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Just when I think I’m over the hill and I’ve put the worst of the depression behind me, another weekend like this one comes along and sucker-punches me back to a darker place. 

Usually I can tolerate other people’s pregnancy talk.   A pregnant woman who shares my office is the reason I have this job; I’ll be replacing her and taking over her caseload when she has her baby.  But at this school where it seems all the women are married to doctors and in the acute stages of their child-bearing years, it’s not just my office-mate.  Someone else had a baby in September, and 4 others are displaying varying stages of the Bump.  Last week, at what was supposed to be a relaxing faculty pizza lunch, a break from the students, I had the misfortune to sit next to 2 other pregnant women who are similarly far along.  I was treated to an unending discussion about ultrasounds and flu shots and nurseries and heart-beats, and feeling the kicking, and maternity clothing, and morning sickness, and everything pregnancy.  They’re cooing and obsessing about how nervous they were to hear the heart-beat during their first ultrasound and it about knocks the wind out of me.  Because my first ultrasound happened when I was pretty sure I had lost the baby. 

Add onto that a weekend of home improvement failures and a Sunday night in lonely anxiety, and it adds up to my overall despondency this morning, and accounts for one of the reasons I couldn’t summon enough enthusiasm to dress up for “Clash Day,” part of Spirit Week.  Those who know me know I would usually embrace such a day with fervor.  I have plaids, I have stripes, I have fluorescents, and multi-colored sneakers.  This morning, I have on a navy blue and green striped sweater, and navy blue slacks.  I couldn’t do it. 

We tried this weekend to finish – I mean really finish – the kitchen floor.  There were only 2 steps left: doorway thresholds, and trim under the cabinets to cover the gaps left behind by the mandatory 5/16” spacing of the floor planks.  Stumbling block 1: the vinyl toe-kick (under cabinet trim) must lie flat for 24 hours prior to installation.  Stumbling block 2: metal is hard to cut with a hacksaw.  But, between some vigorous sanding and an accidental slicing of my finger, we installed the doorway thresholds.  They may actually work, though the backdoor doesn’t open quite as well as before.

It was the toe kick that sent me spiraling into self-doubt, criticism, and self-loathing.  The vinyl, which we had thought designed for this very purpose (hiding the expansion gaps between the flooring and the cabinetry), turns out not to be wide enough at the base to hide the gaps.  Despite bending it and a lot of cursing, it would not yield to our desires.  That was when the self-stick foam plan hatched.  We set off to the fabric store. After procuring the foam, we had to misfortune to see a deer running amuck in the shopping center, bashing its head into glass doors and windows, its mouth bloodied by the attempts.  We called the police, who probably came over and shot the poor thing.  The unlucky deer sent me into a jag about the dangers of commercialism and development impinging on natural habitats of innocent animals who don’t care about holiday sales at Old Navy or the latest scents at Bath & Body Works. 

I felt a little better once we got home and started our next mission – building up the base of the cabinets with 2mm self-stick craft foam.  There was a plan, and I knew how to execute it.  I did a trial with our 2mm foam, and it still wasn’t enough to hide the gap, so I suggested we add a 2nd layer.  Now 4mm thicker, it wasn’t ideal, but my desire to have the thing finished overcame my desire to do it perfectly.  Looking around at the various stages of the floor installation project, all I had seen were imperfections – blue tape shellacked into the stain; bits of stain bled onto the lemon-colored walls; millions of dog hairs sealed into the polyurethane; and huge gaps between the flooring tiles and the walls.  Hiring a professional wouldn’t necessarily have yielded better results.  As we saw when they came to paint, they broke off a window lock, used the wrong color in our bedroom, and some of the paint in the office is peeling already.  And had we wanted to hire someone, chances are, it wouldn’t have been done at all, since paying for floor installation typically doubles the price.  Somehow, I came around a corner from all of this imperfection, temporarily forgave ourselves for being human and never being able to do anything to my specifications, and became bent on finishing the project.

