Starting, and starting some more
By Nathalie Hardy
Summer, 2018 | Behind the Picket Fence
Roots to Roofs Special Section of The News-Register
I love it when friends stop by my house. Even when they ask aggressive questions like: “So, what’s with the chair on your front porch? The broken one?”
“I’m going to make something with it,” I replied. Of course, people who know me well enough to stop by without calling also know the odds of this actually happening are quite low.
“Oh, cool — what are you going to make with it?” My friend asked, humoring me.
“A planter! First, I’m going to paint it, though. Well, OK, first I’m going to finish painting the bed,” I replied, avoiding eye contact.
“The bed that’s been in your dining room for a month?” she asked, laughing, because best friends can call you out on your own nonsense.
“Whatever! It’s on my dining room table now. Because I am painting it!” I asserted. I didn’t add that we’d been eating on the couch for the last week because the painting part of the painting project has stalled.
Then, my friend eyed the plants in their hospice stage of life — all lined up on my porch next to the unused watering can — and she nodded slowly, opting to tread gently as if some kind of illness was at play.
To change the subject, I suggested we drink some wine. Of course, we’d have to drink it outside. Also, we had to walk around the driveway because the porch is covered in the horticultural hopefuls.
However, opening the bottle of wine created a new project, with a more immediate deadline. My trusty pocketknife corkscrew broke off at the base. Despite the fact there are two stores and my friend’s house is in walking distance, I was determined to open that bottle with tools I already had. Stubborn and stupid? Persistent and creative? You decide.
Either way, here is a complete list of what did not work to open it: my shoe hammering the base of the bottle, my son’s soccer cleats, a screwdriver, a hammer and pliers. We did, however, successfully decimate the cork to the point where I could push a metal straw through it and then we used my herbal tea strainer to keep the cork bits out of the wine. Turns out, I just needed some kitchen tools.
As I’ve been learning the ropes of being the solo homeowner of an awesome old house, I’ve discovered the complete game changer that is having the right tools for the job at hand.
A little willingness to be weird, and look stupid, helps, too.
Until recently, I could count on my fingers how many times I’d been in a hardware store. Now I have my own rewards card and know the employees by name at my awesome local Ace Hardware.
It started with a fence project I volunteered to help with. I brought to the table zero skills or knowledge about how to replace fence boards, along with determination and a hammer. I watched some YouTube videos, I asked friends via video on social media and I was good to go. Kind of.
After measuring the boards needing to be replaced, I called the lumber store and ordered the materials I needed. It was sort of like calling in a to-go order for dinner. I thought that’s how everyone does it. Apparently, I’m a project princess.
And then I panicked.
I called the guy at the lumber store back and asked: “What happens if I did this wrong?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, what if I ordered the wrong boards or the wrong screws, or got the measurements wrong?” This was quite likely, since I said things like, “and the third little mark after the longer half mark, you know?”
“Nothing. Nothing happens,” he said.
And guess what? I pulled off and replaced 30 fence boards by myself that afternoon without a hitch and didn’t even break a nail. A fingernail, for clarity.
Of course, every project seems to open some sort of Pandora’s box. When I surveyed the fence after finishing it, I saw that the boards weren’t even. So, naturally, I needed to buy a saw.
I did a little research and went to see my new friends at the hardware store.
“I’d like to buy a reciprocating saw,” I said, sounding like I knew what I was talking about.
I was handed a Sawzall.
“Oh, no I need a reciprocating saw,” I repeated. My friend at Ace explained that’s what I was holding.
This was not the last time I sounded like a fool at the hardware store.
Last weekend, I decided it was time to fix the hole in my wall I’d ignored for the last seven years. It was a round hole. So I paced the aisles searching for circular drywall.
Someone asked if I needed help finding something.
“Yes, I can’t find the circular drywall?”
“I have a round hole in my wall and all I see here are square pieces of drywall….” I trailed off as I processed her facial expression. So, that’s not a thing. Now I know.
I purchased the proper materials and they are, even at the time of this writing a week later, still perched at the bottom of the stairs waiting for me to finish the job.
As I paint and start my recent projects, I’ve been listening to a book on tape called “Finish” by John Acuff.
Yes, I too, appreciate the irony. Which is why I’m reading it. Maybe this will be “The Thing” that turns me into a finisher. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted, Friend.
You might be thinking this tendency is why I’m doing all this solo, and I get that, because I drive even my own self crazy. But, on the upside, it’s more time to start ... I mean finish, new projects.