Friday, September 26, 2008

Channelling Helen Reddy

"If I have to, I can do anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am Woman." From the song, "I am Woman" lyrics by Helen Reddy, released in 1972.

This song was released when I was 9 years old. I always liked the song, but I don't think I had a real appreciation of the meaning of the lyrics until recently. The last couple of weeks, I've been singing the song out loud to motivate myself. You see, for the last few weeks, I've been in home reno hell in preparation for a visit from my cousins on October 7th.

My husband is a procrastinator. He has big plans...lots of them...they are still plans. Any home reno project we've undertaken has happened because I start them. I changed our master bedroom by reaching about his head one morning and starting to peel the wallpaper off the walls. We painted the living room when I started pulling the furniture into the middle of the floor, spreading newspaper and then carrying the all-ready purchased paint from the basement. When I get the project in motion, he pitches in full force.

We had been talking about replacing the wallpaper in the hallways and stairwells for 10 years. It was old. It was formal. It was falling off the wall on the landing. We had a couple of challenges. The landing is 1.5 stories, and I'm afraid of heights. We also didn't have a ladder tall enough to reach the ceiling. More daunting, the people who had the house before us were wallpaper morons. They didn't prep the walls properly, they lapped the wallpaper from one room UNDER the wallpaper to another and since we'd already stripped a number of the rooms ,we knew what we were in for. We were cowards...but now we were cowards with a deadline because I wanted it fixed before my cousins come. There's nothing like out of town guests to motivate home reno projects.

Our daughter had already pulled bits off the wall. On a rainy day when I was at a loss about how to entertain our fractious and bored 3 year old, I decided it was time. I got my wall patch thingie, told Vampira we were going to make a big mess...and started to pull the wallpaper off the walls. I pulled the wallpaper off as far as I could, and then let Vampira do the bottom part. She had a ball and we got quite a bit done. We were taking a break mid-afternoon when I heard the front door open and my husband calling "hello" and then there was dead silence...I had forgotten it was his split shift. Vampira and I stripped all of the wallpaper that we could reach, and then we let my husband and father in law do the top bits. A couple of days later, I armed Vampira with a spray bottle full of fabric softener and water and we attacked the backing. (it really works! We've tried everything in this house to get the wallpaper off without destroying the walls and this concoction does the best job.) She sprayed the low bits and I worked on the high bits and we stripped the walls and then turned it over to the men for the unreachable places.

That same weekend, I headed upstairs with a prybar, a garbage bag and my wall patch thingie. My husband followed me, a nervous and quizzical expression on his face. When I started attacking the floor in the bathroom, all his questions were answered. We had butt ugly peel and stick tile that was not sticking anymore. We'd bought a replacement; I was replacing it. When I discovered that my husband and father in law had peeled and stuck over an existing floor, the job doubled in size, and the first chorus of Helen Reddy sprang to my lips. As I pulled at the floor, I kept singing "I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman." My husband pitched in and we got the old floors up in record time. Later, my daughter sat on my lap peeling the backing off the new floor as my father in law measured and laid it. After all, floor tile are much bigger than stickers and easier to pull off.

When my husband went back to work, I was left with the task of continuing to patch the walls. The men had done quite a bit, but there was a great deal more to do. I couldn't get to the good stuff until the patching and sanding was done...and time was ticking. I swallowed my fear and climbed the newly purchased ladder, patcher thingie and bucket of patch in hand. I did all but the last foot nearest the ceiling because I simply could not climb another rung up the ladder, and, as some people had pointed out, climbing a ladder that high with only Vampira in the house was not the safest thing I've done in my life. I also sprained my foot 15 feet up in the air and had to gingerly ease my way back down. The patching got done around Vampira, but it got done.

I'm now into priming the walls, and I've been humming Helen again. My daughter now goes to pre-school two mornings a week, and I paint like a madwoman while she's there. My foot still hurts, so I've been staying lower down the ladder, but the ceilings haven't lowered. I was a fan of McGyver, and the edging at the ceiling had to be done. I taped a paintbrush to a stick, climbed a little way up the ladder, put the roller on a long pole and primed the wall from Hades.

I can't do the paint colour with a paint brush on a stick, so my husband will have to run the paint gauntlet at the ceiling. I can do the rest.

Moms find out fast that our job doesn't end if we're sick or tired. I've taken Vampira to the park when I had bronchitis so severe I could barely walk. I've been stripping wallpaper and priming walls around my daughter. I know how to work with her. I've got some medical things going on right now that might mean a hysterectomy down the road. Right now, I'm anemic. I'm tired...really tired but I keep going. (a healthy dose of stubborn doesn't hurt!) I have to keep going or things don't get done.

So I finally understand all the words to Helen Reddy's song. "I am strong. I am invincible. I am Woman." I will make it happen. It's what women do.

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