So we did.  I planned my Facebook status, something humorous like, “I may have just used rainbow-color craft foam to finish my kitchen floor.”  We applied the vinyl.  We hoped we’d never have to think about it again.  Of course some of the foam stuck out above the baseboard. Of course some of the gaps in the floor showed.  I was just so tired of thinking about it.

Hours later, I had to.  The baseboard was peeling off.  Turns out the foam’s adhesive is no match for the vinyl’s adhesive, and the vinyl, unhappy with being bent around corners, decided to peel off one layer of foam and collapse on the floor in a rainbow-colored failure. 

To top it off, Mr. Apron had to go to rehearsal.  Daylight Savings had just lost me an hour of daylight.  It was 6:30pm, pitch-black, the puppy had just peed on the nice rug upstairs, and as the door closed behind my husband, I felt an instantaneous surge of loneliness.  The second I saw him disappear into the night, that familiar lump rose in my throat. 

 I am no good at being alone.  I avoid it at all costs.  Doing homework at the kitchen table in childhood, seeking out common areas in college, I try not to be alone, if I can help it.  I couldn’t help it last night.  After a lackluster trip to the grocery store, I sat on the couch, had a tantrum, and waited for my husband to come home.  I tried calling my mother, under the pretense of asking my father if he had any ideas for the kitchen, but I never actually reached him. I was sidelined by my mother’s trying to “help” by telling me to call in a professional, never do a home improvement project by ourselves again, and find something to do.  She does always try to change the subject.  Either it’s dog antics, some client of hers, or some inconsequential “project” she’s taken on.  I called her on it.  I said, “I have plenty of things I could be doing – things I want to do and don’t want to do – sewing, making lunches, baking, cleaning up, writing letters, paying bills, but I am not going to do any of them.  I won’t be distracted.” 

Sometimes I don’t want her to fix everything.  When I’m in the throes of being miserable or feeling sorry for myself or disparaging myself, I don’t want her to mitigate these feelings with her distraction techniques. 

My husband finally walked in the door after rehearsal.  “I didn’t do so well tonight,” I said, not to make him feel guilty for going away, or to seek pity, but just to let him know.  He recalled a long ago conversation we’d had one time after I’d been upset.  Apparently, he’d had a sprout of insight and had told me, “Buddy, sometimes I guess you don’t want me to fix everything.  I just need to let you be sad.” 

When it all snowballs together and takes over my weekend, all I can do is feel sad.  I can fake my way through a day of work, put on a happy face when I need to be “on,” and function pretty well in zombie mode, but I haven’t yet processed all the garbage that happened.  Sure, some of it is out of my control and bad luck (Daylight Savings, the dog’s accident), while other bits just dig up my old feelings of mediocrity and inadequacy, and still others are things I need to accept make me sad, like being alone.   

I hope I can snap back this week and try to enjoy the silly things the kids are wearing.  I don’t like living my life in constant anticipation of disappointing weekends.  I don’t like hanging my ideals of happiness on how well the kitchen floor turns out, or how “productive” I was during an evening alone.  I don’t want my mood to bounce up and down dependent on positive and negative events, as if keeping score.  I want to take it all in stride, and enjoy it before it’s too late.

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Before you think this is just another new-homeowner blog wherein I needlessly detail all the minutiae of our latest home-improvement project, and then make you seethe with jealously as you drool over pictures of recessed lighting, exposed beams, sparkling appliances, and gleaming woodwork, rest assured you will never have to see those pictures; our home will always be a mess. 

However, in our can-do, suburban spirit, we will always keep trying.  After all, how American can we truly be unless we are continually remodeling our home? 

