Monday, April 26, 2010

Back to Phase II: At Last!

It is officially spring. I don't care what the calendar says--what matters to me is that I've been out to work on my treehouse (for the first time since March of last year--ugh!). Conner, one of the youth from the Church, had some time off school. I asked him to make the personal sacrifice of a few hours to come begin planking Phase II, and to his credit he answered the call of duty. Here he is wielding the trusty cordless drill, predrilling and screwing the first floor planks onto the second part of the treehouse:

What makes work on this phase particularly exciting is the height. The joists for this level are all more than nine feet off the ground. Only one of my ladders actually reaches all the way to the floor level. Here's a shot from the other side of the creek:

Here's the second board going on. These are true one-inch boards, about eleven inches wide, from the hemlocks that were felled last year and that I milled out on the back forty. This part of the treehouse is truly home-made.

When we had to call it quits that afternoon, we had five boards in place--enough space to stand on safely. Thanks, Conner, for helping to keep the dream alive!


Choices, Choices

Since we're wreaking havoc in our bedroom in order to put in the new closet, we decided that now is the right moment to repaint the whole room. This part of the project presents a new problem, however: choice of colors. (I write colors because we agree that it's cool to have a main color and an accent wall.)

Here's the real core of the problem: I tend to choose loud, flamboyant colors; Sara tends to choose subdued, gentle colors. And each of us harbors a not insignificant distaste for the other's taste.

We did agree, however, that it would be cool to choose the colors based on the poster-sized photos we'll be hanging in our bedroom. These photos come from our Europe travels, and have already been chosen and printed. But that doesn't quite get us to agreement on the colors themselves.

When my brother and I were kids, we used to argue about everything. Everything. And I think, like Sara and my color antipathies, we did it simply because it was somehow against The Rules to be at peace with each other. So when it came time to split the last piece of cherry pie, my brother and I were instructed by a generation wiser than we that one of us would split the piece in two, and the other would choose. This proved to be as reliable a method as any in heading off sibling competition.

Sara and I agreed that I would go to the paint isle at Lowe's and pick out four pairs of colors, each based on one of the four photos from Europe. From those four palettes, Sara would get the right to choose which scheme actually made it onto our walls. So I took the photos--one from Paris, one from Oslo, one from Prague, and one from Venice--and pored over the cacophony of paint chips searching for the pairs that worked just right with each print. Here are the four I brought home (lighter color for the main tone; darker color for the accent wall):

I taped the pairs of chips up around the room, and watched while Picasso deliberated:

Of course, it wasn't so easy to make the final choice. In fact, we still haven't made it fully. We'll only be committed once we tell the guy across the counter at Lowe's which colors to mix. And you'll likely read about the outcome on this very blog. Until then, here's a preview of the poster-prints on the bedroom wall:

We're excited about new color. The Cream-Poured-Over-an-Eggshell-on-a-Sandy-Beach color that clings to our walls now just ain't cuttin' it any more.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Sixth Drawer

We enjoy going to IKEA. It's like going to the carnival, except more expensive and the products last a whole lot longer. Smiles leap to our faces when the bright blue and yellow of that great Swedish entrepreneur come within view.

We are sad that the closest IKEAs to us now are in north Jersey, Philadelphia, and Boston. Perhaps the only redeeming value to living in Pasadena was having an IKEA in Burbank. Now we live in rural New York, where the only time the adjective "Swedish" is used is to describe bite-sized gelatinous fish candy. Thus finding an IKEA is now both adventure and trek.

Earlier this year we had to go to Manhattan for my work, which provided the perfect excuse to "swing by" IKEA on the way home. Good thing, too: we needed prefab drawers for our then-only-conceptual bedroom closet. I did my spiffy calculations of how many drawers would be needed, found them in the IKEA showroom, drooled over other pieces of furniture that we don't need, and picked up the drawers from the warehouse output station. When we got home, I crammed the drawers under our bed, where they could rest undisturbed until the closet project got to the point at which I could use them.

About three weeks ago, after two months of construction, drywalling, and painting, I reached that point. Out came the drawers, one by one, to be assembled according to the uniform wordless instructions of IKEA engineers. The ease with which I twisted, snapped, and pinched them together would have made Henry Ford proud. One drawer . . . two, three, four, and at last five drawers stood in a Jenga-like tower while I screwed the slides into my newly minted, custom-made cabinetry.

I popped the drawers in with surgical precision, screwed the cover shelf into the unit, and fixed the whole kit and caboodle to the closet wall. I stepped back, admired my handywork, and took a deep breath in anticipation of the trim work.

