of the tedious drudgery it would take to remove the neat and clean things from their current attractive assemblage and put them into the proper drawers and closets exhausted and demoralized me. And seeing Mom poised over the ironing board, sweeping at lengths of unforgiving wrinkled stuff with iron in hand–ohhhhh, don’t get me started! I had to dash for the nearest fainting couch at the slightest whiff of laundry. I will tell you right now that I never recovered fully enough to become friends with an Iron, and have not allowed one in my home or vicinity for lo, these many years since.

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The Dreaded Laundry Basket.

But laundry; well, if I don’t exactly go door to door begging my neighbors to let me wash their linens, at least I have learned to simplify and organize my laundry days to the point where there’s a sort of easy rhythm to putting a load of clothes in the washer, going off to prepare a little something and tuck it in the oven, putting the clothes in the dryer and second batch in the wash, going over to organize my desk, taking the food out of the oven, checking the dryer, and so forth–and I don’t find I’m quite so bogged down by the immense weight of one task when it’s sandwiched rather innocuously between several others. By the time I’ve got clean things to fold, I rather like the reverse-zen mindlessness of being very methodical and fussy about putting creases just so and stacking like with like and sorting shirts by color and any other silly pattern that lets me quiet my thoughts or just free them to wander where they will.

digital painting from a photo

Beware the snarl of the hairy, dragonish Duster! Flee before its smoggy breath!

Dusting has always seemed so futile as to be nigh unto ridiculous. If I don’t make a mark in it, it’s practically invisible, right? [I heard that!] More importantly, any dust stirred up–and you know some will stir up even if you use a duster coated with super-glue–is going to settle somewhere as soon as it can. Where? Directly below your duster, where it came from, of course. Don’t tell me that isn’t simple physics telling me I shouldn’t bother to try dusting. My elders, of course, have never had any particular respect for the laws of physics (as witness, trying to convince this square peg she would be happy learning to fit into any number of round or even triangular openings, at least until said Peg got too full of herself to fit any pre-drilled holes). So there was a regular expectation that I ought to better acclimate myself to the concept of dusting and do it anyway. Not only did I, however churlishly, do it then, I now own a duster as a fully independent adult. Only for the direst emergencies, mind you: I can still recognize the menacing beast’s mane at the end of a duster’s handle, thank you very much. Those jokers can kill you with one wheezy breath.

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The lineaments of lint, in all of their mountainous glory.

I did finally succumb to the duster-buying pressure when I spent a little time contemplating what emerged from my dryer’s lint trap. Because it seemed to me that if freshly washed clothes gave off that much accumulated dust and hair and assorted dismembered insect components and stuff in one short tumbling exhibition, there might actually be a pretty fair amount just casually drifting around right under my nostrils and landing willy, nilly, hither and yon if it didn’t go straightaway into my lungs. Call me a pessimist. [Yes, I heard that, too! Cheez, people, cut me a little slack. I’m trying to keep a clean house here.]

digital painting from a photo

Vacu-Man is coming! Hide the children! Save yourself if you can!!

The other answer to the dust problem is of course the bigger beast, the one that can eat larger quantities of dirt and disgustingness with wide slurps of its massive maw. There’s no wonder at all that pets and small children scatter in fear before the ‘Transformative’ power of a vacuum. Have you really looked at that scary mechanical menace lately? Every time I open up the closet and see that grimacing Succu-Droid glaring at me I get a little queasy thinking it’s about to drag me all over the house, growling fearsomely the whole time. Talk about being hauled on the carpet! Making me trudge all through the dark corners of every room, yanking my arms out of their sockets and working me up into a grubby sweat in an eyeblink, but seeming to take forever every time. And for what, to pull up enough loose grit so that it uncovers just how worn and stained and discolored the actual carpeting under the dirt is in the first place? That’s just plain mean.

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Clearly I *am* capable of getting everything sparkling clean until ‘we’re all in our places, with bright shining faces . . . ‘

I still end up evading the vacuum for longer periods than is strictly optimal, keeping it in an intermediate parking spot outside of the storage closet so that it’s in brighter light and can’t pull its scary-face stunts on me so easily, so I can work my way up to grabbing it by the neck and hanging on for dear life until the rodeo’s over again. After all, I’ve got plenty of other things to do. The outside of the windows I can make less of a big deal because I can just jet-wash them with the garden hose while I water the flowerbeds–in Texas the heat dries them so fast they don’t have time to streak much. But the dishes, I’ve yet to find that hosing them down on the patio has quite the same desirable effect as actually putting them in soapy water in a sink or dishwasher. And we don’t have any pets that will lick them clean for us. So I credit any time spent immersed up to my elbows in bubbles or loading up the ol’ dishwasher as time I don’t have to spend vacuuming. It’s not like we have to eat directly off of the carpeting anyway.

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Everything dirty does deserve the occasional bubble bath.

