Sunday, March 14, 2010

Painting with Passive Aggression

At long, long last we have banished the last of the beige in this house. There was much rejoicing and some shouting with glee to be heard, that's for sure. The last remaining area was the vast, echoing living-room, dining-room area and the transformative powers of having a color I don't despise on the walls cannot be underestimated. I wish I could hug the entire room at once, now that it has stopped offending my eyes. I'll attach pictures in a bit, after I take them, that is.

In photographs that color just looks dull, or neutral. In life it looked like the sad after effect of food poisoning following the consumption of oatmeal. Grayish-brown, tinged with an underlying bile-yellow. Despite looking like a course of antibiotics was needed to cure the walls of some dreadful infection, it had been in place for years before we got here.

Although we frequently do our own painting, we opted for pros in the two-story room. Visions of plummeting from scaffolding or high ladders danced in our heads, so we called in people who merrily balance atop these precarious perches as a profession. Really, that's just not something you wish to discover is outside of your skill set in the middle of a project. Gravity being a harsh task master, and all that.

At our old house we were the veterans of many a remodeling project. During one six-month period we had an addition constructed that was close to 1000 square feet. On another occasion we had the kitchen and bath ripped down to the studs and reconstructed from scratch, thereby releasing dust circa 1912. Even the dust was made of tougher stuff a century ago. Swiffers were not equal to the task, by a long shot, I had to mop the walls to be rid of the last of it, and even then, I have my doubts. There is likely a pile of it remaining in that old house, and it is probably hatching a plot for world domination even as I type. The darned stuff clung with such determination that I can only assume it had an actual, sentient quality to it. It seemed to elude me with ease. That's a story for another time, though.

Just saying, we've danced our way through many a quote process, and dealt with contractors of every description. We even had one general contractor (briefly) die mid-project. His heart stopped entirely in the midst of a round of golf, and four retired Navy SEALs waiting to play through brought the man back from complete heart failure. We could never quite decide if that meant we had been cursed by some really perverse fairy or not. After all, I've heard a lot of remodeling horror stories but we are the only people I know who experienced a work stoppage because their contractor was recovering from a brief bout with death.

In a complete aside, my very favorite part about that story is that the four men who saved Hal went on to play the rest of the round before stopping by the hospital to see how he was doing. I'm no shrinking violet, but I think having someone briefly perish in front of me would likely fell me like a tree for, at least, the rest of the day. For these guys, a man down on the seventh hole was something that happened before the eighth, I guess.

We've been around the block and heard the various stories that people will put forth to try and disparage their competition. It's just the nature of the business, and in a tough economy, it becomes more so as various contractors wrangle for jobs. Now, with painting, there are only so many ways a job can go wrong. It's not like construction, where other contractors will hint that so-and-sos company didn't lay duct work correctly, and their poor clients now live in an airless box, to this day. Pretty much the worst a painting contractor can imply about an interior job is that so-and-so won't provide proper coverage, or will buy inferior paint while charging for the superior stuff. Or paint everything puce before disappearing into the ether forever, money in hand.

The quotes ranged around so wildly there was absolutely no way to determine how much the actual job was worth. The highest quote was well over three thousand, leading me to remark that I assumed the paint would be kissed onto the walls by a host of angels for that price. The lowest turned out to be eight hundred and I can only assume that involves hopefully hurling paint around by the bucketful and calling it a day.

But the strangest sales technique I encountered was from a painter I had used previously, one I knew to quote a bit high, but do good work. He actually didn't end up quoting on the job. I had him scheduled, he had to cancel, and we re-scheduled. In the interim, I met the painter I hired, and who did a beautiful job, I might add. So I sent off an email telling the other painter that I had no wish to waste his time, and that hopefully we could work together in the future. Thus began the weirdest volley of emails I've ever had from any contractor.

I probably shouldn't have mentioned the fact that the reason I was canceling was that I'd received a low quote that, having worked with him before, I was sure he wasn't going to be able to match. I completely understand that anyone trying to keep a business afloat in tough times would be irked by that. I wish I'd thought of that before, you see, it might have stopped this painter, who I'll call Ted, from implying that the men I hired were likely vagabonds, thieves and would-be murders.

This is one of those instances wherein people reading can end up thinking, "Oh har, har, surely you are overstating for humor." You'd think, right? So I'm going to cut and paste from the emails:

"Does he have current liability insurance?
Do you know the reference and/or the kind of work he has done for the references?
Has he given you a thorough estimate that spells out the project?

