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How do you stay mad at somebody who does things like that?

One of the challenges of renovating a place like Ye Olde Wreck is deciding what to perfect, what to merely improve as best you can, and what you just have to live with.

Sometimes it’s a matter of affordability. Sometimes a matter of priorities. Sometimes it’s simply about deciding to keep something because you fear that opening up that particular wall or floor or ceiling space might also mean opening a can of worms.

Such was the case with my kitchen window.

It’s another big, modern, vinyl window (the windows being one of three reasons the place seemed worth buying despite its horrendous drawbacks). But someone — and in this case I don’t think it was Jim Beam and Jack Daniel because the windows are clearly after their time — set it into the wall in a manner best described as kerflotchy. Or perhaps “completely freaking kerflotchy.”

Over its six-foot width, the window ran a very visible one inch downhill. Over its 28-inch height, it leaned inward an equally visible inch. Damn thing made my eyeballs itch.

But the wall it was on showed signs of once having had serious (repaired) water damage and I feared that if we pulled the window out we might find that the repairs needed more extensive repairs. So I was resolved to live with the maddening, but unimportant, problem of kerflotchiness. I just didn’t want to know. The wall and window were doing their jobs and that was going to have to be enough.

Until we built the front porch. Suddenly the nice new straight lines made the crooked window look so terribly wrong we had to fix it. Had to. No choice.

So that was yesterday’s big project, and it was clearly a Wandering Monk task, not a me task.


When he arrived — promptly at 8:00 a.m. — I was still furious with him over last week’s no-show. (Not the no-show itself, for which he had sadly good reason; but the no-notice part.) Sigh. It took about 10 minutes to realize it’s impossible to stay mad at the Monk, even when he’s crossed one of my biggest boundaries.

So he’s ripping the maze of old trim off the window. I’m in the kitchen and we’re chatting through the open pane. And I casually mention that I’d once looked into replacing the thing with a greenhouse window, but the cost ($1,500 without installation) was so outlandish I gave the idea up as quickly as it occurred to me.

“Well, I could make it into a greenhouse window,” he sez.


“Since I have to reframe it already, I could pull it out from the house and give you a nice shelf space at the bottom.”

And room for other shelves. And the look of a greenhouse window even if the sides and top are framed with wood and aren’t glass.

“You could do that?”

“Sure. Why not?”

So he did.

No other handyman I’ve ever worked with would actually suggest making more work for himself solely to fulfill a client’s random fancy. Had I asked any other handyman to make me a faux greenhouse window (which I wouldn’t have done), he’d have hemmed and hawed and informed me it was either impossible or was going to add a bazillion dollars to his bill. And all the while he’d have been thinking, “Crazy lunatic idiot woman.”

But the Monk not only comes up with the idea himself, but then spends his day in the hot sun cheerfully working out the many small and large technical problems as he goes. The main issue — supporting the big window without the entire heft of a wall underneath it — he had from the get-go (a 2×10, loooooong screws, and mini-corbels below the overhang). But there were still lots of questions of how to do the framing and flashing and waterproofing and such. And I could see him noodling these things in his head throughout the day. Some I helped him figure out, and I had fun coming up with a coolish design feature for the interior. But this was really all the Monk. My main role was spending three hours and half a gallon of Goof Off scraping old paint off both sides of the removed window while he framed.

And once that was done, the window slipped into position without a hitch. Then the Monk hung off the new structure to make sure it was as strong as he hoped. It was. And that was even without the corbels.

Oh, and we lucked out and didn’t find anything bad inside the wall. Not a thing.

I don’t have pictures because my new faux greenhouse window isn’t pretty yet. There’s a ton of work still to do inside and out. Trimming and caulking and flashing and drywalling and such. That’s my job and therefore will go slowly. So pix later.

But how can you stay mad at somebody who does things like that?


  1. Pat
    Pat August 29, 2018 6:43 am

    How old is the Monk? Where did he learn all this — do you know? He could be running his own business and teaching others.

  2. Joel
    Joel August 29, 2018 6:58 am

    Cool! Looking forward to the pix.

