Last Lent, I discovered the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge hosted by White House, Black Shutters. I had fun getting started, but got off track when I had family come to visit. So this year, I've decided to make it the focus of my Lenten fast.  Before I get to "stuff," however, I've got a lot of unfinished projects to declutter. One of the unexpected ones happened a month ago.

Our bedroom windows are 73" wide. They are really tough to find curtain rods for.  The first set of expandable rods was a cheap set with a rectangular cross-section that didn't even stand up to a toddler trying (not succeeding, mind, but at least trying) to use them properly.  So then I found a nice 3/4" round cross-section set at Menards (in the $15 to $20 range) and was much more impressed with its strength.

Which, alas, is still not enough to withstand a toddler who cannot pass up any invitation to lift up her feet and swing. The brackets ripped out of the drywall, and the center one which was in a stud actually bent. As did the rod itself.

But what to do now?  Blinds, besides being expensive (even the cheap kind), have difficulty with the casement windows, don't block out enough light or insulate well enough. Plus there's the issue with the cords being a strangulation hazard.

I actually tossed out a set similar to this in that bedroom several years ago. It was broken, and using the blackout liner made a huge difference in the kids' ability to nap.

Just blacking out the windows (with, say, paint or window film) doesn't let light in when needed. I considered reusing the fabric for Roman shades, but I wasn't sure where to source the hardware cheaply.  Tacking the fabric back up leaves open the possibility of Rose mining the carpet with tacks if she tries her Tarzan act again and pulls them out. So that left one option: find a stronger curtain rod.

Even if I shelled out the big bucks for a solid wood curtain rod, the brackets sold for those have itty-bitty stalks between the cup and the wall. They are clearly meant for decoration, and I need something engineered for strength.

Fortunately, I had some scrap wood, and a brand-new router bit set...

Step One: Create a Template.

(Actually, Step One was Build a Router Table, but that's a story for another day.)
Fortunately, I had about 18" of scrap 1x8 planking left over from my study re-do. So I traced out the template with a compass, cut the hole for the curtain rod with a 1 1/2" hole bit, cut the curve out with the jigsaw, and used a Dremel to clean it up. Then I used that as a template to trace five more, and cut those with a jigsaw, being careful to leave the pencil line.

Here's where I screwed up, though. I really should have made the template out of scrap (well, scrappier) wood - like the MDF I had lying around - and cut out six more pieces. I also should have taken more care to really finish the template nicely instead of deluding myself that I'd smooth out the lumpiness on the curves at the end.

Then it was time to get out the router table! I had to buy a flush-trim (or templating) bit with a 1" cutting length, screw a handle to the template to keep my fingers away from the blade, and attach the rough pieces to the template with double-stick tape before routing. This carpet tape with mesh reinforcement works great - it has awesome shear strength (so the router doesn't shift it apart from the template while cutting) but limited vertical hold so it can be easily pulled off.  I also found it works best if there is 1/8" or less to trim away.

Step Two: Dovetail Mounts

Not having a drill press to make nice, straight holes in my brackets (and recognizing that the size of the brackets would make positioning them properly on the studs awkward anyway), I elected to get a 1/2" square dowel to hold my screws, and use dovetail joinery to secure the brackets in place.

Yay for playing with the dovetail router bit!

This was actually kind of a rush when I trimmed up the three different piece types needed... and they actually fit!!!

Step Three: Gluing

If it hasn't become obvious by the last set of pictures, I chose to glue two pieces together for the finished product, mostly because I wanted the strength of 1 1/2" of wood instead of 3/4", and also because it made the dovetailing a lot easier.

The most important part to line up was, of course, the dovetail. So I made sure to slip the dovetailed poplar dowel in as I applied the clamps.

I need to get some shorter bar clamps, by the way. Those are 36". One end is resting on the floor, and the other is leaning against the table.

I also need to learn to keep my woodworking away from the toddler and her crayons.

Step Four: Finishing the Dowel Mount

I placed my holes in the dowel while it was still long, so I'd have more leverage to hold it steady.
Because of the aforementioned lack of a drill press, I went in from the narrow side first so I could be more sure of not coming out the side.

