Monday, August 31, 2015

His Lessons Live On

Dr. Wayne Dyer

Despite my two decades or so of working in the biz and knowing that renovations always take twice as long as you expect, I still find my own pace of progress surprising and frustrating. Mainly it comes down to that old expression; "Many hands make light work." That's the rub. From Monday to Friday I only have my own two hands and on the weekend I double that number to four. I need a team, not a doubles partner. 

All of this will no doubt contribute to my growth and acceptance of Rome not being built in a day. Back in the day, I used to tackle these home improvement projects with an obsessive mania. I would drop everything and spend every available minute on the task at hand to the exclusion of the rest of my life. My family and health would take a backseat to the cause. I wanted the job done quickly, so life would get back to normal as soon as possible. One difference between then and now is my available energy and my priorities. I still want to eat healthy, exercise and have a life outside my renovation. Without outside help, things are going to take longer. 

And this is where the passing of one of my spiritual gurus enters the picture. I was saddened to learn that Dr. Wayne Dyer passed away on Saturday in Maui at the age of 75. He has been an amazing source of inspiration on my journey through this life. A few years ago one of his books actually saved me from the depths of despair. I was on my way to London for a March break holiday with my daughter and I had been under tremendous stress at work. I picked up a copy of Excuses Begone at the airport. I was in the midst of separating from my husband, I was in a conflict with my employer and I needed to focus on the special time with my daughter. My anxiety level was through the roof. 

I started reading it on the flight over the pond and continued reading it at night while my sweet girl slumbered in the bed next to mine at our hotel. I was so stressed out, I could not sleep. With each chapter of enlightenment, I felt myself becoming  more calm. I finished the book with a renewed solution to all the stresses that were confronting me. The main message I took from that book was this. Every time you are doubting or worried or full of fear, ask yourself this one simple question. IS IT TRUE? 

Will the world end if I leave my husband? Will I end up destitute on the street if I get fired from my job? If I quit my job? Will my family disown me for making choices they disagree with? Am I too old to start over again? Am I strong enough to endure these changes? The questions were endless. However, when you take these and other questions about your life and then ask IS IT TRUE? Nine times out of ten, it is not. The world will not end, you will not become a homeless person, your family will get over it, you're never too old and yes, Deb, you do have the strength.

Since that time, I have used this reasoning frequently. It is positively amazing how often it works. So, in terms of this renovation, when I get frustrated or anxious about how long it is taking, I have stopped and asked myself IS IT TRUE? a few times now.

ME:  I cannot live with all this mess and disorder around me.
ME:  No, I can, so just relax.

ME:  I need to get this house done before I can relax.
ME:  No, I can still relax, just like I did before we actually bought this house. I will just have to get used to being surrounded by renovation clutter...paint cans in the hallway, ladders leaning on the walls, splotches of test paint on the walls, drywall dust, etc., etc.

ME: I should have had at least one before and after shot ready for my blog by now. 
ME: Only in your own mind Deb. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to perform to some kind of unrealistic schedule for completion. The world will not end if you're not ready.

This is how this simple question works for me. It seems almost ridiculously simple really. However, until I read Excuses Begone, I would just get so ramped up with anxiety putting pressure on myself and those around me, it was unhealthy. I would forget about my own self-care and caring for others and I now know that those things are far more important than finishing a project in record time. 

Thank you Dr. Dyer for this gift. You gave so much to the world before you passed and it is the kind of gift that keeps on giving. He was a wise and spiritually evolved human being that will be missed. If you have never read any of his many books, I highly recommend them. 

I do hope a wonderful new journey has just begun for him. 


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Botox for the Home

I am using my blog this morning to avoid painting my ceiling. There is only one thing worse than sanding my architraves and that is painting the ceilings. It's messy and by the end of the job my neck will be crying uncle louder than the voice that gleefully announced - "No worries, I can paint the whole house by myself!"

