Painted Into a Corner

One would think after recently recovering from a debilitating journey to wallpaper removal hell I would have come to the conclusion that I’m significantly challenged in all forms of home improvement.

But because I suffer from delusions of grandeur based on the hours I’ve spent watching HGTV I decided instead of giving up I was just going to use a very 2020 sensibility and pivot from wallpaper removal to painting. Never mind that in the past I have proven to be a very, very, unskilled wall artesian.

This time though was going to be different because I was just touching up walls not doing anything that requires skills like painting trim or the dreaded cutting-in (shudder). Before you judge me for being a big cry baby about cutting-in please note that there are like a zillion videos on the internet about the right way to cut-in. So, I ask you if it is so easy why are there so many videos telling you how to do it?

My problems started before I even picked up a paint brush. The issue was how to match the wall color. Now, I’m completely aware that a sane person would have saved the paint swatch perhaps even filed it under home improvement/house interior paint colors. I did this – kind of.

 The problem was I saved the paint swatch of every color I was considering a decade ago when the room was painted. This meant I was left with about 50 swatches.

News flash – it’s almost impossible to take a paint swatch and see if it exactly matches your wall especially when you have dozens and dozens of swatches and they all look almost exactly the same. Some more than others especially if you’re squinting.

It was time to call for help and I enlisted my husband’s advice about which swatch looks like the paint color on the wall. The amount of discourse we had was profound. Not only were reading glasses used but at one point I got out a jeweler’s magnifying thingamabob for up close and personal comparisons. (Note: I don’t even know why I own one or really where it came from. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

I felt like we were paint anthropologists going deep on the life of paint. Had the paint on the walls aged or been bleached by the sun? Was the sheen different on the sample thus making an accurate comparison suspect? Or had the swatches been degraded after spending ten years in a Ziploc bag and shoved in the back of a cabinet drawer?

 Honestly, the level of discussion and introspection we had over matching the paint samples was next level. I’m not sure we examined getting married or having kids with this degree of scrutiny.

I finally had a Eureka moment and unscrewed a painted over cable outlet and took it to a hardware store for a color match. It was a case study in déjà vu.

The paint professional began quizzing me about sheens. Hmm, was it eggshell or satin? I finally guessed satin because it sounded prettier than eggshell. Then he went deep on environmental factors affecting a perfect paint match.

As I felt myself losing my tenuous touch with reality I had to wave the white flag of surrender and just tell the guy to do the best he could and I would live without whatever that was.

Hmm, guess who had to repaint an entire room and do the dreaded cutting-in due to the paint being slightly “off?” That’s right -me. I guess there’s no such thing as a perfect match or at least that’s what this paint anthropologist firmly believes.

When Road Construction Gives You Home Improvement Flashbacks

Every time I drive down a street near my home that has been eviscerated by road construction I visibly shudder. It’s been a construction hot mess for more than a year. For me it’s the equivalent of a kitchen remodel that took a tragic turn.

I’ve survived my share of home renovations projects and there’s nothing like a “little kitchen update” to threaten your mental health, your marriage and your finances. Looking back, it all started out so innocently. I was so full of hope, so focused on the future, so excited about being the master of my domain in a gleaming, updated kitchen.

But then the kitchen “refresh” that started off so promising quickly detoured into the land of panic and angst when possible mold issues were discovered, and we were told our house was apparently being held up by toothpicks and one wrong move or clap of thunder could bring it tumbling down.

This was my one and only kitchen remodel and it was so long ago “classy” laminate countertops were still a thing. But, after surviving that fiasco (Where the contractor was the husband of my son’s elementary school principal. So, yeah brilliant move on my part. ) I vowed never again.

Because never again do I want to be afraid to answer my phone or walk through my front door and hear, “Mrs. Kuehl, we have a problem we didn’t anticipate.”

“Didn’t anticipate” means one thing and one thing only – that you’re going to be washing dishes in your bathtub for another two months while fearing financial ruin.

Memories like this is why I get a case of the heebie jeebies while dodging cones on the entrance to my neighborhood. I imagine that back in April of last year the city public works department was fearless and optimistic about this renovation. But like my kitchen gut job from long ago things didn’t go as planned.

To be sure it’s a big project. Storm sewers are being replaced which in kitchen reno parlance means a gut job. Then you have to put in new curbs, asphalt, sidewalks etc. Now, more than 13 months later it looks better but again in kitchen speak it appears that they’re waiting on the cabinets to be installed and I have a feeling those might be on back order.