Then I flipped it over and countersunk the holes so the screw-heads would be flush or slightly below.
With the holes done, I cut the dowel into three pieces just a smidge longer than I'd need.
To trim off that excess, I tried clamping the brackets vertically and using the coping saw. But they kept slipping, so I had to lay them down flat.  I tried not to cut them completely flush, but you can see I scuffed the edges some anyway. (Look! Unauthorized toddler crayon can come in handy as a visual aid!)

Step Five: Finishing

Back to the flush-trim bit! I just had to take care that the cutting direction would force the dowel mount into the bracket rather than shooting it out. I also rounded off the tops of the inside dovetails with a rasp (doing it before routing because it changed the depth ever so slightly) for a smoother initial fit.

I ended up taking off quite a bit in some places where it didn't quite line up.

Then I played around with my roundover bit and my coving bit to give the pieces more visual interest.

Step Seven: Hanging the Curtains

(Yes, I know I skipped Step Six: Painting. But I really needed them functional now rather than pretty. Eventually I'll come back to Step Six.)
I found the studs, placed the dowel mounts over them, and fastened them in. I had to borrow an 8" level from my second-grade neighbor to get them straight in that small space. I actually didn't get them quite perfectly straight, but I am going to blame the earthquake that literally took place as I was mounting them (which I completely didn't notice) rather than my ineptitude.

Finished it off with an 8' long, 1 1/4" diameter steel closet rod for about $12. Yay me!

I have been painting my study for a few eons now - ever since Thanksgiving.  And I have come to the conclusion that the following things will contribute to a patchy first coat of paint and should be avoided at all costs:

  • The beginning of the room, when you do not yet have a feel for the technique
  • The end of the room, when you are fatigued
  • The middle-of-the-room of despair, when you have been painting forever and there is a still an endless expanse of unpainted room to go
  • Proximity to the ceiling
  • Proximity to the floor
  • Tiny spaces of limited brush movement
  • Large walls of excessive freedom
  • Too much light
  • Too little light
  • Wide, irregular strokes
  • Even, perfect strokes
  • Wet paint
  • Dry paint
That's why you should get one of these and just plan of a second coat from the start.

Jesus Wept

When I was a little girl, I read the Little House books over and over.  One of the scenes that always stood out to me was from On the Banks of Plum Creek when Laura's Sunday school teacher rather condescendingly assigns her the "shortest verse in the Bible" because she is the littlest child in class.  My Christian doctrine education did not focus much on verse memorization, so it was a mystery to me as to what verse was "only two words long."  I did not find out until college that it was from the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verse 35:
Jesus wept.
So simple.  A staple of many Sunday school Bible memorization curricula.  Yet as well-known as the "shortest verse in the Bible" is, Christians are often terrible at consoling others in times of grief.  Those who make a habit of memorizing and reciting Scripture usually prefer to quote verses like Romans 8:18 - "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" - as if somehow the fact that our absent loved ones are in heaven or that we will meet them there one day diminishes the pain of the now.  It's as absurd as the surgeon who says that, because removing our inflamed appendix will eventually make us healthier than ever before, peri-operative pain relief is not needed.

The glory of heaven is indeed a beautiful truth.  It gives us hope and joy in the midst of our sorrow, but it does not and cannot remove the acute pain of the loss.  It merely gives us a direction to walk in as we grieve.

Jesus wept at the tears of Mary, despite His knowledge that before day's end tears would turn to laughter as her brother Lazarus left the tomb and returned to life.

Jesus weeps at the bed that is half-empty, the boys without a mother, the classroom without a teacher, the handbell choir without its upper treble.

Jesus weeps at the parents without a child, the boy without a sister, the university without a student, the promise of youth unfulfilled.

Jesus weeps at those of us left behind even as He rejoices as heaven becomes brighter by two brilliant souls stripped of their sin and shining with the full glory of unmarred creation.

Rest in peace, Jennifer.  Rest in peace, Colleen.  May God comfort those of us left behind, and may we never feel ashamed to grieve the loss of you whom we loved.  It was through expressing that love that we ourselves felt heaven approach, as we tried to emulate the God who is Himself pure Love.

