2013-09-26 / Columns

A column

It’s time to book it now that paint project is over
by Patti Brandt

I’ve taken on a lot of do-it-yourself home improvement projects in my more than 100-year-old house over the years.

The oak woodwork — including an open staircase with nearly 40 spindles — was stripped of its blackened and bubbled shellac, the carpeting was torn up to reveal beautiful hardwood floors, and the kitchen cabinets have been refinished — twice.

The clawfoot tub in the bathroom was refitted with a brass shower riser and reproduction faucets, while every strip of the pine wainscoting was lovingly sanded and painted — even as everyone was telling me how much easier it would be to just put in a tubsurround kit.

But easy is not my style.

So when Ernie and I decided to tackle painting the two-and-a-half story, four bedroom, mint-green and black-trimmed Saginaw monstrosity, it was with great trepidation. Being a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator, some of my projects have taken me a few years to complete. Some never quite got done. So I fully expected to start and not finish this monumental task. I honestly don’t know what the heck I was thinking.

But on Sunday we stood in the back yard admiring the still wet second coat of Whispering Wheat covering wall No. 4 on the job that has been our obsession since mid-spring, when it finally got warm enough to work outside.

We were too cold, too tired and too paint-spattered to do a victory dance. We wanted hot showers and our supper. We didn’t even take the ‘after’ pictures. We’ll do that this weekend when the crew gathers for a postpainting fiesta.

And by crew, I mean family. Doesn’t everybody?

My sons Charley and Joey did their time on six ladders ranging from four to 40 feet tall. They stood on top of the front porch and dangled from the garage roof to reach the spots that were inaccessible, even from the tallest ladder. My 77-year-old mom Ann unflinchingly showed up nearly every Saturday and Sunday for most of the summer, painting porch railings, posts, slats and basement windows and, of course, making sure we all did our jobs right.

Twelve-year-old granddaughter Lucy even helped out, doing a little scraping and painting and a lot of gophering, learning in the process how to make a mean cup of coffee.

My oldest son, Jamey, is absolved of all guilt for not helping out. An electrician by trade, he did his time crawling around the dirty attic replacing the knob and tube wiring a couple of years ago. Besides, he now lives in Tennessee.

Ernie deserves a medal for power washing with icy cold water on days when temperatures barely got above 60, for fighting — and winning — a war with yellow jackets that had taken up residence under the eaves, and for moving my ladders around, because while I eventually became confident enough to climb them to the upper reaches of the house without batting an eye, they were just too heavy for me to manipulate.

The house looks beautiful, better than we ever thought it would. But it has been a long, tiring journey that had me making the three-hour drive to Saginaw almost every weekend, even spending my one week of vacation time there to get it done. I sure missed Leelanau’s hiking trails, beaches and festivals. Not to mention, spending every weekend working that hard is just not the American way.

Part of my job this summer was being a cheerleader. When Ernie said “Look how much work we have yet to do,” I said, “Look how much work we got done,” even though I was feeling the same way — that the cycle of scraping and grinding and sanding and washing was never going to end.

But I learned a few things about myself through the ordeal. I think maybe I can take ‘procrastinator’ off my list of character defects. I stuck with this project, which was really a progression of several smaller steps, until it was done.

I can accomplish some pretty big things, one day at a time, taking those baby steps.

So what’s next? Maybe that book I’ve been putting off for several years.

Maybe I can apply the same philosophy to that project.

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