Okay, now first of all that's none of his concern, but I'm not rude by nature. They are also fair questions to ask when hiring someone. I answered in the affirmative on the first two, and knew enough about contractors and estimates to know that the third one is actually one of the bigger tricks contractors pull. For instance, one contractor looked me dead in the eye and gave me a piece of paper that listed the paint cost as $775 dollars, which only if the meaning of life is contained in the pigment could that be true, and I've done enough painting to know that. Another told me it would be over a thousand for paint and materials. The painter who did the job gave me the receipts and the actual cost on paint and materials: $238.49. Just because there's a number in a box on an estimate, it doesn't mean much.

I didn't bother to tell Ted that because implying that a person is in a trade involving much broad fiction is not exactly a polite move.

I again bid him a good day, and told him I was pleased he was so busy, as he assured me he was. I'm quite willing to believe that, his company does very good work. I was a little surprised that he was fighting so hard to try and dissuade me from hiring someone else, but hey, in that kind of business you really do have to expect that contractors will do their best to win your business. It was actually the paragraph proceeding it that made my jaw drop:

"I am not trying to scare you, but a lot of times when guys are in the desperate mode, they do irrational things. I would be highly suspect if the guy is half of what others have quoted you. I know we are not the least expensive out there, but know that we provide exceptional value for the quality we provide. Not to mention the caliber of individuals that I would bring into your home."

Holy crow. Desperate and irrational? Plus an implication that I was hiring criminals? Also, in my personal experience, when anyone says, "I'm not trying to scare you..." and it isn't a close friend? They're doing their level best to scare the tar out of you.

There's always some risk attendant to letting people you don't know well into your home. It's just part of the risk of being alive. Or in leaving the house, for that matter. I'm even willing to believe that Ted was honestly concerned about our welfare, because I had mentioned that I knew this guy had quoted low because he needed the work. I knew this because the man had told me that, to my face. In turn I had asked him, "Okay, so what would your quote be normally?" He said, "On labor, it's a twelve hundred dollar job. Don't let anyone charge you more than that."

That's the guy I ended up hiring, and I paid his regular price. He'd showed up on time, been very forthright, and he didn't impugn anyone else's character to get the job.

In my own turn I lobbed back something to Ted that, while true, is also a way of pulling a passive aggressive end to a debate. I told Ted, truthfully, that this was a painter my husband had found, and that when stubborn people marry you end up ceding to each other on a regular basis. It's true, but it was also an attempt to shut the door on the conversation. Another thing I've found is that male contractors tend to back down when someone, in this case me, produces a stubborn 6'4" husband as the buck-stops-there. People may assume, because my appearance doesn't quite match my interior, that I'm easy to push around. Oddly enough, no one ever assumes that about my husband. So yes, I played the card that essentially reads, "Yeah, take that up with my large, obstinate husband, it'll go well. Ha. Ha. Ha."

There's only one thing that gave me pause. Back when I met Ted and had him paint our kitchen/family room I had asked him another important question, "Do you use subcontractors for any of your work?"

I asked him because it's an important question, and one I urge people to ask. Some contractors use subs for labor, which is fine, but make sure they use the same ones over and over. That they are not contracting people they don't know well. Hal, our risen contractor, made a big mistake on our addition. He hired a sub contractor on drywall that he'd never worked with before. The crew did great work, but Hal, due to the entire "briefly dead, back soon!" footnote on our project, didn't pay this contractor in a timely manner. Causing the biggest drywalling crew boss in the land to walk into the half completed addition, knock on an interior door, and try to muscle a check out of me right then and there, by means of threatening me.

I'm married to a big guy, I barely even notice when someone tops six feet these days, because my daily reality is a guy who dwells far above me. This drywaller was Gigantic. Paul Bunyan's cousin who went into contracting, essentially. Probably somewhere around 6'8" and he was clearly trying to use that to his advantage. He encountered the fact that, realistically, I may look a bit China Doll-ish, but that conceals my inner Roller Derby Queen, who only comes out in special circumstances. For instance, when a mammoth contractor demands a check, while attempting to chase me backwards through my house. For the approximately six seconds I was backing away in confusion, I'll bet he thought it was working. The seventh second proved him wrong when I blew up like a volcano directly in his face. People across the street heard me, and we lived in a brick house. The man's hair practically blew back in the gale force of my extreme fury .

