Not All Is as It Appears

Like several other babooners, my folks grew up during the Great Depression, and considered themselves very lucky to get to college, which is where they met – Iowa State Teachers College (now State University of Iowa). They were “upwardly mobile”, and worked hard to be able to eventually own a nice house in the midwest, and be solidly part of the middle class instead of the lower.

When I came home with a hippie-looking guy, they didn’t balk too much. (I think they were still relieved that I was no longer with Wasband.) They were glad when we finally got married, but they had to travel to some unusual places to visit us (and their only grandchild) those first 5 years – a farm outside Winona; a big old 1885 house with carriage barn in Winona; married student housing in Muncie, IN; and back to old Winona house. It was about that place that we had an interesting discussion.

Dad couldn’t see why we would buy such a shabby looking house. Admittedly, we bought it because of low price – it was a fixer upper for sure – and we had more time than money then, as Husband was doing part-time teaching at Winona State. Like all good “hippies”, we had some very shabby used furniture mixed in with a few genuine antiques, which must have reminded him of leaner times as a child. When they saw the “before” version, it looked like this:


But eventually we painted the exterior, replaced radiators with central heat, put in a fuel efficient furnace (some of these were covered by a block grant”), stripped painted woodwork (seven windows/doorways) in one room down to clear pine, and repapered or painted four rooms, getting rid of the black/gold flocked wall paper in the foyer. I’ll never forget how satisfying it was when the folks visited after we were all finished:

My dad looked around in amazement and said “I never would have thought the place could look this good.”

When have you been fooled by appearances?

64 thoughts on “Not All Is as It Appears”

  1. One of my favorite television shows is This Old House. I also watch Fixer Upper, a show in which a Texas couple salvages decrepit, ugly old homes.

    Another personal favorite is Wheeler Dealer, a show about restoring old cars. The Velocity cable channel runs shows several dozen shows in which rusty, dysfunctional old cars are salvaged and made to look brand new.

    What is the appeal here? It sure isn’t practicality. I’ve never restored a car, and I don’t even have a home to restore.

    For me, these shows offer visions of hope. In normal life things start out being pretty, intact and functional. As time goes along, rust corrodes metal, termites eat foundations, paint flakes off walls. Entropy is a bitch.

    That is why I enjoy witnessing shows celebrating restoration. The ugly old Queen Anne home gets fresh paint and a graceful addition. The rust bucket Austin Healey roadster gets a new clutch and a gleaming coat of paint, looking better than when it was new. The cruel processes of decay are thrown into reverse. That is a day brightener, especially for an old guy struggling with the aging process

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’ve been amused to notice the similarity of technique in shows I watch where houses are renovated, cars are restored or injured pets are cured by veterinarians. There are exceptions, but the basic approach is to clear away the bad stuff (rust, rotten wood or dead tissue) and close up the wound by attaching healthy parts to healthy parts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Celery root is deceptive in its appearance, since its looks belie its sweetness. Jicama is equally deceptive. I always expect it to taste like a turnip. Turnips and rutabagas, however, taste just like I expect them to taste. Husband is growing turnips this year. I hope they taste better fresh from the garden thsn they do from the store.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ironically enough, it is 2½ blocks from our current house. It is now a group home for developmentally disabled persons. It is sided tan with brown trim; the wrought iron fencing was sold after we left; the two-story carriage barn (red, behind the trees) was torn down and replaced with a regular garage… I could go on (and on)… Sigh!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Our house was built in 1889, but we’re only the third owners of it. Consequently, despite it’s age, it has avoided some of the pitfalls of houses that changed hands often and were subjected to handymen of different skill levels.

    The former owner, also named Margaret, had passed away at the age of 89, and it was quite evident that nothing but the essentials had been tended to for many years. When I bought it, there was avocado green carpeting throughout, ugly acoustic ceiling tiles, and faded wallpaper with large flowers. Everyone thought I was out of my mind when I bought it, but truth be told, they had not seen some of the other disasters I had looked at withing my price range. This house was a diamond in the rough as far as I was concerned.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. When we bought our home in Saint Paul all the floors were covered with a thick rose-colored carpet. We pried up a corner of that old carpet, nervous about what we’d find. Underneath was a gorgeous oak floor. It shouldn’t have surprised us to find that lovely floor. Bungalows in our part of town were built in the 1920s with old growth timber freshly harvested in northern Minnesota.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Oh man! This house was an ongoing project for years, BiR. It’s most definitely not a silk purse, but not quite a sow’s ear either.


        2. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s probably a house that will be torn down to be replaced with a more energy efficient home. I don’t hold out much hope for cashing in on an abode that has served us well for along time.

