Friday, September 4, 2015

Aphorisms By Way of a DIY

If you've heard the TED talk by Liz Gilbert on the creative genius, you'll know what I mean when I say I've been hit by the genius--more than once, if you can believe it--regarding this blog post, every time in the most inconvenient of places, as it seems to go; which means I could not capture the genius. It got away. So instead I'm left with whatever I can force out, and you are left with what follows:

My husband and I received his parents' old oak dining table and chairs upon our move to Indiana--a beautiful set that had been in storage. I appreciated the craftsmanship, but in general I have never liked the oak color and so intended to refinish the table.

I never remember to take before pictures. We know this. This is the only picture I could find.
The big project finally happened, and immediately I have to declare that it is a very, very good thing I did not try to take on this project alone. I would have ended up with a half-sanded dismantled oak table and an ulcer. As it was, my parents came to town to help us move in and I'm left with a nearly perfect refinished oak table. (And a personal declaration that I will never again take on a "DIY" this big.)

About the nearly perfect: at the project finish line, I made a major mistake that resulted in my re-learning a few vital life principles. I have thought about these principles daily since the debut of le tableau des horreurs:

Pay attention to your instincts
Break rhythm
Ask questions
Slow down
It'll all work out

#1--The first is pretty obvious. Go with your gut, listen to Jiminy Cricket, and all other cliches about conscience. It's a real thing, y'all.

#2--However, in order to succeed at #1, you must succeed at #2, and this lesson was perhaps the most acute of all: break rhythm.

I am a dancer. I always will be, even if my body can no longer do what my soul wants it to. I am a pianist. Rhythm matters to me. My rhythm is a powerful force, causing my husband to get home from work and say, "You got how much done today?!" But it can also hurt me. Recently, my husband brought to my attention the need to get out of rhythm, to step back and consider. He said this as I was about to dig in to a giant bowl of ice cream that I knew before first bite I would regret. He told me that just because the ice cream was scooped, the spoon in hand, my mouth open, I did not have to eat the ice cream. I could simply put it back in the freezer for later. This is probably obvious to all of you, but I had a major paradigm shift. I am a committed person and a finisher. I plan to eat a bowl of ice cream, I follow through to the bowl being licked clean (okay, not quite, but you know) even as the little voices in my head (you guys have those too, right?) are frantically waving (apparently they also have arms) at me to stop, stop! you will regret this! while I squash them out with the sound of my train engine plowing (like this sentence) through my commitment. Are you exhausted yet? I didn't realize I was until I began to see in my daily routine where that drive and rhythm was not actually helping me.

Rhythm is important. Sometimes it needs breaking.

#3--Slow down. In order to break rhythm, you have to slow your thought processes down enough to acknowledge those little voices and decide if they need heeding. Deliberate and realize that just because you have committed to a thought in your head does not mean it cannot be reversed before it reaches your hands (or your mouth, as in the Case of the Ice Cream).

#4--As a help-meet to slowing down, ask questions. Doubt, wonder, contradict, reconfigure, ask some more. Be a gatherer of information.

#5--It'll all work out. God often sends you little hints to help make your life easier, but these do not determine absolute outcomes. (The heavenly messages that do are a different topic.)

By now you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with a giant solid wood dining table.

I'll spare you the details of the actual table transformation since this is not a how-to post, so let's fast forward--

past the sanding

(gotta keep that hair protected...)

 and staining

to the varnishing.

The evening before my parents' departure, we stood around the table admiring it. We had three coats of varnish applied to the table and it looked beautiful. It was complete. We had been working for six days on this thing. Yet in a moment of over-protective haste, we decided to add a fourth coat that night. Both my dad and I had the gut feeling to stop! put away the ice cream! you'll regret this! But we were in rhythm, our supplies handy. We were eager--my parents flew home the next morning. My dad is quite a handy man, and I didn't question.

So that night I added fourth coat of varnish by the light of the garage and a cell phone flashlight (are you cringing? you should be), unknowingly setting myself up for hours of extra reconstructive work.

The next morning we went out to check our work before my parents left town and discovered a bubbled, streaked, tacky mess.

All of our work over the last few days had been undone in one evening. Standing there filled with regret and disappointment, I recalled each feeling of warning from the night before. We would have to sand down to the earliest layer of varnish and try again.

But wait, wasn't my dad leaving? Yep. He gave me some instructions, a vote of confidence, and flew away with my mom to the other side of the country.

I spent the next two days sanding that baby back down to the second coat of varnish, wearing away all of my fingernails in the process. The perfectly smooth surface was irretrievable and I had to touch up some areas with more stain, but eventually it was prepped once again for the real final coat of varnish.

I think I held my breath with every stroke across that table.

Finally finished, with the flaws hidden enough to the ignorant eye, I was reminded that things work out. Sometimes you just have to change your expectations. It is strange that a table refinish can be so instrumental in my character development, but I'm glad for it. 

God is forgiving.

So is oak.

Thank goodness for sand paper, mineral spirits, and dads.

PS--If I ever break my word and refinish a table this big again, I need to remember:

Use two brushes when varnishing--one for each side. The brush gets too heavy with varnish.
Tape the hardware
Wear that mask when sanding. Gross!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What is the Cost of a Memory?

On Sunday after church, Preston and I decided to take a spontaneous trip to the Long Island Sound and escape our chaotic house that is slowly becoming a home. We already know that "spontaneity" and "baby" are not an easy combo. We mixed it anyway. As we began the hour long drive in the late afternoon, I began to question our decision.  Baby girl had already begun to fuss and it looked like we would hit traffic. We hadn't had dinner yet, and I don't do hungry very well. I shared my concerns with Preston, and he responded with one simple question: "What is the cost of a memory?"

