Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009
Dear Diary:

Sometimes I feel as if I need a new word.

When things head south in the economy, the spousal unit and I are always both hit very hard, very quickly. He's a carpenter in a region that's mostly vacation homes. I do research in a field that's a hobby.

When folks need to tighten their belts, they pull back on the luxuries. They don't do maintenance or upgrade their second homes. They let their hobbies slide. Our joint income for the month of December was exactly zero dollars.

Gulp.

One of the good things about living in the country is that there's always something you can do. You don't have to sit and brood over the steady siphoning off of savings.

We had big wind storms here in the past year and the spousal unit's brother has been itching to clear the downed trees and broken tree tops out of his sugar bush. The fallen trees make trying to get from tree to tree during maple syrple tapping season a misery, not to mention the damage they've done to his sap lines.

He and the spousal unit spent December on a massive logapalooza, cleaning up the damage and hauling the trees out to landings. The spousal unit blocked up the logs into 16" lengths, and I spent many days with a five pound splitting maul, splitting and stacking more firewood than I want to think about.

The happy upshot? We have the next three, count 'em three years worth of firewood taken care of. As the spousal unit jokes, we may be hungry in the future but we'll be warm and hungry, all the better to appreciate the hunger pangs.

Oh yes, we're all about the silver linings.

Then January started. With the woods cleared up, it was time to shift to other things.

Long delayed things.

Like the door. *Insert ominous organ chord of your choice here.*

The spousal unit and I have been bickering about exactly when we bought the door. I say it was at least 30 years ago, about the time our daughter was born. He claims later. What's indisputable is that the glass was wrapped in newspapers dated 1983.

We bought the door at a salvage yard for a pittance because it was covered with endless layers of truly scabrous paint in teeth gritting colours. The spousal unit did not want to buy it because clearly refinishing it was going to be a major hassle. I, on the other hand, fell in love with it instantly.

I could see a little bit of the wood and figured it was either cedar or redwood, and thus would be beautiful when all the endless layers of hideous, cracked, ugly paint were lifted.

The glass is one of a kind.And then there was the glass. Oh, man, the glass is one of a kind, clearly hand etched with unique frost-like swirls in each of the dozen panels.

Well, I started to refinish it, but it was even worse than we suspected. With a young baby on my hands there was little time to work on the door, so it leaned for months against a wall in my equally unfinished kitchen.

We became friends with a couple. The husband had refinished furniture for a living, and he said he'd do the door for $75. At that time it was a huge amount of money for the spousal unit and I, but the chance to have a beautiful front door seemed too good to pass up.

So the friend completely disassembled all the moldings from the door, took out the glass and refinished the door. Beautifully. He handed us all the bits just before he moved away.

There were a bazillion bits. The refinisher had used an obscure code to mark them all, and it probably made sense to him, but not to the spousal unit. The spousal unit spent about a day trying to figure it out, threw up his hands in frustration, and quit. I tried, but had no luck either.

There was just so much to do in those days. Nothing about the house was finished, and it was just simpler to keep using the cheaper, ugly door we'd used as a place holder for the beautiful old door.

So, we wrapped up the glass in paper and put it in a box with all the moldings, where it lived under the daughter's bed for many, many years. The door carcass moved out to a corner of the spousal unit's workshop.

Eventually, we threw a room on the house in front of what had been our front door. We took down the ugly place holder door and just had a doorway between the new room and kitchen. It probably would have stayed open forever, except for the fact that we adopted Enid and Norma.

We had to figure out a way to isolate them from our other cats, in case they'd brought an illness in with them from the shelter. The spousal unit brought in the carcass of the beautiful old door, mounted it, and covered the empty panels where the glass should have been with cardboard. It was ugh-lay, but it did the job, giving us an isolation room.

I think that door must emit a special procrastination field. We adopted Enid and Norma about five years ago, but never got around to taking the door down. The ugly cardboard came off, but the door carcass remained. Early this month, while cleaning out a cupboard, I found the box o' door glass and door bits.

This picture really doesn't do it justice"Want to take another run at the door?" I asked.

The spousal unit spread the door moldings on the floor and quietly studied the hieroglyphs the refinisher had left on them all those years ago.

In the meantime, with my heart in my mouth, I washed the old glass. It's fragile, ranges from reasonably thick to paper thin, and irreplaceable. Then I spent a couple of hours with a razor scraper gently removing the bits and paint and putty the glass had acquired over the many decades of use.

The spousal unit doesn't know how he got his eureka moment, but he did. Gradually, the bits of glass moldings found their proper homes. Two were missing, and he re-created them out in his workshop. Assembled now, over 25 years after we bought it, the door is a show stopper. Everyone who comes in pauses, and remarks upon it.

It needs a couple of coats of finish, but that's going to have to wait until the spring, when we can air the place out. One of the many building shows I'm addicted to had an episode where a guy urethaned a door and the fumes killed his hard drive.

My computer lives in the room directly above the door. Much as I would like to have the project completely finished, I'm not willing to kill my hard drive to do it.

It only took us somewhere between 25 and 30 years to get the door this far. As I see it, there's putting off, there's procrastination, and then ... well, that's why I think I need a new word. This really does seem somewhat bigger than procrastination.

The spousal unit is back at work now, and I've had some work come in too. For the moment the savings siphoning has stopped, and that's a big relief.

Are things going to be easy for us over the next few years? Uhhhhhh, I don't think so.

The thing I've come to realize is that there's no point in worrying. I cannot make the stock market come back. I cannot set my country's or the world's economic course. What I can do is continue to live as I've always lived, well within my means.

In a world that encourages people to buy, buy, buy it's painful to drop back my standard of living. But hey, it's not the end of the world. And, like I said, there's always something to do.

Things could be far worse, eh?

--Marn

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