I have also spent the last few days testing various shades of grey on the walls of the living room (lounge room in Australian). I now have a dozen splotches painted in various locations of three shades that graduate from too light to too dark and am leaning toward the one in the middle that in classic Goldilock fashion seems "just right". However, before I commit, the sun needs to come out to confirm my choice and just when I needed "sunny Queensland" to live up to its name, clouds fill the morning sky here and are not giving me a reading on the possible "right" grey. Had I got my confirmation, I would be off to Earle's Paint Place to order up a few cans of "Athens" grey. Instead, these clouds are forcing me to get my painting cap on (literally) and hold my head tilted backward for the next few hours as my face enjoys a spray mist of latex just to add insult to injury to my sprained neck muscles. 

Once I get into the painting, I am OK. It is rather meditative actually. It is akin to mowing the lawn; each swipe of the brush or roller improving the look of the wall, covering the old ugly colour and other blemishes, like photo shop for drywall. A miracle really. It just took my laundry room from 1982 to 2015. Talk about transformation! It was like a wrinkle cream that actually worked. Hmmm, could I be on to something? Maybe a bit of ceiling paint on my forehead will iron out that furrow between my brows that seems more and more prominent with each passing day. 

If it works, I'll let you know. I will text you as I am boarding my private jet to Mustique as hundreds of women line up at Earle's for a gallon of  Decomama's Flat Ceiling White Miracle in a Can. 

A girl can dream. ;-)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New Jewelry for Decomama Downunder

Another weekend of renovating has come and gone dear readers and I regret to inform you that there will not be a reveal shot again today. That is not to say that things are not progressing along quite nicely here at Deb and Steve's Tropical Oasis (my new name for our humble abode). No, on the contrary, we got quite a bit done this weekend. Some of it major (new laundry tub and upper cabinet installed) and some of it leaning more to the tedious but necessary (replacing 3 small floor tiles that had cracked over time and caulking the throne in place and the final sanding and painting of the linen closet doors). 

One day in the hopefully not too distant future there will come a time when all prior oil based painted trims and doors will become a "remember when?" and we will be able to just slap a fresh coat of latex paint over everything without having to sand and prime. Most older houses are unfortunately slathered with that stuff from the past. It requires so much more prepping and time to complete what should be a quick wash and two coats of paint. However, the finished product is so great that the painstaking journey to get there is soon forgotten, not unlike the labour of giving birth. 

The jewelry in the laundry room is next. The washing machine taps are on and I am thrilled with the design we chose. They remind me of Paloma Picasso X's, without the swirled tips. Now one would argue as to why the design mattered for these, but when your laundry room is also the mud room and back entrance and pantry and linen storage and entry to the toilet, you can imagine how many times per day I walk past these taps. The old ones were ugly utilitarian plastic relics from the 70's that screamed "Look how cheap I am!" Ugh! They have now gone to join that ghastly toilet roll holder in the land fill, or the next garage sale. I removed the hinges from the closet doors as they were covered in at least three coats of paint. Apparently they are brass and there might be someone who will want to buy them at that same sale. One man's junk is another man's treasure I suppose. I might have been tempted in the 80's to polish them up and re-use them, but brass is not going to work in the current plan,  unless it is some sort of fabulous modern light fixture just to mix the metals up a bit. We'll see.

About a week ago, I decided that I wanted to hang some large white letters that spelled some word related to laundry. Two days later I was out for coffee with the tennis gals and there was a gift and decorating shop attached to the cafe and as I walked in the door...BAM!, there they were. Exactly what I was looking for! How's that for manifesting? They will go up last. The finishing touches are always the most fun. 

I may not have mentioned it thus far, but this renovation is not supported by an unlimited budget. In fact, we are trying to save where we can and splurge where we think we will get the most bang for our buck. For instance, as I mentioned earlier in this blog, we replaced three cracked floor tiles. The original tiles were no longer available. The cracked tiles were right at the entry to the room and the entry to the toilet. We searched around in vain for replacements and then it occurred to me we could cut three tiles out of the floor under the laundry tub where they would not be missed! This simple solution saved us hundreds of dollars on new flooring that was otherwise not bad at all. It is simple off white 2 inch squares that actually quite suit the space. With the cracked ones gone, the floor is now restored to it's original former glory. Sure, new flooring would have been nice, but the colour was fine and it works with the  new palette. This will free up more money for more important flooring changes elsewhere in the house.

