Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Someone needs to tell Market Basket that hash browns are supposed to be shredded potatoes, not julienned. These suckers are practically shoestring fries.

Yes, I'm up very late and had breakfast for dinner. It was delicious, despite the potatoes being the size of kindling.

Monday, January 30, 2017


After a year of dragging my feet, I'm finally starting to go through my moth-infested craft room and pitch the things that are beyond saving. I can only do it a little bit at a time, because it's depressing to see that much work and material ruined, but occasionally I run across something I'd completely forgotten about and don't have to chuck in the bin.

For example, last night, in amongst the laceweight cotton-linen recycled yarn that the moths apparently found delicious, I spotted a dark blue, naugahyde, zippered case. Inside was the pride of my crochet hook collection, misplaced years ago, that included both my ivory hook (brought back from Africa by my great aunt Stella in the '60s along with a zebra-skin handbag) and my lignum hook. The lignum (Lignum vitae, a wood of extraordinary density and strength) hook was a gift from the woodturner I worked for five or six years ago, and I'd been idly wondering where it was.

Now, what to crochet with it?

Sunday, January 29, 2017


The log cabin job that we finished around New Year's was for a lovely couple who enjoyed being involved in the deconstruction process and feeling like part of the crew. They provided us with space heaters and a little break room setup (microwave, mugs, packets of cocoa) on site, they made us cookies and chili, and were just as pleasant as could be. When we finished up, on time and on budget, they decided to give us a little bonus -- every crewmember who worked on that site got a gift card for the local outdoor/work gear store.

I was hoping for proper snowboots, but they were out of the budget, so I came home with some long-sleeved thermal shirts that will fit nicely into my winter-into-spring wardrobe. It's nice to feel appreciated, especially in this line of work, where we can't go back to a site and point at what we did, because if we've done our jobs right, there's nothing left. My new shirts are something of a monument to that job, and I like them all the more for it.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Silver Linings

As hard a decision as it has been to leave window restoration (because self-employment isn't something I can handle, and there's nobody nearby in this field who I could work for), it does have some silver linings. One is that, once I'm working for someone else full-time again, I won't have the constant feeling of guilt over not spending more time working -- when I clock out, I'm done. Another is that I'll have resources available if I screw something up. Being the boss has meant that I have no backup, no help if something goes sideways, and it only adds to my stress. The silver lining I've been thinking about most, though, isn't big in the scheme of things, and it's pretty specific, but it's such a huge relief to me that I've been dwelling on it.

Back in September I went to a conference for people in the preservation trades. Because the fee to attend was out of my budget, I volunteered to teach a workshop on glazing windows, which got me in for free. I love demonstrating my various skills, and I wanted to network with other preservationists, so it seemed like a good fit.

It was the biggest shitshow I've ever had the displeasure of attending.

The professional organization that runs the event has been doing it for 20 years, so you'd think they'd have at least the basics covered, but that wasn't the case. Simple things like a street address for the venue, whether meals would be provided, and the schedule of events, were incomplete, incorrect, or not published at all. One of the other demonstrators had to stand at the gate handing out photocopies of her workshop description because the workshop coordinator had forgotten to put it in the official info packet. Of the first dozen people to sign in on the first day, half of them didn't get nametags because they either hadn't been printed or hadn't made it to the check-in table. I missed the first part of a workshop because the location had changed without notice. I ended up cleaning up the food tent in the mornings because nobody had stayed behind the night before to pick up trash or make sure things weren't left on tables.

A little perspective: between 4-H, historical reenactment, sheep and wool festivals, and renfaires, I've participated in a LOT of volunteer-run events. I've helped out with everything from bake sales run by third-graders to multi-weekend fairs that see ten thousand paying patrons through the gates. This conference was, by far, the most disorganized, confusing, poorly-run event of them all.

The worst part was the attitude of the people running it. Any time I suggested an improvement or asked why something wasn't done, I was met with, "well, it's your first time at this conference, so you don't know how it works," and/or, "join a committee if you want to make it better." So... you belittle me, invalidate my experience, and then expect me to bust my ass to make up for your incompetence? Not a chance.

