Saturday, January 13, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, January 13, 2001

Fearless woman is one really cool hero

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Columnist

My heroes come in all shapes and sizes. My latest one is Miriam Abrin.

A mom and a midwife, Abrin is feisty, fun and fearless. You’d never suspect that she could do what she did. I know I couldn’t have done it.

Abrin isn’t one to back away from a challenge. This, though, was unlike anything she had ever faced. It was cold, hard, dirty, "disgusting."

It was a concrete floor in the laundry room of her rented Nuuanu house.

At first, she thought it was going to be a simple matter, just a little scrubbing and a fresh coat of paint. Better than new, she figured.

But things, especially weekend projects around the house, are never that simple.

You don’t just paint cement, she learned. To get the paint to stick, you have to prepare first.

That meant scrubbing, then sanding. Then more scrubbing, more sanding. Before the floor was ready she and a friend went through four different sanders, finally settling on one of those big professional floor models to do the job right.

It took weeks.

"The job was taking on a life of its own," she said. Like a difficult birth.

Abrin doesn’t deter easily, at work or at home.

So when the old cement floor was finally sanded to near perfection, she was ready to face the really big challenge — cleaning the floor with a chemical etching agent called phosphoric acid.

The warnings on the side of the box would have scared away many a weaker woman — and man, too. I know my wife absolutely forbids me to play with such things.

"It took me weeks to get up the nerve to use the stuff," she said. "I had to go get advice at Home Depot, then I called the manufacturer for more advice."

Finally, swathed in huge rubber gloves, her oldest clothes and tennis shoes, she spread the powerful acid across the floor and used a household broom to agitate it.

The acid, which readies the floor to accept paint, is supposed to stay in place for 15 minutes. Abrin could only stand the powerful, dangerous fumes for 13 minutes.

After that she washed down the floor and the rest was — well, it wasn’t easy, but it turned out beautifully.

The floor — once the color of mildew — is now a deep organic red, festooned with Ben Franklin stencils of geckos, frogs and other animals. Standing there is probably the most fun you can have doing laundry legally.

"My daughter said I should call and brag about it," Abrin said.

Indeed. Anyone who can mix phosphoric acid and cute animals on the same household project is my kind of hero.

Mike Leidemann’s columns appear Thursdays and Saturdays in The Advertiser. He can be reached by phone (525-5460) or e-mail (

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