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Confidence

I recently had a conversation with a lovely woman I met while out shopping for mid-century furniture in Berkley, MI. Somehow we got on the conversation of renovation and we quickly connected about our feelings of confidence when it came to approaching a project. She had painted a brownstone. I had painted a church. The bottom line was that after doing a large project, we felt able to snap our fingers at the small stuff. Like scraping and painting the garage, for example.

Snap!

Snap!

During the week, I stay downstate to keep Mike company and to take care of issues around the house. And he “lets” me. He’s very supportive in this! A few years ago (pre-church, namely!) he might not have felt comfortable leaving me alone with a power washer, a scraper and gallons of primer and paint. Anything could go wrong in the hands of a rookie. Now, he dashes off to work with barely a twitch when I tell him I’ll be re-landscaping the yard and painting the garage this week.

Ain't no big thang!

Ain’t no big thang!

Now, the landscaping did cause a few scrapes, especially when I got my finger literally caught between a rock and a hard place (cement!) That brought a little mist to my eyes, but I walked it off and carried on like a big girl.

Mother Nature at work.

Mother Nature at work.

he battle ensues.

he battle ensues.

Casualty: one purple fingernail that will probably not realize old age.

But totally worth it!

Who's in charge? Me!

Who’s in charge? Me!

OK, maybe I’m feeling a little over-confident, but it’s better than sitting on my butt afraid to dig in. BTW, that green thing is a rain barrel. It’s not the most attractive thing but it sure is handy if you have flowers and a garden.

So what has all this to do with the church? Well, it’s been over two and a half years of work, and there’s more to go.

Lemme get the wonder bar…

Lemme get the wonder bar…

Every Friday, with few exceptions, we hop in our cars and head north. We get there with some project in mind. Most of the projects are things that neither of us had done before, at least on this scale. Mike owned a former department store turned studio/living space in Flint so he had some experience with heavy renovation, but I had none. The only thing I had going for me was ignorance and a sense of adventure…and the fact that both Mike and I have lifted weights and done yoga since we were young. Keeping our bodies strong certainly has helped, though age and gravity have taken a toll on our comfort levels.

No mount of yoga can prepare you for awkward repetitive motions!

No mount of yoga can prepare you for awkward repetitive motions!

So here I am, glazing a window in situ. I had spent a few hours scraping the window with a brush and a metal scraper, and I had painted the window frame and the outside frame white. Mike had calculated that we spent over 60 HPW (hours per window!) on the front windows by taking them out, sanding them to remove the paint, carefully picking out all the hardened brittle glazing, gingerly taking out the glass, painting, reinstalling the glass and re-pointing it, re-glazing and painting more coats. Meanwhile Mike had to cut out plywood “windows” to install over the hole while the real windows were out, and they had to be screwed in and caulked, and then deinstalled, etc. It was VERY time consuming.

Glazing a window!

Glazing a window!

That’s a lot of HPW! So we decided to do the windows a different way. I was able to scrape, paint and reglaze this window in one afternoon. An hour into the scraping, I was doubtful, mainly because my shoulders were sassing me about the fact that I had been scraping paint all week at the garage and they could use a break from awkward repetitive motions. But after a spell of listening to Jimmie Rogers (think cowboy yodeling!) I gave my body a stern talking to and it settled down into a more peaceful place. I actually was able to enjoy the process, and my doubts vanished. Meanwhile, Mike was working inside and had sanded, filled holes and painted TWO windows in the same amount of time. He had no doubts!

I know - it's hard to tell.

I know – it’s hard to tell.

Mike did a beautiful job, but it’s really hard to see, both in photography and in person, since there is so much light coming in through the windows. I should have gotten an evening shot, but we were too pooped by then!

Our in situ methods saved us approximately 50 hpw, since we both spent about five hours on our respective projects. Sure, it’s not quite as thorough as the other method, but there are seven more windows to do, and other projects that are a-waiting. I think it’s a great trade off, since the windows are weather-tight and look great.

So what’s the moral of the story? I guess I’m trying to convey a little of what I’ve learned from this adventure; mainly that there’s no sense in being afraid to try things. This church had gone back to nature when we found it. It’s amazing how one little hole in a roof can open the door to nature’s full fury in the guise of rotted wood, raccoon shanty towns, cracked and crumbling plaster and more. We really couldn’t have harmed it more than neglect had already done. Step by step, with a lot of help, but also with a lot of work ethic, we have gutted and scraped and sanded and painted and installed our way into a sense of confidence. Perhaps it comes naturally for men; how else could the Brooklyn Bridge and the Pyramids have been built? But for me, it’s been a great learning experience and a great confidence builder. I didn’t foresee this aspect of our adventure, but I’m very grateful for it. I think Mike is too, especially when he sees the fruits of my labor!

I’m good with it!

He's twice as strong, but I eat 1/3 less!

He’s twice as strong, but I eat 1/3 less!

– The White Church Gallery