For a group of so-called professionals, their conference was the most unprofessional event I've ever attended. I am so very thankful that I don't have to go to another one.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


My black workboots are white with plaster dust and my body is screaming in pain after two days of pulling plaster off lath at work. Despite the pain, there were good things about today's labors.

Pretty lath is a good thing. This is accordion lath, made from wide, thin boards that are then partially split and stretched to create gaps for the plaster to squish through to hold it on the wall (keys). The architect in charge of the renovation was so excited by this discovery that he's making the lath a design element in the new master bedroom.

Finding old wallpaper is a good thing, too. This was the third layer on the plaster (first and second I only found tiny remnants of in a few places, and their designs were so subtle as to be lost to my phone's camera), and it was only once I took off the crown moulding that I found it -- they'd cut it at the edge of the moulding and taken it off the walls before adding more recent wallpaper, so it only exists in this strip around the top of the room, and now, not even that.

Things that make me giggle are also good. This is short for "demolish," not for "demo-licious," as my work-addled brain would have me believe.

It's finally time to rest, without worrying about the alarm going off at 5am. Thank gods.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Father's Daughter

Despite the turmoil in my head and running on maybe three hours' sleep, I had a remarkably good time at work today. We're on a new (to me, the rest of the crew started a week ago) job site down in Massachusetts, and it's not a complete tear-down the way most of our deconstruction jobs are. This one is what we call a soft strip, where the client is going to be remodeling and wants parts of the old structure removed, but the exterior frame and a lot of the interior walls stay put. The original house was built in the 1820s (sayeth the homeowner), but it's gone through some drastic changes since then, so there aren't many original details remaining.

My job today was to strip plaster off the walls in one of the bedrooms. We'll strip the lath once we get our mega-vacuum on site, because nobody wants to expose the blown fiberglass insulation until the vac is set up to contain it.

Spending six hours playing with plaster gave my brain plenty of time to engage in one of my father's favorite pastimes: writing silly songs and parodies. I spent almost half the day trying to come up with lyrics for what is, unfortunately, a pretty narrow subject, and finally defaulted to a parody of Little Boxes (note: "brown coat" is sort of a setup layer in plastering, and horsehair or some other binder is mixed in to give it some "tooth"):

Little horsehairs in the brown coat,
little horsehairs in the plastering,
and they all came from a chestnut,
and they all look just the same,
there's a red one, and a red one,
and a red one, and a red one,
little horsehairs in the brown coat,
and they all look just the same.

With that in my head on repeat for hours and hours, the comfortable monotony was only occasionally broken by something weird or interesting. There wasn't much to interest my inner window geek (all of the windows were replaced sometime in the mid 20th century, have godawful spiral balances, are poorly-proportioned, and have flat glass and failing glazing), but my inner entomologist (another link to Dad) was amused to find that, as I was pulling plaster off lath, a few beetles poked their heads out of the wall cavity, too. 

Apologies for the awful stupidphone picture. This here's Harmonia axyridis, the Asian Ladybeetle imported by the US Department of Agriculture to help with an aphid problem a while back. While H. axyridis eats aphids happily enough, it also eats Coccinella septempunctata, our native ladybugs, which the DoA folks didn't bother to check beforehand. These little varmints will winter anywhere it's cozy, including in the little gaps where the plaster didn't get keyed (squished through the gap in the lath).

I also found, under the wallpaper, this little note:

Why they wrote it, and marked a spot not quite where the plug ended up going, is beyond me, but it made me chuckle anyway.

This, on the other hand, confused me. Before we started our work on this site, a crew came through and covered all the floors that were going to be kept (including two sets of stairs) with thin plywood, and while they used standard duct tape on most of the seams, on the stairs they used Zip tape, which is designed to be used with Zip System wall panels. It's not cheap (roughly 25¢ per foot, retail), and it doesn't release well at all. But I suppose that's the GC's problem.

Near the end of the day, I got a bit of a treat. The homeowner came by to do some snow clearing, and he brought his two dogs, an older Golden Retriever and a very young Pitt Bull cross. They're extremely friendly dogs, but not well-mannered -- they love to jump on people and chew on hands to show excitement. Still, it was lovely to get to play with them for a minute, and their visit made my day.

Now that I've washed the plaster dust off my face (even with a dust mask, I came off the job site looking like a cocaine addict), it's time to put on a movie and let my sore muscles relax so I can go back and do more of the same tomorrow.