I simply lucked out in that the guy was all bluster, and not dangerous, but believe me when I say, the entire reason I flew into the loudest, and most threatening rage of my life was that as I took one last step backwards in shock, it occurred to me: The security door on the front door behind me was locked, if I didn't back that man out of my house, and he actually had any ill intent, I was in very, very serious trouble.

He retreated, practically cowering. I called Hal to inform him that the man needed to be paid by the end of the day, or there would be consequences beyond the telling of it. Make no mistake though, that had scared the bejeebers out of me and I've been very careful ever since. A further footnote to that is that my husband does not yell. I've heard him yell on exactly three occasions, the man doesn't shout unless safety is on the line and, to understate it, he got a little loud in his own turn. Poor Hal.

I mention this because, after I had retrieved my jaw from the floor, and rounded up my eyebrows from the lap they were taking around my entire skull after reading Ted's email, I remembered something. I'd told Ted the story of the Towering Drywall Man.

"I'm not trying to scare you, but..."

I do have to wonder if the end of that sentence should really have been, "...I know how to."

It remains possible that Ted truly was just concerned that the painter I'd hired was going to murder us all in our beds, and that I'd end up having my body identified by means of the remnants of my tattered left earlobe.

The last I heard from Ted and his portents of doom was to not pony up any dough until the job was done. That's sound advice.

I've dealt with a lot of contractors, I've seen a lot of sales techniques that range from the above-board to the sly implication, but I'll tell you something, I don't think Ted would have chosen that approach had he been communicating solely with my husband. Gender intimidation as a sales technique?

I'll pass.


PhilipH said...

OMG ... better watch out Milady Shimp's about. She could shout for America!

Does this confirm that size does NOT really matter?

So, beige is not your favourite colour. Beige = boring, or drab. Is that what you're saying?

Well let me tell you! Beige is beautiful. Beige is exciting. Beige is NOW.

Oooh... what's that loud yell I hear... Oooh that's scary.

Changed my mind. Beige is a defo no no.


Cricket said...

Ah, contractors... gotta love 'em. Everyone has a story or two, I think. When will the job be done?

Two weeks. Sure it will.

We had one (briefly) die. Brilliant.

Thanks for brightening a dreary afternoon. Gray and rainy. At least it's not beige.

Land of shimp said...

I know, I'm going to land myself in Dutch with The Beige Anti-defamation league, Philip but then, so would that paint color. It was Beige's sickly, sallow step-brother. You know one, liked his drink, he did!

Beige is normally rather innocuous stuff, but this particular paint color either hadn't aged well, or had always looked like something from which people ought to seek a cure.

Besides, the color that I chose for that vast space is pretty far from vivid, it's just a light gray. To avoid having to paint the darned thing again for ages, we went ultra neutral, too.

But that Beige was the ne'er do well of the Beige Clan.

I'm going to have to wait to get pictures on the house until the sun comes back from hiding (snow, snow, snow) but you'll likely laugh at hold less-than-bold me color choice was on the big space.

And yes, when the chips are down, I can give a mean "crazy-mean, do not mess with me" impression.

Dude was a bully, and he was picking on the wrong woman, by a lot. Oh, he still could have squashed me like a bug, but it would have hurt his ears first.

Cricket, yes contractor-time is a thing unto itself. On construction, it's also a thing where the estimate has only a vague resemblance to the actual cost of the project.

Our addition was to have taken six months. Again, poor Hal, I'm positive he ended up losing money on the deal because it really went south for him, too.

By the way, we knew Hal outside of employing him as our contractor. His wife used to work with my husband, so the family was known to us, and Hal worked with the aid of two of his grown sons.

So when he didn't turn up for several days, we let it pass, but on the fifth day, Rob left a rather stern message the upshot of which was, "Hey, no call-no show for almost a week is unacceptable. Explain yourself." Another day passed, no return call. Rob left another message and I'm sure it was less than friendly.

On the seventh day one of Hal's sons returned the call:

Son of Hal: I'm so sorry, we've just now been able to figure out how to get into my dad's voicemail. You see, my dad died while playing golf...

Rob, almost drop from guilt over his message: Oh My God, I'm so sorry, I had no idea.

Son of Hal: It's all right, he's doing better now.

Yeah, that one took a bit of explaining.

Cricket said...

I'm reminded of that scene from Kentucky Fried Movie:

"Death is America's number one killer..."

DUTA said...

Make sure they use washable paint, so that later on you could remove spots with a damp rag.

And after several years, you could refresh the walls by doing a gradual 'do it yourself' job, as contractors, subcontractors, and their workers are a big trouble.

ds said...

