by Connie Leblond
From the Editor: Connie Leblond is President of the NFB of Maine. She is a wife, mother, and businesswoman. Like the rest of us she tackles home-repair jobs around the house with varying amounts of enthusiasm. Here she talks about a recent project the completion of which left her both satisfied and relieved. This is the story:
Every home goes through renovations. Whether they are done by the homeowner or by contractors depends on the size of one's checkbook and one's ability to do the work. I have learned a lot about house repairs since we purchased our home in 1994. I had never painted, mowed lawns, fixed leaky faucets, laid linoleum, or applied caulking until then. The local hardware store employees are becoming quite good at describing various aspects of specific tasks to me. So it was when my son Seth and I decided to paint the ceiling in his room.
Seth, who is now seventeen and who has never shied away from a challenge, was a little skeptical when I informed him that we were going to paint his ceiling. There weren't many alternatives since the paint was chipping, falling, and creating quite a mess. My checkbook could not provide the monetary cure, so Seth and I had to tackle the job ourselves.
I made a list of the things I would need. We already had some tools since we had painted some exterior parts of the house the previous summer. The hardware store was the place to pick up a nine-by-twelve plastic sheet to cover the floor. That was the best size because it would collect all the debris. With paint, rollers, scrapers, paint pans, stirrers, and a positive attitude we approached the designated weekend for beginning our work.
Seth was on vacation from school, so he was available to help me. We began early on Friday morning. He had removed most of his furniture, so we covered what was left with drop cloths. With me on the ladder and Seth on a step stool, we began scraping the ceiling. At first Seth and I enjoyed the sound of the falling paint. We felt like a demolition team. We were not particularly affected by the dust we stirred up. Being able to keep our eyes closed was certainly an asset. But no matter how hard we tried, some stubborn parts of the ceiling just would not give up their paint. At one point I stopped to sooth my throbbing blisters and telephoned the hardware store. I explained our difficulty and asked what we could do to make the job easier. I was told that I should use sand paper to smooth the areas that were not coming down.
Time for reinforcements seemed to be at hand. I sent my husband Bob to the hardware store, and he returned with a sanding disk that attached to our drill. It was quite powerful, and, when I tried sanding, it almost threw me off the ladder. Seth took charge and quickly found the areas that required sanding by feeling the ceiling. The day was slipping away, and we both recognized that we could not go further with the project that day after the scraping was complete. We would wait until the next morning to begin the actual painting.
By the end of the day we really had scraped the ceiling. When I had first entertained the notion of doing this job, I had wondered if we would be able to do it. Work tools were not our only means of getting this job done, however. The philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, which for years has taught us to rely on our skills, our intuition, and our belief in the possibilities got us started and did not fail us. We really got to know that ceiling. We had also built on the foundation that our NFB colleagues helped us to create in ourselves.
After the scraping, I taped the molding so that the following day we could begin painting without delay. Seth asked why I bothered with the tape because, after all, the molding was white. I laughed and said that this was not the time to mention such a detail to me; the tape was up, and it would stay.
Saturday morning came, and I was anxious to tackle the painting. How bad could it be? I thought about the dimensions of the room and exactly where I would start and where I would finish. Because we had only one true ladder, I told Seth that I would do the actual painting. I began by opening the paint can, stirring the paint, and pouring it into the paint pan. I had my roller, my painting hat, and old clothes. I was ready.
Everything began quite well. It seemed that I would be done quickly. But, as I began using the roller on the final section of the ceiling, chips of paint began to fall--not just fall--they were sticking to my roller. The chips must have been moistened by the paint, and now they decided to wreak havoc. I was perplexed. Should I stop, scrape, or what!
I went downstairs to consult with my husband, who was busy meeting deadlines on a Web site he was developing, so I was certain he would be less than pleased to hear from me. He could see my frustration and went up to take a look. We decided to let the paint dry and get back to it the following day. Bob pointed out that there were two affected areas, and he showed me where they were located. We decided to scrape those two areas the next day, repaint the entire ceiling, and then do any touch-ups that were necessary.
Sunday morning Bob said he would sand and get things ready. He then began painting and just didn't stop. It wasn't that he felt he had to; he just knew how much more work there was, so he jumped in to help. When the painting was finished, which really didn't take long, we let it dry for a couple of hours. Now the entire family had taken part in this project, and we all knew the end was near.
Cleaning up was pretty easy. I have lots of experience with it. We sent Bob back to his desk before Seth and I rolled up the plastic room sheet, washed the paneling with Murphy's Oil Soap, removed the tape from the molding ever so carefully, folded up the drop cloths, and moved the remaining furniture out. After sweeping and vacuuming up all the debris, I washed the floor. Seth found the curtains we planned to put up and made sure the window shade was in place. Seth was anxious to arrange his room the way he liked it. By nightfall he and his possessions were back where they belonged.
It didn't make any difference to the successful completion of this project that Seth and I were blind. Bob's lending a hand was merely another family member pitching in. As a team we are pretty terrific. If I had to scrape and paint with anyone, I am quite pleased that it was Seth and Bob. But I have realized that I don't actually enjoy painting. For now I am hanging up my painters hat until I must do it again. In short, I will be delighted when my checkbook becomes my most effective tool for home repair. In the meantime I will be content to get the job done, assured that I can do it. There is always something to do when you own a home, so I think I will order some home repair reference books in preparation for the next job. I figure that, with those books and my monthly issue of the Braille Monitor magazine from the NFB, I have a winning combination.