Posted by: Andrew Reynolds | 03/26/2014

Wednesday Woodworking – The entertainment Center

Preparations for the electrical project are in full swing and I’ve had no time to work in my shop this last week.  Instead I dug through some older pictures and found this one that I haven’t posted of the entertainment center Heather and I finished a couple of months ago in its new home.  I did the cabinet work while Heather did the finish with three coats of brushing lacquer.  We like the way it turned out.  We have the new internet TV on top and the DVD, VCR, turntable and sound amp below.  The big empty spots are now filled with Heather’s collection of vinyl records and the drawers hold our VCR and DVD collections.

The only thing I wasn’t complete happy with was the fit of the drawers.  Yes, I know they look okay but I was trying for a level perfection I didn’t achieve.  It the kind of thing a guy like me thinks of.  Over all I am happy with it and think it’s one of my better works of cabinetry and the first time I’ve done drawers that I’ve let come into the house.  I find building drawers a bit difficult since I don’t build them much.  This time I felt I did alright.

Closeup of the cabinet and the equipment.  The top shelf is a pull out shelf with a turntable.  We just love our vinyl records.

Closeup of the cabinet and the equipment. The top shelf is a pull out shelf with a turntable. We just love our vinyl records.

Entertainment center with TV

Entertainment center with TV

 

Now that the prep work on the house is done and the construction crew arrives soon, I hope to sneak out for a bit of my own woodworking.

If you need me – I’ll be in the shop.

 

Posted by: Andrew Reynolds | 03/23/2014

Mothers

Today I stood in the sun on the green grass, with the gentle breeze flowing off the hill.  From my mother’s headstone you can look up and see the east foothills that my mother so loved to look at.  Today was the day my brother and I went to visit the gravesite – this month marking the seventh year she has been gone.

On the way home I remembered the kitchen of my childhood.  The frilly curtains had  yellow trim.  The cabinets were old pine, faded with age and turned to a golden honey color.  In the morning the rising sun shone through the southern window and reflected off the yellow tiled counter tops, flooding the yellow walls with a golden glow.  It was my favorite time to be in the kitchen – before the family was up and before the noise and tension of the day started.

I wish I could say that I had fond memories of that childhood kitchen, but not all the memories from there are good.  The warmth of the yellow glow hid the harder edges of an alcoholic home.  Before my parents were awake there was a brief time when all things seemed right in that little kitchen.

There was never any drinking in the house, father did that in the bars near his office, and we children never suffered physical abuse or neglect.  However, my father was emotionally – and mother claims even physically abusive to her (although I never saw it), but on the surface we seemed like a normal family.  Underneath were the fights, the yelling, the arguments, the tension and the fear that something worse could happen.

Father joined AA just as I was entering high school and stopped drinking but my parent’s marriage didn’t survive the trauma of years of alcoholism and co-dependancy.  They were divorced when I was just leaving high school.

My relationship with my mother suffered during this time.  She coped by leaving a lot – long visits with friends, vacations, jobs, etc.  Father ended up doing most of the domestic chores at home and I was in his care most often.  That coupled with the fact that I am nearly a duplicate copy of my father – intellectually, emotionally and physically we were nearly identical (Look at a photograph of us in our twenties and you’d be hard pressed to see a difference).  It made it difficult for mother not see my father in me and react to me the way she did to him.  Such are the scars of the disease.

These and other factors strained the relationship I had with mother her whole life.  Somehow she and I managed to hang on to our family ties and later in life we were able to move past some of the old pain.

This last week I was reminded of another important person from that difficult time growing up and another point of tension between my mother and I.  Helen, was one of the adult sponsors of an Alateen group I attended.  She was a strong women in her mid sixties when we first met.  In that group I mostly learned about dealing with alcoholism and life in general from the other teens in the group, but Helen and her husband, Gordon, were a special breed of people.  Loving, caring and willing to do almost anything thing to help.

Helen was also a strong-willed woman with a willingness to call it as she saw it and a great ability to force people to be honest with themselves.  Sometimes she came across as hostile, unfriendly and uncompromising, but I always knew her intent was to help.

