Wednesday, April 28, 2010

renovation part 2

Okay, so you know its early when even the newspaper delivery person is yawning. I’m here getting an early start at the beach because I need to fit three days worth of work into one day today. Some of you are weary of 60 hour work weeks. I’d consider that a welcome break right about now. I haven't seen 60 hours in months…. But don’t weep for me, we’re getting a new kitchen. This is week 2 of our own version of some new DIY reality show called “What the Hell Were We Thinking?”. It’s actually close to being on time and on budget, so I guess that is something. In addition to that, this is my final week of my grad school Spring semester, complete with the final projects due. And of course, there are my usual unusual duties as the leader of a community of faith. Along with this we have included 2 days with the fair Princess Lily. So why am I spending time writing this? One word….. “denial”.
We have a self imposed deadline for the kitchen remodel of this weekend. I’m still thinking we’ll make it. Who said that I’m not an optimist? With all of the deconstruction and reconstruction that has gone on…new tile counter tops, backsplash, new floors, wall board replaced, etc. that has been going on this past week, who would have thought that the thing that has tripped us up would be the painting. I’ve done so much painting over the years that I don’t even consider it work anymore. It’s more like a calm in the midst of a destructive storm. Well not this time. This time is has been work. Mostly because of color choice and false advertising.
The first problem was the choice of color. It’s called “retro avocado”. I’ve actually come to decide that this is code for a “color that your grandmother once had in her kitchen that you thought was hideous, but now its become cool”, kind of thing. Anyway, it’s actually very nice. But it is a very deep color… meaning that you have to plan on priming first and then painting multiple coats until it no longer looks like a preschool water color painting. We knew this going in….sort of…so we adjusted by ordering “paint with the primer mixed right in for maximum coverage”. Whatever….what this turned out to mean was maximum wallet and maximum effort. I can hardly believe that it really made any difference at all in the coverage…. Buyer beware. Last night I finally finished the final coat, with much relief, until I walked through this morning only to discover that I hadn’t really done the “final” coat apparently. Fortunately for us, this was only half of the kitchen. The other half was a light color that literally only needed one coat. I put 2 on the new walls just because I could.
Part way through this renovation reality, our cat, who has now earned a nickname that translates into “ a donkey’s questionable level of intelligence”, decided that it would be great fun to leap onto the counter, straight into the paint tray. After my wife’s scream, she then proceeded to tear off through the house, with me in pursuit, trailing white paw prints all the way. Thank God our last project was to restore the hardwood floors. After dragging her, by the tail, from under the couch, she spent the rest of the painting adventure locked in the bathroom cleaning herself off. To all of you animal lovers… don’t write me letters or I’ll “invite” you to our next painting party.
I don’t know what the lesson is in all of this except for the possibility of pushing through the “stuff” to get to your final vision. What keeps me going this week, as I look to Sunday, is the promise of satisfaction and rest, with another semester complete, another teaching time shared, a fresh new avocado kitchen, and an exceedingly clean cat. Then we leave for a few days of “R and R” in Sun River. Until then though, I have a paper to write, so I must leave this land of denial and push through.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


This week marks the official beginning of our “Extreme Makeover” kitchen edition. Joanne and I are beyond the point of no return on this one. Yesterday we were still in the early excitement phase of the project. You know the phase. It’s the Home Depot, window shopping, dreaming of the finished product while buying some of the lower cost items so we don’t get in too far over our heads, phase. Accompanied by “The Princess” Lily, we made our way through the flooring and tile aisles one last time, picking up a few last minute color samples. It was like the preflight check in a NASA shuttle launch as the excitement builds. Only a few hours later we were in the midst of the project, complete with a sledge hammer and the, wife encouraged, stylish eye protective wear.
I’ll have to admit to liking the sledgehammer part… it’s a guy thing. The secret is to be effective with it, but not too effective as that can have a great impact on the finished product….which, curiously enough, seems to be a woman thing. Anyway…. I used all of the grace and finesse that I have perfected over the years, and before we knew it we had accumulated a nice pile of 50 year old, toxic, oil based paint covered, plywood and nails that had at one time, before the days of Home Depot and Lowes, been some woman’s dream kitchen. Let me just say that this particular kitchen was built in the day when it was assumed that it was being built to last. This wasn’t any old, subdivision based, built for speed, kind of kitchen. There is no, unscrewing cabinet units from the wall and popping up the new ones from IKEA, standard kitchen operation. This place was built to withstand an earthquake, and already has since we’ve been here without any government mandated retrofitting.
As with any home project, soon after the first swing of the sledgehammer, one encounters an “a-ha” moment. These moments are usually accompanied by the loud whooshing of your dream vision as it rushes right out of your head and quickly fades into a dream like memory. I dread those, so I took small swings and for the moment, the “a-ha” is only a murmur. I would imagine that it’s like being at DEFCON 3 on our national security level. Things are relatively quiet, but pessimism looms on the horizon like a mid western Summer storm.
In my experience, what keeps it all together and moving forward is the initial vision. Joanne and I continue to talk through it and verbalize it to each other and keep it fresh so we can see the freshly painted walls and new floors. I continue to imagine the culinary delights prepared by the bakeress on the newly finished counter tops and I push through till it, somehow, becomes reality.
I find it’s the same with most renovations, whether construction based or relational in nature. Issues that can seem like impassable quicksand can and have been repaired by a relentless focus on the initial vision that encouraged you into the process or relationship in the first place. As with any home renovation, it will most likely take a bigger investment than you had anticipated in the early days. It may take more time, more energy, and more finances than you had emotionally budgeted for, but the initial vision is always possible. It just may take a few more visits to The Home Depot.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


