Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘perfectionism

New Door

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Back in May, Cyndie and I ordered a replacement storm door for our front entry. We were told the lead time was going to be 90-days. Happily, they surprised us by calling me while I was on my bike trip to say the door was ready for pickup much earlier than expected. I forwarded the message to Cyndie in case she might be able to swing by and get it before I got home.

The good news is that she was able to pick it up and save us a lot of money on a delivery charge. The bad news is that she forgot to pick up the handles. We didn’t pay for professional installation so that adventure landed on me. It was only supposed to be a couple of hours of work but it took me two long days.

It will be time well spent because we were both growing increasingly irritated with the old storm door that had broken antique-looking handles, sagged on its worn hinges, and didn’t latch well without a manual assist.

Yesterday, after the errand to pick up the handles, I resumed the struggle of getting the frame mounted into the imperfect dimensioned opening so that the door would swing and close without obstruction. Minor modifications were required. I also needed to ad-lib a seal along the width at the bottom.

It was a massive effort of suspending my perfectionistic urges and allowing for “good enough” to carry the day.

The best reward came to me from hearing Cyndie report being happy with the way it looks. Now, if I can adjust things so it requires no assistance to close completely and also seal tightly, I’ll have achieved the jackpot of having it both work well and look good! Double bonus!

Too bad I will still remember the steps in the instructions that I couldn’t get to work as they intended. I’m going to try reframing my creative workarounds as icing on the cake of simply having a door that works.

Figuring out how to dispose of the old door and all its worn parts will become a project for another day.

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Written by johnwhays

June 30, 2022 at 6:00 am

Position Precision

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Perfection is my nemesis and often complicates attempts to make quick progress on starting a project. Soon after I first started thinking about improving the way firewood is stored up at the lake, I was in a quandary about making the first cut of lumber to enact my plan. Obviously, I got past that.

Now I’ve got all the pieces staged and it’s time to start assembly. With four blocks for footings, I just need to set them in position. Simple as that.

I wish.

Is it square? Square to what? Level is easy, referencing a floating bubble, but square is a bit more difficult to ascertain. I start to doubt my visual perception after placing a board against what I thought was an acceptably positioned block to then find it is far out of line with my ultimate intention.

Getting the first block established finally provided a reference I could work from to place the other three. I am choosing to leave the ground sloped and support the right side of the shed on posts, but the exact mechanism is yet to be defined. I changed my mind twice already and the second time was after I thought I had the blocks in place.

I need to reposition them one more time.

When I get the two blocks on the right side ultimately located and leveled, construction should be able to commence at a reasonable pace, with just one hitch. It occurred to me this morning that I neglected to bring up any spare lumber.

While unsuccessfully trying to avoid waking my brain up too early this morning, I conjured up an improvement on the technique I had in mind to support the right side on posts. All I need is another plank or two of treated lumber and I’m set. D’oh!

I will use one of the cut pieces intended for the floor and bring up a replacement board for that one next weekend when we come up for Labor Day.

Before I get to any of that, I need to perfectly position those two blocks on the right end of the frame.

Here’s hoping I will allow myself to settle for good enough.

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Written by johnwhays

August 28, 2021 at 8:33 am

Tool Marks

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I’ve reached the phase of my latest wood sculpting project where I’m happy with the shape and am ready to sand it smooth, but that goal is hampered by the straggling tool marks that remain. Each time I move to a finer grit of sandpaper, the next level of imperfections become apparent.

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I used a grinder to rough out the shape and then some rasping with a metal file to refine it before switching to hand sanding. Inevitably, there ends up being one bothersome spot where the previous tools went a hair deeper than anywhere else. That spot pretty much ends up defining the point of completion.

At least, in that spot with that grit of sandpaper.

Usually, as I move to the next finer grit, several new scuffs appear. Rinse, repeat.

It’s very meditative for my brain, despite becoming a bit of a burden on my aging arthritic grip.

If I don’t have a bright sunny day to illuminate the finest detail, I resort to a headlamp. Otherwise, it looks just fine the way it is to my old eyes.

The prefectionist in me would never settle for that.

While working to clear snow off the roof a few weeks ago, I resorted to repeatedly telling myself that perfect is the enemy of good enough. Any snow removed was better than none at all.

When it comes to a polished wood sculpture, my feelings are just the opposite. I can’t quit until tool marks are gone. At least, on the primary features, anyway. I grant myself some leeway where my design transitions from the rough unfinished bark to the smoothly shaped and polished wood grains.

I have the advantage of not being faced with time constraints in my sculpting projects. That makes all the difference, allowing me to work as fast or slow as I choose to reach the end result I seek, infusing love into the piece all the while.