I do like my food to come into and out of a reasonably sanitary place, whenever possible, so I’ve been known to get seriously aggressive from time to time when it comes to kitchen cleaning. Once the food’s prepared, it may be that all bets are off, because hey, I already swept the floor, so how many cooties can already have occupied that little spot where I just now dropped a bite? I’ll take my chances. ‘Thirty second rule’, that’s nothing. I’ll give it a good thirty minutes if I happened to be on my way to another chore and can’t get back to pick up that morsel until the return trip. No wonder I dropped a bite anyway, when my hands were so full of the Good Deeds of good housekeeping! And it all came through a supremely safe and clean kitchen. I’m almost sure of it. I’ve even been known to clean the oven, though of course that’s only likely to happen by virtue of living in a house with a self-cleaning one, so I only had to figure out the arcana of its antiquated workings.

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Look, Ma, no grime! (You may need to put your sunglasses on.)

All in all, I like to think we live in a relatively toxin-free, moderately tidy home and that the various arrangements I’ve made to survive the chores more sensibly contribute to a place that, if not up to royal standards, isn’t utterly slouchy either. When you come to visit me you can go ahead and put up your heels on the coffee table, because we’re big on ease and comfort around here, but I won’t let you stick them on the dining table. If your pants get direly dirty with our dusty red Texas clay, I’ll happily wash, dry and fold them for you, but ain’t no bucking rodeo bull gonna get me to iron them for you. You can fold them under your mattress for the night or even go find an iron and press ’em yourself, but there are some demons of the homemaking variety I’m just not willing to battle any more. I’ve seen enough of that combat in my time.

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Weed or Wildflower? Does it matter? Everything here looks perfectly in order to me!

It’s why I have my relaxed attitude toward weeds on the property, too. If they’ll stand up and look pretty and behave sweetly toward me, I’m certainly not inclined to cut them down just because they showed up uninvited. Why, it’s what I’d do for any good guest.

Dude, You’re Harshing My Mellow

I was darning my husband’s sweater (they were only small holes, so not worthy of being damned) and in mid-stitch, was thinking that perhaps this is one of those many things that tells my age on me. As it is, I will readily admit to my advancing age–a thing of neutral value in my estimation, balancing fairly comfortably so far between worthwhile accumulations of experience and adventure and the brink of crepitation that will begin my final free-fall towards oblivion. So it’s not a touchy subject.photos x2What really struck me during this little bit of mending was that however cloddish my technique, it was still a very antique skill that I had learned from Mom in my youth and she, in her turn, from hers, and right on back into the impenetrable fog of history. Furthermore, a skill that you’d think a truly slothful person like I am at heart would find just a teeny bit repellant; you’d honestly expect something more like my flinging the sweater in a pile of give-away items as I slouched by on my way to the nearest chaise longue. I live in a disposable and spoiled society and it would be quite conceivable that I would far prefer to go with the flow of self-indulgence, lean back in the shade comfortably sipping sweet tea, and buy a new sweater with no untoward holes in it.

But along with that darning bit of old-fashioned fashion in me are a few other quirks of age. It’s clear that my multiple personalities are coming out of the woodwork in all of their glorious contradiction as I grow older. I am more able, for example, to recognize what would be the more mature thing to think, say or do in a given circumstance, but less willing to conform to that with every day that slithers by. I grow lazier–I would say by leaps and bounds, but that would imply energy being exerted to do so, obviously a misrepresentation, so let’s say by exponential expansion–that’s another thing, coincidentally, that I’m doing along with age, since I eat more and exercise less whenever I think I can get away with it. Even when I know I can’t. And yet another of these oddities is that while I grow lazier as quickly and surely as long blue-green hair grows on expiring vegetables, I also grow more stubborn about getting some things repaired in ways that will last longer and prevent my having to repair them next week yet once more. So I darn the darn things.

Everyone and everything else continues to age right along with me, so I feel safe in assuming a certain amount of knowing sympathy among my crinkled compadres, as well as understanding when I say that I am also simultaneously getting more profligate and more tight-fisted with my money. There are so many things that in days gone by I would have continently held in heart-thrumming abeyance as long as I could stand, both to see if I truly craved them enough for the sizable expenditure and because I thought it more fiscally prudent and Mature. Now, I’m often apt to shrug with a rich Gallic moue and say to myself, But Darling, you could, howcanIsayitdelicately, CROAK tomorrow! And POP! goes the wallet.