Monday, January 23, 2017

An Object In Motion

As long as I keep moving and keep my mind running after solutions to unrelated problems, I can almost hold it together. The moment I have nothing else demanding my attention, though, I fall to pieces. Bedtime is the worst. The gap between turning off the computer and picking up the book on the nightstand, that time filled with the mindless transition from activity to rest, is fraught with pain. Another day has passed, the wound is still open, and there's less hope of resolution than there was the day before. Let sleep come quickly, to outrun the headache that follows so much crying.


Pardon the lull in posts while I deal with something awful that happened over the weekend.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Wonderful Windows

My window install went splendidly today. I was anxious to the point of tears going into it (yet another reason to close down the business -- I can't deal with that level of stress on a regular basis), but it went exactly to plan, and in the time I thought it would take.

I forgot how chatty my clients are, though, so I got home an hour later than planned because the post-installation cuppa-and-convo went on for a bit. Not that I'm complaining. These folks have been exceptionally patient, and are lovely folks to sit and chat with, so it was a nice way to wind down from the anxiety.

I'll be away for a few days, and might not be around reliable wi-fi for part of it, so don't panic if you don't hear from me until Monday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Winter Wonderland

While most of my friends and family are facing icy commutes in freezing rain this morning, I've awoken to four inches of heavy, wet snow. It's going to be a bear to move, but it's quite pretty.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


My plan for today was to run down to Keene for hardware and groceries, and then come home to work on windows. Instead, I got to Home Depot and was trying to make up my mind about some screws when a familiar voice pulled me out of my musings. Three or four hours of pleasant conversation later, my craziest of crazy exes and I have finally put the last of our lingering distrust to rest, and closed the book on a catastrophically bad relationship that ended over six years ago. It was exhausting, but good for both of us.

I need a nap and some cookies.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Change of Scenery

Today I found myself asking a very important question: Why does my treadle sewing machine need to be next to an electrical outlet?

The answer: It doesn't. Guess what's moved from the sewing room to a much brighter, spacious spot in the upstairs hall? As a result, the sewing room is slightly less crowded, which helps the workflow considerably. Now to choose which unfinished project to work on first...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bear the Bear

Note to self: it really freaks my sister out when I gleefully exclaim, "I GOT MY ROBOT BEAR!!!"

...What? AlphaBear is a fun game, and I've been trying to get that particular bear for a month.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Yarny Woes

See yarn in shop, yarn fairly screams that it wants to be a hooded mantle.

Bring yarn home, ball it up, swatch, figure out pattern, over the course of a year or so knit something like 5K stitches in bloody moss stitch because texture is pretty.

At the halfway point, start having second thoughts.

Suddenly realize yarn doesn't want to be a hooded mantle anymore. It wants to be a sweatervest.

Sigh heavily.

Frog the mantle, re-ball the yarn, figure out pattern, cast on for vest.

The front's finished. Let's see if I can get through the back, assembly, ribbing, and blocking without it changing its mind again.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Not that I want a gravestone, but if I did, I'd want it to read, "pining for the fjords."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ode to Insomnia

between late and early
coming down in buckets
bouncing back against the pane

warm lamp glow
blankets and pillows
steam dancing over tea

what to watch, read, do next
to drown out the demons
precluding sleep

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mixed Blessing

I've got this window client, and the job I've been doing for them has come in three parts. The first part was one hell of a learning experience, both in terms of technical understanding of the windows and hardware involved, and my ability to keep myself on task without a boss. When it came to the second and third parts, things have gone a bit wobbly.

The original plan was to install Part 2 before Christmas, install Part 3 by the end of January. I had difficulty keeping to this plan, which eventually led to me getting two extensions, and I spent most of the last two weeks stressed out of my gourd trying to get Part 2 done by the end of last week so I could install them over the weekend. Turns out the client was out of town with relatives, and has now scheduled the installation for next week.

This is, one would think, great for me. Except that the reprieve gave me an excuse to take a day or two off to get over the insane levels of stress, and... I can't seem to get back to work. This creates a problem for Part 3, which is now going to run into February, except I need that last payment for February's rent.

