Lucy and Ethel Build Shelves


Bit by bit, the Great Study Remodel of 2010 is approaching conclusion.

In February, I dragged everything out of the study. I patched the walls and ceiling. I primed. I painted. I whined.

All that stuff I dragged out? It’s been sitting in the upstairs hallway plotting ways to do damage to my body as I tunneled my way to the master bedroom. It’s been sitting there devising diabolical plans lo these many weeks.

Amongst the flotsam and jetsam was the world’s ugliest dresser used to store sundry computer crap dating back to the early 90s, various plastic containers housing yet more junk, boxes of old college papers and unfinished short stories, and my son’s taekwondo stuff. There are boxes of cards sent to me, boxes of old photographs, and a box of all my reading glasses from the olden days when I used to coordinate such to my wardrobe. (Alas, they are now all too weak to correct my eyesight.)

And books. Lots of books. Feet and feet of books. Some of the books were shelved on the world’s ugliest bookcase.

After I dragged all the crap out and put it in the hallway thinking this would be a quick project, I began painting. After finishing the painting, I was stunned by what an attractive room it was. A room that didn’t need to be cluttered up. A room needing to be somewhat spare, yet housing all my treasures.

I vowed (yes, I did) that 90% of the crap I hauled out was not going back in there. In fact, all that crap was going to a landfill.

And functional. I want the room to be a correctly appointed room for me to do Something Worthwhile.

[That’s a tricky thought. The past couple of years the study mostly served as the place where I scan photographs and stare out window while drinking coffee. I have high hopes of doing something constructive in there once I get done.]

Still. Even paring down to what I consider bare essentials was going to result in a lot of surface clutter. I also vowed that ugly dresser and ugly bookcase were not going back into the room. I also pondered how to get the computer crap off of my 1920s library table.

I peered at the closet.

I measured.

Almost After

I decided. Oh, yes I did.  And it was a good decision. I hate looking at computer equipment when it’s not in use and stuffing it all in the closet seemed like a stroke of genius.

By mid-March, I was down to 3 tasks – build shelving and a desktop into the closet, shampoo the carpet, and sort through all the crap only dragging back into the room that which I truly loved. Oh. And stain the leather chair brown – more on that later.

The first project was to complete the shelving in the closet to turn it into a miniature office. First it was too snowy and then I was too busy and then I was sick and then it was too rainy and then I was too busy and then I couldn’t summon any ambition.

Ambition welled during this 3-day weekend when I have much more time than usual.

Today, my mother (69) and myself (50), dragged out old shelving left over from the Great Master Bedroom Remodel. The plan was to cut it to width, cantilever it on the walls with wood laying around here and there, touch up the stain and paint the supports. [Cantilever is not the exact term I want, but I can’t summon the correct one. Trust me, a true cantilever is way beyond anything I’d ever try to do.]

Two old-ish women bearing bifocals and hot- flashing in 90F weather shouldn’t be allowed near power tools. Nevertheless.

The first three shelves we tortured on the table saw were too short. (Twinky tape measures, sweat and astigmatism are anathema to good carpentry.) We eventually prevailed without (a) a trip to the emergency room, or (b) angry words spoken to one another. [During this stage of the adventure, my father ambled out to see what all the noise was about and quickly returned to the safety of his study.]

We couldn’t find screws long enough and when we did they weren’t wood screws. We dug through workshops, toolboxes, and kitchen junk drawers collecting wood screws one by one. It’s difficult to explain exactly why, but attaching wood to walls with a corded drill required both us to stand on the ladder at the same time – one to hold and one to drill. It’s a small closet. We’re full-grown women. The ladder was a traditional size. I looked at Mom and said, “Lucy and Ethel build shelves.” We both got the giggles and had to sit a spell while we discussed which of us is Lucy.

Future Brown Chair

We  did, in fact, attach shelving to the walls.  We also put a shitload of books on one of them to make sure future concussions were out of the question, and declared the project done. Before we could gather up the debris, we got the  bright idea to cut a hole in the desktop portion (actually two shelves shoved together) to pass computer cords through. Playing with table saws and hand-held drills was exciting enough, but finagling the drill press was especially exciting.  You kind of had to be there.  Picture Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory.

We did not do any of this in a way a carpenter would recognize as best practice. Still, there is shelving on the wall to house books and a desktop to hold the monitor, keyboard and printer. There’s room under the desktop for the CPU, the ensuing rat’s nest of cables and, perhaps, a box of junk or two. [I have to be realistic – there will most assuredly be absolutely useless crap that I can’t bear to trash, but don’t intend to use.]

I’m tired. I’m hot. I’m sweaty and there’s a thin layer of sawdust in my hair and on my glasses. It took way longer than I had anticipated. I had expected to have everything done today except for weeding through the crap in the hallway.

Tomorrow I will touch up paint and stain the shelving and shampoo the carpet. I hope to at least begin the Great Purge of the hallway. The Trash Guys are going to hate me.

