When I was living in my first apartment, almost ten years ago (eesh!), I bought an Ikea coffee table. The legs were meant to screw into the top, and there was a shelf that rested below on pegs stuck in the legs. Easy, right? Not for me. I couldn’t get those leg holes to line up to accommodate the shelf, and after a couple hours of cursing and crying and unscrewing and re-assembling, I did the only reasonable thing: I called my friend Andrea and asked her to bring over a drill. This table would come together, even if I had to drill new holes in all the legs.
Thankfully, Andrea didn’t have the same anger and frustration at the table that I did. While I held a hammer in my hands, ready to beat the whole thing into submission (or tiny pieces), she was able to re-configure which legs went on which corner, line up all the holes correctly, and the shelf fit in like a dream. The drill sat, un-used, in her tool bag.
This whole incident earned me a reputation of not being particularly good at home improvement, furniture assembly, or managing my temper in those situations. Although I like to believe I’ve redeemed myself in the years that have followed, a reputation has a way of turning into an identity. I might know my way around a kitchen, but when it comes to home improvement, I believe the reputation: I kind of suck at DIY stuff.
We had just moved into our house here in Maryland when I began dreaming of a sewing table. A real, large, legitimate sewing table, with proper storage and organization, with a work surface both long and wide enough. I fantasized about fitting entire sewing projects onto the table, rather than my fabric draping off the side of my desk. This table would need to be constructed – such a work station, already engineered and built, would far exceed my budget. I sent my friend Tara a text about it, laughing at myself: what on earth possesses me to think that I could just build such a thing? Especially pregnant? Especially since, you know, it’s me?
And we laughed, and talked about DIY projects, but the moment didn’t entirely pass for me. Why did I believe this about myself? Why had I decided that I was un-teachable, incapable, and prone only to accidents and mistakes? It’s rather ungenerous.
Being large and, at this point, super pregnant, my evenings are spent with my feet up and the TV on, and y’all, I have discovered HGTV. My favorite shows are the ones that feature people doing the work of making a house what they want it to be – shows about flippers, yes, but even more so, the ones that show people building tiny houses from scratch. I’m so impressed! They have to be handy and resourceful, strategic in their use of space and materials. They must problem-solve as they go along. And I think, as I watch men and women alike, people my age, man, I wish I could do that!
I can do that. I may not choose to build a tiny house, but I can fix things, or build them, or change them to fit my tastes or preferences. Of course I can.
Not too long ago, Amanda and I found a fantastic rocking chair at a yard sale, just perfect for the baby’s room. After looking at rockers online that started around $120 and stretched all the way up to $350+, we saw this humble $15 chair with cushions included, and snatched it up. The woman who owned it had beefed up the cushions, adding more padding to make them more comfortable. It sits like a dream.
My only objection was the color. The problem with a boy’s nautical nursery is that, pretty soon, you’re just surrounded by blue and white. It annoyed me – blue and white, everywhere. This boy needs color! And even more than that, his mama needs color!
I shoved those old doubts out of my head, bought some snazzy red anchor fabric, looked at a few tutorials on Pinterest – this fantastic one from Confessions of a Serial Do-It-Yourselfer was my guide and is super easy to follow -, and with new resolve, and my wife to help me, I bent those cushions to my will.
And it worked!
Look at me being handy! Witness my redemption! I may not have built a tiny house, but I sure did make that chair look brand new (to me), and I feel I’ve broken the curse of that Ikea table. I didn’t even cry. (Okay, I almost did once. But only almost! I am pregnant after all.)