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January 17, 2011 / Robert Ross

welcome winter!


It is January.  The Christmas decorations are down and put away. The house seems to expand and breathe easier with the banishment of the trees and garland. The exuberance of December vanishes as outdoor lights and decorations vanish from the streetscape. Winter descends darkly.

The height of the storm, 10:00 pm Sunday night, Atlanta

This year the normal routine was unequivocally eradicated by the arrival of a snow and ice storm that put everyone in lock down for about 5 days. Our tenuous connections to each other were electronic – television, phone and internet were our lifelines to the outside.  Streets were converted to sledding runs for the first couple of days, until ice rendered them too hazardous. Predictably, Facebook would begin humming about 3:00 with “Has anyone heard about school tomorrow?” This on top of the street and store updates posted by those brave souls who did make their way out. And, of course, all those great posts of photos showing a neighborhood and city thrust into an unexpected whiteness of being!

Instead of sliding silently and darkly into the new year, many of us were confronted with a reminder of what we moved south to avoid! The rapid chill-down also accelerated the seasonal adjustment of the house. Those of you privileged enough to live in older homes can appreciate this. As the heating system kicks on and reliably removes what little moisture there is left in the dry winter air, the wood that forms the skeleton of our home shrinks. This means everything attached to it has to adjust as well.

Rising Hinge Pin - never a summer issue!

Part of the winter cycle is the seasonal popping of those one or 2 face nails in the floorboards that were presciently perfectly positioned to snag socks.  Other symptoms include the annual mysterious loosening of screws on towel bars and cabinets, and the revealing of cracks in multi-piece crown moulding as the wood shrinks and the caulk stretches. One of our unique occurrences is the one hinge pin that annually rises 1/2″. I have been in other homes and noticed old door panels that were obviously painted in the summer as their previous finishes are made apparent by their seasonal shifting. Every winter I develop the habit of automatically reaching up and tightening the ball on another hinge pin every time I pass or it will fall off!

Needless to say, one of the theories about working from home is that you never are affected by weather events like this. HAH! With both kids and the spousal unit at home, the entire routine is disrupted. The peaceful transition times that usually exist are gone and instead replaced by the myriad of unpredictable and charming interruptions as the children individually stop by to visit Papa. A quick run to the kitchen for another cup of coffee becomes a 30 minute event as I get the rundown on everything that has happened while I was gone! Forget lunch at my desk.

Recognizing and bowing to the reality of the situation, I chose to take advantage of the first 2 days to sled and play.  During breaks to thaw out we managed to take care of some of those pesky pops and tightenings that have to be done. We also successfully accomplished knocking a couple of long intended mini-projects off the eternal “to do” list. The pause also gave me time to reconstruct a 3D puzzle recently rediscovered in a closet.

3D puzzle that helped consume 3 days

I am grateful to these little seasonal shifts. They help drive my business. Believe it or not, there are tool-challenged individuals incapable of handling the couple of necessary screw turns basic routine maintenance requires.  Because they don’t know how to use a screwdriver, they end up letting the towel bars or cabinet doors sag until they pop off. Rather than repair it themselves, they live with the situation until they can’t stand it any longer and decide it is time to redo that bath or kitchen, or maybe, just maybe….go ahead and add-on!

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One Comment

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  1. beth shorthouse / Jan 18 2011 10:33 am

    I loved this reflection, as I’m in the neighborhood and can relate to the entire situation. I’m very impressed with the 3D puzzle, but you are an architect, so perhaps it comes more easily to you…

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