Friday, September 22, 2006

Friends: Good. Sanding: Bad

Erika and Nick came over last weekend to help me get the painting party started.

Nick was especially expert at showing me how to prime the walls, the order to apply the paint, potential pitfalls, etc. He and Erika worked their fingers to the bone priming my bedroom and hallway. Nick even rigged together an instrument for edging the high ceilings. Very creative.

I discovered that it's virtually impossible to prime over magic marker, which the little girl who previously lived in the guest room used in the hallway. I also learned how much I hate sanding. I did the world's crappiest job patching the walls in the living room and man, did I pay. By the time I finished sanding, I was ready to tear my hair out.

The cats now have their own room, the small green back bedroom that eventually will become my office. They enter willingly, then wail and cry until I release them many hours later. Surprisingly, they don't run through the house when I let them out--they just sit there in the room and stare at me. Apparently they don't care that they're trapped; they just want to be where the action is.

After Erika and Nick left on Sunday, I tested the cats by letting them out sooner than I thought I should. Within five minutes, Tug had gotten primer on his nose, and Nanuq jumped on a freshly painted windowsill. So much for freedom.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Transformation Begins...

This weekend marks the beginning of the rebirth of the house. At long last, the colors have been chosen, the holes filled and the work begun.

Several weeks ago, Home Depot installed new vinyl windows in the upstairs bedrooms, my first efforts to make the house more environmentally friendly. I chose double-paned, low-E glass, which means the windows meet strict government standards for energy efficiency under Energy Star guidelines. On the other hand, the sanding I must do this weekend will spread particulate matter (tiny particles) all over the house. Guess I have to pick my battles.

I feel good about my paint choices. My primer and paint come from Sherwin-Williams' Harmony Line, which contains no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are nasty, carbon-containing chemicals toxic to living things. They evaporate at room temperature, and when warmed by sunlight can interact with other chemicals and turn into a potion that forms ground-level ozone and particulate matter. Not pretty stuff, but we have VOCs all around us--in paint, in aerosol containers, in new flooring and furniture.

On Wednesday Bob, my new handyman, installed molding around several windows and entryways. Bob, a portly, native Philadelphian in his 50s, marched into the house Monday night and gave me his assessment. "Who did this patchwork?" He asked/accused.

"I did," I said, hanging my head. "I have a lot of sanding to do."

"You're telling me!" He said.

I learned the previous owners had patched over my access to the bathroom plumbing, so Bob installed a tiny door. He also fixed my storm door, gratis, which was falling off the hinges.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thank You

Many thanks to those who shared their experiences of September 11th. I learned incredible things about you from reading your stories. Please continue to pass along the message. As we know from other horrific events in world history, telling stories is one of the best ways to keep the memory alive.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Where Were You on September 11th?

I was working in a newsroom on the 7th floor of a building in Northwest Washington, DC. I had already been at my desk for several hours when I heard people talking about a plane flying into the World Trade Center. I thought, "What a horrible accident." I imagined a small prop plane, a confused pilot who had gotten off track.

We crowded into the corner conference room, the one with a television and large windows overlooking the southern end of the city into Virginia. We sat in stunned silence as we watched images of the burning tower. People gasped when they saw the hole in the building, the men and women waving for help out the window. I reached into my mind for my memories of the building, the subway station, the stores below. I remembered being there as a child, surrounded by thousands of busy New Yorkers. Surely planes will come to the roof and save the people, I thought.

Someone said, "Look!" We all turned around. Outside the window, far below, we saw a heavy plume of smoke. It was thick, dark, dense. Someone let out a cry. I turned back toward the television and saw a split screen: the burning tower on one side, and on the other, the Pentagon. Our local newscaster fell silent, and so did we.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Growing Up

The kittens are growing up.

We went to the vet yesterday, and each now weighs almost five pounds. Both kittens are big enough to jump on the kitchen table and pester me while I try to eat. Mookie's meows now sound cat-like instead of baby-like. And it's getting harder and harder to pick them up simultaneously.

Perhaps the most striking development is their... sexual maturity. Their gender is most definitely no longer a mystery. In fact, the testosterone is flowing a bit too freely. Last night I stood by helplessly as the kittens stalked Nanuq, who is three times their size. They chased him all over the house until he got so upset he slammed his head into a wall. I scolded them, and let Nanuq into the basement so he could have some peace.

I can't really get mad at them, though. I had a tough week, and having them near me made it easier. One day I had real heaviness in my heart. As I sat down to watch TV, Mookie took residence on my neck. Soon Tug was jealous, and he crawled into my lap. After an hour of purring, it's hard to feel as angry, or to think about the unjustness of life, and the world.

Philadelphia received some much-needed rain this week. With it came waves of chill and dampness, the rooty smell of autumn. The trees have their last blast of green, a final explosion of energy before they begin to turn orange and copper and yellow, wilting and falling to earth to start the process of life all over again. I love the fall, but it makes me sad.