Mr. Apron is upset at me for getting so down on our home improvement attempts, but I keep seeing failure.

1) We dropped $80 at a garden center to buy some plantings to make the bare flower beds look a little prettier.  The phlox have since died a pitiful death of dog urine because we let Finley take his final pee right on top of them.  But in good news, the 3 tomato plants are yielding about 3-5 grape tomatoes a day, which Mr. Apron is enjoying as a little snack.  Grade: B.  And now we have poison ivy.  Trying to irradicate it has taken out a nice chunk of our front pachysandra.  Adjusted grade: B-

2) We dropped $50 in painting supplies at Home Depot to finish a set of bookshelves my father built for me in my first apartment.  He gave us unpainted wood mixed with boards leftover from another project, and we decided to paint them to match our new wall paint, so they’d look built-in, or at least as though they belonged.  We slaved away for 2 weekends in the stuffy humid garage, priming — squeezing every last drop of primer out of that can — and painting.  The color looked great.  The boards first stuck to the plastic drop cloths.  Then, in an impulse to assemble them when they were dry to the touch, we discovered they no longer fit together.  Either they’d swelled (swollen?) too much in the humidity, or the paint was still wet and the boards had absorbed water from it, or they were menstruating and bloated.  They just wouldn’t go together.  Mr. Apron took a hammer to them, to try to shove them together.  Since we did not have a rubber mallet, he cushioned the blows with a dishtowel.  And split the end-grain of the board.  Later, our closet-maker, Bob, tells us to cushion the board with a scrap piece of wood.  Never, he cautioned, hit the end of the board by itself.   Oops.  The half-assed assembly job is still sitting in the living room, like some great orange albatross.  Grade: C-

3) Switch-plate covers.  Simple, right?  Unscrew the old, put on the new.  We didn’t have old ones in the kitchen.   Somewhere in between unwallpaper and panting the room, they disappeared.  I guess they were probably junk, anyway, being wallpapered to match the walls.  So we bought new ones.  The kitchen light-switch/outlet is right near a little wall sconce that plugs into that outlet.  Its mounting bracket is so near, in fact, that it interferes with the screwing in of the new switch plate.  We decided to cut it, and discovered we’d purchased “unbreakable nylon”.  Kitchen scissors can’t even begin to try.  We can’t even install a $.44 switchplate.  Grade: D. 

I know we’ll have success with some things, like the tomatoes.  And we’ll find pride in home ownership and in fixing things ourselves, eventually.  I know I shouldn’t be so down on us, especially when it makes Mr. Apron sad.  It just feels like we’re thwarted everywhere we turn, in each new project, no matter how paltry or simple; no matter ho many times we’ve assembled those shelves in the past years (3?), or how stupid it is that our kitchen was designed in 1980 so the switchplate doesn’t fit the sconce 3 inches away.

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