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.
Fridays are my favorite. Well, that's not all the way true; Thursdays are my favorite weekday. Yes, because of my beloved Friends.
Recently some kids at work were talking about binge-watching Friends and I said, "Oh, yeah I used to have to wait until the following Thursday at 8 p.m. to see how Chandler and Monica worked things out ..."
So anyhow, I'm bringing back my Friday Favorites feature from a blogtime ago.
Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate - which basically means I've spent a bunch of time trying to figure out how it works exactly and have, to date, not earned a dime. However, you need to know --on account of being on the up and up with The Law-- when you click on any of these images that link you to buy them on Amazon I conceivably could get a few coins - and the idea is for that to add up over time. We are taking the "over time" part very literally apparently.
That's enough words about that -- here are five things I'm loving right now.
- This year I'm working on adding some new "F" words into my vocabulary: Focus & Finish. This was an excellent book to listen to as I worked on actually finishing projects. So many more to go, but as with any habit, it takes time to become aware of what you're doing and then change it. Baby steps, people. I will say, having a blogging calendar was one of the projects I put on my things to actually finish list (of course I made a list) and LOOK. Three posts in a row. I know. P.S. For the love of all that is holy buy books at your local book store whenever possible.
2. I love bullet journaling. I've been doing some version of it since years before that first episode of Friends even aired. Now it's a Thing. And I am always happy to geek out on this topic with anyone and everyone. This is the current one I'm using. I'm planning a flip -through video to post later this month.
3. And this Faber Castell pen set is my fave for basic journaling. And letters. And sticky notes. And last minute school permission slips ...
4. This is my current beverage obsession. This Cold Brew Coffee+ Unsweetened almond milk + Ice = My post Whole30 favorite coffee drink. I really expected to go back to my old stand by but this has grown on me and when I couldn't find some at my favorite local store, Naps Thriftway, I had no choice but to turn to Amazon.
5. These stainless steel drinking straws. Love. Them. That is all.
This top picture came across my Facebook Feed the other day and, as is often the way - it stunned me. How so much can change in so relatively little time.
At the time, I didn't know it but it was an Ebenezer stone. Of course, that's all easier to see in the rearview mirror.
This picture, that smile projects so much confidence and if you just look at that moment in time you see it seems I was just so lucky! After all, I was able to be home with my babies and then land a job in the newsroom where I got to intern years before that.
However, not pictured ... is the courage it took to come out of the situation I was walking through and present a confident seeming self after feeling so beat down it would take many years (and counting) to right the wrongs.
I didn't talk about it then at all and still don't much today.
All I really need to say is this: nothing is as it first seems. You already know that, though.
But that doesn't stop us from getting Facebook Envy when we see a picture and make assumptions about what that person's life is like.
You know what else?
It also doesn't mean the picture is a lie.
Moments captured on camera are exactly that - moments, captured.
In that still frame the absolute truth was that I was so happy in that moment to hold my boys and know that despite how I felt on the inside, I was able to get a job in a field I love.
This moment is the moment capturing I knew things were changing. I knew the foundation below me was shaky and I knew things were not going as planned.
But, getting that job gave me a new plan. It gave me hope. It meant I had to make a hard choice and many more after it, but I was capable of making them and as I continued to pray this one specific prayer "God please make the way clear..." it became more and more so.
The steps I was asked to take where not according to (my) plan.
would be able to do something that would bring money into our home and Wells Fargo could take my number off speed dial.
This also meant I was two weeks from getting a paycheck and Wells Fargo could stop trying to take my house back.
And here we are, living in this house I love, still unable to keep the water tray from overflowing apparently, with some major and minor changes - but here we are.
Silly, stable and safe.
*A note about the top picture: this was a snapshot following the longest I'd ever been apart from the boys - not counting when I was in labor with Jake. It was seven hours! And I was about to go from that life to working full-time as a reporter. It was incredibly hard. And awesome. And awful. And amazing. Balancing work you're passionate about and being a mama is no easy thing, but it was an incredible experience to work with my newsroom friends and to make new ones along the way.
The bottom picture: Well, that's just us goofing off trying to recreate a moment :)
Behind the Picket Fence: Create a life you fancy.
For the News-Register
While chatting with a group of friends, decorating styles came up. As in, what's your decorating style? Terms like "shabby chic," "farmhouse style," "minimalist" and "bohemian" bounced around the conversation.