Oh, dear. Laughed, cried (mostly from said laughter), was scared, took notes.
But having a contractor briefly (!) die in the presence of Navy SEALs is a classic.

You just can't make that stuff up...

Gary's third pottery blog said...

Whoa. :)

jadedj said...

Not to scare you, but, are you sure the paint guy didn't put latex over oil base...the old paint being so old and all? Just asking.

Anonymous said...

ooooo... I was going to say something clever but then your last commenter made me go 'ooo, let's hope not! :0)

The Bug said...

Dr. M & I play "when we win the lottery" a lot. If we don't win the big shebang (in which case we would move back to NC & raise sheep), we would love to buy the house we're renting & remodel it. Except now I'm thinking maybe not. Maybe just finding a house that more closely meets our needs would be better. Heh.

Land of shimp said...

Cricket, that and golf, apparently ;-)

That's good advice, Duta. Thank you :-) We do go with an eggshell finish for precisely that reason in high traffic areas. If it can't be washed? Make sure hardly any human beings come in contact with it on a regular basis.

ds, what happened to Hal really is one of the better pieces of evidence in some kind of higher power that I've personally ever heard about.

He had a genetic condition he'd be warned about ages before...and essentially that was it: At some point, due to an irregularity, your heart can just stop. The meds for that condition had some side effects, and Hal decided to just take his chances.

So not only was it "And bizarrely enough, in a state where we had a large Air Force base at one point, and on a golf course near that...four Navy veterans will almost miraculously be playing golf...and they will be retired SEALs so entirely unflappable ...that's when your heart will stop..."

It was that he'd been pre-warned ages ago ...and those are the circumstances under which his heart just stopped entirely.

Gives one pause, doesn't it? That was the mother of all coincidences, I'll tell you what. Of course, it wasn't actually funny for Hal or his family when it was going down...but on the medical emergency side, only if he'd collapsed in front of two cardiologist and a couple of EMTs could that have been better luck.

Gary, I wholeheartedly agree on the "whoa" (which I assume is attached to Hal's story).

It's a funny story, but it's also just freaking miracle, and I'm not actually sure I believe...but ...let's just say I came closer after that.

Hehe, very funny, jadedj -- but I do actually have samples of the old paint, and it was latex. Nice try though!

Hi there, Eternally Distracted :-) Thanks for stopping by. The commenter above made me laugh, too! He's very good at that, and so are you, for that matter.

You know, Bug unless you adore the location? Honest to goodness, it's better to find a house that suits your needs, and doesn't need much work. I've done both and it's much easier to do the minor stuff.

But there are checklists floating around that people can read to see, "Hey, is remodeling a good idea?" One being -- will the amount of money required outstrip the potential value? (Will you take a bath financially if you ever sell, essentially).

Then other things like, "Do you have very similar decorating tastes?" If you ever find yourself in a position to ask yourself that question, try that.

Rob and I don't bicker, really. Under stress, we tend to both clam up...and we've never had a remodeling-centered argument, which is another miracle considering all the projects we've done.

Having one type of relationship over another isn't a "good" or "bad" thing, but rather, "whatever works for you"...but certain relationship templates really don't work well with remodeling.

The other weird thing is...we had that house for ten years, and after we were finally done with all the projects....we moved within a year. Now, we kept that house, but we did run into the thing that...for all our vision and willingness to just gut it out...the house had certain detractions (location) that were never going to have it be our dream home.

We got done with everything we could reasonably do...and moved to a house with something we wanted, that we could never have there...a pool.

So...I realize you're just doing the "What if" fantasy ...but the entire reason we started with that much remodeling was that we looked at houses seven years the height of the Colorado boom, and it was actually cheaper to add to that house, than to buy at that time. Our housing dollar wasn't going to go too far...or rather, we didn't want to pay that much for what we wanted.

So that's another consideration :-)

Jo said...

Gosh, when I came home today and closed the door behind me, I looked at it and thought it needed painting, along with the frame and the hallway. And then I thought ... naw ... I would just have to do it myself.

But after reading your story, I think I'll walk over to General Paints, pick out a nice neutral color, and just do it.

Whenever I feel like giving up, I'll just walk over to my computer and read your blog post.

The color wan't be beige. *heh*

Kathryn said...

Oh, Alane, i do love your story telling! I particularly laughed at your comment "It's all right, he's doing better now.