For a while, it was a matter of putting out fires.  The drain was stopped up, so we had 3 real plumbers and Mr. Apron with a coat hanger make various attempts until we could finally wash our hands while leaving the water on.  The roof leaked, so we misguidedly replaced the windows (at the advice of a roofer who clearly had enough work elsewhere), then fixed the actual roof itself.  The 30-year-old oven scorched my precious cupcakes, so we had it hauled to the curb.  Our new built-in microwave was just the icing on the cake.  Sometimes when I enter the kitchen, I can’t believe that modern piece of appliancery is ours to keep. The giant air-conditioner that is responsible for making 2/3 of the first floor habitable all summer (well, this year, from April till mid-September) was just making a whole lot of noise, so we had that bastard replaced, too.  And on it goes.  However, none of our improvements have been strictly our choice, as in, “What do you want to tackle next?”  They’ve simply been old-house things that have up and died and demanded our attention.  And with the exception of the bright red backsplash I picked out to go behind the stove, none have been aesthetic, merely functional, practical, comfortable. 

Until now.  I chanced to mention to my parents that (one day) I’d really like to dig up our kitchen floor and lay down something beautiful and modern, as opposed to the vomit-colored cobble-stone design vinyl sheeting that was somehow impossible to keep clean besides.  The very week I spent up at my parents’ house, Mr. Apron became inspired to mop that stupid floor, after multiple failed attempts to Swiffer it, both wet and dry.  The week after he mopped it shiny clean, my father descended upon our house.  Ostensibly, he was there to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with us, but, after we returned from services, he was at once examining our kitchen floor as if a surgeon deciding the best way to remove a malignant tumor.  Before we knew it, he had changed his clothes, taken tools out of his car, and ripped up a corner of our floor. 

Just to see what was there, you see.  Just to peek and measure and investigate.  Under the vinyl sheeting, he found a layer of ¼” plywood.  And under that, he found vintage red and yellow linoleum.  Real linoleum, in 9” tiles, which probably means they were original to the house, which dates them to c. 1928.  For a moment I considered the appeal of the vintage tiles.  I considered the ease of just leaving them there.  I considered the incredible coincidence of the color scheme we had picked out for the final product – red and yellow.  We’ve been collecting red-handled kitchen gadgets from the 1950s; we’ve had the walls painted lemon meringue; we have a red vintage enamel-top table with red vinyl-covered chairs.  We have curtains in green, red and yellow fabric from the 1940s sporting all manner of kitchen gadgets. 

Alas; it was not meant to be.  The tile was in poor shape due to the tacks used to hold the plywood layer down, which had left thousands of neat little holes in the linoleum.  I thought, too, of resale.  Though I’ve sworn I’m never moving again, I do try to think of the mass aesthetic or practical appeal of the home improvements we do.  While I might adore the quaint appeal of the original 1928 red and yellow floor (without holes), someone else (who otherwise adores our home and wants to engage in a frenzied bidding war) might look down her nose disapprovingly at the “vintage” (read: “old”) flooring. 

Plus, my dad had already begun ripping up the lino, leaving us fewer choices in the matter.  Under that was solid wood floor.  Not the type you find in televised remodeling project homes, where they discover Mercer tile in the fireplace under layers of paint, and solid gold switch plates.  No, the type that is the sub-floor.  At least, there’s nothing beneath a subfloor. 

Not being able to turn back and pretend we didn’t know what lay beneath our feet, Mr. Apron and I dug in.  Dad left, giving us homework until the next time he visited: measure the floor, buy whatever flooring you want, and Rip. Up. Everything. 

Initially, I was petrified, but now that a corner had already been peeled back and dug up, it seemed the task had already begun, and that we had to move forward.  Even though it wasn’t pretty, and wouldn’t be a one-day project, we had a task ahead of us. 

I came home one night from work or tutoring, or my basket weaving course at night school, and found the refrigerator in the middle of the floor, and my husband of almost 4 years sitting in the space where the refrigerator used to be.  He was hard at work ripping up flooring.  The next day he tore out an 8 ft x 4ft chunk of flooring (vinyl + plywood together) in one He-Man-like gesture.  I think Mr. Apron has bought into the home improvement spirit.  He’s certainly turned up his doing dial.

