Archives for posts with tag: home improvement

This aging but not old house of mine needs work- large-scale stuff: the slab needs jacked, the spare room ceiling leaks, the flooring is shot. Ideally, both bathrooms would be gutted and re-done. Every summer, we cross our fingers that the (original) air conditioner will crank away for one more year. We’re working on it; the jackers will be here next Monday to finish what they started on a too-rainy day a while back, and then we will turn our attention to whatever is next on the list.

In the meantime, I do what I can on my own, a step at a time. If the house itself is the Titanic, I am rearranging the deck chairs.

I sometimes ask myself whether cosmetic things like fresh paint on a wall and new lamps are justifiable use of my limited resources considering the larger challenges we face around here, but I always come back to yes: the “To Do” list is long, but the “Done” list is growing. As I look around after two years of chipping away at small changes, I can see results, and it energizes and encourages me.

The beauty of my “Done” list is that the items, once attained,  stay done, leaving me more time to focus on new goals, like actual deck chairs. They’re on the list too, right at the end.

I aspire to a beautiful home, but have come to realize that I do not have the temperament, attention span, or financial resources to attain one by conventional means. Whatever progress I make in the direction of my goal seems to be the result of disturbingly long periods of time where I stare at the offending areas in and outside of the house, look at magazines and online resources (talking to you, Pinterest!) and  finally make a plan, followed by spurts of activity wherein something gets done. Or more often, partly done. Then eventually, finished.

Because of the large number of ongoing projects which follow this pattern, I am initiating a category of this blog, called, you guessed it- “The Haphazard Homemaker.” Because that is what I am.

Two weeks since I’ve posted? Yikes!

It’s not that I have nothing to say; I’ve got at least a half dozen half-written posts, lined up on the tarmac like so many little planes, waiting for a little fuel here, a safety check there, before taking off to the great wide world.

It’s not that I have no time. Sure, I’ve been working more, and trying to be more disciplined about my house projects (upper kitchen cabinets are moving along, thank you) but I still manage to have more than enough time to feed my Lexulous addiction (the best on-line word game around, in my opinion) and daydream of future home improvements, often involving a catalogue from a store that once had a featured role on an episode of “Friends.”

I was doing most of my writing early in the morning, while the rest of my family slept. That worked very well until a couple of weeks ago, when we brought home a puppy. I write in our guest room/office/craft spot/storageforeverythingweareambivalentaboutunit. It is no place for an inquisitive creature with a burning desire to chew.  I have spent so little time there lately that the poor plants on the shelves over my desk required urgent care this week.

My early mornings now go something like this:

6:00 a.m.: get up, let Waldo out of his crate, go to the back yard and praise him enthusiastically for urinating and defecating. Go inside, feed him. Go back outside, and repeat step one.

Then we hang around until someone else gets up so I can take a shower. By this time, I either have to go to work, or someone wants me to do something or go somewhere, and the writing doesn’t happen. It’s been swell so far, but it can’t  last. Even if no one else misses my posts, I do.

I certainly don’t regret the puppy. He hasn’t kept me from writing; my reliance on my old routine has. It was great while it lasted, but things must change. I can:  a) find another time to write (like now, while everyone is asleep late at night) or: b) I can straighten up the room.  Or both. The thing is, what once worked no longer does, and I must take some action.

(Consider yourselves warned- when I get back into the swing of things, you will be hearing a lot about this puppy.)

If the kitchen is, as many say, the heart of the home, our house truly is on life support. Our kitchen is barren and ugly, and has been since I’ve known it. When we first moved in, TMIM was in graduate school, and The Kid was in elementary school, with weekends full of sports. Due to a combined lack of disposable income and time, the kitchen remained as we found it, a pass through to the other rooms, where Dr. T. labored alone to provide us delicious food.

Hamburger Helper reigned supreme when our house was built in 1972.  Although it was originally occupied by one of the neighborhood’s developers, and features many upgrades throughout, the  kitchen is bare-bones basic. I don’t think there was a lot of cooking going on then. But now there is, and TMIM deserves better.  I have painted almost every other room in the house at least once, and we’ve made some other improvements, but we have been as guilty of kitchen neglect as  previous owners, except for installing a restaurant style pot rack when we first lived here. A series of increasingly undesirable tenants hasn’t helped. That pot rack is long gone, replaced by lumpy patches of what I assume is spackle (which for some reason does not cover the nearby holes.) The only good thing that happened in our absence was someone priming the walls, covering the 80’s style country print wallpaper.

I’ve been stewing over  the issue of the kitchen since we reclaimed our turf in 2008, intensely since I came back for good last June.  In the abstract, I know what I want: a friendly, useful space that accommodates more than one cook, and maybe a guest or two.  Specifically, I want to replace almost everything- the dilapidated cabinets, the ancient faux brick vinyl floor (with a seam right in the middle of it-what’s up with that?!) and our ancient stove. I want to add a bar/workspace big enough for two stools, and improve our storage. I would also dearly love to open the kitchen to the family and dining rooms. Is that too much to ask? (Fortunately, our refrigerator and dishwasher are new, energy-efficient, and fairly attractive. Just don’t fall for the term “stainless” steel- it’s not- at least in my house.)

True to my status as a graduate of the Rube Goldberg School of  Project Management, I actually started my kitchen rehab the same day I started the cushion cover for the recliner in my living room  (Let’s not talk about that right now) by finally buying the paint I needed for a little project I found on Pinterest. I painted the side of one of our cabinets with blackboard paint, and trimmed the edges with the paint I bought to perk up the window sill and frame.  The best thing about our kitchen is the pair of south-facing windows over the sink, looking to our front yard and deep wooded lots across the street. The worst thing is the cabinetry- it’s dark oak and seems impossible to really clean, and it’s the first thing you notice. The doors are solid wood, but the frames are not. In a perfect world, we could tear them out and start over. Maybe someday we will. For now,inspired by the immediate improvement  my other painting offered, I am extending the same coat of glossy light color to the uppers, starting with the pair flanking the window. Pre-paint, my view seemed to stop at those oppressive cabinets; now, I walk in and see the trees, almost fully leafed out now, and the white blooms of the dogwood across the street.

Suddenly, I am full ideas for the rest of the room. I won’t start anything else until I finish those upper cabinets, which may take a week or two. I’ve decided to attack them in sections, in order to be able to contain the mess and leave Dr. T room to operate. The “before” is so bad I am reluctant to post pictures. If all goes according to plan, I will proudly post “afters.”

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (

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