Monday, February 02, 2004

My back, my hands, and this house

This is our first house, and we moved in in 2000. At first, the smallest things, such as putting on a door sweep, intimidated me. But this house (and a friendly neighbor who worked for years as a contractor), taught me a lot. I have 2/3 completed a seismic reinforcement of the downstairs which involves drilling and setting anchor bolts into the foundation, and nailing up plywood sheer wall and ceiling.

But actually the job I am proudest of, my first big job, happened the second summer we were here, when I knocked down the rotted old porch, tore back the stucco and stucco wire until we discovered the extent of the dry rot, and then (with the advice and often the help of my friendly neighbor), put it all back together again. Stronger. I learned carpentry, stucco work, and a bit of plumbing along the way.

Those of you who have met me know I have slender, ladylike hands. And due to the recent atrophy, the right hand now looks manly to me and the left hand ladylike. But I am proud of these hands. I am proud of all those days I spent in the hottest part of the summer, up on a ladder, gripping tools and tearing into the house despite my slenderness, despite being a wispy, book-oriented person. Forget that. This was my house and I wanted to learn how to work on it and no one else was going to touch it. I used the morning shade when I could. Got a few neck burns. The days were hot. As the project dragged on (I was working during the week and working on the house on weekends), we wanted to get the house closed up before the Fall rains. Some days I practically crawled into bed because I had worked my back so hard, or my arms. Putting up stucco is not light work. Especially when you have no idea what you are doing. It was dirty and sweaty and sometimes a bit bloody but I am immensely proud. I got the house closed up just before the first rain.

Later I took a long six-week break to do the seismic project, before the second baby came. While I was doing the seismic project I missed programming. When I went back to programming, I missed working on the house. I fantasized about cutting plywood with a circular saw. Then the second baby came. She is a miracle. Like the first one. She is starting to take her first steps this week. Step-step, boom! Step-step-step, boom! She turned a year old and along came this ALS thingy.

But I still have my power tools and a lot of plywood to put up (because the seismic job it not yet done). So I intend to go down there and start cutting and nailing. It's a physical job. Lots of hauling and shoving. A little kicking. How would you get a 4 foot by 8 foot piece of plywood up against the ceiling and nail it in? I built some simple pole braces out of two-by-fours which are just shy of ceiling height. Then I nail with a pneumatic hammer.

I should be able to finish this job. It will make my body stronger, and my spirit too.

This week I crossed a threshold without knowing it. Our light fixture over the medicine cabinet was broken. It would stay on and not go off and the switch was internal to the fixture itself and not something you could repair. So I turned off the power at the breaker and put up a new light fixture I had bought. After the job was done I realized that I had just violated my declared rule of never working with electrical. I had previously said that the risk was too great and I was too much of a spasbo.

Putting up the light fixtures in the bathroom has got me in the mood to complete the seismic job. And once I do that, it won't be long before you hear a long of drilling, cutting, and hammering coming from my house. I'll finish the job with my back and my arms and my legs and my hands. And just a little cursing.
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