Now, this story doesn’t have an ending yet.  Our cork flooring, which was surprisingly hard to track down, isn’t scheduled to arrive until Sunday.  After last weekend’s Adventure in Sanding, Dad will be back to help install this weekend.  It may actually get done, but that’s kind of not the point.  

I could just wait until this is all finished, put up my pretty pictures, and drone on and on about the Dali pattern in our Lisbon cork, how it’s naturally mold-resistant and eco-friendly, blah, blah, blah.  But I’m not gonna.

What’s most important about this project is that my dad heard my hopeful dreaming of new flooring, and decided to do something about it.  He’s not one to be afraid of failure on a project.  He’s not one to be intimidated by having never installed click-lock floating floors before.  He’s not afraid of delving into the unknown beneath the shiny vomit tile.  And that’s what I’m grateful for.  Who knows how many years we might have had to wait to love our kitchen floor? Who knows how many wasted hours I might have spent researching floor installation before taking a pry-bar to the floor itself?  I’m grateful for my dad’s support in this project.  I don’t feel like we’re taking advantage of his can-do spirit or his man-power.  After all, he made us tear up the floor ourselves, till our backs were aching and our fingers numb from ripping out tacks with vise grips.  After all, it was my husband who hauled 380 pounds of trash formerly known as flooring to the dump and flung it all into the abyss (Side note: genuine linoleum tile is a heavy motherfucker.  DENSE, y’all.)  We are doing most of the physical labor ourselves.  Were it not for my dad’s initiative, his support, and our blind faith in his know-how, we would never have even begun the project.  And for that I am already grateful, even as we traipse over foul-smelling backer paper of our unfinished sub-floor while waiting for the glorious cork tiles to come in.  It’s going to be beautiful.  Make no mistake, I may gloat. 

But first I’ll thank the Academy, and my father.

As you may have guessed during this past blog-free week, I was on vacation with Mr. Apron.  Either that, or you thought my vegetarian blog was so hot, I had to let it cool off.  In any case, I did not advertise our trip to Maine in advance, for fear you might break into my uninhabited home and steal my bassoon, or my sewing machine, or my cheese slicer, three things of great value to me.  Even if I had told you I was going to be away, and given you the exact dates, you wouldn’t have found the house empty, because the painters were here again!

Mr. Apron or I had this great idea to have them come while we were on vacation!  We’d be like a real Main Line couple and have “work done” without the inconvenience that usually accompanies having workmen in the house.  Especially because our bedroom (including closet) was painted, we had to purge the closet of all our precious clothing, and heap it all on the bed, it would have been very inconvenient indeed.  So my in-laws (THANK YOU!) let the painters in each morning, collected our mail, played with the lights, and held down the fort while we cavorted up in Maine.  (Vacation highlights and photos coming soon…)  We sunned, we hiked, we biked, we sailed, we shopped, we dropped, we bowled, we ate, and ate, and ate.  And all the while, our house was transforming.

The wallpaper is gone, folks.  All the old-lady wallpaper (except in the downstairs powder room, where it’s almost inoffensive, and would be more trouble than it’s worth to redo in a room that small) is gone.  Our room is a lovely earthy mossy green.  Our office is a slate blue.  It feels so good to be home.  I don’t just mean having space to ourselves again, and not learning about the financial woes of our neighbors at the B&B due to their loud cell phone conversations.  I don’t just mean being able to unpack, do laundry, and cook.  I mean the whole thing.  I mean being back in a place where we’re truly at home, in our own skin, surrounded by our stuff, our decor, the clothing and furniture that’s meaningful to us, or at least familiar.  Even in our nasty 1980s kitchen with its poop-brown cabinetry, and vomit-colored cobble-stone sheet linoleum flooring, and decaying drop ceiling, as I heated up two masala veggie burgers (Trader Joe’s = awesomeness.  Tasted like samosas on a bun.) in a little stir-fry pan, I moved around the kitchen pulling out utensils, finding plates, and serving up a very simple late dinner, and it all felt familiar.  This doesn’t mean I’m not going to cry tears of joy as we rip the flooring up and tear the “ceiling” down, ‘cuz you better believe I will.  It just feels good right now, after having been away since last Friday evening, almost 10 days.  We haven’t been away this long since our honeymoon! 

