Wednesday, December 6, 2017

#MeToo - #HowIWillChange

I used to write more of my thoughts on this blog. It was the place I came to in order to truly express how I feel. It was truly like an online journal. But as I've grown older, I have become more cautious of what I say, where I say it, and to whom I say it. The internet has grown into a place of oversharing and trolling - somehow, the perceived anonymity of a screen seems to give everyone free reign to dump all of their thoughts and feelings out there, often disregarding tact and other social niceties. In addition, I feel (as many do) somewhat of a desire to project a certain persona and maintain my "personal brand." Quite often you see people's education or careers put in jeopardy based on things that were published online, so there is a desire to protect oneself from potential ramifications to education, career, and relationships.

As a result, I find I am less willing to put myself out there, to share more of my thoughts and feelings. I'm not sure if that is a result of what I mentioned above, or if it is just a side-effect of getting older. Either way, I am much more cautious of what I say and how I say it.

But today, Time Magazine posted their 2017 Person of the Year article, and I need to talk about it. If you have not read it yet, you can probably guess by the title of my post, it is not one person, but those whom Time calls "The Silence Breakers." Those who sparked the recent #MeToo movement, and broke open the floodgates of sexual harassment and assault stories.

It is sad and scary to realize how many stories there are. To realize how many women have felt and continue to feel victimized by men. To hear friends and colleagues put themselves out there and share their deeply personal stories on social media. And to realize that there are more stories left unsaid, because many are still too scared to share. They fear backlash, retaliation, and criticism if they share their personal experiences.

I am a father of three little girls, and every day they are in this world, I see more and more of what they are up against. It should not have taken having three daughters, and a whole online movement, to make me realize my complicity in perpetuating a culture of sexual harassment, abuse, and discrimination against women. As men, collectively, we need to change the narrative.

In response the the #MeToo movement, Australian journalist Benjamin Law suggested a new hashtag, to allow men to publicly share their commitment to ending the culture of sexual harassment, abuse, and discrimination: #HowIWillChange.

I hope that nothing I have done has ever made a woman think #MeToo. But I have laughed, or (more recently) awkwardly nodded and smiled when people tell sexist jokes, I have interrupted female colleagues in a meeting and not male colleagues, I have "mansplained" something while assuming I had the superior knowledge, and in general I have tolerated sexist talk from others. No more. I will speak up and be straightforward. I will listen more and talk less. I will take Sheryl Sandberg's advice from her book Lean In, and be an advocate for women in the workplace. I will give my daughters a good example of the type of man they should expect to be around, so that they refuse to tolerate bad behavior. In short, I will do everything I can so that no one will ever think back on an experience with me and need to say, #MeToo.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Lighting Final (3 of 3)

With the exception of buying new dome lights and replacing them (which will take about 5 minutes per light), we are done with lighting changes. Finally. First off, if you haven't seen my other lighting posts, check out number 1 and number 2.

In my last post, I posted about the chandelier, as well as painting one of our fans. So first off, I finished the second fan. The first two times I painted light fixtures, I left them up on the ceiling, then just taped off around them. Spray paint fumes aren't fun, though, so after the success of my chandelier wiring (see post 2), I decided to unwire the fixtures and take them outside to spray paint. That went much more smoothly (though a bit difficult getting the fan back up on the ceiling - the wiring part was easy - the actual mounting proved a bit tricky). Here are the before and after of fan #2.

Next, I decided to tackle the bathroom lighting. As I mentioned in post #1, we had that Hollywood lighting in all our bathrooms, and I was looking for something nicer. So I purchased Hampton Bay Andenne light bars, via eBay and Amazon. As with most things you buy from sources like that, there were a few hiccups and a couple trips to Lowe's for additional parts. The half bath and the upstairs bath were both fairly straightforward. Turn off electricity, remove bulbs, pull out bulb holders, pull off face plate, then unscrew mounting plate from junction box, unwire light.

Then do it in reverse. Install mounting plate (though that was actually trickier than expected - I had to get creative with how I connected it - in the end, I bought different mounting plates than were supplied with the lights), wire light to wires in wall (also tricky with one of the lights which, turns out, was missing a wire - dang eBay) - black to black, white to white, ground to ground. Finally, attach light fixture to mounting screws and secure, pop in bulbs, turn power back on, and voila: light!

Half Bath

Girls' Bathroom
I still need to patch and paint, of course (stupid painting). The tricky part was when I decided to do the master bathroom, and replace one big (eight-light) light bar with two three-light fixtures. Because there was only one junction box originally, I had to move it and install another one. Which also meant running wire through the wall. I basically followed all the steps I found in this blogger's post...mostly.