[As for the leather chair – I have a blue wing chair that is Entirely The Wrong Color for the study, but which I love. Back in February, I dabbled some walnut stain to the bottom of the seat cushion to see What Would Happen. It wasn’t bad, but it took a couple of weeks to dry. I’m going to do the whole chair. Not today. Or tomorrow. Or even next week. Eventually.]

Memento Mori (minus the mori)

Remember you must die.

Chef Boy ‘R Mine sent me flowers for Mother’s Day.  I’m one of those women who like to receive cut flowers as a gift.  It’s especially nice when delivered by a florist.  And better yet because they were from my son.  The first I’ve received from him. 

The florist delivered them to the wrong house, but they got to me in short order.  And they were beautiful – roses, ferns, asters and lilies.  They were beautiful as was the vase provided.  It’s a square, heavy, clear glass vase that will get plenty of use in the years to come.

I was pleased with the vase, because once the flowers were spent I would have it to remember the first time my son sent me flowers.

The flowers and the vase have comingled on my kitchen table for the past few weeks, one dead petal after anothing dropping.  The ferns browning, the roses drooping.  The water clouding.  The vase gathering dust.  As I tried to restore order to the house, I would walk past the arrangement making (another) mental note to throw the flowers out, wash the vase and store it in a cupboard.

Eventually, I got around to it.  When I pulled the remains of the flowers, I discovered that a few of the blooms were still beautiful, still “lively” – I discarded the dead and brown, washed the vase and restored the survivors to clean water. 

It’s a beautiful ensemble.  With only a few blooms and a couple of ferns, this new arrangement is much simpler. 

Clean, fresh, nice lines.

Memento Mori is a Latin phrase that translates as Remember you must die.

Well, I suppose so. 

But not today. 

Sometimes when you get rid of that which is spent, you uncover something equally delightful.  And there’s no need for the cupboard – not yet.


And just how trite can you get?

Seneca Rocks

While on a road trip, my traveling companions and I stopped at the state park at the foot of Seneca Rocks primarily because I’d confessed I’d never been in this part of West Virginia. After being there, I’m ashamed. What kind of West Virginia ambassador am I if I neglect whole areas of the state?

It’s been years since I’ve managed to come up with a new adjective to describe the beauty of West Virginia. The area around Seneca Rocks had me struggling to find one. Amazing, jaw-dropping, gorgeous, yada yada. I hope to never become complacent about it even if my descriptions have to resort to the trite.

Seneca Rocks are FREAKIN’ AMAZING.

Mystery at Seneca Rocks

We didn’t have time to linger and were combining our need to pee with letting me get a good gander. While gandering in general, I gandered in particular at a tree the likes of which I’ve never seen before. The tree bore blossoms that in violation of state law I was provoked to pick so as to get a better look. (Yes, I’m hanging my head in shame.) I had to reach on tiptoe to grab a bottom limb of the tree and snatch a bloom.

I suspect, but am not sure, that this tree is what some folks refer to as a tulip poplar. A quick foray into Wikipedia confirms that suspicion. What I know for sure, is that I have to have one.  

We were headed for a work retreat in Hampshire County. I haven’t spent much time in that part of the state (shame on me) and driving from here to there on a fine May day was JAW DROPPING (another trite description).

It was a fine May day the first time I ever laid eyes on West Virginia. I have become a little complacent since that initial rubbernecking, but trips like these bring that initial wonder to the forefront again. On this particular trip, I was gifted with the sight of what I dubbed The Peony Farm – a substantial piece of earth covered in white peonies. In fact, the entire trip was punctuated by peonies. Besides the tulip tree, I’m determined to plant a peony hedge.

Purloined Tulip Poplar Blossom

Aside from tulip trees and peonies, the entire state seems to be dripping with wild rose and honeysuckle. The combined fragrance of West Virginia in bloom is AWESOME. (Sorry.)

Some folks talk about the first time they saw the ocean. Others the giant redwoods. Or the desert. Or…or…or. Seeing West Virginia the first time was a religious experience. I forget, oh yes I do, that lots of folks can’t drive down a road and see this or this. I’m telling you, it’s BEYOND BEAUTIFUL. (Oops.)

 [Now shifting gears with an awkward transition.]

I’ve been absent from this blog for awhile and a few of you have been kind enough to inquire. I’m fine, more or less. Way too much life happening, busy-busy-busy, yada yada yada. Y’all know – the same old drill. The same old “my life is a runaway train and I have to get a grip, yada yada yada.” [Tell me, what did we say before Seinfeld coined yada yada?]

I’ve been so busy that the house is a wreck, the garden is neglected, the puppies are lonely and I’ve been even more stressed than usual, but the trip, though busy and a stressor, also served to put me in one spot for a few days. The simple act of not scurrying here and there for a couple of days was restorative. Here’s to hoping the feeling of balance will endure for a bit. And if it does, perhaps my dalliance with trite expression will come to an end.