    But I’m having trouble finding a definition for “kerflotchy.” Which dictionary would that be?

  3. James
    James August 29, 2018 8:44 am

    From the sound of the word, I think it must mean “off, wanky, screwy, not plumb and level,” and so forth.

    Around here, people say “whopperjawed” to describe, I think, more or less that same condition.

    Myself, I failed to inherit my father’s gene for craftsmanship. I have none. Life being what it is, I often have to make things anyway. I end up describing them as “orcish,” because they look like something that Orcs might have made.

  4. larryarnold
    larryarnold August 29, 2018 8:47 am

    definition for “kerflotchy.”
    My father would call this “wonder construction.” As in, “I wonder how this goes together” after throwing away the instructions.
    My father-in-law was past-master of wonder construction, though it more often involved
    linking unrelated components he scrounged which showed up without instructions. OTOH he was a “measure twice; cut once” type.
    They were great friends for years before I got married. Have I mentioned lately how blessed I was in the family-selection department?

    He could be running his own business and teaching others.
    Read somewhere that running a business requires three people: A genius who supplies a product; a salesperson who sells the product; and an accountant who manages the business. Beyond basic competence, teaching is a lot more about how well you can teach than how well you know the subject.

    Damn thing made my eyeballs itch.
    That’s something I admire about Claire. Patience. I’d have bashed the $%&(^ thing out years ago.

    “Hate is always foolish; love is always wise.” Dr. Who

  5. Pat
    Pat August 29, 2018 9:05 am

    “Beyond basic competence, teaching is a lot more about how well you can teach than how well you know the subject.”

    Very true.
    Actually the Monk has the ability to think. To see a practical problem and know how to make something work to solve it. I’m surprised that someone his (apparent) age knows how to do that so well. It certainly wasn’t taught in school.

  6. Iwoots
    Iwoots August 29, 2018 10:32 am

    “Sure. Why not?”

    From 99% of the population = the same category as ‘Famous Last Words’ & ‘Here, hold my beer.’

    From The Wandering Monk & his fellow One Percenters = Fact.
    So Claire, to answer your question “How can you stay mad at somebody who does things like that?” – The answer lies not only in the quality of his work, but also in his humility.

    (Looking forward to the pictures.)

  7. Plug Nickel Outfit
    Plug Nickel Outfit August 29, 2018 1:05 pm

    I spent some time working with a small design and fabrication company where interesting descriptors would come up. One of my favorites was ‘rough as guts’. Another was ‘like a mad woman’s lunch’.

  8. John
    John August 29, 2018 9:16 pm

    Who really needs a dictionary to have idea what “kerflotchy” means?
    Wild speculation:
    The Monk may be stuck, mixed up in the self-vs- integrity, challenge?
    It’s a liberty thing.
    Some demand rules. A few try find other workable ways,
    because they know there is value to do so.

    If you, Claire, had not already spoken to his virtues,
    I would fast advocate he be fired.
    But, the win is in an unmapped place.
    Hope you both find a liberty win.
    I would hate if someone advocated for a law!

    It’s a test round of concept!

  9. Claire
    Claire August 30, 2018 5:35 am

    But, the win is in an unmapped place.

    It’s a test round of concept!


    The Monk read this blog post and comments yesterday while we worked. I think he got a lot out of reading everybody’s words, and we both benefitted from the way you guys opened discussion into that unmapped territory with him. That’s another plus — that he and I can talk openly about nearly anything.

    He really enjoyed lwoots’ remarks — though he wasn’t sure whether he was being called humble or the opposite of humble under the circumstances.

    Some of you also expanded my vocabulary most entertainingly. Like a mad woman’s lunch. Whopperjawed.

  10. Iwoots
    Iwoots August 30, 2018 6:33 pm

    Hope this clarifies my previous remark.
    Humble; not the opposite of, which would be a braggart.

    Unless I have completely misread the circumstances, I would describe the Wandering Monk as humble in the finest sense of the word.

    And Claire, somehow I doubt that you would you suffer a braggart, no matter how skilled he would be.

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