Not to spoil the ending, but . . .

It turns out Beautiful Carpenter was good at everything. He’s one of those people you try not to hate because he can play the piano, and do math in his head, and can fix, build, or otherwise create anything he wants with just his brain, his hands, and a few things laying around in the garage. Not only that, he’s still the only guy I’ve ever known that has the patience to wait for French press coffee in the morning and can change an alternator on a work truck in the dark during an icy rain in the Best Buy parking lot without throwing his tools. I don’t get it. When I’m in a frustrating situation like that, I can’t even fake enough patience to impress someone, but that’s just him.

Between his house and mine, we took on dozens of DIY projects and finished nearly all of them. And honestly my house never looked better. He was even more of a perfectionist freak than I was, and one night we went down into my basement and he ripped up that five-way intersection of crooked tile I had thrown the rug over a few years earlier, and put it all back together nicely. Then the next weekend, we finished the tile in the laundry room and the office, mudding and grouting until three am fueled on homemade organic margaritas and a heavy metal playlist.

It looked like this for a long time. Sorry neighbors.

When I picked up the phone to get an estimate on new house siding from a local contractor, Beautiful Carpenter listened in. Then he asked me about my ideas, threw in a couple of his own, and the next thing I knew, we were calling the lumberyard and ordering up some rough sawn cedar for us to do ourselves. Honestly, he did most of the work, but I never minded being his grunt man, sweeping up, doing simpler tasks and painting trim. As long as he was teaching me rather than doing it all himself, I think we were both happy.

That was a long-ass project that spanned from autumn to the next spring, into summer when it grew too hot to work outside. Instead, we passed the time floating on the lake behind my house, running the trails, and drinking beers at sunset waiting for the temps to cool down. In the mornings, we drank coffee at sunrise at the edge of the nearby creek where, besides us, only the fishermen were out.

When autumn finally arrived again, we trimmed out the windows and put a coat of paint on the whole house. After that Beautiful Carpenter landscaped the front and back of the house so I had a little retreat where I could watch sunrises from the patio or sunsets from the front porch. And you know, it looked pretty good.

To tell the truth, it needed another coat of paint, but like I said, my house had never looked better. So maybe next fall I will add the paint and some new front porch posts, but for now I see the progress I have made over the last several years. I still like to get the old pictures out from when I started these projects, just to remind me that I am growing and progressing every day.

And I know that whatever happens next, is just the next thing. Maybe that’s why I bought this shirt a few weeks ago. Because even though sometimes it’s hard to believe, really, everything is going to be okay.

Somebody sew a dick on me, this might officially make me a guy

IMG_0689One Saturday I found myself with time on my hands—ON A SATURDAY. This almost never happens. Normally, I run with Ben on Saturday and go to whatever sport he is involved in, maybe visit the grandparents, do errands, and if  I’m  in his good graces, we’d play Rock Band on the wii.  That almost never happens either because I’d bring down his score with my bad guitar playing and less-than-rhythmic drumming.  He never lets me be Tom Petty, but once-in-a-while I get to be Pink and play an instrument or sing on Crocodile Rock while he rolls his eyes and tells me I’m doing it wrong.

None of that happened on this particular Saturday because when I dropped him off at baseball practice, his dad was there to take him to his Aunt’s for dinner after.

So I spent the afternoon driving from small town to small town near my city searching for the perfect bathroom vanity, one that I am pretty sure never existed so I’m really not sure why I kept searching, but it kept me busy until the right one came along. It’s crazy really. I think I was just putting off buying one  because after searching for months,  finally buying one and installing it meant there would be no meaning to my life anymore—my version of walking on the moon.

Since finding a vanity proved to be futile, I drove the long way home because it was the first warm day of spring. In my head I planned the week ahead. I suddenly remembered I was picking up a new friend for dinner  who invited me to share a gift certificate to a nice restaurant in town one night since her husband was gone for the week. And recalling how perfect her life seemed and how spotless her house always is, I looked around my car at the old French fries and Skittles stuck to the floor mats, and the shoe print marks on the dash and decided I’d better get my act and my car cleaned up before she learned about the real me and decided not to be my new friend anymore.

That’s what led to what you see in this picture. It’s scary what a roll of duct tape can do to a girl. But it was there and I couldn’t find the crevice tool that fit my Shop-Vac only the one to my old upright. So when I taped them together and came up with something that could suck the food and pea gravel from between the console and front passenger seat I felt pretty good about it.