The palette of greys we have used are offset by white which is always a fresh clean look, especially in laundry and bathrooms. The stainless steel laundry sink and backsplash
 ( splashback in Australian-yet to be installed) work well with the greys as well. Now we are going to add some warmth with some open shelving in wood...Kwila to be exact. It is a wood used often here in Oz and I really love it. It is used for fencing and decking and various other outdoor applications, but I like it for indoor shelving as well. It is also a part of the new wall design we are mounting in the toilet so the two rooms will tie together nicely when they are finished. 

Further down this renovation road we will be using Kwila on the exterior changes too, so knowing this, we are blending the outside with the inside so the end result with give us a nice smooth flow and feeling as you transition from outside to inside and room to room. It works well with mid-century modern furniture and as I mentioned, adds some warmth to greys and stainless steel which will also be a big feature in the kitchen as we plan to do a more restaurant/industrial style look in there.

That's it for today. Decomama Downunder has to get back to work. These peach walls ain't gonna paint themselves!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ascending the Throne


Unlike those home design  make-over shows you see on TV, real home renovations never get completed in 48 hours or two weeks or whatever deadline they claim to have to meet to add drama to their shows. For instance, it has taken me all week to finish the new paint job in the WC. The trim needed sanding and priming and two coats of paint. The walls and ceiling needed some repair and two coats. In between, we have lives.  Most renovations take waaaaay longer and shows like that set unrealistic expectations. I already knew this going in, but even with all my years of experience in this business, even I imagine it will happen faster than it does. 

The water closet (toilet) is not complete yet, so there will not be a big reveal shot here today, however, I am happy with the progress.  It was one step forward, two steps back this weekend here for Decomama Downunder. The throne that we chose (OK, that "I" chose) was all about the design. I wanted a clean lined, modern commode that would give an instant sense of current to the crap cave. The original toilet was curvy and much to my surprise, the cistern was not even made of vitreous china. It was plastic.. PLASTIC?! Wow, that was new to me. I did not even know they made toilets that were half and half. The pan (bowl) was solid, so I just assumed it was all made of the same material. That is what I discovered when shopping for the new one as well. They still make some that way. I liken that to fake flowers. I abhor fake flowers and turns out I feel the same way about plastic toilet cisterns. Ain't happenin. Not now, not ever.

We sprung from our bed with the kookaburras on Saturday morning fresh-faced and ready to tackle the installation of the new dunny (yup, that's Australian for toilet). There was an immediate problem with the position of the hole to hell and the position of the exit pipe on the underside of the new latrine. It would make short work of whatever needed to pass through it, but maybe too short. However, after much measuring and re-measuring and hopeful expectation, Tim the Tool Man here said he reckoned we could make it work. Whew! Then I heard a bit of cursing as he emerged from the WC, measuring tape in hand, and announced that the water pipe was in the wrong position too. This design was just not working and creating far too much grief. Ready to admit defeat, I said, pack it back in the box. Clearly we needed to choose another style. Both a bit deflated, we headed out to look at other options. Nothing we saw compared or excited Decomama. The day was a bust. The only thing to do now was go home and drown in our sorrows. It was beer o'clock. 

Weekend days are prime renovating days when my handyman is available. We were down to one day. Sunday dawned and once again the kookaburras laughed as we tried to sleep. One thing about my handyman is he is determined and he likes to solve problems. He arose refreshed and as I was making coffee, he was out on the patio unpacking the doomed design of a toilet. He was wielding his measuring tape again. He looked hopeful. I could see this installation was on. He had an idea. We took one last pee before the water was turned off and filled some buckets with water...just in case.   We would either have to install a new piece of pipe outside and drill a new hole in the wall to move it over a couple inches, or see if we could just cut a hole in the internal wall and coax the pipe to the right a bit. 

Of course, that required a trip to Bunnings (the Home Depot of Oz) to purchase a less bulky tap, adding another hour of "toilet out of service" to the day. By now I had decided to curb my water consumption and began to think about setting up a temporary pee pot in the garage. Our small house only has one toilet. It is only a disadvantage at times like this. It is also the reason that the toilet has a room of it's own. I can luxuriate in my bath and not have to worry about being evicted for poop emergencies. 