At some point, it was clear I was the only one not to contribute. "Um. Well. I'd say I roll with kind of a work-in-progress, ‘cluttered chic’ style. Can that be a thing?"
The discussion then turned to a more philosophical one about what really makes a home feel like "home." That was a little trickier to answer, because mine really has felt like a work-in-progress for about eight years. So that's basically from the moment we got the keys to a home I was so in love with the moment I saw it, I knew it was where I wanted us to raise our babies.
The previous owner had impeccable style. I don't know what you'd call it exactly, but it was worthy of some Better Homes & Gardens coverage. Unfortunately, when moving day came, her stuff was all gone, and with it, the style that made the home seem so much like what I wanted but didn't know how to create myself.
So, there's one answer. Home, I think, is something we create with our intentions and actions. Since my divorce, though, there's been a lot of non-action. Or rather, there’s been plenty of action in juggling all the responsibilities of managing a home, working full time and raising two boys who are no longer babies. But it feels more like barely keeping up on things, instead of actually making progress on any of my decorating dreams.
So, there's that: Home is where you live your real life. And for me right now, that means no sooner have you pulled the bacon out of the oven than there's spilled, hot bacon grease all over the floor, which turns into a fun ice rink for a little bit.
And then when you're done cleaning up that mess, the bacon has mysteriously disappeared but somehow, despite eating an entire pound of bacon between the two of them, there are two boys wondering what's for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.
At that moment, and frankly, for a few days to follow, my kitchen is "decorated" with the remains of that mess and the evidence of quickly trying to cobble something else together before everyone is heading out to where we needed to be.
Because no matter what our mothers taught us, most of us don't put everything away immediately. It is, however, a highly recommended practice. And for good reason.
There is little more discouraging than waking up to a fresh day with remnants of yesterday's disaster on the counters. This is where cultivating cleaning habits you stick to no matter what comes in really handy. You know, stuff like soaking pots right away so you're not working out your biceps scrubbing them quickly in time to make soup for the next meal — that kind of thing.
Speaking of soup, I'm teaching my boys how to cook. My youngest made Avgolemeno soup last week, and if you haven't had that, you should try it because it's delicious. When it came time to put dinner on the table, he wanted to serve it out of a fancy bowl. I tried to convince him to just ladle it from the soup pot.
"Mom, you don't spend this much time on something and then just serve it like that!" And, yes, he did help me with the dishes. Because it mattered to him how the table looked, he carefully set it while declaring: "I love fancy."
He put out cloth napkins, a full place setting for each of us and carefully arranged the bread bowl and plates. He refuses to touch butter, so his brother contributed that to the arrangement. Instead of using the butter dish, his brother tossed the whole stick, still in its wrapper, in the middle of the table.
"There. I hate fancy," he said, shrugging.
I surveyed the scene, Jake drinking out of his crystal goblet, Sam sipping water out of the container closest to him and me with my water poured into my beloved, ubiquitous mason jar.
Ideally, home is a place you can really be yourself and drink out of whatever you please. Home is where you can be fancy, or not. I suppose I'm a pretty good balance between my boys' degrees of fancy.
As we're eating the soup, which two-thirds of us loved, Jake said: "Wherever we are together, that is home."
"Oh, Jake. I love that!" I was touched, and told him so.
"Mom," his brown eyes flashed as he nodded toward the wall behind me, "It literally says that on the wall."
Ah. Right. One of my first acts of decorating my home in a way I loved was finding that sign in an antique store, buying it, leaning it against the wall for a year and, finally, hanging it up where it could remind me what matters more to me than decorating.
Perhaps the whole point of home is figuring out how to be ourselves throughout life's changing circumstances. Because physical homes change, who lives with us in our homes changes and all along the way, so do we.
Home, I've decided, is where we figure ourselves out as we continue to be, well, a work-in-progress.
Merry is optional
First published 12/16/2017
‘Tis the season, they say. For what, exactly, is up to each of us to figure out.
There’s the store-bought concept of what this time of year should be like, of course. Magazine covers, the Internet and daytime talk shows are full of ideas for making this The Best Christmas Ever.
There are tips on ways to simplify, of course. But those are dwarfed by ideas of a more elaborate nature, such as erecting a themed Christmas tree in every room and baking seven different types of soufflés for all the happy people gathering at your house, complete with timelines for what you should have done by now to ensure a stress-free holiday.
So I’m just going to say it outright.