We stopped at my parents’ house in RI to pick up the dog, watch old home movies (slipsofthetongue’s 4th birthday on Betamax — much worthy future post), and spend quality time with my parents, (baking scones, being dragged by dogs, and walking around the neighborhood).  They suffer from an unfortunate lack of space compounded by having had to move to a smaller house due to real estate prices on the east coast versus our previous home in the midwest, where the cost of living is quite low.  And they have stuff.  Stuff from 30 years of marriage, 27 years of having had children, and lifetimes of other stuff (dolls, harps, dress shirts, shoes, neckties).  It feels a bit cramped, and you have to relearn where to find things everytime you go back. 

“Well, the keys are now in the closet where the fridge used to be.  The fridge is near the backdoor now, so of course we’ve moved the trashcan over to the butler pantry.  We keep the extra folding chair by the door to the dining room otherwise the dogs go in and get stuck and have “accidents”.  Also, if you want Diet Coke, it’s in the basement fridge, so while you’re going down there, stop by the sewing room (which is now in the basement) and see if you like any of the shoes I’ve laid out that your uncle just sent me.  Careful opening the fridge because the light is out, but you can use the one above the table saw.  Also, the watermelon might fall out, so hang onto it as you open the door to grab cokes and clementines for your drive.  Also, take a package of masala burgers (ah, you see where our dinner came from?) from the freezer.  Don’t use the shower in the hall bath because we have a leak, so you can shower in our room, the third floor, or on the first floor.  The dogs need to be fed, but Holly only eats this $60/bag dog food, so make sure Annabella doesn’t get into it.  Their bowls are up on the counter in the butler pantry so Annabella (the chocolate lab) doesn’t think they’re a chew toy.  Feed Holly (paranoid border collie) in the corner so she doesn’t think the other dogs  want her food, and watch Annabella so she doesn’t help herself to Finley’s food once she’s done.  ”

It is nice to be home.  Aside from the heap of clothing on our bed, and the fact that the painters decided I should put my sewing machine near the window, things are pretty much how we left them.  And that feels pretty damn good.

A while ago, I lamented our horrific attempts at home improvement, including dying phlox, a shelf that forgot how to assemble itself, and “unbreakable” switch plate covers that somehow did not fit the light switches.  I have since uncovered the truth about all 3 things. 

1) The phlox was deluged on a fairly regular basis by dog urine owing to lazy dog owners who shoo the creature out front for his last pee, rather than leash him and take him down to the curb to kill the neighbors’ grass.  He enjoys the phlox. 

2) The shelf had fit together perfectly before.  Then we made each board thicker with two coats of primer/paint.  It no longer fit so nicely.  Our closet-builder friend recommended that we take the tedious step of sanding when the boards’ “swelling” (my first hope was bloating due to the shelf having its period) didn’t go down.  We sanded.  We grunted.  We dealt soft blows with a hammer on a piece of scrap wood so we didn’t split any more boards.  The shelf is up.  It’s full of books and gorgeous.

3) The fucking switch plates.  When our kitchen was designed/remodeled in 1465, switch plates were a standard size.  When we went to Home Depot and bought brand-new unbreakable vinyl ones in 2009, they were also a standard size.  A bigger standard size — one designed to cover more wall, more mistakes from the painter, more half-assed switch box assemblies.  Thus, the sconce which was not too close to the switch in 1465, is now too close to the switch.  Mr. Apron took some scary-looking wire-cutters to the plate.  And now it “fits”. 