So, those issues behind us now, we got to a point where we could actually put the bowl in place. We read the directions, and read them again and again. If you think Ikea assembly is confusing, have a look at dunny assembly instructions from China. One missed step sends you backwards and we took at least two steps backward with each step forward. By now my anxiety level was escalating. As I was really just like Vanna the calm and lovely assistant - pass me that spanner, pass me that screwdriver, pass me a hammer...I kept my fear of toilet installation failure at bay by cooking. Afterall, I figured that a well-fed plumber was better than a cranky hungry one. So, as the smell of nutty cinnamon granola and banana bread wafted through the house, slowly but surely we got closer to the moment when we could christen the new crapper. 

The moment arrived (6 hrs later) to try the first flush and we stood, holding our breath and peering into the bowl. We watched the water disappear and then reappear and then waited to see if anything was leaking around the bottom on the floor. I exhaled, relieved there were no signs of moisture anywhere but inside the bowl. Do it again. Still good. One more time - this time with the full flush, not the half. Woo Hoo! Success! And it only took two days!

Tim looked at me and asked if I wanted to try it out first. Naw, you go, I said - you're faster. I took my turn next and wiggled and adjusted my bottom noticing how it felt so much different from the old seat, a bit harder perhaps and less contoured. We had not tested it with paper yet, so I stood and turned and watched to see if it was going to perform well with this addition. It has less water force than the old model but I am happy to report still does the job. 

Three bums up!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Gone, before she was Gone

The Victor Ave House in Riverdale (centre)

There are people who come and go in our lives. The ones that go often become nothing more than a faint memory. But sometimes,  memories of the ones that go hover incessantly; their personalities perhaps larger than life or the impact they had on you sticks with you and despite their absence, you drift back to the times you had with them. 

I knew a woman in my mid-late twenties who was one that has hovered for the last 30 years. She was a friend and  my landlady, even though she was only a couple years older than I was at the time. She was a chef in training back then and was working at the very exclusive and well known Scaramouche Restaurant in Toronto. Her father bought the house for her and working was really sort of lark to her because whenever she was between jobs, her father, Stewie, (sweetest man in the world) supported her.  She was tall (statuesque really) and blonde and confident in the way a woman who has never known scarcity and attended all the right schools and summer camps would be expected to be. Her friends were many and they all had nicknames that were like secret handshakes between them. She wore designer clothing and was always adorned in expensive jewelry. She was an only child of only child parents.She loved periwinkles. She had a bull terrier named Boris.  I envied her.

She rented the third floor of her old Victorian house to me in my last 2 years of university. She had a live-in lover she called Thomo, a gorgeous blue-eyed Brit who was a decade older and I spent many late nights after we all got home from our evening shifts working in restaurants (he was a chef at the old Inn on the Park (Four Seasons) and we would all need to wind down after our busy nights with a few drinks before I headed up to my garret to crash. She would sit and hold court on her king-sized bed that was encased in a sea of white bedding and down-filled pillows, chugging Henkell Trocken straight from the bottle. She laughed a lot. Her life seemed carefree and looking back now I recognize she had an air of entitlement.

I remember her lackadaisical attitude toward responsibility. It was unfamiliar territory for me. I would be enjoying a warm summer afternoon in the small courtyard behind the house and lament the fact that I had to get to work at my part-time job by 5 pm. She would turn to me and say things like, "don't go to work, stay here and have some cocktails with me." The thought of skipping out of a shift of work never occurred to me. I needed the money. I did not have a daddy paying my way in life. Or, she would go as far as to say, "you should quit that job". Then she would laugh and chide me until I reminded her that I needed that job to pay my rent to her every month. I was never certain if she was serious or just projecting her own attitude about work toward me. She was famous for her lavish dinner parties and she did indeed enjoy howling at the moon. On many occasions, I howled with her. 

She drove a VW Cabriolet and one night when I got home from work around 2 am, she said let's drive up to Thornbury! She had ended her romance with the Brit and was now involved with a man who lived up on Georgian Bay. She was spontaneous that way. I recall thinking - "really, Now?" She was already three sheets to the wind and I had likely had a couple myself, so we piled in her funky rag top and headed north, sharing a bottle of plonk along the way. After she downed the last of it, she flung the bottle up over her head and out behind the car, the glass smashing on the empty road, cackling maniacally like a witch as she did so. It's a miracle we survived that drive and the next morning I wished I had woken up in my own bed in my cosy garret when she announced she was not driving back  until the next day and I had to work that night in the city. This was a typical scenario whenever she was around. 