Because you see, when I decided where to put the lights, it just made sense that I would want to put them directly over the sinks, right? Well, I should have double checked that they would FIT right over the sink. Cuz...they didn't. Here's the process:

1. Remove Lights / Cut Giant Hole in Wall and Holes in Studs / Put New Wire in Wall

2. Put Junction Boxes in Place / Pull Wires Through / Start Patching Drywall
3. Finish Putting in Drywall Pieces

4. Tape Drywall Joints

5. Mud Drywall (Not Pictured: Sand a Ton and Get Dust Everywhere

6. Attach wires to light fixtures, turn back on breaker, screw in bulbs, switch on lights, realize left lights aren't working, take everything apart and put back together and then apart again, realize one of the wires was loose, reattach everything again, then sing hallelujah when all the lights come on

7. (Not Pictured) Cry when you realize you should have held up the light fixtures to the wall before you did all that work, so you would know in advance not to put them too close to the wall, since the window shades won't fit where they are

8. Take everything back apart, cut some more holes, move the lights over a few inches, go through the whole process again, and breathe a sigh of relief that it's all done

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pedal Board for Aaron

My brother-in-law is a musician, and plays the guitar really well. He also has a lot of pedals for his guitar. Without some way of organizing them, they can get a little unruly. A few months back, he sent me a couple pictures of pedal boards and asked how hard they might be to make. Me being me and loving a challenge, barreled straight ahead and volunteered to take a crack at it.

So I did! Here are the pictures he sent me of a design he found online:

It has a bunch of holes, so you can zip-tie the pedals in place, and places for the cords to go too. Once I had the drawing, I printed it out poster style to the right dimensions, and cut it out to show my brother-in-law, as it was pretty big. Wanted to make sure that's what he was looking for. It was. 

I taped it to the plywood I was using, and got to work with the jigsaw and sander.

P.S. I had to make those saw horses before I could get started on the project, because I didn't have any. I also needed them for something else anyway, so this just made me get it done.

I couldn't find anything similar to the metal brackets that were in the original pictures, so I ended up cutting some 2x4's at an angle, and then cutting those in half to give me two supports for the top piece. Also, I didn't get a picture of it, but I only printed the paper template once, so I had to use it twice. Once to cut out the lower deck from the plywood, and a second time to cut out the upper level piece (I had to cut up the paper template to do it).

I routed the edges and sanded them a bit so some of the top layer came off, making a cool-looking feathered edge to it. Then I drilled. I drilled a TON of holes. I did count, but I forgot how many there were. It was around 150-200. Yeah. I drilled all the ones in the picture here by hand, before I was able to borrow a friend's drill press for the rest. That made it a zillion times better.

I finished it off with a coat of natural stain, and a couple coats of polyurethane, the night before we left for our mini-family reunion.

My brother-in-law was pleased. He's already making good use out of it. I showed this to a co-worker who plays as well, and he got really excited, wanting to do something like it for himself.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Window Blinds

In addition to the roller blinds I made (see my previous post!), I also ordered and installed some custom blinds for the window next to our front door, and for the giant window on our landing. They were actually super easy to install. The front door blind provides privacy, and the giant window blind provides protection from the summer heat (that window heats up our upstairs more than anything else), as well as privacy from the neighbors.

No pre-install picture, but you can see how
we didn't have any privacy without this blind
This is pre-blinds on the big window (46" x 92")

And here is the window with the new blinds

Friday, May 26, 2017

More Lighting (2 of 3)

So...I've been slowly chipping away at painting the trim, and every so often going off and doing some side projects. One of those has been lighting. My last post showed how I used some spray paint to experiment with updating a gold light fixture. Well, this time I actually did some electrical work. 

Have you ever heard of the ReStore? Habitat for Humanity has a store with second-hand and unused building materials and furniture, including things like light fixtures, at much lower prices than you would find in a hardware store. It's not good for everything, but it's worth checking out. They had a whole area for chandeliers, and we found one that would wonderfully replace our ugly gold one for just $60 (it was one of the most expensive chandeliers there). We got some other things that weekend, and they were having a storewide sale, so it actually ended up being $48. night when Kristen was at Young Women's, I decided to pull out the extension ladder, climb up it carrying a heavy chandelier, and wire it into the ceiling. It ended up taking me a lot longer than I'd hoped, because I had to rewire it after I'd gotten it on once. The threaded post it came with was too short, and I needed to switch to the one from the gold chandelier instead. Here's the old chandelier:

And the new one:

I also didn't have enough lightbulbs at the time, so you can see there are two missing. But success! And no electrocution!

