Tuesday I replaced the heating element in my twenty-year old electric oven. I’d been tempted to buy a new dual fuel range with convection oven (did I mention there’s no gas line running to the kitchen?), but at the advice of my father, who ingrained in me a do-it-yourself home repair ethos, I opted to repair it instead of replace it. $27 for the part, which the local repair shop had in stock, and ten minutes of labor, and I had a functional oven again.
I’ve owned my house for eight years now. It’s a two-story foursquare in a hundred-year-old neighborhood; the house itself is around 90 years old. Over the past eight years I’ve come to conclude that the accumulation of half-assed remodeling jobs executed in this house by the previous owner is disgusting. I didn’t feel this way at first, but over time, my taste has matured, along with my sense of what’s acceptable as a home owner. Despite the arts-and-crafts sensibility of the foursquare architecture, the kitchen was remodeled with faux-colonial design elements (lots of pine finished in “Colonial Maple” with scalloped edges). The ceiling is covered in a pine paneling which, at 23 years old, I thought was kind of cool. The finish carpenter who remodeled the kitchen either lacked competence or professional pride, though. Now I see entirely too many poorly-executed miters and butt joints. On top of that (pun intended), my infatuation with the wood-paneled ceiling is over. I’d much rather have a brighter kitchen with quality woodwork.
But the half-assed carpentry story doesn’t end there: The room addition for the master bedroom was roofed in such a way that the new roof was simply built atop the existing roof. In fact, in the attic over the master bedroom, you can still see the west side of the original hip-and-ridge roof. This causes an interesting heating and cooling issue, which annoys the crap out of me, but recently I discovered another concern: When I was clearing out the gutters this fall, I noticed that the valley where the new roof meets the old has no valley flashing. Any rainstorm involving a driving wind out of the south forces moisture into the attic over the bedroom.
The upstairs bathroom could really do with a newer, larger shower (I’m a foot taller than the previous owner, who seemed to prefer a petite scale to many fixtures). The porch roof has needed new gutters, fascia and soffits for a few years now. My garage workshop has no insulation or wallboard.
* * *
I find my brain running in this same circle of thoughts again and again these past few months, stimulated I think by miserable weather and the usual lack of sunlight as we approach the winter solstice. By the time I get home from work, I feel as if there is no day left. At the same time, when it is actually time to go to bed, I feel restless, knowing I’ve squandered my evening. I’ve worn quite a path this way, circling and pacing, but not actually moving anything forward. I know I need to set these remodeling thoughts aside, that I don’t actually have the opportunity to do anything about them given the unpredictable weather, my wife’s holiday work schedule, and the balance on our HELOC, but what makes these ideas so compelling is that I have the energy to take them on right now.
For want of real productivity, I’ve been washing dishes and doing laundry at a pace that can only be categorized as obsessive, (inspired perhaps by this article on 43folders). If it weren’t so close to Christmas, I’d go splurge on insulation and wallboard for the garage, so I could spend my creative energy building furniture. Maybe I should have hinted for a Home Depot gift card for Christmas. Oh, well. Mostly what I need to do is find some way that I can be truly productive, some way to harness that nervous, creative energy.
Maybe I’ll make it out to the workshop tonight, since it has actually been above freezing today, triggering a welcome melt-off by the afternoon. I have no projects ready for glue-up in the near future, so it might be feasible to make progress. This may be my only chance with the weekend looking to be ten degrees colder.
I speculated once that I should concentrate on writing during extreme weather, saving the furniture-making for milder temperatures. It’s a practical approach, but right now, it’s the lure of the unattainable that’s driving me.