It became clearer and clearer as time passed that she liked the drink a little more than most. She had been married once in her early twenties and it did not last long. But she came away with all the accoutrements of a big wedding like Waterford Crystal, fine china and a down filled sofa and expensive dining furniture that most of her friends had not yet acquired in life. Most of us were still students or just starting out. It made her stand out and seem accomplished. She approached everyone, even people she hardly new with a bold brashness that declared her status and oozed privilege. The truth was, I had never met anyone like her and I was never really sure if I loved her or hated her. I also knew we were not cut from the same cloth. 

Those two years that I spent swirling in her social circle were times I have never forgotten. Life was one big party, blaring music, fabulous food, a never-ending supply of booze and weekends on Georgian Bay. I met my first husband the last summer I lived in her house and the space was too small for two, so the time had come for me to move out. Another single woman (an old camp buddy of hers) would gladly take over the space. It was much coveted. It will always be my most memorable apartment in Toronto. It was in Riverdale which at the time, was just becoming popular. Not long after I left, she and I had a conversation that did not sit well with me. She sidled up to me and told me that she thought I should know that my fiance had been flirting with her and had propositioned her on more than one occasion. It came as a complete surprise to me as I trusted him wholeheartedly. I decided she was just trying to stir the pot and wrote it off as her own self-delusion. I never did find out if it was true, but it created a wedge between us and I moved on in my life without much contact with her after that.

I would hear things about her from time to time, but my circles changed and eventually I did not really know what had become of her until I heard she had left Toronto and moved to Manhattan...the Big Apple..NYC. She had apparently declared herself an artist now and was painting large abstract oil paintings that she was selling for big bucks. Supposedly in the range of 35-40K a piece. Then I heard she had married Scott Weiland of The Stone Temple Pilots fame and now her last name was his. Another friend of mine that I met through her would get 3 am phone calls from time to time and would have to endure her drunken ramblings. At one stage she got a call from some godforsaken southern state bar that really worried her to the point that she called the local police there to let them know that this woman was in need of help. That was the last time she was heard from.

Until yesterday. 

My dear friend Cindy, aka Halifax Broad had decided a few months ago to try to find her and had come across some information on line that led her to an obituary. It was from  August of 2013. The name was Weiland but she was not certain if it was really our mutual friend. She left her contact info and that was all she could do. A couple months later she got a phone call from a woman I will call Nita, who said she knew Deirdre. She had been the executor of Stewie's will and had been doling out an allowance all these years.  She was indeed dead and she died a homeless person on the streets of Toronto. When she died, there was not a single person alive to call and report her death. Not a friend, a relative, nobody. She died without a will, so cremation was not allowed. She had her buried in a pauper's grave with no fanfare, no funeral, no headstone. Nothing. 

How did this happen to this once vibrant, larger than life human being? Well, it turns out she was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. It was likely exacerbated with alcoholism. Nita never knew the Deirdre we knew back in the 80's. She knew her as a schizophrenic woman who would call in the middle of the night demanding more money each month as her allowance would run out. She had no idea that her life had been scads of crazy (no pun intended) fun for years before her descent into mental illness. 

I could rattle off at least a dozen names from those days of people who knew her well and partied with her and spent lots of time with her that would surely want to know that she died. In the end, she had nothing more that a few pieces of filthy clothing and her binders. Many, many binders filled with her ramblings. She apparently took them everywhere, all that was left to prove she was alive and had something to say. 

It saddens me greatly to think that her life ended this way. Despite her disdain for work and an ordinary life, she was generous. She did not place much value on her things and would gladly share them with you. I recall borrowing some of her clothing a few times and she was always quick to offer food and drink, although maybe she just wanted someone to drink with. This is a clear case of someone who fell between the cracks. She must have eventually become so unattractive as a person that she put off everyone and ended up completely and utterly alone. The cause of death was reported as the result of tongue and throat cancer (she did smoke). The story about being married to Scott Weiland was fictitious, yet she did change her name to give credibility to her lie. 

