Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘perfectionism

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

Heavy Handed

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dscn5488eI haven’t quite mastered the art of using the loader on our tractor yet, but I’m gaining confidence. What that means is, I am able to make more mistakes quicker.

More than once yesterday I was heavy-handed on the lever and scooped too deep beneath the pile of lime screenings. We worked to spread most of the pile before the weather makes a season-long shift to frozen ground.

It’s the kind of thing that drives this perfectionist to major frustration.

dscn5490eOne way I get over it is to move on to the next time-sensitive task that needs to happen. Cyndie and I removed the canvas from the gazebo before the first accumulating snow falls.

From up close, I discovered the gory details related to the subtle lean the structure has taken on that has been visible for a few months.

My first inclination was that the soft wet ground had given in on one side, but now I don’t think that was the case.

It’s possible the horses pushed against one side. It’s also possible that an extreme wind gust applied enough torque to bend the frame. Thinking about it, the second scenario would seem to make more sense, because if it was the horses, I believe they would have pushed it even further. Or they would have pushed it again after the fact and compounded the damage.

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With daylight fading, I left the bent frame to be dealt with next spring and switched my attention to moving the deck furniture to our winter storage location on the back side of the house. It was the last thing I wanted to accomplish for the day.

Just as soon as I shed my outdoor gear to settle inside for the evening, Cyndie realized she needed her winter tires for a car appointment today. We store them on a shelf in the shop garage that gets accessed two times a year, so plenty of stuff ends up getting piled in the way.

Back outside I went. On the bright side, I was going to need to get the tires down anyway. I need to swap to winter wheels on the Grizzly and they are stored on that same shelf. Best of all, no additional problems turned up with my last two tasks so, no new added frustrations.

It feels good to have enough done that the impending snowfall brings with it no extra dread. The essentials have now all been handled.

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Written by johnwhays

November 21, 2016 at 7:00 am

Decisions Aplenty

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By the end of the weekend last night I was mentally exhausted. The chicken coop project was an exercise in repeating waves of cascading decisions. It was giving me a headache. Or maybe that was coming from the muscle fatigue in my neck and shoulders from all the power tool use overhead and at odd angles.

Over and over again I found myself trying to determine precise dimensions, proper positions, ultimate functionality, potential environmental stresses, and likely physical pressures the structure will face.

dscn5273eHow high should this be? What support should this have? Will this withstand stormy weather? How will I attach the next board? How will we enclose all the odd openings of our panel roof design?

If all that weren’t complicated enough, by the end of the day yesterday, when I couldn’t get the roof framework equally centered on all the walls, it occurred to me why all my calculations had me constantly confused. Building with scraps of salvaged lumber means working with a lot of warped, bowed, and twisted boards.

It was a great exercise for tempering perfectionistic tendencies.

“Close enough” became a common refrain that grew increasingly easy to accept.

There were so many little steps involved in finalizing the framing of openings in each wall and securely fastening the 4 walls to each other that I ran out of time for the ultimate reward of screwing the panels onto the roof. We got close, but finished just short of that milestone.

Guess what I can’t wait to work on when I get home from work today.

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Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2016 at 6:00 am

It’ll Do

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I have seen perfection. This is not it. I have witnessed the results of master craftsmanship next door at the lake place. First you flawlessly prepare the logs, then you apply coat after coat of tung oil to get a beautiful finish that will protect your logs from the elements.dscn5172e

I don’t have it in me.

Currently distracted with trying to do the necessary lumberjack work around here, tend to the all-too-frequent lawn mowing requirements, manage the unending supply of manure to be composted, fix fences, maintain trails, replace the ATV winch, cut the over growing pastures, rake the round pen, fill in the growing ravines in the paddocks, and work the day-job, I have elected to try getting away with doing an almost embarrassingly perfunctory job of patching the most needy bad spots on the house and shop garage.

If I actually execute this plan, it will be a big accomplishment of overcoming my perfectionistic tendencies.

Yesterday after work I ran a little test to see if putting the least amount of effort toward the task will produce a passable result. We have the advantage of already having plenty of cans of stain that were left by the previous owners, but I have no idea about the shelf life of this stuff, so the advantage comes without providing much in the way of confidence.

dscn5173eI followed up on a tip to use compressed air to help remove the old flaking finish, but quickly found my tank isn’t designed for the task. The pressure drops rather quickly, greatly reducing the effectiveness. After testing a few other methods, I settled on doing a rather superficial job of surface cleaning.

I was excited to find a stirring apparatus stored with the stain that I can connect to my drill for thoroughly mixing the product. The one half-filled can I opened looked fine to my untrained eye, so after a good stir, I dipped in a brush and started painting the stuff on the siding.

It may not look ideal and it probably isn’t going to provide maximum protection, but it is better than doing nothing at all, which was the option we went with last fall.

All things considered, I’m hopeful this effort will suffice for getting through another winter, at the very least.

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Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2016 at 6:00 am