And help me she did.  It would take a great many posts to list all the life lessons I learned listening to her stories or having conversations or just watching her help others.  I’ve lost track of the number of times she’d call a bunch of us teens to say someone needed help moving or cleaning, or needing a ride.  She never ask for help herself – it was always, “Mary’s car is broken, could you go over and see if you could fix it?” or “Dave has to move this weekend when can you come over with your truck?”

She was a kind of one woman welfare organization.  Need clothes?  Food?  A job?  Call Helen she’d fix you up.  She had extra clothes in her garage, would give you a meal and always seemed to know how and where to get a job.  She was also willing to discuss problems, talk through problems and suggest ways out of the messes we all got ourselves into.

I remember once when I was about 15 that I needed some new clothes.  My father was clueless and my mother was off touring Mexico at the time to run away from the terror that was my father.  At a meeting I mentioned that I didn’t know how to get my father to give me the money and wouldn’t really know how to go buy any clothes even if he did.

Helen didn’t even bat an eye when she said, “Your a size 16 collar right?  Stop by my house on your way home, I’ve got a few shirts I can give you and I think a couple of pairs of pants.  And when you get home just tell your father you need $200 for clothes, for God’s sake, how hard can that be?  Call me when you get the money.”

That was Helen.  She was also a very religious and spiritual person.  Well, and a bit profane too.  One of the few people I know who could motivate you into prayer by saying, “Well I think you should get off your god dammed ass and pray about that one.  The only one who will get you out of the crap you’ve gotten into, is God.”  and that’s the toned down version…  It might be odd to say, but much of what I know about God, prayer and spirituality I learned in smokey 12-step meetings preached by foul-mouthed ex-drunks.  Helen was just one you knew had a deep connection with the spirit.  She never said it in so many words, but by the way she lived her life you just knew.

During those difficult years Helen became something of a mother figure to me and gave me the love, teaching and care that my mother was unable to at the time.  I recall sending Helen a mother’s day card and publicly calling her my ‘second mother.’

I know that my mother was aware of this relationship and resented it, but mother couldn’t find a way to be there for me.

In time I moved on with life.  Helen’s brand of tough love got me past the rough bits of growing up, but in time I realized that I needed to move past that.  Over the years, I talked to Helen from time to time, exchanged Christmas cards, met her for a meal and ten years ago was privileged to attend her 90th birthday.  I tried over the years to tell her how much she helped me into adulthood and how often I still used her lessons.  I never did a good job of that but I hope what little I was able to express did find a way to her heart.

Last December Helen turned 100.

This month she died.

I attended her funeral this week and saw some old friends and was reminded of the difficult times when Helen and Gordon were my support and guides through life.

Today as I stood by mother’s headstone, looking to the hills, I remembered my mother – the bad times and the good times and all that she gave me.

How could I not remember two women who gave me so much in this life.

Till next week,
Andrew

Posted by: Andrew Reynolds | 03/19/2014

Wendesday Woodworking – small cross progress

With all the preparations here for the rewiring project, I haven’t had much time to work in my shop but I did manage a couple of hours.  Here’s the current progress.

 

Moving up - another hour and I'll need to drill more holes.

Moving up – another hour and I’ll need to drill more holes.

Broke two blades on this little section.

Broke two blades on this little section.

 

I don’t know how much time I’ll get to work on this over the next week but I’ll get at least enough time to finish the section I am working on.

If you need me – I’ll be in the shop.

Posted by: Andrew Reynolds | 03/16/2014

Of Droughts and Kites

In my post, Two-Years, I listed a few things I like to do in the next two years.  Thought I’d bring you up to date on my progress. So now I boldly revisit the list I presented two months ago:

Find a new energy source for my writing:  Not done.  Still using the old generator which is why you’re still getting second-rate posts.

Do more marquetry work:  Fail. Haven’t cut one piece but I did change the blade on my marquetry knife and bought new scroll saw blades.

Sell a piece of my wood work:  Actually managed this.  Sold one of my crosses at a church auction.  At this rate I’ll sell three pieces more before the decade is out – four if I really start to focus on this.

Discover a way to retire early:  I have put some work into this, but so far moving into a cardboard box hasn’t been appealing.  Although a friend at the office thinks I could afford a small steel shipping container – all I need is a place to park it.  After all, he reasoned, I know how to pack one.