I know there are some of my readers who will remember her and be shocked to hear this accounting of her life. Had any of us known of her illness, we might have been able to intervene years ago, but it is too late for that now. Not only did she die alone, she died 2 years ago and her old friends are just learning about it this week.  

I do hope she has found peace at last. If I could, I would tell her that she will always live on in my memory, that she was an unforgettable character, she was fun and talented and she was right about my first husband. I should have listened to her.

R.I.P. Deirdre Lynn Weiland (Shannon) 
Died August 20, 2013

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Decomama Downunder...Renovating - Week One.

Well, well. well. My oh my, how things can change. That should come as no surprise to me since over the last few years I have been the queen of change, but this one is a complete turnaround since my last blog.

If you read it, you will know that we were faced with being evicted from the house we have been renting. The owners had apparently come into some difficult financial times and needed to move back in, do a few improvements and sell the house to cover some debts. We had talked many times over our 18 month test drive of this humble home of the changes we would make if it were ours. The house itself is very ordinary, but the quiet and nature that surrounds it has been a joy - especially to me, since I am here all day while my S.O. is off winning the bread.

It was almost painful for me to leave well enough alone. There were very strict rules around the rental that really prevented me from doing anything. I could not even replace the door handles on the cabinets or paint or replace light fixtures (OK, I admit, I did change two light fixtures). After all, it's what I do. Living with dated lighting and a host of other things that were well past their best before dates was a challenge for me. Well, I no longer have to hold back. Long story short...we bought the house. 

We avoid moving and I get to have at er! It has been just shy of a week since our offer was accepted and I have been like a whirling dervish ever since. I can hardly focus on one thing at a time. I feel like a greyhound just out of the gate, but instead of one rabbit to chase, there are about a dozen. We both agreed one of the first things to go would be the hideous toilet roll holder that we have had to look at several times a day for 18 months now. The only reason it was still there at all was because we knew if we took it off the wall, it would leave a big mess on the drywall. It had been there for a very long time, probably original to this 70's house. It was actually two ugly holders in one. (cue the Certs Commercial) The original holder had broken some time over the years and instead of replacing it, they just glued another ugly holder over top of the base of the first one. Both were white at one time but now they were that ghastly yellow that occurs with cheap plastic over time, not unlike the stained fingers of a grizzled old smoker. 

That decided, it would be the first room to tackle. The water closet. As we suspected, the holder was reluctant to leave it's home of 40 odd years. I kind of get it, as I did not want to leave after 18 months, so maybe this old holder was on to something. I tried prying it away from the wall but years of paint held it tight. I abandoned my screw driver and got a sharp edged chisel and hammer and still it resisted. Seriously? Knowing there was no hope at this point of avoiding a sizable hole in the drywall, I took a couple of good swings directly at it with a hammer. Whack! Whack! She hung on. Whack again. The front piece flew off, leaving the old base still intact. Now I was getting pissed. I summoned my inner wild woman and smashed the bloody thing to smithereens with a few more swings. Bits of plastic flew violently about until it finally came away and landed on the floor, leaving a couple of wall anchors clinging to the edges of the holes in the drywall and exposing the gory underbelly of 40 years of mildew and old blue paint that lived beneath. Eeewwww. 

Surely this will be just the beginning of many "eeewwwws" to come. The water closet renovation is underway. A new toilet was selected and purchased and the room has been painted. We are still hemming and hawing over the details of the space. Believe it or not, the roll holder is still undecided. With little else going on in that room to really make it unique or interesting, the roll holder really needs to be the main attraction. It is the first thing you see when you stand at the doorway and it was pretty much decided until we chose a light fixture that forced a rethink. So there we were in the middle of the night Friday, wide awake brainstorming what we now refer to as Toilet Roll Holder as Art. We are almost at a conclusion as to what it will look like. Suffice to say, it will not be a quick trip to the shops to grab something simple. Because, let's face it, that would just be too damn easy. 

I have taken before photos and once this space is complete, you will see the after here. The logical next space will be the laundry room as it is adjacent to the water closet and I plan to carry the paint colours out there. 

Decomama has a job. It feels good to be working again.