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Written by johnwhays

February 16, 2021 at 7:00 am

Next Steps

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Blessed with another glorious day of blue sky and sunshine on a Friday, Cyndie and I returned to the deck refurbishing project yesterday. The temperature was a little harsh at the start but soon warmed to perfection. Even after I had removed all the screws from the set of steps we started on, I couldn’t get the boards loose until I figured out they were frozen in place. A little persuasion from a hammer was all it took to break the ice.

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I was grateful to have Mike’s power tools to create cut-outs on boards and lucky to have an old length of 4 x 4 in the shop to replace a rotted post on the railing of the second set of steps.

My perfectionistic desires are being seriously taxed by the difficulties of coping with inconsistencies in both the new wood and the old. I repeatedly measured twice before cutting and usually double-checked positioning before drilling in screws, but the results far too often failed to match my intentions.

Fortunately, my standards are loosening as the duration of this project drags on. I’m starting to view the imperfections as features. The misalignments are becoming quaint reminders of how much money we saved by doing this ourselves.

One example: I cut a new face board to go along with the replaced railing post and centered it on the middle frame board. After starting at the top and screwing in boards on each step, I discovered at the bottom that the middle frame board wasn’t actually centered between the ends.

I centered on something that wasn’t centered. Wonderful.

When one of my last boards with cut-outs was found to be off by a quarter-inch, I decided to simply cut an equal amount off the other end and have a symmetrical difference. Somehow, it still ended up lopsided once it was screwed down.

I swear, things move even after there are screws in place.

In the end, none of the small details I fret over will be noticeable to the casual observer. I’m practicing the art of being okay with the imperfections.

Maybe, just maybe, the end is within reach today. We are going to aim for that goal, especially since the weather is once again, perfectly accommodating.

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Weather Fatigue

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I succeeded in getting all our grass and innumerable dandelions mowed Sunday. I have one peeve about mowing this time of year, when the lovely yellow flowering weed is at its peak and starting to go to seed.

Do you see it? All that grass so freshly cut and one 10-inch dandelion stem sticking out like a sore thumb. There were others, but that one just stood out so defiantly, I couldn’t help but stop and take a picture. Then I snapped it off by hand.

Mowing dandelions can be a frustrating endeavor for a perfectionist.

Like the meteorologists predicted, Memorial Day was a total washout. It reminds me of two years ago this month when I had tried to host a day of cycling with friends in preparation for the Tour of Minnesota.

I captured this memory from that day:

I have gotten smarter about trying to make outdoor plans that prefer sunny, warm weather. I simply don’t make them. Yesterday, we responded precisely as a cold, rainy day deserves, snuggling back in bed for some extra reading and napping.

Pequenita was all in with that plan.

She doesn’t have a problem with this weather. Personally, I am getting worn down by this chilly rain pattern we have endured so far this spring. Sure, I wouldn’t mind if I could curl up and nap all day, but the landscape doesn’t stop growing just because it’s not sunny and warm outside.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and this trend will peter out by the time the bike trip kicks off in the middle of June.

It would help my frame of mind greatly if that were to happen because we are headed far enough north for this year’s route that cold and rainy could translate into a little sleety/snowy, if you know what I mean.

That would definitely exacerbate my current case of weather fatigue.

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Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2019 at 6:00 am

Brothers Reenact

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Continuing my tour through past posts, I found this old favorite. I love my family.

 

From April, 2011:

Now Then

I have already shared this with all of my siblings, and also with my Brainstorms community, so it almost seems redundant to post it here. However, I think it has a universal appeal for the novelty of capturing the similar poses and for the always interesting visual of comparative shots of people when they are young and when they aren’t as young.

I have been wanting to do this for a long time, but younger brother, David, lives up north and older brother, Elliott, wasn’t able to be at our family reunion gathering last summer, so getting the three of us together has been rare.

My family tolerated my attempts to try (probably too hard) to direct the shot to be exact. I thought Elliott should take off his glasses. He disagreed. I respect his opinion that they belong.

In the end, Elliott got in the ‘last word’ about my drive to accomplish a pose exactly the same as the first picture. I only had one image available on my camera when I got home, so after I pasted them together, I sent it out to the family asking if anyone had a better version. I noted that in this image, I didn’t have my shoulders squared to the camera, and with multiple photographers taking pictures, Elliott was looking at a different camera than this one.

Elliott sent this, in reply:

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Written by johnwhays

March 18, 2019 at 6:00 am

Not Logical

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For all the changes we have put in place since moving to this property in the fall of 2012, there are still plenty of things that we have left the same. One of them is totally illogical if you know anything about my penchant for clearing snow with almost neurotic precision.

The sidewalks from the driveway to the front and back doors of the house have a layer of river rock and stone slabs on top of the original smooth cement, providing an attractive rustic appearance.

