Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Balancing Act between Darkness and Light

Today is the December Solstice, a.k.a. the official beginning of Winter.  The earth tilts 23.5 degrees and all sorts of shenanigans are set in motion at speeds never before imagined.  Since ancient times many cultures and civilizations – is there a difference? – celebrated this time of year. They welcomed the ‘return of the Sun’ because today is the the day with the shortest amount of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere.

The day is also often called the Shortest Day albeit incorrectly since all days are 23 hours 56 minutes retrograde.  I think it would be better to refer to it as the Longest Night of the Year.  It is no coincidence Christmas was placed at this time of year with its 4 part Solstice Series called Advent.  The Winter Solstice has an element of hope. Just as things seem their darkest, Light appears and what seemed hopeless or dead begins to become alive. People need this and the Yule Solstice fills this need.


I use to attend Old St Pat's more frequently and enjoyed listening to Father Cusack's homilies regarding Advent.  Although the masses of Holy Obligation spanned four Sundays, I think I only made it to the entire series once.  Still, they were very powerful sermons. 

Other than my own wedding, I haven't gone to any church in ages, or to OSP in almost as much time.  Overtly the reason has been that we have been too busy with wedding planning and household errands and spending time with the nephew-Monkey before he disappears to Michigan.  But deep down inside, one of the reasons for not setting foot in that church or any of the many that I use to mass-hop is because Catholicism is tainted for me at the moment.

It's one thing when the guy who cuts you off while cursing at you is the same guy you held hands with a few minutes earlier during the Our Father, it's quite another when someone you once called friend deems that you are no longer worthy of being treated with respect, kindness or even acknowledgement.  After all, according to our shared faith, Judgement is reserved for Jesus.  The rest of us are supposed to simply forgive.

The Winter Solstice no longer evokes feelings of How are we going to make it until Spring?  We've learned how to reconcile our fears of Darkness with the science of the 23.5 degree tilt.  And after a certain amount of time of being treated badly, it's normal to decide that you want, nay deserve to be treated better.  Unfortunately, when you go against the status quo and stand up for yourself, those who were on the side of the status quo take objection to you suddenly realizing you deserve to be treated better. 
 
Make a vow when Solstice comes:

To find the Light in everyone
Keep the faith and bang the drum
...
On the longest night of the year
So keep me safe and hold me tight,
Let the candle burn all night,
Tomorrow welcome back the light.
‘Twas the longest night of the year'
Mary-Chapin Carpenter,
Longest Night of the Year

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Buffet that was once a Desk that was once a Buffet

Thanks to an overwhelming amount of generosity, we have received a lot of item from our registry. This also means we have quickly run out of room to store things in our cramped condo. Nightingale suggested we could use a buffet for our dining room. As it would happen, my mom has two buffets she is not using.

The first is an Old World antique looking buffet. As I love more traditional looking furniture, this would have been a perfect addition to our home. Unfortunately it is very heavy, doesn't go with our dining room furniture and did I mention it's very heavy. Someday when we have our Forever House I'll lay claim to it, assuming I can hire some movers to cart it from Mom's to our place.

The second item is a buffet that my mom converted to a desk many decades ago by trimming the legs and painting it jet black. It has hand carved grooves which she painted gold to create an elegant accent. This one is very light and also just the prefect height to fit under our dining room window sill, which is probably the only place in our cramped condo that it will fit.

Sidebar: Nightingale is planning to re-arrange the dining room to make the new piece work; therefore I anticipate a long weekend of moving furniture back-and-forth in my future.
Because this desk has been sitting in the unoccupied section of my mom's house for many years, the first thing we had to do was remove several layers of dust and spider webs before we could transport it to our place. I recall from my childhood that my mom used two coffee cans to hold a board which acted as a makeshift shelf for the desk. If you look carefully, you might see the circular impression where the cans sat for God know how many years until the desk went downstairs to live with grandma.

After getting the desk/buffet home and into my workshop (AKA the back deck), we looked it over in daylight. It wasn't in bad shape at all and in my pre-DYI days I might have just left it alone -- but where's the fun in that? So I decided that I would simply give it a quick sand to remove any loose paint and rough spots, and paint only the top, sides and legs.

One of the first challenges I encountered was the time of year. It was late fall and by the time I got home, it was often too dark to work on the buffet (not to mention I was beat from a day at work and my relatively long commute in lovely tollway traffic.) The weather also didn’t always co-operate because often on the weekends it would either be too cold or too rainy to work on the buffet.

Finally an unseasonably warm weekend (yay Global Warming) came along and I wasted no time. I removed the doors and the drawer, and with painter’s tape, covered up the gold painted hand carved grooves my mom had detailed a lifetime ago. I also applied some wood putty to the scuffed and scratched sections and wish I had done this a little sooner as I had to factor in time for it to dry before sanding.

After securing tarps on the deck for my neighbors’ benefit, I sanded the buffet down lightly with my craftsman nextec multi-tool and also by hand. Afterwards I used mineral spirits to remove any loose dust. Once I was satisfied that I was done sanding, I flipped the table over to start spraying painting the legs.

In Project Management, we have this concept called Scope Creep. Scope Creep is basically when you set out to do one thing and you end up doing much more than you had planned.  Suffice it to say that scope creep definitely occurred within this project. First, it took more spray paint than I thought to cover the legs, which only left me enough to finish one side of the buffet.

As I’ve mentioned before, Chicago Aldermen, in their infinite stupidity wisdom, decided to ban the sale of spray paint within the city limits. This had reduced the amount of graffiti by no measurable levels since gangbangers and taggers have cars. It did force me to make an unexpected excursion to the nearest suburb where I could get more spray paint. My fear was that I would lose my window of daylight while navigating Saturday afternoon Chicagoland traffic (read: angry shoppers with vehicles).

You probably can guess where this is going. Even though the first can was a popular brand – Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover semi-gloss -- it was not in stock at the store. Rather than drive around to another store, I opted to pick up a can of regular Rust-Oleum gloss and a can of Rust-Oleum gloss figuring if I ran out of semi-gloss again, the gloss would be a nice touch.

I got back, sanded the now dry wood putty, and finished painting the rest of the buffet carcass. Then Nightingale took a look and decided that I should do the front as well, which meant the doors, drawer and those golden grooves. We figured we could always touch them up inside during the winter months. So it was lucky that I had bought two cans of spray paint as I needed both of them.

I changed out the hardware as well using some knobs that we had bought for another dresser. That made me feel good because the knobs didn’t work on the intended dresser because of sizing issues, so it felt like I recaptured the otherwise spent money. My mom even liked the change from flat black to gloss and didn't seem to mind the gold trim going away.  If we decide to repaint the grooves, we’ll likely go with silver to match the new hardware.