It’s a miserable day at the beach, but the fireplace is on and Johnny Cash is in my headphones so all is not lost. Just a week ago I was preparing for a trip across the “Misty Mountains” to Boise wondering if my rental agency would come through with my much anticipated convertible. They came through and it didn’t disappoint. Joanne and I enjoyed the trip in a 2010 Mustang that had only 9 miles on it when I drove it out of the lot. We were even fortunate enough to get some “top down” weather to enjoy with it. Now here I sit in my big comfy chair on another Tuesday morning looking ahead into a schedule that looms like thunderclouds before a summer Midwestern storm.
This next 3 weeks is approaching like a train that has no ability to break. I just heard Gandalf say that “things have been set in motion that cannot be undone” as the restraining bar comes down over my head for the rollercoaster ride that is just beginning. I can hear the clack, clack, clack, as the car lurches up towards the big drop. The first hill that looms is April 15th. If you don’t know what that means then there is no use explaining it to you here…. Let’s just say that I’m not ready. I will be, but I’m not yet.
Just yesterday I discovered that I had lost 2 weeks from my end of the semester schedule. I was under some vague impression that the semester lasted longer than it really does which means an incredible amount of writing and reading accompanied by more writing, all due on April 30th. On the home front I have work waiting for me inside, outside, topside, and underneath. I have a princess and a queen to spend time with. Baseball had begun at Safeco and there are bobbleheads to collect. I have community engagements…. places to go, people to see…. A couple of movies and of course, there is this thing called my vocation as a pastor and artist for which I get paid. I have three weeks to get it all in before the bakeress and I are off again for some “R and R” in Sun River Oregon. Don’t weep for me Seattle.
So, as I’m tempted to do when my schedule looms, I am sitting, catching my breath and imagining what life might look like when May 1st arrives. I know where I want to be then. I know what I need to have accomplished. It could be easy to focus there and forget all of the in between, but I’ve been in this long again to realize that the key to May 1st is how I invest my time between now and then. It is my firm belief that we, as people, and especially as people of faith, have spent way too much time focusing on what we desire for our end that we don’t invest in the process of getting there. When it comes to eternity, we see our faith as a means to heaven, the end, instead of a blueprint for investing in the time here and now.
Jesus becomes our insurance policy instead of our purpose for being. What can result is the creation of many insensitive asses who are so enamored with the end date that they forgot to live the days in between. Jesus came to change the world, not just my world. For me in the immediate crisis of this chapter in my life’s schedule, I get to work like my life depended on it and then on May 1st I can rest. As far as my spiritual existence goes…there is an end date for me although I don’t know what it is; preferably not May 1st. One thing I do know though…. Until then I need to work like my life depended on it. The rest comes on the other side.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


It’s a blustery day at the beach this morning. I’m feeling a bit like Winnie the Pooh, although most would consider me to be the human version of Eyeore. I’ve got a full day ahead of me as I prepare for a Seattle to Boise run over the Misty Mountains. We optimistically rented a convertible for the trip to warmer weather, but, as it turns out, we’ll have to trudge through the snow in the passes first before we can really enjoy some promised sun. I’m not too worried though because, let’s be honest, it’ll be a miracle if the rental company actually has the car that I reserved when I get there to pick it up. I’m about zero for twenty on actually getting the car I reserved over the past few years. And they always seem to, with great joy, want to give me an upgrade to an SUV to make up for the fact that they don’t have my car. Maybe if they can give me an SUV that gets the same mileage as the smaller car that I actually paid for would I be as enthusiastic. Last year, we rented a van to take a group of students on a trip and when “They didn’t actually have one” they offered me two SUV’s to make up for it. As if one van wasn’t going to get crappy enough gas mileage on its own.
I try informing them that I already own an SUV of my own and if I wanted to rent my own refinery to drive it extended distances, then I wouldn’t have bothered putting myself through this absurdity… but yet, here I am again, once more attempting the improbable…. And some people say that I’m not an optimist?
Anyway…. In the olden days, I would have been all prepped for this trip already….bags packed, trip mapped, reservations made, etc. It’s not that way anymore. Little by little I’ve become more like my wife in this area. I have yet to pull the luggage out. We just realized the other day that we never made our hotel reservations. In years past I would have already figured out what time I’d be getting up in order to get on the road at a certain time in order to be in an appropriate place for lunch to be able to arrive at a good time for dinner, avoiding all of the possible trouble spots for traffic, yadda yadda, yadda. Fortunately, on this particular trip, traffic is not an issue, unless you consider needing to pass wagon parties in the passes still trying to complete their trek on the Oregon Trail .
I guess it’s somewhat better for me that I’m not as consumed as I once was with time, preparations, etc. It’s still a concern, but it’s not obsessive like it once was. I’m learning to take things a bit easier. I’m reminded of my life as Pastoral artist and the times that Jesus had these “calm down, you don’t need to know the exact time” conversations with his friends. They wanted details so they could get ready for “THE EVENT”. His advice that they would not know the time of “THE EVENT” so that they could “get ready” but just needed to “ be ready” speaks volumes to me. I’m learning that the key is not in the getting, it’s in the being. My existence needs to exude readiness, not frantically trying to get ready. If the ultimate last stop on my journey is going to be heaven, I’m thinking that it’s more a product of who and what I’ve already become and not the frantic preparations of who I know that I already should have been. Now where did I put that sunscreen?