This means drivers are still participating in the fun filled games of “construction cone connect a dot” and “What way can we drive on the road today? Northbound, southbound or not at all?”

That said, I have nothing but respect for all the people that have worked on this project. They have been busting it for months. In fact, I’ve driven by them so often I feel like we’ve established a personal connection.

I also want to give the public works department a social distancing hug. Why? Because I remember how I felt during my kitchen remodel (chest pains coupled with a nervous breakdown) and I imagine overseeing a construction task like this has to be a million times worse.

Here’s hoping that when the project is finally done there’s some kind of celebration. At the very least we should have a car parade. All of us joyously honking our horns as we drive down the street exuberantly and, at long last , using all the lanes.

My House Hates Me

home_improvement_hell_steinIf you want to have your heart broken all you need to do is buy a home that’s a fixer upper.

It’s like falling in love with that boy in high school and telling yourself he would be “just perfect” if only he would get a haircut and use some prescription strength acne cream.

The problem is the acne is just a visual distraction (kind of like a house with popcorn ceilings) that diverts your eye from an abundance of other, more egregious, problems lurking just below the surface.

You know you’re head over heels in trouble when your steamy home romance has you making excuses for all the telltale signs of upcoming disaster by deceiving yourself with the phrase, “but the house has such good bones.” As soon as you utter this you’re on your way to a messy, expensive beyond your wildest dreams, tear laden, love affair.

Not that being passionate about your home is a bad thing. Oh, trust me, you’ll need the ardor to fuel your delusional fantasy that the remodeling will come in on budget, be completed in a timely fashion, and not almost wreck your marriage.

If you choose to attempt to do some of the “fixing upping” yourself, well, all I have to say is, “my thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of need.”

Just remember when things go horribly wrong, it’s not your fault for thinking you can handle a “gut job” on your master bathroom. Nope, that blame is placed squarely on the load bearing support beams of any design show on HGTV.

Talk about being seduced. Is there anything that arouses your DIY lust like watching a home renovation program? They all start off with the most titillating of promises. The home they’re working on goes from sad to fab in less than 60 minutes.

Then there’s the foreplay of a renovation team devoting there undying due diligence, tile cutting prowess and gentle painting caresses to its transformation. The pinnacle of your DIY desire hits its peak with the reveal. After riding out that crest of home remodeling euphoria you’re all in to recreate the experience in your own neck of the cul-de-sac.

Sadly, it’s never the same in real life. Take the previously mentioned popcorn ceiling. Scrapping that gunk off looks easy enough. If you are to believe everything you see on TV all you apparently need is what looks like a spatula Sasquatch would use for flipping pancakes, a few squirts of a mixture of water and fabric softener, some limited arm movement and like magic the feta cheese sized stucco pieces gracefully disengage with all the artistry of the Sugar Plum fairy doing a pirouette from your ceiling leaving only smooth, sleek, drywall behind.

In reality, you’re perched on a ladder that’s seen better days, gripping the stucco spatula and using brute force strength, while cursing as you choke back tears, when the popcorn either won’t come off or you’ve pressed so hard you’re now going to have to get new drywall.

When the stucco finally does release it’s death grip it invariably either gets in your eyes and if you’re really having a bad day your mouth. Stucco, it’s what’s for dinner (at least it was for me).

A popcorn ceiling is nothing when compared to what seems like the easiest of all DIY tasks – wallpaper removal. In theory wallpaper is supposed to come off like it went on – in floor to ceiling sheets. But no, that is not the way it happens.

I’m telling you something weird went on in tin the 1980’s. I’ve done extensive research on this (and by that I mean complained to many) and I’ve yet to find a home built in that decade where anyone sized their wallpaper.

Did a swarm of anti wallpaper sizing zombies invade the region? Or was it some sort of conspiracy by the federation of Wallpaper Hangers to ensure their handiwork was an eternal monument to their craft?

For those of you blessed to not know what sizing wallpaper means let me explain. Sizing is a primer application designed to create the necessary base so that adhesives can stick AND, more importantly to anyone buying your home in the future, so that wallpaper can be removed with ease.

Gather in my friends and let me tell you a horror story about what happens when you don’t size your wallpaper. It doesn’t want to come off – ever!

In the tradition of grand romances the wallpaper has mated with the drywall for life. It clings with a tenacity heretofore reserved only for grumpy toddlers not wanting to let go of their mothers when they’re dropped off at preschool.

When you finally do liberate the wallpaper from the drywall it rips off in almost microscopic pieces about the size of an eyelash.