The latest saga again involves — you guessed it — switch plates.  Because we’re gluttons for punishment.  We like to fail at our home improvement attempts, no matter how small. 

The walls in downstairs painted, we decded to replace the ugly granny switch plates with new ones.  Mr. Apron, being the bridge-brained beau that he is, fixated on some ceramic switch plates at Anthropologie we’d seen a while back.  On our next trip there, we scanned the hardware section to no avail.  Disappointed, we traipsed back to the sale section, where I played among the racks, and he scoured the tables of tchotchkes, including books about fashion, French pick-up sticks, hair pins, scarves, and dishtowels.  Guess what he found?  Two double switch plates, in the exact design he’d wanted.  And.  On.  Sale. 

Huzzah!  Took them home only to realize our electrical system had not been updated since the house was built, and our light switches did not fit in the slots.  We don’t have the hundred year old push button switches, nor the modern “decor” rocker switches, nor the boring, usual switches.  What we have looks like the ordinary switch, but is just slightly thicker.  Enough so that it won’t fit through the rectangular slot of our snazzy new Anthro plates. 

The electrician came about something more pressing (I think “fire hazard” was a word the home inspector used), and I begged Mr. Apron to ask him to replace our switches, as trivial as it probably might sound to an electrician.

He did it yesterday. 

Take two.  I came home, and, craving some pride in accomplishment,  immediately went looking for the switch plates.  Only they were nowhere to be found.  Now I’m not the cleanest person in the world, and I’m not so organized (except at work, where the other SLP and I just organized the office supply closet, and it’s freakin’ awesome), but Mr. Apron’s style of cleaning leaves me, ummm, frustrated sometimes.  He cleans out his car by taking a black plastic trash bag, filling it with junk, and stashing it in the trunk of the car, or our garage.  Are you surprised I thought my grandma’s quilt had been the victim of an unmarked trashbag and pitched in a feverish cleaning spree?  House cleaning is also challenging.  Much as I try to bite my tongue and not say, “Where did you put the..?” I am often wondering the same thing. 

So, after tearing the house apart yesterday, from top to bottom, looking every place we could have logically stashed the switch plates, Mr. Apron finally uncovered them.  In the kitchen.  In a bag.  Stashed in the dog food cupboard.  Because company was  coming 2 weeks ago, and he needed to hide our clutter. 

Take three: installation.  I located 4 cast off screws from the former switch plate and dropped them into the new plate.  They fell right through.  That’s right, folks; the heads were too small because artsy fartsy Anthropologie switch plates have non-standard sized holes.  Off to the hardware store.

ACE hardware was inexplicable closed at 5:25pm Monday.  True Value is not really a hardware store any more because they used to be 3 different variety stores, and now they’re condensed into one store that simultaneously carries everything and nothing.  Not a loose screw to be found — just packets of useless hardware we couldn’t try out on our switch plate.

Sears hardware did not want to sell us anything.  Though they had a nice hardware aisle with tons of metal thingies, there was not a soul to help us.  Two ladies staffed the register, and no one else was to be found.   After failing to find a screw with the same circumference and a larger head on our own, we meandered through the deseted aisles, perusing gas ranges, air conditioners, caulk, and small children mouthing hardware bits.  Finally, I spied an employee. 

“Quick!  There’s one!  Get him!”  I whispered to Mr. Apron.

Johnny Hardware had about as much luck as we did on our own finding our Perfect Screw.  I took frequent breaks to disappear from the insanity as he kept opening drawer after drawer.  Finally, there was a breakthrough.  Johnny Hardware suggested using our existing screws (or ones with a slightly longer shank) with washers to keep their little heads from falling through the holes. 

By the time we finished with Mr. Hardware and tried to check out, we’d discovered both check-out bitches had disappeared, leaving a growing line of confonded would-be customers.  I swear, the store doesn’t want to sell us things. 