This is why I'm shutting down the business as soon as this job is done. Without a boss expecting me to be at work every day, I have great difficulty mustering the motivation to pick up my tools. So now it's a matter of getting Part 2 ready to install (a day's work), getting started on Part 3, figuring out a way to make the rent, and looking for a full-time job sooner rather than later, all while drowning in the depression and suicidal ideation that comes with failing at something I ought to have been able to do.

Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Gang Aft Agley

My plans for the day depended on, of all things, a bottle of cleaning solution. A bottle that I completely forgot I'd left in my unheated shop. It's 8°F out there. The cleaning solution is frozen solid.

What to do with myself while it thaws? Hmm.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

C Is For Completed Work


I told myself that if I finished my sash painting work before it got dark outside, I could spend the evening making cookies. Who wants chocolate chip?

Thursday, January 5, 2017


My day job is deconstructing buildings for re-use and salvage. One of the few good things about it is occasionally finding "treasures," things that may not be of much monetary value, but they tell me something about the structure or the people who used it. At the last site, a former Catholic church, I found a shoe sole, a broken statue of Mary, and a whoooole bunch of empty beer bottles in the crawlspace under the floor.

On today's job, a log cabin  in the woods, I was pulling up subflooring and found the remains of a rabbit that a stray cat (who we'd seen bolting from the crawlspace as we started work) had been eating.

Sometimes "treasure" has a rather loose definition.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Conversation Through A Closed Door

"Hi, sweetheart."
"I know, lovie, but I'm busy right now."
"I'm doing the work that makes the money to buy the cat food. It's important."
"Yes, darling, you're important, too, but this needs to be done before I can cuddle with you."
"I know, I'm not happy about it, either, but that's the way life goes."
"I'll be done as soon as I can, sweetie, you've got to be patient."
"Please go curl up with your sister for a while. This will take as long as it takes, and you complaining about it isn't going to change that."
"Objection noted."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Safe As Houses

In other news, I finally, more than a month after completing the training, got my OSHA-10 card in the mail. I officially know how to be safe on construction sites. Now if I could just get my boss to understand why that's important, it might actually do some good.

Health Status

Quitting Facebook was a necessary, though difficult move. I wasted hours every day playing games and refreshing my news feed to see new posts, when I should've been working. And while I've been more productive since walking away from it, I do miss the social aspect of it. I find myself feeling even more isolated than I was (the superficiality of much of Facebook's content was a contributing factor in my decision to quit), and that's making my already-severe depression worse.

A little over three years ago, my father passed away. His death was unexpected in some ways, drawn out in others, and hit me much harder than I ever thought it would. I lost an important person, but I also lost my sense of home -- there is no longer a safe place for me to retreat to when my health issues overwhelm me. The fact that they're overwhelming me now, and have been at dangerous levels for over a year, has me worried that I'll break under the pressure. So far I've managed to limp along, making ends meet despite increasingly frequent bad days, but I don't know how much longer that's going to work.

I ought to be working today. I have a window restoration project that the client is expecting me to install this weekend, and the schedule is very tight. So when I returned from this morning's errands and couldn't find any "spoons" at all, no motivation to do anything productive, it triggered a panic attack, which has completely sidelined me. Knowing I have a certain amount of work that absolutely needs to be done today, and not feeling able to pick up the tools and do it, is maddening and scary. I've already pushed back the target date for this project twice, and I can't bear to disappoint the clients again, which means I'll have to take a day off from my other job to make it work, which then means choosing which already-overdue bill doesn't get paid.

Thanks to this same worsening depression a few months back, I've screwed myself out of being able to get health insurance again this year (didn't send in the appropriate forms or make the necessary phone call to get an extension before the deadline), so there's no hope of going back to therapy any time soon. I try to find something positive to focus on and everything comes with a qualification; I have a roof over my head for now, they haven't turned off my electricity yet, there's food in the fridge for another week.

I wish I had something to look forward to, some stability or security that would allow me to feel reasonably competent. Without that, I'm feeling more than a little lost.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Hello, world.

Having just quit Facebook cold turkey, I think it's about time to get back into blogging. I do a bit of everything, and this little corner of the 'net will make a cozy home for my esoteric ramblings. Feel free to start a conversation if I post something that catches your fancy.