Yeah, that one took a bit of explaining." (The cats had to come check out the noise!) :)

We've only a couple of areas that need paint. I thought we'd do it ourselves & i bought a No VOC paint. But i've discovered it gives us asthma anyway. I think we'll have to have it painted when we are away for a week or so. I'll keep your hints in mind.

Nancy said...

Oh yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. I've had enough experience, including a total remodel last year, to know how these guys operate. I've used the "my husband said either have it done by next week, or you can deal with him," more than once. And believe me, I have no problem standing firm, but sometimes it's just easier, you know?

Dave said...

A good humourous story with a moral. Thanks for the entertainment and the lesson Alane! - Dave

Shrinky said...

Great writing shimp, and I'm glad it's all behind you now (the er, decorating that is, not the writing - eeek!) I've had a fair few battles myself in my time with contracters, and I can really sympathise - it's bad enough suffering the invasion in your house without being threatened for your life - sheesh! I still have nightmares over a loft conversion we had done on our old house, it started when my youngest was still in my belly, and she was three months old by time it was done. The boss guy's WIFE and her made showed up on my doorstep ine day and threatened to punch my lights out (on my face, not my house) for "bullying" her husband!!

Shrinky said...

Um, that should read "mate", not made (blush)..

Land of shimp said...

Hehehe, I have certainly defamed the name of Beige, haven't I Jo? Hey, you could always go with something sassy, you know. I've got tons of colors in the house...and I feel certain that if anyone would suit a sassy door? It's you :-) (Meant as high praise indeed) ...however neutral is good too. Well, some neutrals, that is!

It's so much more fun to make people laugh, than almost anything, isn't it Kathryn? I'm glad I did. Rob was the person having that conversation, and it was decidedly surreal. Afterward we joked (and you'll get this as a fellow scifi fan), "Wait, maybe Hal's a Cyborg?" and riffed on that for about ten minutes.

Yup, you'll have to schedule painting for when you are away, Kathryn...and have someone who can hang around a bit, to open and shut the windows to help aid the process.

By the way, "Low VOC" and "No VOC" gets mentioned a lot...and for anyone who is reading and doesn't know what it stands for: Volatile Organic Compounds ...which I feel certain no one ever figures out on their own.

Nancy, seriously, thank you so much for telling me that. I always feel like a traitor to the cause on the rare occasions I have to do that "I will now menace you with my husband essential maleness" because...c'mon! For starters, Rob would fall over laughing at the thought that he's my voice of authority but for another -- I've always been the person who handles these guys, and it feels as if I'm catering to gameplay that should be dead and gone, when I do that (which is rarely).

The bummer is that it works. Each time, it works. They never pull the same stuff once anyone they can perceive as the Alpha Male steps up.

Anyway, you're a strong person, and I consider you as being a kick butt kind it was such a relief to know, "Nancy's had to do that on occasion to." I do know what you mean, it is easier. The wrangling you have to do to be heard can be exhausting, and there are rare occasions when...the most expedient way to cap the whole thing? "Menacing with Hubby".

Hey Dave! Thank know half the fun of doing this kind of stuff is that it does eventually make for some fun stories. Life's minor irritations leading to entertainment!

Good lord, Shrinky! The part of that story that had me rolling was that evidently, the bruisin' Mrs. had to bring along a pal for backup. Did they then demand your lunch money? Couple of bullies, both of them.

You know the best part of remodeling isn't actually when it's immediately done, it's when it is all done...and you realize you haven't heard hammering, pounding, incidental BAD singing, or out of control dirt in a few weeks. The bigger the project, the longer the recovery period, you know?

When it comes to painting it really is a case of, as soon as they back out of the drive, it's time to enjoy the sight of a well done job. A lot of other remodeling, it takes a bit to kick in, "This is wonderful! And completely worth it!"

By the way, you have officially bested me in terms of remodeling guts...I'd have NEVER undertaken remodeling while pregnant. You deserve a medal...and possibly so does your husband.

Suldog said...

As usual, a great read.

I think I can explain the golfers continuing on with their round. After you've basically resurrected somebody, the rest of your round will be wonderful. You might drive twenty balls into the woods, five-putt every green, or whatever other golfing tragedy, but after every mishap you can say, "I brought a guy back to life earlier. Not bad."

By the way, I adore you.

(Don't tell your husband, at least not without an explanation.)

What I mean to say is that I love you as an amazing commenter. You seem to put almost as much time and effort into your comments, at other folk's places, as you do on your writing here. You leave the lengthiest comments ever, and they're almost always uniformly entertaining and insightful. Of course, now I've unfairly put the pressure on you to maintain that goodness, but I needed to let you know how much I look forward to you comments, both at my place and others.