Improve my health:  I’ve been doing a lot of weight lifting lately (boxes, furniture) and haven’t felt the need to call an ambulance.  I guess that’s good.

Laugh more:  I do laugh from time to time. Not often and sometimes not out loud so it’s a bit hard to measure at this point. I think I smiled twice last week.

Fly a kite:  I haven’t bought one yet but did do a search on Amazon once and was overwhelmed by the choices. I did suggest to one of my co-workers that he go fly a kite, but suspect that he misinterpreted my real underlying friendly meaning.  Perhaps if I hadn’t been gritting my teeth at the time…

Stomp in more puddles: Well, I wanted to, but now I’ll have to settle for metaphorical puddles as California is now facing the worst drought its seen in 150 years.  The few times it has rained this year haven’t resulted in a puddle big enough for jumping in.

Actually the drought has been on my mind a bit these last few weeks.  The good part of the drought is that we’ve been able to move up the dates of the work on our house.  Part of the work involves removing parts of the roof – something best done in dry weather.

But the dry weather brings other problems.  Much of California is semi-arid grasslands with large expanses of desert.  Modern human activity is only possible because we have damned rivers, created systems of pipes, pumps and canals to move the water around.  We’ve gotten very good about storing what little rain and snow we get and then moving it to the farms and cities where it is consumed to grow crops and wash our dishes.

The nearly 40 billion dollar agricultural economy in California wouldn’t be possible without irrigation.  This year the federal water project has announced that farms can expect no water deliveries.  The state isn’t delivering much and most farmers will have to depend on what well water there might be.  This drought threatens the state with recession again as many farmers won’t be planting crops at all.

In the cities we might fare a bit better as drinking water gets a priority over farming (well most of the time).  Many areas are already asking for voluntary 20 percent cut backs in water usage to conserve what water is left in our reservoirs – many of which are less than half full.  In my city we have a large aquifer that feeds our wells and we can tap part of San Francisco’s water stored in Hetch Hetchy.  We’ll do okay but we expect that by fall the water district will be imposing water rationing along with increased prices and general wailing and gnashing of teeth over lack of water.

This isn’t the first drought I’ve lived through but it is shaping up to be the worst.  The first drought I remember was in the late 70’s and that one brought about an awareness of water usage that led to a major effort to reduce water usage.  Low flow toilets, water efficient appliances and drought resistant plants are now a standard part of our lives.  People hosing down their driveways or washing their cars are looked upon as evil wasters of water.  Soon you’ll start to see dry lawns, dirty cars and dusty driveways.

All this water worry turns the thought of even jumping into the metaphorical puddle into a deep worry about the future.  The child in me would like to pretend there are puddles everywhere that I can joyfully splash in – getting my shoes wet and water all over my brothers.  Puddles where I can enjoy childlike abandon and indulge in carefree exploration.

But watching the dry heat rising from the pavement puts my adult mind in full worry mode.  What happens if the rains don’t come next year?

Perhaps it’s time to go order that kite.

Till next week,
Andrew

Posted by: Andrew Reynolds | 03/12/2014

Wednesday Woodworking – typing table

Preparations for our upcoming house work is in full swing and has left me very little time to work in the wood shop so instead I offer this photo of what I consider my first woodworking project.  I built stuff before this but that was all school projects or things that had full adult supervision.  I built this typing table when I was 14.  It was built from shop scraps and finished with stain and varnish.  I have always been surprised how well the finish has held up over the 40 years since I built it.

Why did I build it? Well that’s a long story I’ll tell one day but the short version is that I had taken a typing class in the 8th grade and my father bought me a used manual typewriter.   The height of my desk wasn’t right for typing so I measured a typing table at school I liked, went home and dug out some wood and a skill saw.  A few cuts, some glue, nails and can of varnish and I had a table that I used for about twenty years as a typing table.  These days it does duty as a hallway table.  It’s not exactly fine furniture but it’s mine and I built it.

My typing table

My typing table

My typing table in the storage unit with all the boxes I moved behind it.

My typing table in the storage unit with all the boxes I moved behind it.

 

If you need me – I’ll be in the shop.

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