At day's end, this was our price:

  • Two hours squished in a messy truck
  • A tired, inconsolable baby--for two hours, squished in a messy truck
  • Dog poop on my white pants (apparently the dog didn't register "an hour-long drive in the truck")
  • Preston caught wearing dress socks and Chacos (not pictured)
  • Sonny Boy's epic, embarrassing asthma attack at the beach
  • Grumbling tummies until 8:00 p.m.

And this was our purchase:

  • Baby's first trip to the ocean
  • Photos (you take a picture, and suddenly something is an event, right?)
  • Sunset, misted over by a thin layer of clouds
  • A warm, sticky breeze that said, "Welcome to your new home" as we tried to really believe it
  • The ocean smell that wakes up your spirit and says, "Adventure!" (apparently this was a talkative place)
  • Helpful strangers becoming fast friends, eager to meet a beautiful baby
  • Sand on our toes
  • Stained white pants and a vow to clean out the truck
  • Our beach fix, meaning we don't have to go back for awhile

Okay. Now I'm just getting snarky. Enjoy the memories "en photo".

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Our Stroller Never Faileth

Hi. So we have a baby and a lot has happened since I wrote last and yada yada and all that jazz.

Moving on. I want to write about our stroller--our fraying, rickety, used and abused stroller. Every time I push that thing I want to curse it and be ashamed of it and put it on a pedestal with a big bow to display to the world, all at the same time.

That stroller provides me a constant reminder of my good and selfless husband. Mushy, gushy, I know.

Here's why: Late last summer, as we entered the new school year and began preparing for the birth of our baby whose gender was still unknown, a friend of a friend's friend (you get the idea) was preparing to move to Europe and trying to sell a bunch of stuff.  She posted to a local online cork board her desperation to sell quite a few baby items, and I responded with tentative interest.  I told her we didn't even know our baby's gender and weren't sure what we would be needing.  She mentioned that she had a few boxes of used boy clothes, a car seat, and a jogging stroller that needed some fixing up but that was in good condition otherwise.  Since none of it was selling, she asked if I'd be willing to take the lot for $25.  I agreed to look at it, and we arranged a drop-off at my house.

I ended up not being home for that drop-off, and my husband intercepted the items instead.

When I got home later that night, he mentioned that instead of $25, he'd paid the lady $40 for her things.  She had seemed so desperate as they spoke--she and her husband were moving to Europe for his job and had no money and no room to take anything and she was so stressed--and at first it had looked like a lot of stuff.  I scanned the small pile and realized immediately that we had paid $40 for junk.  The car seat was disgusting.  The stroller was covered in cobwebs with one wheel detached.  And the boy clothing was wrinkled and stained and just thrown into boxes.  I stared, wishing I had been home in time to tell her no thank you, there is a reason that stuff won't sell.

Preston then realized that, as far as our interests were concerned, he'd made a mistake.  He felt terrible, frustrated that he hadn't noticed the condition of the items.  I, too, wanted to be angry that he hadn't noticed.  I wanted to be angry at the lady for actually accepting that money.  I wanted to tell him to start paying more attention.  Yet, in a moment, I realized that he had, in fact, been paying attention to the most important thing: a scared, anxious woman seeking any form of security.

We learned a couple of weeks later that we were expecting a girl.  The boy clothes and car seat, after a washing, were sent to the Goodwill.

But we kept the stroller, hoping something could come of our purchase.

Preston spent an afternoon working on the wheels, trying to get the thing to steer straight, while I scrubbed the seat and attachments thoroughly.  After a lot of trial and error, we pushed the stroller down the driveway, and then did a happy dance--it had rolled straight, all wheels attached.

Now, months later, as I push my new little daughter along in a stroller that wiggles and whines in protest, and my cheeks begin to flush, I shake my head and laugh.

I have one caring husband.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Maternity Photo Session with Kim Davis Photography

Preston and I recently enjoyed an early morning photo session with our good friend, Kim, with Kim Davis Photography.  We got to celebrate this little babe and the sacred, reverent, and magical process that pregnancy is.  Some of our favorites are below.



Thanks, Kim, for capturing the beauty of budding parenthood.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Quarter of a Century

Last Saturday I turned 25 years old.  Admittedly, every time someone reminds me that I've achieved "a quarter of a century," all I really hear in my head are the voices of a young Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe, discussing Harry becoming the youngest Seeker in "...a century.  According to McGonagall."  I want to finish everyone's sentences for them with just that.

Harry Potter movie quotes aside, age 25 has been pretty good.  Preston drove us south, past acres of gorgeous farmland that made my heart leap, for a day of adventure at Brown County State Park and a pleasant evening around Nashville, IN.  We stopped at the General Store for some fried biscuits rolled in cinnamon and sugar and smothered in apple butter.  Who needs birthday cake when you can eat ten fried biscuits?  Oh man.  Have mercy.

I took ample pictures of the vistas and scenic winding roads (what is it about winding roads shadowed by autumn leaves?) all through the state park, mostly for my mom and her friend, Kenna. (Enjoy the views, ladies.)  The day saw rain and clouds, which only added to drama of the autumn landscape.  Preston and I ended our adventure feeling invigorated--both of us miss the mountains very much, and getting up into these hills settled our longing a bit.  If you ever visit the area, I highly recommend a jaunt through Brown County.  Especially on a birthday.



Making it to 25 has been a blast.  With a birthday in October, each year is destined to just keep getting better.  October is the greatest.  So are birthdays.  Thanks for all the love, friends.  Have a good one.