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DIY lesson #237684: Being stupid despite knowing better

I could barely drag myself outside to work to work this morning. Partly that’s because today’s goal was 40 feet of continuous gutter, including two downspout drops and two outside corners and two glued connectors. I was apprehensive about doing that. It’s the longest span and it’s not a one-person task. Partly it’s just that I’m ready for The Big Break, which I can’t take until Friday when the rains come.

At 10:00 a.m. I finally ran out of excuses. Out to the sunny south side I went. At first the main problem was me. I had the dropsies and the clumsies and the can’t-get-out-of-my-own-waysies. I spent more time descending the ladder to fetch fumbled tools and materials than I did climbing it to accomplish anything useful.

After a while I got a rhythm going. It was okay.

I was not-stupid, too. Around noon I took a long hydration and relaxation break before getting back to work.

By 2:00 p.m. I’d installed 30 feet and was down to fine tuning that stretch. By 2:00 it was also 80-ish degrees and any traces of blessed morning shade were long gone. I knew I was about due for another break, but I was in that “just one more measurement” or “just one more screw” zone. Yeah, I’ll stop after that one next thing, whatever it is. Except there that other next thing, you know …

At this point Neighbor J stops on the way to town, rolls down her window, and gives me a progress report on surgery Furrydoc just did on one of her dogs.

The first Thing That Gives Me A Clue is that I’m terribly annoyed with J. Why should I be annoyed with J? I like her. I like her dog. I’ve been crossing fingers for his successful surgery. I like talking with J. But in that moment, all I can think is, “Doesn’t she know she’s bothering me?”

The second Clueful Moment is when I realize that, while J’s making sense when she’s talking to me, I’m making none when I reply. I don’t think she noticed I was having trouble putting words together, but I sure did.

I dismiss her, probably rudely, and go inside. By the time I get to the kitchen, I don’t have whatever monumental strength and cleverness it takes to pour a glass of iced tea. I remember the steps, but they’re too much for me. I have to sit down and put my head between my knees after every step. Glass. Sit. Tea from the fridge. Sit. Get up and dash cold water on my face. Sit. Sweetener. Lean my elbows on the counter and breathe. How long does it take to finally get to the ice? Can I crack that plastic tray so it’ll yield those precious cubes? Do I have what it takes?

I finally manage to work my way though all those terrrrrribly difficult steps, drop into a recliner, and nurse my overcooked body.

It doesn’t take me long to realize I just had a ridiculously close call. Had J. not stopped, I might have done something even more dangerously stupid. When she returns from the vet, I email her a thank you.

I can excuse myself by saying we don’t get that many 80-degree days and I spend even fewer of them laboring away on the most exposed side of the house. Still … I knew better.

I took it moderately easy for a while, then went back and installed the last 10 feet of gutter — which was on the now-shaded east side of the house. Other than my hands cramping, which they tend to do these days from too much tool-using, everything was just fine.


  1. larryarnold
    larryarnold September 5, 2018 10:42 pm

    1. a midday or afternoon rest or nap, especially as taken in Spain and Latin America.

    Or Texas. I bet they work in the Northwest, too.

  2. Pat
    Pat September 6, 2018 12:19 am

    More than a siesta, you need a good, old-fashioned vacation, Claire.

    “It doesn’t take me long to realize I just had a ridiculously close call. Had J. not stopped, I might have done something even more dangerously stupid.”

    Yes… And you’ve been psyching yourself negatively for this job. You’re nearing the end (of the exterior) so you’re pushing yourself to finish. You’re now working alone which is both harder and scary because of the nature of the work. And you’re just plain overworked.

    But this is your house, you’ll be in it for life, and there is no rush. RELAX! Stop and think of your accomplishments. Organize the photos and revel in how far you’ve come. Plan the next (interior) projects — and resolve to march forward more slowly.

    Money, health, and house have been on your mind for several years. Now age is taking its toll as well. Sorry for that reminder, but speaking from experience, now is the time to start pacing yourself, don’t wait until you HAVE to slow down and become frustrated with how to cope. It’s a psychological thing — you can beat it by working with it, not fighting it.

    And congratulations on a job well-done so far. You can be proud!

  3. Claire
    Claire September 6, 2018 8:03 am

    I’m not sure we “do” siestas here in the PNW — though I definitely feel the temptation.

    And Pat, you are spot on about what’s happening, why I’m pushing so hard, and what I need to do.

    Today, at least, my work will consist entirely of puttering. I’ll touch up some paint and install a couple of downspouts but make no big push. And I’ll think about how to get the rest of the exterior work finished between the rains.

  4. Mike
    Mike September 6, 2018 9:34 am

    You may or may not know it but all the symptoms you described in this post show that you were suffering from heat exhaustion. Claire you are one lucky girl, the worst thing about heat exhaustion is how easy it can sneak up on a person and turn into a heat stroke. I’m glad you got through it in the end and for future reference when you get a combination of some or all of these:

    Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration)
    Muscle or abdominal cramps
    Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
    Pale skin
    Profuse sweating
    Rapid heartbeat

    It’s time to get out of the heat, drink fluids but nothing with caffeine (including tea) or alcohol, and generally try to cool down. That means removing any tight or unnecessary clothing, having a cool shower, bath, or even a sponge bath and anything else you can think of to get your temp down.

    Take care Claire, good bloggers are hard to come by and I don’t really want to find a replacement for your blog.

  5. M
    M September 6, 2018 9:40 am

    Yeesh. Glad to hear it was just a close call.

    I’ve got several tractor tires to get changed, and the previous owner SO very helpfully ballasted them with the green antifreeze, so I can’t in good conscience just dump it…So that means a few hundred pounds each of wheel/tire/antifreeze combo to remove, get onto the trailer, and get to someone who’ll do the right thing with it all.

    Thank goodness I’ve got the National Weather Service to remind me the heat index is well over 100. 😉

    As for siestas, you could always start the tradition. I work a heck of a lot better in the evening than during the day…

  6. Comrade X
    Comrade X September 6, 2018 10:12 am

    I agree with Mike, sounds like you were headed towards heat stroke.

    Hydration should be done before, during, and after not just at breaks.

    I’ve seen it get people before and when we recognized it, it was too late, 911 time, be careful, plan out your hydration like you do everything else with your project.

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