I’m not too proud to admit that one day last year, my husband came home from work to find me sitting in the middle of our laundry room floor, surrounded by mounds of wallpaper bits, sobbing.

I’m talking the ugly cry. I was in the midst of a wallpaper removal nervous breakdown because I was reduced to using TWEEZERS to get the wallpaper down!

But wait, there’s more, my saga continues. In other parts of my house not only is the wallpaper not sized, but somewhere in my home’s lineage a former owner painted over the wallpaper. It’s a home decorating screw you because it’s means it’s never, ever coming down.

Your one and only choice is something along the lines of new drywall. Cha and ching.

In fact, I think there should be some sort of residential remodeling court of criminal law that prosecutes “crimes against the home.”

Not sizing wallpaper should result in being sent to a work camp where you’re sentenced to a week of hard labor doing, you guessed it, removing wallpaper equipped with only a bottle of water and your fingernails.

And for those domestic decorating terrorist who dare to paint over wallpaper I don’t think it’s too harsh to go for the death penalty. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but at the very least they should be banned from ever entering a Home Depot or Lowe’s and put on some sort of home remodeler watch list.

I’d love to be able to tell you that all the pain, suffering, and heartbreak of owning a fixer upper is worth it. But, alas I can’t. I’m still remodeling. Although, I see signs that someday, in the distant future, of being madly in love with my house.

First though, I have to get all the blasted wallpaper down. Yeah, I’m still peeling it off bit by tiny bit.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

Mr. Fix It

'Your husband started without me, didn't he?'It’s a phrase I dread hearing. When it happens I get all shaky and I feel like I can’t breath. Who would have thought eight words could throw me into such a panic but when one of my children informs me that, “Dad’s watching a home improvement video on YouTube,” I think my heart stops.

The repercussions of this simple act are so far reaching and potentially life threatening that I’ve conducted drills with my children so they know exactly what to do when seeing their father receive repair tips via the internet.

Last Saturday, my son delivered the unsettling news that my husband was glued to his computer screen watching a dishwasher “fix it” video. I was running errands and away from home when I got the call. I quickly responded by shouting into my cell, “C’mon this is what we’ve trained for. You know what to do. It’s go time. Remember the three D’s – distract, delay, divert.”

“Okay, okay, I distract him by asking about the University of Texas Rose Bowl game, right?”

“Yes, it’s the 2006 Rose Bowl. Just say Rose Bowl and Vince Young and then let him start yammering. If it sounds like he’s wrapping up the play-by-play ask him about total yardage.”

“Got it. Rose Bowl, Vince Young, yardage. When are you going to be home? I don’t know how long I can do this.”

“Stall him for 15 minutes max. I’m heading your way right now and for the love of God do not let him go to Home Depot. Hide his keys if you have too.”

My husband is talented at a great many things home repairs just isn’t one of them. I’m all good with that but for some reason he feels compelled to attempt to fix things before calling in what usually requires a team of professionals. Yes, I know it’s a guy thing. I’m pretty sure at those Low T (Testosterone) centers, you hear advertised all the time on the radio, one of the first tests they give a man is something to repair. If they’re not interested, in say snaking a clogged drain, then it’s proof their testosterone is about a quart low.

I have nothing against my husband trying to do repairs around the house what I’m concerned with is the added cost of paying someone to fix his repairs and of course, even though he’s heavily insured, I don’t want to see him meet his demise from electrocution or falling off a roof. In fact, the roof or any kind of gutter work has become off limits. The day I say, “Oh sure, go ahead and climb up on that rickety ladder and clean out the gutters” is the day he’ll know I no longer love him and have big plans for that life insurance payout.

When I got home my son had totally let me down. I walked into my kitchen and found both of them watching the YouTube video. My husband had already tried his favorite home repair go to – Drano (followed closely by duct tape and Gorilla Glue) and was now moving on to some sort of dismantling of the dishwasher’s innards. Using a voice I save for dealing with the mentally fragile I gently suggest that they both back away from the dishwasher and hand over the screwdriver.

All that got me was a whole lot of male blustering about how they’ve “got this.” I had no choice but to leave the kitchen and hope for the best. And by that I mean going upstairs to my computer and looking at new dishwashers online. I was thinking the stainless steel Kitchen Aid with the “ProWash Whisper Cycle” would be really nice.

As luck would have it just as I’m getting excited about my new dishwasher I’m summoned back to the kitchen to behold their work. Apparently, the father son duo had “fixed” the dishwasher. They were both beaming. I birthed two children and I don’t think I was that proud of creating life. I had to listen to them explain the intricate problem solving and repair work that they had undertaken and then was given what amounted to a theatrical production of the dishwasher’s rinse cycle operating at maximum “clog free” capacity. Seriously, it would have made decent dinner theatre.