It’s mid-December by the time you’re reading this, right? And frankly, it’s way too late to start making homemade Christmas gifts and wrapping them in the “it” decorating style of the season — Kraft paper with a dangling set of miniature ice skates adding just the right decorative touch.
Maybe this year your gifts will be wrapped in the paper bag you bought them. You did shop local, right? So no plastic bags for you!
Or maybe this year, your gift to others was not buying them a gift at all, thus relieving them of the duty to reciprocate. Let’s call it the gift of freedom.
Actually, that’s what I want to talk to you about it. I wrote a book called “Merry is Optional,” because I think we forget that it is, in fact, optional. We don’t have to enjoy a second of this season if we don’t want to.
That not an original idea. John Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas” is a pretty great book about a couple who found freedom in sitting out the commercial aspects of the season.
Of course, they found so much more meaning and joy in avoiding commercialism that they ended up finding meaning in the season anyway. Sorry for the spoiler.
The point is, they didn’t get to the point of enjoying what they were originally dreading by simply ignoring it. That’s not a thing when you’re walking around and breathing among radio ads and human beings cheerfully keeping count of how many days are left until Christmas. You can’t simply sit it out.
But you can find the freedom to do Christmas in the way that works for you in this season of your own particular life. It’s not always merry, but that’s OK.
Real life doesn’t stop happening around us because sleigh bells ring in the distance. As we go through the motions of “this time of year,” it’s like every other time of the year in wrestling with life’s harsher details — illnesses, broken relationships and the death of loved ones, to name a few.
So here we are. Now what?
Well, you choose. Given whatever situation you find yourself in this holiday season, what can you do to make the most of it? And should you choose to be merry, despite whatever challenges you’re facing, how do you do that on short notice, on a tight budget, amid some of the aforementioned situations?
You choose. You consider what matters to you most, right now, in this season of your life personally.
Not the commercial season, but your season. What does your life look like right now? What can you manage that might also bring you joy, or at least less angst?
Maybe joy isn’t right in the moment. Maybe you choose to create memories for yourself or others to savor later, when your situation looks up.
That may mean sitting through a meal or tolerating a celebration simply to have the experience or give it to a loved one, even though you didn’t feel like it. Or it may mean you buck tradition this year and just eat out on your own.
It’s your holiday. It’s your life. So you get to choose.
This particular Christmas will be my first without my children. That’s what divorce does.
I tear up just thinking about waking up Christmas morning without them. But the truth is, they are going to have a wonderful time with their dad, their grandparents and their cousins.
It was my choice to give them that gift without imposing my own feelings on them. To help make that possible, I’ve planned to sprinkle Christmassy type things out through the month, so we have moments of our own to cherish, even if they weren’t made on that particular day.
This will also be my first Christmas without my dad. He passed away last month, and I’m still treading water in the wake of his loss.
Last Christmas was actually the last time I saw him. And I’ll never forget the last night we had together.
We left the pool late at night, because you can do that in Palm Springs. And even though we were chilled, having wrapped up in wet towels for a ride in an open-air golf cart — as one does in a retirement community in Palm Springs, even in the dead of winter — we took the long way. We wanted to look at all the lights.
“Dad, I’m cold,” I said. “Let’s go home.”
“Soon,” he responded. “I just want to show you this one more. It’s fantastic.”
And with that, we spun past more houses that all looked the same to me, then stopped in front of one featuring a truly spectacular display. The boys and I stared in awe. My dad smiled proudly.
He’d shared a special moment with us. Now we could speed home — to the extent a golf cart allows, anyway.
My dad was all about going out of your way, even if you had to suffer a little, to enjoy a spectacular moment. So this season, even if it’s not comfortable, even if everything isn’t the way I’d hoped, I plan to also go out of my way to create moments to savor.
I’ll keep in mind that merry is optional. And while I’ll opt in as much as I can, I’ll feel free to opt out when I need to as well.
So, Merry Christmas to you — or not.
Nathalie Hardy writes her columns "Raising the Hardy Boys" and "Behind the Picket Fence" in the margins of real life.
It's been a rough year for a lot of us. In a lot of ways. If this resonates with you, I'd love it if you'd share it.
p.s. check back tomorrow for the backstory on this picture with my dad. The last one of us. And one of my favorites. Spoiler: my hair was wet and I was in trouble. Because it doesn't matter how old you are when you're at mom and dad's house. :)
I ran out of money yesterday.
Like, literally, out.