Though I spent about an hour before this trying to fix my broken windshield solvent sprayer cursing god for not giving me a gear-head boyfriend who would just do it for me, I was desperate to get those french fries and skittles sucked up and this just sorta happened. I’d cry if it wasn’t so funny.

Not having a gear-head boyfriend was probably a good thing. I would have just messed it up not knowing then what I know now. I’ve learned a lot about men the last few years, mostly by doing lots of home remodeling and discovering duct tape. But also from having some very good friends that just happen to be men and keeping my eyes and ears open. I’ve learned about beer courage and  that sometimes they don’t want to share their feelings. I’ve learned that they can be just as vulnerable as women, and in some cases maybe more so. Sometimes they miss their moms and some of them just want us to love them in ways their mothers failed to.

I’m starting to think that we learn to love others the way we believe we have been loved. Some people might say the way we believe we have been loved by God.  I think I might say that too if I could figure out if I believe in god.  I can see that could be true. If we see God as a big scary being, which is how I spent most of my life, we might be afraid of love. Afraid to love.

I don’t feel afraid of either anymore. When someone says God to me, I don’t feel that anxiety in my gut or the judgement I once did like what Louise Hay says about god not being, “an old  man sitting on a cloud  above planet Earth watching my genitals.”  I think letting all of that go, has taught me how to love better too.  Weird, with everything I’ve learned, you’d think I’d be better at playing the wii by now.

Beer courage

Beer courage 750
I get it now

I’ve heard it said that in more advanced stages of psychological development, we come to accept and embrace our masculine self (for women) or our feminine self (for men); what Jung called the Anima and Animus. Lots has been written about it, including this guy’s blog post that I happen to really enjoy. But for me, I’m thinking that understanding what is typically a masculine trait–beer courage–could be part of this advanced stage of development.

 

Prying up old tile in my upstairs bath did not prove as satisfying as ripping out my old bathroom cabinet. What I thought was about a three hour job turned in to a painfully slow process, with me trying (once again) to save something that didn’t want or need to be saved–the poured mud floor underneath–and yellow floor tile mocking me, asking who exactly I thought I was trying to renovate my own house, all the while the voice of my mother asking why I didn’t have a new man to do that for me, reverberating in my ears.

I rarely buy beer, but something about doing home repairs makes it seem right. At one point I thought it would be a good idea for hardware stores to sell it.  While I doubt that anyone thinks using power tools and alcohol together is a good idea, I do think the idea of having a beer while tearing out a bathroom is a good one.

So I opened a beer and started chipping tile from the bathroom floor.  An hour later, I’m feeling buzzed and only about four pieces of tile are up.  The hammer keeps slipping and I’ve hit my thumb about 45 times. Beer courage fades quickly when you’re met with a smack down. Guys in bars, I get it now.

On my mind part of the time was a guy-friend whom I’d had a teeny-weeny disagreement with and who had run for the hills when my voice got all high and whiny like it tends to do when I’m upset. I think if men fully embraced their feminine sides, our getting upset might not scare them so much. But like my therapist used to say, “When a man hears that, all they see in their minds is a giant flashing red light that says  ‘MOM . . . .MOM . . . MOM. . .’  and they run away in fear. I wanted him to forgive me long enough to tell him that I’m not his mom, but I hadn’t heard even the slightest hint that would be possible.

In yoga class, we are taught to lie with our butts against the wall and our feet up in the air and lay like a giant L to clear our minds. So I did this for a few minutes and waited for the sound of forgiveness, but it never came. I was also hoping if I lay there long enough when I opened my eyes all the tile would be gone and a new floor would be there in its place, but that didn’t happen either.  It was pretty awful.

I almost gave up, but rather, I went to the fridge for more courage. I hammered away—mostly at my left thumb—until a good bit more tile was wedged from position. Not sure if it was the beer or the hammering, but I gained some more insight into the male psyche, ‘After hours of this,’ I thought, ‘I wouldn’t want to talk about my feelings either. I don’t even have any feelings—especially in my left thumb–so what is there to talk about? I just want to get to a stopping point, finish my beer and go to bed—maybe shag the wife if she’s still up and doesn’t make me take a shower first.’

I don’t know if men who write novels or are CPAs feel this way, but I think they must. Because they all say this stuff, right? I think I learned something else about men, too. A lot of them are more sensitive than we give them credit for, like my friend who won’t forgive me. They are just as wounded and imperfect as women are. I considered emailing him until he finally gave up and wrote back, but I won’t because I probably did sound like his mom that day, and I know what my brothers think about that.