Some things I have learned actually do fall under the get-what-you-pay-for rubric, making up in the long term what they scared out of me in the present expense. Such, for example, is this cashmere sweater I mended. I am quite fond of bragging that I’ve bagged most of my non-shoe wardrobe for under USD $10, but on a couple of rare occasions I have seen one of a kind items either at surprise availability or better yet, on sale (perhaps resembling in this my brother-in-law, whose middle name we have occasionally joked should have been HalPris, or Half Price, for his amazing zest and gift for finding bargains)–when those moments come, it’s time to pony up and make the grand purchase. Because (a) high quality does last longer and (b) some outrageous things are just too jolly fun to have. So as I’m loath to cast off a slightly moth-eaten cashmere, it was worth the effort of the purchase enough that I’m willing to undergo the momentary exertion of actually mending and maintaining such a thing. It’s like a smaller and less complicated version of the relationship I have with a house: I know that things will constantly require attention and maintenance, and what falls within my limited skill range must be determined to be either worth the trouble or not, destined to be cheaply slicked over or staring me down with the necessity and value of genuine, if expensive, care and improvement.photoAs for the sweater with the holes in it, I just did the best I could making them disappear with some discreet back stitching and re-weaving of the threads. It deserved to be darned. The moth that munched the wool, him I did damn to perdition for his maleficence in undoing the pristineness of my husband’s only nice and slightly expensive sweater. Go back to your weed patch and chew on a rabid squirrel’s ankle or something, you mean MothMonster, why don’t you! And then I’d blow him away on a dandelion parachute, while lying back once again on my chaise as the sun drifts gradually down the afternoon sky.photo

‘Deferred Maintenance’ is a Sectionally Transmitted Disease

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There's a reason this wall reminds me of that great tale of suspense and horror . . .

The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Gilman Perkins’s wonderfully creepy short story in which she compresses the narrator’s descent into madness down to a few remarkably hackle-raising pages, is a bit like the process a building undergoes when neglected and ill-treated. The slide into decrepitude and decay may be slow and secretively incremental, as is often the case, or like Perkins’s poor madwoman the structure may disintegrate in an ever-speedier spiral rush to utter ruin. What is fairly consistent is that whoever is responsible for the maintenance of the place keeps it out of sight, out of mind enough to pretend that nothing bad is happening. What is more consistent yet, perhaps, is that any building falling prey to bad caretaking will do so in the way of a body falling to disease, that ‘thigh-bone connected to the hip-bone’ path of disintegration where the collapse of one part or system leads to that of the adjacent ones, and so forth, spreading until all are in full deconstructive mode.

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When things slip into the vortex of dissipation . . .

So I know that I can’t rest on my laurels if I happen to find a moment of seemingly settled pristineness. It’s bound to be an illusion. Somewhere, just out of view or conveniently forgotten, there’s a fine crack stealthily forming between the concrete driveway and the foundation, a swash of grime sucking into the most vulnerable point in the guts of the HVAC, one industrious ant setting up a sneaking trail to the one corner of the living room window trim whose caulking has curled back and left him an opening for invasion. And I know where each of those things leads.

I begin to feel a hint of that same crawling paranoia that the infamous wallpaper fed in the story’s hapless heroine: the sense that bit by bit, the house is gathering forces to rebel against me and my toolbox, that an overwhelming wave of implosion is building, however secretively and discreetly, and if I don’t replace that blown fuse NOW and repair that squirrel-chewed piece of siding on the instant, it’s only a matter of time until that horrific night when I will be awakened by a faint creaking that builds in a breath to a hurricane’s roar just before the house and all of its messy innards, me included and mummified in my tangled bedding, are slurped with a giant THWOOP! into some portal or black hole in the time-space continuum, never to be seen again.

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I can't just lock away the projects that I don't want to undertake, or the next visitor might be the undertaker . . .

Now, you will rightly surmise that a generally happy-go-lucky goofus like me doesn’t actually dwell on quite that level of near-nervous-breakdown over the state of my estate perpetually. Nor do I think anyone should. It’s mostly when I’ve been a little too, ahem, engrossed in my love of the yesterday-mentioned sorts of grim fairy tales and goblin-haunted wrecks of architecture that I might get a little inebriated with the idea that every bit of built space for which I’m responsible is headed for immediate wrack and ruin. The rest of the time I am with the ordinary hordes of folk who prefer the polite fiction of “deferred maintenance” over immediate activity and find a virtual infinity of ways to hide, compartmentalize and dissemble when we should be wielding our hammers. Sloth is always such a strong impulse, and the ability to fantasize justifications for it grows exponentially when fed a steady diet of To Do lists, self-imposed or not.

So far, my approach has been to drift along in apathetic torpor and evade the notice of beckoning chores for as long as my conscience can be stretched to tolerate it, and then fall about in a flurry of torrential attack on all the ills of the house for just barely long enough to congratulate myself on my excellent (or, okay, passable) mastery of the place, then fall back into my reverie of comfortable denial. It’s just possible that when that moment of dramatic self-destruction comes to my house of cards I will be safely couched in a nearby garden bed anyway, because it was too much trouble to get up and go in to such a flimsy place by then and I would have been too annoyed by the staring projects all awaiting me.

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At what point, I wonder, will my love of all things crumbling and rusty be outweighed by my desire to have them actually function as intended? I'm sure many of my friends have asked themselves the same when thinking of me . . .