I’m at the checkout at Fred Meyer, with my boys who are soooo excited about their school supplies and all the possibilities of a new school year before them. (Minus the whole getting up in the morning part for Jake).
I had an offer to help with school supplies but I got all pridey about it and was like, other people need help more than I do, I got this.
And then time stood kinda still while the clerk hands me back my card and says, “hmm, it didn’t go through.” And I’m all well, can you try it again because there must be some kind of mistake. (Indeed mistakes were made. Many of them. On my end).
So he tried again. The line is getting fidgety behind me, the boys are unusually all up next to me at the counter.
“Sorry, it says insufficient funds.” He hands it to me with a shrug like clearly there’s an error here and I’m trying to save you face lady … but the supplies we’d spent an hour gathering are all bagged up, and the line is long behind me and the boys are all wide-eyed.
“What’s insufficient funds?” Asks Sam. I pause to think about how I want to reply but the lady behind me decides to help me out by saying: “It means she doesn’t have money in the account.”
“WE’RE OUT OF MONEY?!” Sam is incredulous.
“Ma’am is there another way you’d like to pay?”
“Sure, I can write a check.” I laugh because, obviously. And he nods, go for it. Oh, this guy gets it. As I write the check I’m frantically wracking my brain for ways to get some money into my account before payday which mercifully is the very next day. But without money in the account to cover this check, I’m looking at fees and fees on top of fees. By the way for those of you who wonder how people get so behind on money stuff, it comes down to this: you mess up a little bit. It costs you a lot. And it takes For. Ever. to dig your way back out.
Why yes! I could have done the responsible thing and said “Oh, okay well we’ll have to put these back and come back.” Instead, I did not. Even better, I took the boys to get smoothies to prove how not out of money we are. I know! Then, I hurried home, rushed around gathering up loose change and the remainder of my savings and headed back to the bank. At this point I’m on the verge of tears because how did I even get here right? Not that long ago I’d worked so hard to get out of debt and on a good financial track and then The Divorce happened and the perfect credit score I’d protected my entire adult life went right to hell.
I pray in the truck before going into the bank. It’s a simple one: “God. Please send money. I have no idea how. I just need to borrow some through tomorrow so I don’t get more behind.” And, because I always feel like God wants to know what I’m going to do on my end of things I add, “And I’m really working on being a better steward of my resources.”
So then, I’m standing in line with my little jar of change and some cash I’d kept in an envelope in case of emergency, which wasn’t supposed to be pencils, tissues and crayons but here I am. And I see a friend leaving and avoid eye contact because I’m the kind of person that if you ask me what’s up, I’ll tell you. And I didn’t want to tell anyone this.*
But we connect. And she says, always so cheerful, how are you? And I, because authenticity, I respond with: “How are YOU!?” And the tears start brewing and dammit I am about to lose it in a line three people deep. And you know how when people are extra nice to you, it’s even harder not to cry? And she directly asks what’s up and why am I going to cry, so I tell her. And she hugs me. And then comes back and hands me the exact amount of cash I needed to cover us through payday. Just like that, gives it to me. Buy the boys some shoes, whatever you need she says. Love you.
Later, I learn she’d been held up at the bank and was feeling annoyed by that. In that moment, it was clear to her she was where she was supposed to be. And I’m thankful she was. And I wish I’d managed myself better to not have been in this situation but I don’t know how long I have left on this planet and I don’t intend to waste my time regretting things I can’t change.
What I can do is figure it out moving forward. What I can do is set a better example for my boys about stewardship of our resources and being honest about what we can and can’t afford right now. I have to start though, by being honest with myself about it. You know, live within my means and all that old-fashioned goodness.
*I mentioned that I didn’t want to tell anyone because who does crap like this? And, yet here I am writing about it now. I want you to know why. I believe that shame kills our spirits. The twinge of guilt that I felt that I was not handling something properly was appropriate. That feeling motivates me to make better choices immediately. Shame though? Shame is crippling and serves no one. I trust you guys to read this for what it is. Me keeping things real with the intent to encourage you to ask for help and trust when it comes.
Sharing this, however, is not a plea for help. What I need is for us to keep shit real with each other. I got this. With a little help at just the right time!
