DIY or Don’t You Dare

ceiling_tinA few weeks ago, Mike and I were shopping for an office desk. Actually, what we wanted wasn’t a desk, per se, but more of a cocktail table, for standing at the computer (with or without said cocktail), with room underneath for storage. We found one at a consignment shop. It was a shade darker than the cabinets in the room. There were a couple of dings in the finish.

“You know, we could paint the legs one color, and kind of sand it, to distress the paint,” I said. “And then paint the top a glossy black or brown, and then cover it with maps and postcards and stuff, and then top that with a glass dust cover.”

“That would look great,” Mike said.

Then we looked at each other with those excited smiles and raised eyebrows that say, yup, that’s certainly a great idea. What would make it even greater is if someone would come and actually do it for us. And by “even greater” I mean, “actually happen…”

Because God knows if it’s up to one of us desperately uncrafty schmos, that poor table is doomed to be the same exact color from now until it becomes animated like the furniture in Beauty and the Beast and goes out to the garage to paint itself.

We realized a long time ago we have a shared aversion to being handy in any capacity. We’ve known every time we had to go house hunting that the very best house for us is the fixer-upper that’s already been fixed up.

Experience has taught us that engaging in crafty stuff around the house is also rather bad for our relationship.

I picked out a green paint once for a bathroom that had heretofore sported a pink floral themed wallpaper that gave me a headache.

The green was supposed to be an earthy sage hue, but turned out to be reminiscent of pea soup ala Linda Blair, and now we both hate that bathroom.

That whole episode, and my refusal to embrace my uncrafty self almost split us up. I had embarked on the project with the best of intentions: bought a pedestal sink, new faucet and fixtures, tile and grout. I found decorations that were made out of ceiling tins from an old bar in a ghost town.

Did you hear that? Ceiling tin accessories from a real ghost town bar. How could that go wrong?

I stacked this all up in a precarious pile in the garage, while I tackled the step of stripping the wallpaper.

For the better part of a year I stripped away at that wallpaper. The room is only three by five feet, but the damn paper was attached to the wall with some sort of adhesive I swear they could have used to wallpaper the outside of the damn space shuttle. That stuff was not coming off without taking most of the wall with it.

The kids were still really small, and my sweating and swearing and rendering myself out off commission for childcare while I tore away at the walls of a teensy room every night wore Mike down bit by bit as he struggled to keep two barely potty-trained children from accessing either their mom or what was usually the most handy toilet when needed.

Mike’s dad and one of his brothers finally came over one weekend to finish the whole thing for us. I think his mom was worried of the impact of the project on our marriage.

Prior to that, there was the wallpaper stripping episode in the baby’s room that I should have learned from. Part of the reason the baby slept in a bassinet in our room for the first three months after we moved into our current home was not because we were big into family sleep arrangements, but because his room was a construction site with caustic chemicals on the walls and putty knives and scissors in piles on the floor.

I think Mike arranged for someone to sweep in and take care of finishing that project as well. It was a birthday present.

It’s not like he’s all that much more handy around the house than I. It’s just that he doesn’t get started on something, and then get halfway through before throwing up his hands and yelling at everyone. He’s pretty much given up before he’s started, and either called in a family member, or a professional, or decided to like floral wallpaper.

He’s like this even in the face of potential disaster.

I bought new hoses for the washing machine, once, on the advice of our plumber. Ours were the aged rubber kind they no longer even sell in stores, they’re so likely to fail and cause flooding. The new metal hoses the plumber recommended sat on top of the dryer for a year, while I had anxiety dreams every night of wading through the basement in hip boots to find the kids lounging on floating couches, struggling to keep their Xbox controls out of the water lest they electrocute all of us.

When the plumber came back for his next annual inspection I paid him what I’m sure was a premium to replace the hoses. It took five minutes.

Eleven years after moving into our house, Jack’s room is still is a mismatch of floral wallpaper and the maritime-themed accouterments I pulled from his previous room in the old house. Then, there’s the attractive hodge-podge of posters and school crafts he’s posted on the walls in an attempt to hide the flowers.

That’s how house projects get done around here, now. Make do, and creative camouflage.

Some friends of ours recently moved, and were giving us the new home tour. They described the landscaping projects they’d launched and which I’m sure would look great: a new porch, a ripped out and replaced flower bed here, a new brick barbeque over there, a flagstone patio.

“What’s your next house project?” Our friend asked.

Mike and I looked at each other. Our next project? We’d probably sooner have another baby than rip out a flowerbed.

And we all know the baby thing isn’t happening again, like, ever. Way too much crafty stuff involved with that.


ManicMom is on Mamalode with my essay: An Evolution of Motion. Please visit and share!



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  1. Always look for your blogs first thing – you didn\’t disappoint – got my AM laugh.