I cooed the appropriate comments and lavished praise on their handyman abilities. Then I went back upstairs and bookmarked the Kitchen Aid dishwasher. I’d probably be ordering it sooner than later.

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good. Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival. If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you.

To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.

D.I.Y. You Lie

58bcdcecfe976ad05e2c5695d0955900Do It Yourself is all a great big lie. It’s a three-way conspiracy between Lowes, Home Depot and HGTV to thin the herd through a series of fatal home improvement accidents. I’ve attempted to be a DIY’er and it was a painful, shameful experience resulting in crippling injuries, excessive cursing, and marital instability that could, at a later date, be mentioned in a divorce petition.

It’s not my fault I’m hopeless at home improvement I come from a long line of anti-Do It Yourselfers.  One of my dad’s favorite phrases, when I was growing up, was “Call Someone.” He had neither the time nor the desire to fix anything.  My mom knew the handyman’s number by heart. We even gave him a Christmas and birthday present every year. Come to think of it she was awfully close to that handyman. (Suddenly so much is explained.) Back in the day there was no shame in using a handyman. Now, when a contractor’s truck parks in your driveway it’s an open invitation for your neighbors to come over and see what you’re up to.  Almost all of them will tell you how you could be saving money big time, if only you would do it yourself and they say it in a condescending tone that implies your either a worthless slacker, recuperating from a severe head injury or just not very good with money if you’re going to “give it away” to a contractor.

Well, I’m none of the above so one fine fall weekend I decided it was time to emancipate my family from the “call a contractor” lifestyle  I was going to tackle a home improvement project if it killed me and it almost did. Weeks later, I’m finally able to sit upright unassisted, (although my neck brace is still chafing), the vision in my left eye has been almost fully restored, and I have regained enough feeling in my fingers (still waiting for the nerve damage in my thumbs to heal) to share with you the 5 Deadly D.I.Y. Lies.  Ignore these at your own peril.

It’s a Weekend Project: This could be the biggest lie of all. It is never, ever a weekend project unless you’re doing a home improvement at your fixer upper on Pluto where one day is 153 hours long. I set the blame for the weekend project label right at the freshly painted and newly weather-stripped front door of HGTV.

Most of their shows make it seem like you can re-do three rooms in your home over a long weekend all while looking perky, wearing make-up, maintaining your manicure and having a good hair day. None of this is possible. What you’re seeing is a fairy-tale. It’s make believe T.V. for grown-ups where we can indulge our decorating fantasies and be told that if we pick up a paintbrush and make a wish magic will happen.

As anyone who has attempted D.I.Y. knows the first day of any home improvement will be spent going to the hardware store of your choice and buying an abundant amount of tools, paint, and other nifty stuff all designed to make your job easier. The second half of that day will be spent returning the stuff you bought because it didn’t work, you didn’t need it or you’ve already given up. The second day of home improvement focuses on actually trying to get some work done all while either crying or cursing. By the afternoon of the second day you come to the demoralizing realization that your weekend project will be taking up an entire month of weekends. It’s then that you start to do the math and see if you can still afford to be rescued by a contractor. Sadly, in many of these cases the amount already spent on home improvement supplies necessitates that you have to finish the project without the aid of a professional.

Anyone Can Paint: To this I say liar, liar, pants on fire. Yes, anyone can wield a paintbrush. But, not everyone can paint. A painter is someone who can do excellent cut in work around doors, crown molding and windows. A painter can also use a roller and not leave drips down the wall. I am not a painter. To help me become a painter I even took a class at my local home improvement store. I had high hopes especially since I was one of the only ones in my class with all 32 of my original teeth. I figured I was in a class with some hardcore home improvement people. Dudes, that wanted to branch out of their meth lab trailers and start painting for a living.

It was a smelly bunch that showed up that Saturday morning at 7 a.m. ( The smell of cigarette smoke laced with an apparently soap resistance B.O. was a bracing way to start the day.)  I was especially looking forward to learning how to use a paint sprayer thinking that would solve all my painting problems. Come to find out I might as well snort some crack and drive my car blindfolded while not wearing a seat-belt because the paint sprayer has a lot in common with the lethal injections administered by the Texas Department of Corrections. The instructor had me at “the paint sprayer can create a high-speed stream of atomized fluid which is powerful enough to pierce your skin and enter your bloodstream” causing you to die a moderately slow, tortuous death. In the even worse case scenario department the paint can also enter your bloodstream and ignite turning you into a human candle. It was at that point I just said no to a paint sprayer and swore my everlasting allegiance to the paintbrush. Unsightly brush marks be damned.