If I need it, I’ll ask for it. That’s really what I’m working on right now. Accepting it when it comes and being more direct in asking for it. And, then, trusting people to show up when they say they will. #TrustIssues
Also, people can’t help but offer advice. Helpful, well-meaning advice such as: balance your checkbook! Make a budget! Stick to it! Good stuff, guys. And present circumstances aside, I’m actually pretty good at grown up stuff. It’s just that when life gets flipped upside down, you go into this survival mode and it takes awhile to get to the side of things were you look around and go: yeah, this isn’t how things are going to be. And then you change them and find your new way.
Looking forward to sharing more about the journey to now and where we go from here.
Have the courage to tell your truth: to yourself first and others who matter to you. There’s freedom in that.
p.s. I’ve so missed writing here and it makes my heart happy to be back at my keyboard. Soon, very soon, I will even have my office back to write in. Because I am organizing all the things. For real this time!
p.p.s. one more thing: finding freedom in truth doesn’t necessarily mean spilling all your stuff on social media, or disclosing information to someone that will hurt them under the guise of “just being honest” to relieve yourself of a burden by passing it on to someone else. More than anything freedom in truth is an inside job. We all lie to ourselves about something. It’s just a matter of how long you need to keep that up before laying it down and living into truth and freedom. It’s harder, but better this way. I promise.
But when it comes to figuring how to manage all of the maintenance yourself on a home built in 1900, I find myself wanting to Google this: How do you even figure out where to start?
Frankly, what I need goes way beyond Google. After all, Google can't caution me against stuff like filling up a truck with soil without first having a way to get it out of the truck and into the yard in a reasonable amount of time.
Instead, I turn to Facebook. My friends on Facebook, that is.
Recently, I realized I needed to mount a local dump run. And I had no idea how to go about it.
Trust me, the irony of reporting on our local landfill for this very paper for two years, and still being clueless about how to find my way around its Newberg transfer station, wasn't lost on me.
But there I was, wondering everything from where to go, exactly, to what to do, exactly, once I got there.
Of course, I Googled the exact name, address and hours for the dump. You know what Google didn't mention? The amount of manual labor my mission might involve.
Turns out there's no automated system dedicated to unloading garbage. For the twelve of you who don't know, you have to, like, climb into the back of your truck and throw all the stuff into a giant, pungent pile of other people's stuff.
So I turned to my friends on Facebook, announcing I was making my maiden dump run and seeking input. In moments, my feed flooded with great tips and reminders.
For instance, Google didn't tell me, "Hey, wear boots because it's kind of gross." Or, "Bring a tarp. You have to have a tarp."
I was totally planning on going tarpless until I saw that. In fact I didn't even own a tarp.
Now I have two. And they seem like the kind of things a competent grown up would own.
Some of my friends had all the answers, even to questions I didn't even know to ask. Others were glad I asked, because they got a lot of good tips from the thread, too.
As an added bonus, it made them feel like they'd been empowered to ask some "dumb" questions of their own.
When we were kids, we used to hear, "There's no such thing as a dumb question." But we never felt that was true, because it really wasn't true, at least in the eyes of others. There are, totally, questions that will seem dumb to someone else.
But if you don't know, you don't know. In the end, what's actually dumb is doing what I did — stressing out so much about something that ended up being pretty easy in the end, once armed the with the advice of people who kew things I didn't.
By the way, one thing no one mentioned was, bring something to cover your nose, particularly if you have a strong gag reflex, as I do. You might look the fool, but at least you won't be unloading your truck whild struggling to fend off bouts of barfing.
Just in case you didn't know, there you have it.
While I'm dispensing spare tips, if you really want to pull off the full-fledged adult impression, you should clean out the truck afterward. Otherwise, you'll have a friend climb in, only to find the following tangled up at their feet — a tarp, a rope, some bungee cords and a supply of disposable gloves.
That, of course, is bound to raise some eyebrows and questions. And I don't know about you, but I'm not really known for my fast follow-through.
Now that I had the dump thing out of the way, round one anyway, I decided to try picking up a load of soil to help me flesh out a garden concept of mine.
It's been a couple weeks, now, and I'm still rolling around town with a truckload of soil. I'm really regretting not listening to the friend who suggested throwing a tarp down prior to loading the bed. It would have made removal of the soil so very much easier.
This business of maintaining a home is a whole lot of toil. But I'm starting to feel the satisfaction of working toward a goal instead of being constantly disappointed by my inability to keep up.
I'll eventually figure this out. Even if it means asking lots of dumb questions, swallowing my pride to ask for help and actually listening to the advice I get!