Then life intervened--work, Gwendolyn care, surprise projects, et cetera. Before we knew it, Madison Vinyl had called to set up a time to come and replace our bedroom windows. Yikes! At eight o'clock one morning I slid all of our bedroom furniture up against the inside wall and rounded up the herd of dust elephants that apparently can procreate like rabbits. Madison Vinyl came, installed the windows, and left barely a trace. That evening I lifted the edge of our bed to slide it back to its usual home. Before I got six inches, my foot kicked something under the bed.

I dropped the queen-sized load and yanked up the bed skirt. There, its slender form grinning at me from under the metal frame, lay an IKEA drawer, still pristine in its box. The sixth drawer.

All that painstaking calculation to figure out how to get six drawers into the closet, forgotten on the crucial day! One drawer pushed too far under the bed, forgotten until a day too late to redeem its place in the Holy Grail of bedroom remodels. One do-it-yourselfer who feels like an idiot.

I said a few words that might have seemed ironic to the engineer who named the drawer "Komplement," and laughed.

"Hey, honey! Guess what I found under the bed?"

My wife tells me that we can use it later, when we make drawers to fit under the bed. And another bedroom project is born.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dinner Time!

GBaby has cut all 16 of her baby teeth. To celebrate she is now sleeping through the night - 5 of the last 7 nights. We are celebrating with her. She's entering that wonderful stage of independence and really likes to feed herself. This new skill is best practiced right before bath time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Dreams are what fuel a person's motivation, driving him on to greater accomplishments or personal betterment. A few years ago my dreams included scaling grand mountains in foreign countries, making escargot from scratch, and building multi-level treehouses in the forest.

Since the birth of my daughter, my dreams have changed a bit. Yes, those lofty aspirations still call from somewhere in the depth of my consciousness. However, the grandest hope I now have for my life is quite simple and straight forward.

I dream of getting eight uninterrupted hours of sleep.

Ironically, since I've learned the universal parental skill of surviving on fractured, sometimes shredded bits of sleep, I had forgotten about this dream until three nights ago, when Gwendolyn gave us those unbroken eight hours. We praised the Lord and saw the world through new eyes that day. Then our darling daughter gave us two more full nights of sleep. I'm not quite sure what to do with all this new energy I have!

I'm not foolish enough to expect that every night from now on will offer a solid eight hours . . . but I can dream, can't I?


Monday, April 12, 2010

Holy Hilarity Sunday

I don't get to talk about work much in this forum, because there's usually so much personal information that the story would be a series of horizontal black bars punctuated by the occasional "and," "or," and "my." But today is an exception.

Yesterday our congregation celebrated Holy Hilarity Sunday. This tradition dates back more than a thousand years, but I didn't know it until a few months ago. The early Church witnessed to the fact that in Jesus' death and resurrection God had pulled a fast one on the devil (Hebrews 2:14-16). The early and medieval Church saw the defeat of death as a kind of prank on the Evil One: "you thought you could defeat God by killing God's Son . . . ha, ha!" So the Church decided that pranks, humor, and hilarity had a place in the life of the faithful.

Thus a tradition developed for the week after Resurrection (aka Easter) Sunday to be a week of humor, pranks, and comedy. Apparently, even the monastic traditions bought into this, and invited pranks on fellow monks and nuns in celebration of God's great unexpected gift. (I am starting the unconfirmed rumor that Brother Menard invented the whoopie cushion from a goat's stomach as part of a prank on his abbot during Holy Hilarity week.)

Our worship committee decided to try it out this year. So we had a worship service that included joke-telling by congregants, two fun songs by our Kingdom Puppets, a bagpipe choir accompaniment to the hymn "Amazing Grace," and a rousing round of the Hokey Pokey (as catechetical tool, of course). We did more laughing together yesterday than in a month of Sundays, which was fun. Faith can be serious business, but it also ought to have the joy of the kingdom in it.

I had an early fear that some members of the congregation would object that the service was not reverent enough; but I didn't hear any such critique. In fact, someone said that yesterday's sermon was the best one they'd ever heard me deliver. So all in all I'd say it was quite a success. Here's to resurrecting old traditions in the name of joy! And here's to celebrating the great surprise of life that is ours in Christ, a surprise echoed every time a punch line surprises us into laughing.

I'm ready to do another Holy Hilarity Sunday--even if I didn't get to preach a sermon.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Many Faces

"How does it work?"

"If I run really fast I can catch up with Daddy who just left."

Hair bows are better for chewing.Oh really?

"Things aren't quite going my way."

"Now they're really not going my way!"

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Primed Real Estate

The next step before painting the inside of the closet.

Now it's starting to look like finished interior!