Sunday, August 25, 2013

The forms of success

Today's photo -- the new extension in the dawn light. Lots of natural lighting, even before the sun is up.

Fall semester work started for me last Monday, when I put on a clean shirt and pants and shoes not bespattered with one or another building-related compound for the first time in quite a while, got into me trusty old Land Rover jalopy, and drove to the college.

I normally would not have chosen to be driving the Rover, whose precious miles we are supposed to save for when we really need them, for hauling cargo and animals and for when the snow is deep, but this ancient wagon was the only vehicle I owned that had both a) a working transmission and b) gas in the tank. Since I had systematically spent every last penny of salary received all summer, a substantial amount of Aimee's salary, and quite a bit we have yet to earn, all on this new extension, there wasn't any money for gas until another paycheck arrived, and so the Rover was pressed into service, at least until Aimee took pity on me and slipped me forty bucks for pocket and gas money.

At work there were lots of new experiences, or at least experiences that felt new. Talking to people, for instance. Other than Aimee and various denizens of hardware stores, lumber yards, and the staff of the nearest Home Depot, I haven't really talked to too many people since May. It was surprisingly pleasant to have lots of conversations with friends and colleagues, instead of, well, cursing at inanimate objects and the uncooperative weather.

Writing felt rather new, too. My job requires a lot of this kind of writing. Although I have blogged along with the construction of the extension, I haven't really written very much in the way of formal, technical writing all summer, and so it was new or at least felt new to be writing again.

Training too felt very new. Normally we have quite regular training -- in the rapidly changing world of higher education there's always some new device or software or system to think about. But the only training I've had for most of the summer were those nice fellers on You-Tube that taught me more about drywall mud -- more than I ever wanted to learn.

All this felt rather strange and I thought it would take a bit of getting used to.

But once the place of work was arrived at, things began to fall into place well enough, with all the meetings and trainings and syllabus-writing and wotnot. By the end of the week I was feeling like I knew what I was supposed to do in that first classroom tomorrow. I enjoy teaching, so this was a pleasant surprise.

There was also the matter of a nice, new, larger office -- a corner office, no less, with two windows and a view of the lake -- that was scored, thanks to the departure of a colleague.

It was all, to repeat myself, surprisingly pleasing, this resurrection of a career and vocation after a long break doing something completely different.

While all this was going on, Aimee had her birthday. She obviously is NOT getting any birthday present this year, considering that she was the one who wanted the extension in the first place. The extension will be her present. But I did make her a carrot cake -- which I proceeded to ruin by trying to carve it into the form of the extension and applying frosting in appropriate colors (green for the roof and white for the Tyvek'ed walls). More successfully, I made fresh salsa and guacamole, two of her favorite foods. The guacamole, it turned out, had too much sour cream. Aimee thinks any sour cream in guacamole is too much, but I like it, and so still tried to sneak a couple tablespoons in. That was a mistake, like the frosting. But the salsa was a hit, as was the espresso martini she made for herself.

Two out of four isn't too bad, I don't think, when it comes to success in spousal gifting.

So Aimee got salsa and a house extension for her 38th birthday. That was Wednesday.

But even a birthday week and the first week of work has a weekend, and so, when Friday afternoon came around, where was I to be found? In the new extension, of course, nervously wielding a drywall sanding machine (another new experience).

Aimee, who has a sabbatical this fall, had been scratching away at the third coat of drywall mud with plain old sandpaper most of the morning while I was at work moving into my new digs.

She had managed to do most of the bedroom walls as high as she could comfortably reach, which was about six feet.

(Although she has plenty of attitude, she is a bit challenged in the altitude department.)

That left all the ceilings in both rooms to do, as well the last foot of wall in the bedroom. I scratched away with Aimee for a while, but ran into diminishing returns, especially with the hard setting-type compound in the corners, and so I made the executive decision to go rent the sander.

It was a twenty-four hour rental, but the machine proved so potent that only a couple hours of use was needed. By dinner time I was doing touch-ups, which dried overnight and by next morning on inspection could obviously be sanded easily later, and so by first thing Saturday I was taking the sander back to the store with a load of unused sandpaper discs for a refund, and a list of primer and painting and electrical second fix supplies to pick up.

Back home I sanded the touch-ups, vacuumed the corners, swept the walls and floors, and started applying primer.

By evening the whole extension except for the bathroom had been primed and was looking very official and very much more finished (although there remains a lot to do still).

It looks pretty good, even if I do say so myself, and there's a lot of nice natural light in there now that wasn't there before.

It's been very interesting, this incremental opening of the building to light since the roof went on and brighter and brighter layers were added to the interior surfaces. I knew theoretically that much of the light that came through the windows would be reflected and enhanced from these interior surfaces, but hadn't experienced it directly before. None of the other buildings I've built, even the house I built a few years ago, were finished with drywall and paint like this one is.

Aimee, for her part, making good use of her birthday present, is more or less happily planning a bathroom, has picked out a vanity and decided on a shower stall type, and is working on tile styles and colors for said shower stall. Those farm blog readers who also are her FaceBook friends are getting chapter and verse. There are frustrations, of course, since she can't spend as much money as she might like. But she does seem to be really getting "into" it, as Americans would say.

Which, I would say, is the proof of the pudding, isn't it. As we British would say.

A successful gift, in other words.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

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