Hardy writes her columns "Raising the Hardy Boys" and "Behind the Picket Fence" in the margins of real life.
You guys, I know, I know ... but I found my desk this weekend. So more writing soon. No, really. But for now, here's my most recent clip and me opening a can of worms writing material. Because why not.
In A Fix
I recently celebrated, as it were, a year of single home-ownership.
If I'd known I was going to be doing this on my own, of course, I would never have laid eyes on, much less purchased, a house built in 1900 — a house with just one bathroom and, uh, lots of opportunities for improvement.
Home improvement is a thing, as most readers of a home and garden section of the newspaper know. There are, however, lots of different means and motives behind the improving of homes.
For some, it's cosmetic. For example, we've outgrown these tired floors and are ready to put down some bamboo. Or whatever.
For others it's necessity. For example, improve this situation or your porch will rot in front of your very eyes. I mean, I've heard that can happen.
And now that I'm paying attention, I'm also noticing there's a fair amount of peer pressure serving to motivate home improvement. I've come to realize some people would be mortified if someone drove by their house and spotted an array of issues crying for attention, including, but by no means limited to, peeling paint, flower boxes dangling by a rusty nail and an utterly neglected garden.
Fortunately, I'm not that kind of person. I'm more of an, "I'll keep the lawn mowed within an inch of the law and do my best with the rest" kind of person.
From the outside, it looks a lot like things have been falling apart around my place for the last couple years but that belies the truth which is that I've been putting all my energy into keeping things together.
Now that the chaos, shock and upheaval of a parental split have settled into a new kind of normal in our household, I'm ready to take on some of this so-called home improvement. I decided to start by using a sledgehammer to demolish a piece of furniture my ex had mounted to the wall.
It was an awesome experience. I overshot my target a few times, so had to add "fix drywall" to my ever-growing project punchlist, but I got the job done.
I've taken more trips to my local hardware store the last few months than I have in my first 40 years on the planet. And I've been impressed with how helpful folks can be, if you take the trouble to seek them out.
That brings me to my most recent adventure.
With three of us living in a house with one bathroom, and two of us being barging little boys, I decided it was time we had a bathroom door that actually locked.
So I bought the hardware I needed, and a screwdriver to install it.
In my eagerness to get started, I immediately removed the old door handle, leaving just the deadlatch in place. (Yes, I Googled it.)
Then I carefully read the instructions. Finally, just for good measure, I looked it up on You Tube in the company of my 9-year-old son, Sam.
Part way through the online tutorial, Sam had apparently seen enough. He decided to go for it, on his own.
Then I head the dreaded, "Uh, Mom? A little help here?"
I peered through the hole in the door, catching the nervous look on his face. I had to peer through the deadlatch, which was locking him on one side of the door and me on the other.
It turned out we each had one part of the new lock and one part of the old on our side of the door. He had the tools, the hinges and access to our only toilet on his side, and I had the run of the house on my side.
Neither of us knew quite what to do next.
And, of course, my other son needed to use the bathroom. Right now!
"Google something, Mom!" He urged from inside.
"Okay, but first I have to take a picture," I said. And I posted on my Facebook wall, indicating I needed a little help.
All kinds of awesome advice and tips soon began cascading before my eyes, because I have the best tribe in the world. But there was no window for him to crawl out of, and I couldn't quite picture what action I was being advised to take on my side.
A friend Facetimed me and asked me to show her what I was looking at.
"Which side is the doorjamb on?" she asked. When I hesitated, she explained, "That's the part that ..." but was interrupted by someone at the front door.
Another friend saw my plea for help. He was in the neighborhood, so he stopped by.
He did what I was trying to do, but faster and more effectively. In the blink of an eye, with minimal drama, Sam and the cat, also trapped on the other side of the door, had been set free.
And while he was there, he helped me finish the project.
The box the doorknob came in boasted it could be "easily" installed "in minutes" using only "one tool."
I suppose, technically, that was true — provided a got a lot of help from technology and my Facebook tribe.
As my friend left, he eyed the bathroom vanity, still sitting in the kitchen, in its original packaging. I recently bought it to replace the one that broke six years ago.
Catching the look on his face, and mindful of the jam I had just escaped, I promised him I would seek help in advance before tackling the vanity project.
But I'm going to do the sledgehammer part myself. Because I can.
Hardy writes her columns "Raising the Hardy Boys" and "Behind the Picket Fence" in the margins of her life raising two boys who somehow convinced her to get a cat.