I’ve always considered myself a relatively organized and tidy person. I’m very happy no one had the cameras rolling the day I shot that notion to pieces.
Since my husband passed away, just over a year ago, I’ve had to ask my two grown sons to step in far too often to handle chores I didn’t know how to do. A couple of months ago, I decided it was time to become more self-reliant. I put air in my tires, changed windshield wipers, got my Jeep serviced, and changed the A/C filters (which included cleaning what must have been 40 years of accumulated dust and grime, and is a story in itself) to name a few victories.
Painting my two-story townhouse last November however, presented a challenge I knew I couldn’t handle. But I could help as long as it required nothing more unwieldy than a seven-foot step ladder. My oldest son, Erik, chose caulking the first floor windows as my contribution. After he explained what to do, I thought, sounds simple enough.
Armed with the list Erik prepared, I purchased supplies. After I changed into work clothes, I muscled the ladder into place and received my first lesson in humility. How could it possibly take so long to tape window panes? And why couldn’t I find the caulk gun I knew I had? (After all, I’d seen it last year.)
So, another trip to Home Depot. At least I had the presence of mind to ask someone how to use the gun when, after several attempts, the workings remained a mystery to me. While he was at it, the paint clerk showed me additional features of which I had no knowledge. Like the little gadget that sliced off the tip of the tube (I didn’t have to find a saw after all). And the thin metal poker to pierce the membrane (Oh, you mean the caulk won’t come out if I don’t do that?)
Back in my grubbies, I was ready to get to it. Except, the directions said to apply caulk to a clean, dry surface. Even the power washing left a coat of dirt on the trim and window, which meant a pail of water with cleaning solution. That done, I climbed the ladder—again—to begin the real work. But, I forgot the spray window cleaner to help smooth the caulk. Thankfully, a neighbor had some she was willing to part with when I couldn’t find the bottle I knew I had.
I should tell you that I had a vision in my head of a thin and even white line as I squeezed the gun trigger. It didn’t match the reality of globs and spaces. Apparently my hands didn’t get the concepts of rhythm of movement, along with slow and steady on a trigger span designed for a small gorilla. Oh well, I figured the nifty little squeegee tool would even it out, and it did.
Except. In the process, I coated my hands with white sticky stuff that even Orange Goop didn’t remove (but the window did). Okay, I decided, gloves. Lots and lots of vinyl gloves.
And. I was sure I squeegeed off more than I left behind. Since I had already covered two wet rags with wasted caulk…paper towels. Miles of it, as it turned out—until I got smart and applied the excess with my fingers.
Of course, that meant my gloved hands deposited even more smudges all over the window. Which—you guessed it—didn’t wipe off with a wet cloth. (And what had me thinking it would, when I couldn’t get it off my hands?) Degreaser worked, though, adding more time for search and rescue.
Have I mentioned how many trips I made up and down the ladder?
At that point, I just hoped I’d finish that set of windows by Christmas, and I still had the bigger ones in the back. I might have sighed then, I’m not sure. Eventually I finished both sets, though, and learned a lot in the process. Let me share what—as a relatively organized and tidy person—I should have realized from the start.
- Inspect the project myself, and read How to Use directions, so I fully understand each step to take. Write them down if necessary.
- As a neophyte, don’t rely on instructions from an expert to cover everything important. What they know by second nature—and assume everyone else does—I have to learn.
- Make a list of every supply needed to complete each step.
- To avoid surprises in the middle of a project, gather everything I have on hand before shopping.
- Above all, maintain a sense of humor, and offer myself grace. I mean, really, does anyone think Jesus did everything perfectly on His first attempt? On second thought, scratch that example; maybe He did. Thankfully, He loves me anyway.
When I called a friend to whine, he laughed (can you imagine?) and told me, “Caulking windows is an art.” Surveying the smears of latex and silicone all over the once-green trim, on my clothes, in my hair, and even on my phone, I thought, huh.
Well, even Picasso had a learning curve, right? Besides, I’ve decided I really don’t want to use this skill all that often. Maybe ever.
I’d love to hear about new skills you’ve learned. What were some of your struggles? What did you get right? Please comment below.
Oh, Peggy. This made me laugh out loud! I can relate. I painted my study last summer. I thought it would take me a couple of days, tops. It took me all month, and I learned a lot about a task I used to do in my 20s and haven’t done in decades. It took me two days just to tape down drop cloths to protect the carpet. And talk about going up and down the ladder. I never used a roller before, and I didn’t know that if it makes a sucking sound when you run it along the wall, it doesn’t have sufficient paint on it. I must have painted the ceiling four times. It still didn’t look right, but I figure it must look better than it had.
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Your comments have me laughing right back. So happy to know I’m in good company when it comes to new “experiences”. Thanks, Andrea. And I’m sure your bedroom looks just lovely.
YouTube Peggy. Anything I am not sure how to do, I look it up on YouTube, watch someone else do it, and then I go m for it. I recently had to change the headlight lamp in my Kia Rondo. I opened the hood started looking at the area of the head lamp, and went oh crap, I had no idea how to access the lamp assembly. YouTube to the rescue. I did my search found a video, watched it. I spent more time running to the parts store than it took to remove the entire lamp assembly, which I would never thought to remove, replaced the build, and done. I use YouTube all the time for technology items also.
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Great idea, David! I’m learning about all the things I don’t know what to do. Oddly, I’ve used YouTube for other things, like decorating my stair banister garland with ribbon, but didn’t think of using that resource for this. Ha!
Oh, yes! Every new task is like that. Have been caulking our whole married life, but mostly bathtubs, sinks, and even our swimming pool! That was the most fun, bobbing around in the water, squirting clear plastic between the pool and pool deck – there was a big crack all around that let in bugs and other junk, so it needed sealing. Since the “caulk” was clear, you couldn’t see my mistakes. I always try to make those tasks fun. Once I painted the entire outside of our house with a brush while listening to books on tape from the library. I heard a lot of books! John helped with some high spots, but he was travelling much of the time. Kept me busy!
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I love it, Babette! And here I was feeling so proud of myself for my own small victory. You put me to shame. Thanks for sharing!
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Great article, Peggy, I think I would have hired someone. 💖
Great adventure, Peggy. I laughed and laughed. All can relate to this. John and I have helped remodel, with the help of family and friends, every house we lived in. You are the ultimate fearless woman to tackle such projects!
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Oh, Betty, thank you! I must admit writing this gave my sense of humor a boost, especially I started writing while the caulking was still a work-in-progress.