We  finally returned home around 7pm with 8 screws and 8 washers, and a motion detector flood light kit for our next hopeful project.  Installation pretty much sucked because the plates are extra thick and — have I mentioned? — non standard.  I could see Mr. Apron’s fist curl as we kept dropping screws under the radiator and struggling for some decent light to see by.  Finally, they were in.   And beautiful.  They really do match the colors of the room. 

But our success is not without reservation.  The one by the door is such a tight fit that it now requires Arnold Schwarzenegger to flip the switch.  One day we’ll take it off and sand it down.  For now, we’ll suffer, suffer in success or a job that took entirely too much of our collective energy and money.

Mr. Apron and I accomplished two fantastical feats this weekend. Yes, we assembled the shelves, and completely emptied 18 boxes of books. A half dozen more have been relegated to the basement, as neither of us care to think about grad school notes right now, but the shelves are up! And they look great. We’ve established a little reading nook in the living room. After all that hard work yesterday, we’re still married, so we thought we’d tackle something else…

Gardening is not our strong suit, but the previous owners left us with some stumps from greenery formerly known as hedges. I had heard that stump removal was impossible to do, and prohibitively expensive to get someone else to do. Nevertheless, Mr. Apron posted this blog today.  Since he’s such an excellent writer, and since many of you have come my way from his blog, I thought I’d send you back today.  No need to redundantly write about our efforts. 

I tell you this much.  In the words of my beloved husband:

“Something very positive was done today, and it wasn’t just the beautification of our little patch of the world. Today’s hard work proved to my wife that we are, on occasion, capable of achievements that may seem daunting, if not next to impossible.”

Maybe the light-switch cover evaded us.  Maybe the shelves challenged us to a do-over.  And maybe the poison ivy will be our nemisis for years to come.  But we can do some things together, even hard things.

Today, we tackle The Shelf again.  Last time’s effort was a spectacular and abyssmal Fail.  Mr. Apron split the end grain of the wood trying to hammer a shelf into its slot on the vertical pieces.  The wood was swollen or water-logged or PMSing and seemed to have grown since the last assembly.  But this time, armed with wait time (it’s been a while since we painted the shelves) and sand paper, we shall redeem ourselves.

Why are these shelves so important?  They’re holding up everything, and I don’t just mean that literally.  Sure, seven foot tall by five foot wide shelving holds the bulk of our reading materials, but there’s more to this story.  The books I speak of are currently housed in 40-odd boxes in our spare room.  Which we cannot use as a spare room because it’s full of liquor boxes of books.  We’d love to get the painters to come in and paint our bedroom (with its new closet!!!) as well as the office.  While they were great downstairs at moving and covering our “valuables” (thrift-store, curbside, and Ikea furniture), I doubt they’d love to begin the office in its current state.  My boxes and piles of craft stuff are everywhere, balancing precariously on a dresser here, a filing cabinet there, shoved under my crafting desk and threatening to overtake my sewing machine.  The final destination of all this crap is a bevy of shelves we’ll install on a free wall in the office above my crafting zone.  It’ll be awesome.  But, we have to strip (or pay someone to strip) the wall paper, and then paint (or pay someone to paint) before we start screwing in the shelf standards.  So it’s a Catch-22.  Can’t paint until we clear out the shit.  Can’t store the shit till we paint. 

As a temporary solution, we thought we could move much of the crap into the spare room so the painters can attack the office, but remember what’s in the spare room?  Ah, yes, the boxes of books.  This one shelving unit is preventing us from a) having overnight guests (not that we have those kinds of friends anyway…), b) painting the office or our bedroom, c) becoming exponentially more organized, and thus crafting more, and d) having a baby (which we will install in the aforementioned spare room). 

The takeaway lesson here, the gestalt, the final message: we cannot procreate until we successfully assemble this shelving unit.  Got it?  There’s a lot riding on those shelves.  Wish us (and our future offspring) luck.

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.