We love how they look, but I gotta tell ya, they are the absolute worst when it comes to shoveling snow. It is illogical that I have kept them through the years, don’t you think? But here’s the thing: earlier in my life I would not have tolerated the difficulty of sliding the shovel to clear snow, yet in our time here, I have overcome that need for perfection.

It is unquestionably a hassle to shovel, but I have devised a technique that works well enough to get the job done. Basically, I turn our shovel over and sweep the snow out into a pile I can toss away.

The most significant thing about this really is that I have decided to accept it as not being a problem. It’s not logical.

That’s something of a milestone for me.

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Written by johnwhays

February 14, 2018 at 7:00 am

First Version

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Over the weekend, I completed a first version of the stick-fence backdrop for Cyndie’s perennial garden. The most significant accomplishment was that the thing didn’t completely collapse while I was working on it. It feels as if the whole construct is like a layout of dominoes that will fail in a spectacular cascade when any particular weak point happens to give out.

That leaves me a little timid about going back and trying to remedy some of the hollow spots that were a result of my trying to utilize existing trees for support every few yards. They complicated the simple weave I was otherwise employing.

Part if me wants the random imperfections, and part of me wants to see more consistent lines. I think the imperfections will win out, because that will allow me to do nothing more with it, accepting it as is.

Sounds like it will get a workout in the wind today, with gusts possible in the 40mph range. That should be a worthy test of the weak points.

With this phase done, Cyndie was able to begin redistributing the plants that have been smooshed up against each other all summer after the big mudslide from the neighbor’s cornfield last spring.

She made me laugh yesterday when she dug up a huge mass of something that looked like a tall grass and then wondered aloud about whether it was a “weed” or something she intentionally planted a couple of years ago.

We are into the second version of the garden now, while I am hoping a second version of the backdrop fence won’t be required for a very long time.

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

Periodic Maintenance

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That tree in our back yard which leads the way in changing colors is cranking it up to full blaze now that we have arrived within the month of September. This image doesn’t to justice to the view, because our sunlight was muted by the smoke of wild fires in Canada and the western U.S. most of the day yesterday.

I spent time in the morning consulting with a specialist from our county soil conservation office as he surveyed the situation where the neighbor’s tilled corn field is overflowing my silt fence. According to him, we have done all the right things for drainage on our property, adding that compared to other sites he reviews, our problems are not very significant.

My perfectionism sees it otherwise.

He did basically fault the neighbor, of whom I gathered he didn’t hold a high opinion. The best fix to hold the soil would be for the neighbor to plant hay in that field, instead of corn. I don’t have any idea if that is something I might be able to influence, but I will suggest it at the first opportunity.

On my end, I learned that the silt fence does require maintenance to remove material when it starts to fill, because he said it is obviously functioning as intended.

I will do that, but I will also add another short section of silt fence above it and then start building a berm of branches between the two, eventually creating a thicket of wild growing weeds and trees.

Since it is so late in the growing season, such a barrier will take a year to become the filter I envision, but just having the skeleton of tree limbs in place before winter will provide an additional place for the silt to build up and start a foundation for a natural barrier.

Looking at the drainage swale below our paddocks and across the pastures, the advice was to periodically reshape the high spots by digging those out as well. Funny me. I had it in my head that there was a one-time solution where I could shape the swale properly and then never deal with it again.

Why should it be any different from the periodic maintenance required on everything else?

Lawns need to be mowed, septic tanks need pumping, engines need oil changes, rugs need vacuuming, animals need feeding, relationships need tending. There aren’t many things that can be ignored indefinitely.

Land needs management. I guess I won’t argue with that logic.

Though, given that, seems to me that days need more hours.

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Written by johnwhays

September 2, 2017 at 9:04 am

Couldn’t Resist

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Obsessive? Perfectionist? Linear? I just can’t help myself.

Last night I was preparing the post for today (June 1st!), giving a shout out to the PBS program, “Food – Delicious Science,” and in my over-tired stupor, inadvertently clicked the “Publish” button a day early.

So what? Who would even notice?

I would.

It messes with my order. I figure the mistake was a good indication of how excited I was about sharing the word on the incredibly informative program. It may also be a way to nudge me toward observing and contemplating my incessant drive to maintain a regular order of one-post-per-day. Or, it could simply be a result of not getting enough sleep at a time when my poor little brain is under a lot of stress.

Regardless, without this silly little addition to fill in the gap, June 1, 2017 would have looked as though there was no post on Relative Something. An aberration! Now, you and I understand that wasn’t the case, but what about others who stumble upon this place? I have to consider them.

So, instead of letting it go and getting on with important things, I gave in to the urge to right the wrong. Think about that.

Happy (extra post) June first!

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That John W. Hays.

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Written by johnwhays

June 1, 2017 at 10:43 am