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.
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.
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.