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.

Grab an end and pull

IMG_3948In the middle of one of my DIY projects, the one where I learned all about chain saws, one of the things I had to stop and do was unwind a few hundred feet of orange extension cord.  I never have the patience to wind them back up the way you are supposed to after every use, and I know there is special way handyman-types wrap these things so you can use just a few feet at a time or use all 150 feet if you need it. But I never do that. I just throw them in a pile in the corner of the garage until the next time I need one and then stretch it out half-snarled to the approximate length I need, or go buy a new one that I promise to take better care of.

Anyway, I needed an extension cord for the electric chain saw I was using but when I went to the garage to get it I found this:

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In this tangled mess, was a 25-foot cord and a 50-foot cord but I needed only one of them. And since I was concerned for my safety—the perils of living in a free world that allows someone like me to use a chain saw—I considered taking the time to untangle it all.  ‘Sometimes it’s better to stop and do something like this,’ I thought. But rather than doing that,  I reached down and grabbed the end of one of them and pulled imagining that if I pulled hard and long enough something magical would happen to untangle them and I would have one end for the outlet and one end for the chain saw.

Of course, that’s not what happened, and I didn’t really think it would, I was just being hopeful. And hopefulness can do a lot, but I try to keep my eyes on what’s ahead—like the big thing I’m hoping to achieve—while being particularly mindful and appreciative of ‘the now,’ knowing that it will all end up in the same place. It’s my choice to make it a tangled mess or enjoy the ride.

Sometimes it can be great fun to just grab an end and pull and see what happens. Other times we’re gonna meet some resistance. And when we meet that resistance, it’s good to hang out there for a while and unsnarl the cords even when the temptation is to throw it away and buy a new one. The big thing we want will still be there. It has to be because it’s been there all along and is waiting for us.

I have found this is true of pretty much everything–work, home, cars, people. Sometimes we find ourselves in a tangled mess, not sure how it got this way, or wondering why we didn’t take better care of it. Our temptation can sometimes be to throw whatever it is it in the corner and ignore it, or maybe go get a new one. But then we miss  what the resistance is telling us. And if we don’t hang out for a while and untangle the cords, nothing is going to change and we’re just going to have to do it again at the next job, or with the next lover, or the next time we visit mom.

So for me, the choice is pretty clear. Either tug and pull and struggle against, or sit with it, get clear and intentional, and keep my heart and eye on the big thing I know I want. And when I do that something magical does happen:

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The Beautiful Carpenter was here. I didn’t notice until later that after we finished our work that day, he’d taken the time to do this for me. He was mindful. I am appreciative. Next time I see him, I will show him just how much.

 

 

 

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.

I used to think a removable shower head was a single woman’s best friend until I got my hands on one of these

prybar 750In the middle of tiling the basement,  the cold water shut-off valve in the main bathroom upstairs decided to start leaking. So I decided just to shut it off (like it says). That goes over for a while, but Ben absolutely didn’t like brushing his teeth in hot water. I mean, at first it works if you let the water run very slowly and use only the cold, lead-leached water left in the pipes all night before the hot water reaches the faucet.  But like most kids, he turned on the faucet full-force and used it all up pretty fast.

So the next thing that happens is he’s screaming about the burns on his little fingers and I run up there and, choking on the steam filling the room, shut it off as quickly as possible promising him I will “fix it tonight.” Well that was bullshit. For weeks after that we were forced to use the same sink every morning until one Saturday I had an extra 15 minutes to kill and decided fix it–for real this time.

That was semi-successful, but then something else went wrong.  Basically, my sink sprung a huge leak that I couldn’t fix. You see, when you own an older home, for some reason even the simplest plumbing repair can turn into a six-month long project (or in my case a year-and-a-half) because something old is always attached the new thing you wanna put in, and those old things break off in your hand like a Melba cracker. And that’s basically what happened with my sink. The actual sink had a hole in it that had been patched by the previous homeowners and the patch came off in my hand.

So the whole sink was useless. Then I decided the whole bathroom was useless–at least that’s what it became because I started ripping out the cabinet with the sink, the tile on the walls, the wall paper, and anything else I could wrap my 14 1/2 inch pry bar around. Was I feeling some anger at the time? Yeah, yeah I was, but you know what? Ripping that bathroom apart felt so good after all I had been through, especially when a particularly stubborn place, like the old counter top in the photo here, wouldn’t budge and I pushed and pried and used all my strength against it.

And finally, when it gave way after all that force and struggle, it was very gratifying.  Would I say it was like an orgasm?  Well, for a single mom with no boyfriend, I would say yes, yes it was. It was the best orgasm I’d had in a while.  So much so that I poured a glass of wine, sat back looking affectionately at my work, and determined that the next day, I would haul the junk outside and start ripping out the floor tile.