          At some point you have to recognize that the price you pay for nostalgia may be too high. Having no kids that I need to leave some sort of inheritance, I’m content to know that this old house served us well for a long time.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. As I sit here looking out to the west I can see a new large apartment building a block away across an open field. It is such a stupid design. How did that happen? Our church is a stupid design in every way. How did the architect sell that atrocity and why did he want to? If I go outside and look south I see a bank that has 9 different exterior coverings, a pile of blocks. Who thought that was a design that projected the image they wanted? Maybe it is truth telling. Since banking has become so ugly, maybe they would build an ugly building.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, Clyde. This current trend of using all different types of materials in the building just makes them look to me as if they’ve run out of stuff and had to run down to the local hardware store and get more stuff as they were completing the project.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I can’t get to the Trail on my work pc any longer so I’ve been doing voice recognition on my phone. And it’s a little weird sometimes. But one of the perks of being administrator is that I can edit my comments after I’ve posted them, even on my phone. Figured it was way easier to just fix the “Matthew” then to try to explain it. I thought I’d caught it fast enough.,,

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Mankato has gone through a building growth spurt in the last decade. All sorts of buildings. Except for MMSU they are all ugly. At least MMSU knows how to build inoffensive buildings. What happened to architects?


    3. Some of the materials mixes I like, but many of them do look so inconsistent–like a salad of building materials. Interesting trend. When they paint sections diffierent colors, at least those colors can be changed more easily than the actual olio of building material.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. It’s true that churches exhibit some of the weirdest, least utilitarian architecture of any buildings around, but the blame can’t fall exclusively on the architects. Surely there must have been committees reviewing the designs, possibly instructing the architect on their “vision” for the edifice. Atrocities like that are seldom one person’s product. It takes a committee.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    Well, several times I have been fooled by co-workers who I thought were lookin’ good, and turned out to be, in Wes’s words, “skunks.” It seems to take several years to reveal true character, but in the case of one of these folks, I worked with her about 8 years before she crashed and burned.

    One of the people I sold the practice two 16 months ago turned out to look really good, but she was incredibly difficult when it came down to working with her to forward the deal. At least I saw that one coming. I was starting to understand that she would be difficult in that new role and I saw it coming. I told her I would not sell to her unless she got a second buyer because she was just impossible. Her behavior was so disappointing. Unfortunately she is not doing too well in her new role as owner.


    1. Is something going on with autocorrect or Word Press. Some of what I wrote changed words and repeated a phrase I deleted. Can’t be me. Good Grief.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I LOVE that stairway in the house!

    OT: straw– I think I’ve contacted everyone that I knew was interested. I sent an email last Saturday. If you didn’t get it or are interested in straw or chicken poo, email me: Strawmanben At the G mail dot com thingy.

    Hoping to deliver this coming weekend, but also getting the brakes fixed on the truck. …that seemed like a good idea. So it might be next weekend…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When will you know if it’s this weekend or next. I need this weekend – need two weeks to get the bales all conditioned!


      1. I am very aware of the time issues of the conditioning and I realize that’s a problem. I probably won’t know until Thursday or so if the truck will be done in time.
        I took it to a place out here in the boonies; they do good work at 1/2 the price, but he did say they were “swamped”.
        I guess I’m not holding out much hope it will be done this weekend but I just don’t know.


        1. Interesting! I completely missed that. I guess it depends on the day – some days I would’ve typed it right in. May be a holdover from Barb in Blackhoof days – she didn’t seem to appreciate swearing, as I recall.


  7. What a day in my family. My son has a crisis going, mostly as usual his fault. My daughter has a crisis going, on top of which their car blew its transmission. $4500. This after four appliance breakdowns, the two large ones paid by the congregations. Sandy got a troubling report from the doctor. Anyone want to buy stress?


    1. One of the rare times I’m feeling fortunate to be broke – no extraneous purchases for me, but am lighting a cyber candle for you all!


    2. You never stop being a parent but the time comes when it’s beyond your power to fix things. That doesn’t alleviate the stress, though. My sympathies…


    3. a used tranny can be installed for $500 bucks and purchased for 1000 tops
      takes a cooler days to get it lined up
      not convienient but better than $4500


  8. ari gashi was born at 10:57 last night

    long day for all
    water broke at 11 the night before and so they were dealing with a timeline before they would do a c section
    ill do a guest blog soon

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wish I had thought at the time to take real Before and After shots of the same spot… when I looked through the album, I found that most of our photos had people in them, like the above Husband and the toddler Joel.


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