Land of shimp said...

Jim, thank you so much. Honestly, I can't think of a nicer compliment. I have a lot of fun reading blogs, and commenting. I really enjoy other peoples stories and am so glad to know that somehow shows in the comment section.

I hope you end up seeing this, by the way, as I have a fun story for you: Why my husband already knows who you are.

It will become an important detail, that my son was at work, at the time. It was a Saturday and as after I was done reading one of your posts, I glanced to the left and realized for the first time that you had names grouped by geographical origin. I was delighted to see my own handle and called out to my husband:

"Oh...come look! Jim's grouped me separately, like I'm a country! I'm the sovereign of my own land!"

My husband came and took a look a look for himself, and said, "So you are, your highness."

"Of course, since I'm the only citizen of the place, that means I'm also the stable master. Sovereign, stable master, tinker, tailer,'s all on me, baby."

My husband allowed as how he'd be willing to defect.

"Then I could name you Queen Consort!" said I.

"Yes, but first you'd have to elevate me to the Peerage."

As I said, my son was not home...and my husband thinks very well of you indeed, sir.


Suldog said...

Happy to have been of service, Your Majesty. I'm sure the same could be said of The Queen Consort :-)

TechnoBabe said...

One of the best pieces of advice in your post was asking if the contractor subs any work out. If the subs aren't paid by the contractor, legal action can be taken against the homeowner. It can turn into such a lengthy mess. You sound like you have your head on straight and you also can yell loudly when you need to. Good for you.

The pale observer said...

The happy new coloured walls should make all the nightmares of the process melt away!!!

intelliwench said...

Wonderful cautionary tale!

My bedroom walls are a color I can only describe as "Ace Bandage" -- I'm sure you can empathize! You can also be sure I'll repaint the place myself once I have the time, and a sturdy enough ladder.

Hilary said...

I love colour (and beige is not one) and figure it must have been worth the craziness you went through to make the changes. I loved "We had one (briefly) die." Too hilarious.

You know I love your posts, comments, comment replies and emails. You make me laugh. Thanks for that. :)

Kyle said...

Alane, I enjoyed and laughed at the story only because I really like the teller.:)

This piece dug up old wounds. I wouldn't wish these circumstances on an enemy. Stan and I have had to deal with many home improvement professionals and out of the dozens we have encountered there isn't one we trust or could fully recommend without adding cautionary notes.

Oh, how I can empathize Alane.

Kyle said...

Not related to this post at all!

Alane, I either lost your e-mail or didn't have it in the first place. Here is a collection of sites that answer your requests from a few weeks back. Sorry I couldn't get to it sooner, we have really been overwhelmed here in NH with all kinds things. Life happens. Hope these things help!

Search Site for Cruelty-Free Companies and Products(PETA)

Search for Eco Companies and Products(You have to do a lot of checking on this one and not always updated)

Find Cruelty-Free/Eco Companies, Products, Charities, Investing(PETA)

PETA Mall(All kinds of links, but again you have to filter it yourself!)

30 Best Eco Friendly Websites and Blogs(An article I found a few years ago-lots of helpful links/sites)

Land of shimp said...

Technobabe, you know, I wish that had been something I'd understood to ask back in the day :-) Still, everyone survived and when we learn something, we can pass it on! Thanks for stopping by.

It's always worth it, Hilary! Sooner or later you get everything cleaned, dusted, and then stand around and stare at the loveliness.

Or dear, intelliwench, I think you've met the dreadful beige! That's a color that seems like it needs to be cured. Neutral? Heavens no. There's nothing neutral about, "In an effort to make sure that no one was particularly happy, this was selected." The color of joyless compromise, in action!

Well Hilary, we're even because between the photographs you take, and the posts you gather, you are continually rendering my world merrier. I thank you for that in my own turn!

Kyle, I'll bet it did! And thankfully once the misery is done, there remains practical cautionary tales, and the results. We are fellow veterans of the "I renovated a 100 year old house, and only aged half as much of that through the process!" wars.

Thank you so, so much for the links, Kyle. I really and truly appreciate that. Thank you for taking the time, and for caring so much about the world around you.

Every now and then I encounter someone who makes me believe wholeheartedly in the power of choice, and the worth of doing good in the universe . You are one such person, Kyle.

Basically, thank you so much for being you. I don't Stan, but I feel perfectly confident in saying, he's a special, and lucky man. So are you.