A wise man I know once said that there is balance between controlling your environment and relaxing or having fun in it, and it is a choice where on the spectrum you want to live.  I've spent the last week-plus leaning more toward the other end of the spectrum due to some unusual challenges.  I picked up a few shifts and discovered that I couldn't work, complete my FLYing lessons and post about it all at the same time.  Then my husband left for a week-long seminar and I found out that I couldn't work full-time, be a single mom and complete FLYing lessons.  (Now, I'm sure there are plenty of single moms out there who can do it.  But they've had more practice than me, and their kids aren't usually extra-needy from a major change in the routine.)

I actually made it through Day Thirteen before I had to trim my FLYing back to laying out clothes, shining my sink, cleaning the kitchen and doing a quiet time.  Then I took two more days catching up with my husband and working on some projects around the house.  So I figure I should just go back to the last blog post and resume at Step Ten to help me get back into the swing of things.

The new task for the day is fifteen minutes of decluttering (aka throwing stuff away).
This was actually from a week ago, when I first started the challenge.  Here's the before (from Day Nine):
And here's after throwing junk away for fifteen minutes: 
Today I decided to start on the living room, because it's gotten into a bad state over the last week. 
First, there was four minutes of Hot Spot putting-out: 
Then there was a Five-Minute Room Rescue.  I had to spend some time emptying out the "Put Away" box from last time.  I am ashamed to admit that I found in it the reason Rose's sneakers have been missing for a week.
But doesn't it look better?
Very tempting... (just kidding). 
And finally after ten minutes of decluttering: 
After ten minutes, I really couldn't find any actual trash around any more, so I spent the other five minutes in another room.
It feels good to be getting back on track.  I believe you make the most progress developing a habit when it's hardest to feel motivated, so after I've pushed myself I find that feel more satisfied than when I was actually looking forward to doing chores.
Happy endorphins! 
Day Nine: More Decluttering

Today's add-on is a five-minute Room Rescue in the morning.  I got as far as labeling three boxes to sort the clutter into before Rose woke up and demanded to feed for the last thirty minutes I had before leaving for work.
Meanwhile, Pippin came down and started insisting that "We have to throw that box away because it says so."  I'm not sure he was ever convinced that we only had to toss the things in the box.

I'm not sure whom he thought we should give the third box to either.

Anyway, decluttering had to wait until I got home.  There was significantly more debris in the living room than when I left this morning.
And after five minutes... 
I decluttered recently, so nearly everything ended up in the "Put Away" box.  Technically, I should put that all away now, but I had the sort of workday after which one can only stagger around muttering phrases like "Good Lord!" and  "Holy cow!"  Plus, most of it belongs to the kids.  So it'll be put away tomorrow.
 And since I didn't put out any Hot Spots in the morning, I put out my dresser for four minutes
And lookee what I found! 
Declutter your dresser and you too might uncover a Sonic milkshake!
(Or maybe it might be my wonderful husband, bringing me treats after an absolute train wreck of a final case.)

Day Eight: Starting a Control Journal

I didn't even look at the Fly Lady website until after dinner tonight.  Turns out that today's step is sorting tasks into morning and evening routines, with checking the website and putting out Hot Spots in the morning.

Technically, we're supposed to use a paper binder, but I thought I'd try out the routine-scheduling portion of FlyHelper, which was the biggest reason I downloaded the app.
(Sorry about the resolution.  It looks great on my tablet, but I'm not sure why it looks crummy here.  I'll see what I can do to fix it later.) 
More Hot-Spot putting-out happens in the evening, along with the other Baby Steps.  I guess I'll just put out a Hot Spot for four minutes tonight.
As an aside, wouldn't it be nice if there was a Harry Potter-style Put-Outer for Hot Spots?

Day Seven: Tomorrow's Outfit

It's been one week of FLYing!  Time to review:

  1. Shine the sink
  2. Get dressed / have quiet time
  3. Check out
  4. Sticky note reminders
  5. Confronting inner doubts
  6. Put out hot spots for two minutes
  7. Lay out clothes for tomorrow

I'm working tomorrow afternoon, so I laid out both outfits I'll need.  I guess I'm an overachiever. :-)
So far I've been keeping up fairly well, though as I've mentioned I really don't know what to do with Step Three, and my "sticky" notes... well... don't.  I must say, I'm looking forward to bundling my notes in a more permanent location in the near future.