Monday, April 16, 2007

Bob the Builder

Actually it's my son Sam the Builder. He's almost finished building his beautiful first home. Last fall when he broke ground on the project, he asked me if I would come help him when it came time to do the detail work. The detail work seemed a long, long way off last fall and so I said "Sure honey, I'll help." Well, it was finally time to follow through on my promise and so off I went to help Sam for the weekend.

For some reason the family thinks that I'm an expert on this type of thing. Believe me, I'm not. It's just that I'm pretty damn capable compared to my hubby, Mr. Which-End-of-the-Hammer-Do-You-Hold-Again-Honey? Alone, or using hubby and children as unwilling slaves in the process, I've managed to build fences, sheetrock and texture walls, create garden arbors, lay brick walkways, design gardens, tile showers, lay carpeting and linoleum, and paint what feels like hundreds of rooms. Probably some other things I'm not remembering at the moment. A modest list of accomplishments, but accomplishments nontheless.

Sam wanted me to tackle tiling the master bath shower. I arrived Friday evening and got a head start painting on this rather garish water sealant. (If you want to be amused by my small joke, take a small detour here to read today's Laume's Studio first, then come back and finish reading this post.)

The next thing that happened is Sam came back to measure the tiles so I'd know how to set them up. On the sides it worked out perfectly for four rows of tile, but on the back it worked out that there would be two tiny (less then 2") of cut tiles on each side necessary to make the rows balance out in the middle. I suggested we fix the problem by creating an offset and inset design with a contrasting tile. It would not only solve the math problem but would also add a little custom art to the bathroom without imposing anything too specific that someone would have to take into account when adding their own decorating style into the room. So Saturday morning we started out at the building supply store in search of some complimentary tiles.

I got a really good work out.

I had remembered to bring this old work shirt, but forgot to bring work pants. I got a few spots of pink on my good jeans the night before so in these photos I'm wearing an oversized pair of Sam's work pants. Here I am pushing the tile into the mastic.

And here I am bending for more spacers. You gotta use these little spacers. They're cute little things, like little rubbery Alphabet "X's". But after they fell out of their designated space, dropped into the mastic, sat forgotten on the floor when I was already up on top of the footstool - repeat these events a hundred times - I started to think of them as the "fucking little bastard's". Still, there's something appealing about them. I want a bowl of them around the house to play with. I want to make art with them. Hmmmm. Odd love/hate relationship going on here. Moving on...

And reaching. I didn't get a picture of me on the footstool working on those top rows of tile. (Anyone remember Miss Betty's song on Romper Room - "Bend and stretch, reach for the stars! Here comes Jupiter, there goes Mars! Bend and stretch, reason for the sky! Stand on tippy toes oh so high!" Yeah, I'm old. Some of you are now asking your monitors "What's Romper Room?")

Here I'm pointing to the small brown tiles and saying to the camera "My idea!".

It was a lot of work, physically demanding (I was really tickled that after ten hours of work, I was only mildly stiff yesterday - guess I'm not completely out of shape despite my habit of getting most of my exercise in the form of flexing my fingers on a keyboard). Although it was work, it was also kind fun and creative. It was a combination of painting, frosting a cake, calesthenics and a step workout, and quilting.

Sam and William were both suitable impressed with my efforts. Rosie, on the other hand, was not impressed at all. She just wanted me to stop and pick her up. Did I mention yet (too many times?) that having a chihuahua is like having a permanent toddler?

The last step was putting the curved edge tiles on. Unbeknownst to me there was exactly the right amount of edge tiles for the shower dimensions and not a tile more. So when I dropped one and it broke into a half dozen pieces....uhm.....oops. We ended up using cut pieces of the larger tiles for around the top and only used the curved tiles in the front.

Ultimately we decided it looked nicer like that than if we'd used the curved tiles all around because the curved tiles were a slightly different color, almost imperceptibly so, but still different. Since the shower doors will separate the front edge tiles from the rest of the shower, it's unlikely anyone will ever realize it. But cutting special pieces for the top, although extra work, ended up making a much more professional finished design.

I finished late Saturday night and debated staying to do more tile work on Sunday, but I had to get back for William to finish up a report for school and I wasn't sure I wanted to see what my muscles said about being used for two full days of physical labor. Too, my hands were burning and sore from working with the mastic. Gloves would have been horrible too though. I hate working in gloves. I was ready to scrub, soak, apply lotion, and give my skin a rest.

So - TA DA! Here it is. It's not grouted yet, and it's got all the little spacers sticking out of it, but I think it turned out really nice.

Sam didn't have any other work that we could do, so we packed up and left for home Saturday night. Starving, we stopped about twenty miles up the mountain at the last (and only) civilization on the 100 mile trip. It was so late that nothing was open except for a small country bar filled with colorful characters but no food. We went in anyway to use the bathroom. William was forced to stand in a corner as innocuously as possible for quite some time while I was in the bathroom trying to get mastic off my fingers. When we got back into the car William commented that he didn't think there could possibly be anything worse then a crowd of drunk rednecks dancing but he was wrong. There was. Drunk rednecks singing karoake and dancing.

Now we were not only hungry, and it turns out much tired than I thought I was, we were also drenched from running into the bar in the midst of a solid downpour. In the few miles we'd already driven we'd hit rain, fog, and wind gusts that pushed the little Subie around like a piece of paper. And cold. Getting colder by the minute. That meant only another few miles before that rain would turn into snow. We wisely gave up and went back to Redding and Sam's house where there was hot showers, food, and sleep. It was the right move. The next morning we drove home in dry sunny conditions but with evidence that lots of fresh snow had fallen at the higher peaks the night before. Spring traveling in Northern California is always such a crapshoot.

I wished we lived close enough for me to commit to going back and helping with the rest of the tile work. Hard work but fulfilling. Unlike dishes or laundry, it's the type of thing that once it's accomplished, it's done for good. But I probably won't get the chance to go over again. As I explained to Sam, it's April already and I still haven't started, much less finished, any of the projects I'd planned for myself for this year.

I am a complete pushover when it comes to getting pulled into helping other people, in particular, family people. I've decided (we'll see how successfully) to practice setting stronger limits to my availability. I'm trying to use the word "NO" with more conviction and less guilt. That's the first step. Freeing up my time. More specifically, freeing up larger chunks of time. I have time already but it's just chopped up into so many pieces that I find it hard to sustain my momentum and motivation. The second step, which theoretically starts just as soon as I've finished this post, is getting off my butt and making use of the time I've claimed. This couch I'm sitting on is comfy. Sigh. Give me a good shove, will ya.


Anonymous Lisa Marie said...

I'll be there in like three weeks and I will push you to get your garage sale done. I'm so excited! I will try not to distract you too much, although I cannot vouch for Joli. My only goal is to get the front of my quilt done. By the way I think your craftsmanship is excellent! Love you!!

12:11 AM  
Blogger DubiQuilts - Debbi said...

What a great joy to help you son build his house. You look like you are having a great time.

I can wait to see more of your handy work and the rest of the house.

1:32 AM  
Blogger JulieZS said...

Man oh man, you do great work Laume! Too bad the artwork behind the tile will never be seen again (loved your little joke). Please come tile my new bathroom, pleeeease.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Jaye said...

You are amazing! I am so impressed that I just may make you some bags and send them along as a reward for being such a fantastic person.

BTW, I think the additional design element you added is GREAT. Much better than plain tile. Adds a little bit of personality. I am glad Sam had the sense to like your idea. You must have raised him right. ;-)

4:46 PM  

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