I also switched things up with some other light fixtures. I painted another gold dome light (similar style to the one in my last post), and also did this fan. I don't have a wide shot of the before, but this at least shows the color difference. The metal portion is a bronze, and the blades a light brown. I used some of the paint from redoing the cabinets for the blades, and the satin nickel metallic spray paint. I think it looks awesome. :) One fan down, one more to do. 

And in case you're wondering the kind of paint I used, here it is. Rust-Oleum Metallic Paint and Primer in One - Satin Nickel (I actually painted over the top of the silver paint I used in my last post with this stuff - it looked better for the lights). And Dark Chocolate Milk Paint from General Finishes with a Gel Topcoat for the blades (two coats of each).

Monday, February 6, 2017

Lighting (1 of 3)

I am currently working on updating all of our outdated trim, and it's taking longer than expected. I also want to paint the walls before I reattach said trim, so it may be a while before I have something substantial to post on here.

Also, I've been getting a little disheartened that it is taking me so long to finish this project, and I've been having a tough time staying motivated (which just drags out the timeline more). So I thought there might be some "quick wins" I could attempt that would help keep me motivated. Here is the first one.

Our lights are outdated. And gold. Yup, gold. We have a few dome lights, some mushroom lights, and a globe or two. In the bathrooms we have hollywood lighting.

Needless to say, updating the light fixtures is on our list, though it won't be for a while.

Anyway, I found a tutorial that talked about using metallic spray paint to update your fixtures (take off the glass and light bulbs, put up paper on the ceiling around the light and around the internals, then spray). Since I am already planning on replacing them, and I just happened to have metallic spray paint in my cupboard, I thought, "Why not?" Here are the results of my 15-minute experiment. What do you think?

I like it, but will probably grab a can of "satin nickel" for any other updates (ceiling fans??) instead of the "silver" I used here. I think this is a little bright.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Kitchen Cabinets

This is a follow-up to my last post on the bathroom cabinets. Redoing those gave me courage to refinish our kitchen cabinets. We have a big kitchen. I counted our cabinets, and we have 11 drawers and 27 cabinet doors, so this was a big undertaking.

I had some time off of work coming up, so I planned to get it all done during that time. I almost did it, too. If only the sanding had taken less time. I only planned for one day of sanding, but ended up taking three.

The process was essentially the same as the bathroom cabinets. First I took all the doors and drawer faces off, then the hinges and handles (which ended up taking about two hours just for that). This time I left the slides on, though, because the soft close slides take a lot more effort to take off / put on than the ones we have in the bathroom. Then I sanded.

All the doors and drawer faces off and sanded (along the wall)
I bought a quarter sheet sander, and spent three part days (about 4-6 hours each day was all I could take) sanding the cabinet doors and drawer faces, and then the faces of the cabinets themselves. It was quite an undertaking, and I listened to the cast recording of Hamilton about four times. Kristen helped me wipe them down, then I taped down plastic to the dining room and living room floors where the drawers/doors would be.

My original plan was to do two coats the first day - one first thing in the morning, and then one about 8 hours later. However, the first coat ended up taking me about 5 hours, instead of the expected 2-3, so that was out. I did the second coat on day 2 (took about 3.5 hours that time), then took a break on day 3 and did the third coat on day 4 (about 2 hours). I then finished off with the final coat on day 6 (about 2 hours).

After one coat
Four coats, before I painted the sides of the cabinets
I let them dry for five days before applying the two top coats. I decided to apply the finish on one side and let it dry before flipping it over, instead of using the painter's pyramids to do both sides in one pass. That way, there would be no marring of the finish from handling it (though it added some time). I originally wanted to finish the cabinets before Christmas, but that didn't happen. So then I wanted to be done before we left for Portland on the 29th - also didn't happen. But I did get two coats on the front and one coat on the back before we left. After we got back to Minnesota, I did the final coat and reattached everything.

Shiny topcoat v. no topcoat
Now, I also have laminate portions of the cabinets. Instead of real wood, they put up laminate on the some of the sides. For that, I put on two coats of General Finishes Milk Paint (the Dark Chocolate color matches their Java Gel Stain), then added a couple topcoats of the polyurethane gel (even though the paint says it doesn't need a topcoat). And there we have it - refinished kitchen cabinets! Here are a couple angles.