Protective Eye-wear Will Keep You Safe: I doubt an astronaut helmet lined with Kevlar could keep you safe from home improvement peril. There’s just too much that can go wrong.  Think about it, you have a bunch of amateurs dealing with combustible chemicals and sharp, pointy things attached to motors. An accident is a given. Being an eternal optimist or a dumb ass, (your pick) I set out, protective eye-wear in place, to sand some cabinet doors with my brand new belt sander. I had put the cabinet doors on the picnic table in my backyard and was happily feeling like a tough chick, like I could throw down with that guy who wears the wife beater shirts and overalls on HGTV’s Holmes on Homes. As I was sanding away, enjoying my contractor fantasy that I had my own design show, a big gust of wind kicks up a torrent of tiny sand particles that find their way past my protective goggles and into my left eye. One trip to the E.R. later I emerge looking like a deranged pirate that lost a bar-fight on the HMS Hammered. My eye was swollen shut and I was styling a big white gauze patch, which, bonus points here, kept oozing fluid that ran down my cheek and flowed to my chin.

Power Tools Are for Everyone: If you need a license to drive a car then you should need a license to operate a bad ass power tool. Because power tools can kill or at the very least they can easily maim. No one should be allowed to just start sawing away or using the instrument of death known as the diamond tile saw without some sort of State or at the very least County mandated training. If a saw can cut through a couple of inches of granite in a nano second than slicing off your fingers would be as easy as cutting up Pillsbury rolled sugar cookie dough with an axe (except a whole lot less yummy). When I went to rent a tile saw I didn’t have to show I.D., take an I.Q. test, or demonstrate that my fine motor skills were in working order.  Big mistake. Power tools that can slice, dice or bore a hole in your skeletal frame should be registered as weapons. Where’s the 24 hour waiting period like they have for guns?  A lot can happen in 24 hours. I could have come to my senses and realized that I have no business attempting to operate a tile saw. But no, they let me rent the saw and it took three weeks and two arm braces later for partial feeling to return to my fingers. The doctor hypothesized that the vibrations from the saw aggravated a prior carpel tunnel injury. Where was that warning on the rental agreement I ask you?  No where did I see “Caution: Saw vibrations can cause partial paralysis if you’re a great big sissy.”

De Cottage Cheesing Your Ceiling is a Snap: I passionately believe that the cottage cheese or popcorn ceiling has gotten a bad rap. What’s wrong with the textured ceiling?  It’s vintage 70’s  You wouldn’t turn up your nose at a vintage Chanel purse would you?  Of course, I think this after I have lived through the agony of removing the cottage cheese from my basement ceiling.  Thankfully, a previous owner had liberated our house from any and all traces of cottage cheese except for the basement. After many people had assured me that removing the cottage cheese was “super easy” and that “gravity did all the work” I embarked on my de-cottage cheesing journey. It was sixteen hours of hard labor that made childbirth seem fun.

I was precariously perched on a ladder, my neck painfully contorted as I gazed eternally upward, equipped with only two rudimentary tools – a water bottle and a scraper. For hours I sprayed and scraped, sprayed and scraped as gunk fell from the ceiling and covered me in damp icky stuff.  Finally, the pain in my neck got so bad I would have killed for a cervical epidural, but all I got was two extra strength Tylenol’s. At last, after one final push the last of the popcorn came down. I was proud I had a cottage cheese free basement, but oh the agony of achieving it. The next day I woke up and I couldn’t move my neck.  I tried a hot shower, turbo menthol Icy Hot, and a heating pad.  Nothing worked.  Back to the E.R. I go where a neck brace and hospital grade Motrin are prescribed to ease my pain. Because I’m the luckiest girl on the planet I get the same E.R. doctor I had when I got the sand particles in the eye. After making sure my husband wasn’t abusing me, due to my reoccurring E.R. visits, he writes me a prescription – “No more D.I.Y. projects.”  Some people has says, “just aren’t cut out for home improvement.”  I had no choice, due to the insurmountable body of evidence, but to agree.

Hey, Snarky friends please re-like my page on Facebook. I got hacked and had to start my page from scratch. Thanks! Click on the FB icon located at the top right hand of blog and let your friends know that Snarky is back.

 **For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you.