Not Quite Barn Raising

After a mere seven years, my house is now officially painted. OK, with the exception of the downstairs closet and one bathroom door that needs to be replaced anyway, but I’m calling it done.

The final two stages were completed in large part thanks to my mom and three cheerful and generous friends, two of whom, miraculously, actually like painting. Discovering this fact was a little like discovering that some people enjoy being accountants. Who knew such marvels existed?

It’s important to note that this wasn’t only rolling and brushing. In my usual impressively foresightful manner, I had prepped exactly one of three rooms, which means some people washed walls and others taped, definitely the least fun parts of the painting process, yet they did it, as previously noted, cheerfully.

Perhaps the reason communities used to have barn raisings is not only that it made it a lot easier to get your barn built but also that it made the process a lot more fun. I have a pretty clear vision of what painting by myself would have looked like, and it involves a good deal of self-pity, like in the comics when a character walks around with a rain cloud over her head all the time.

But this was enjoyable—maybe not as enjoyable as if we’d all gone out to dinner or the movies but maybe more so. We had a chance to catch up, chat about life possibilities, eat really good watermelon, listen to the Beatles, admire each others’ handiwork, and laugh over our mistakes.

It might not matter so much what we do as who we do it with. Thank you, painting crew, for your help, your good humor, and the reminder that so many things in life are better shared.

Lessons from Hardwood

With apologies for more time away than anticipated, here’s a recap of what the universe of wood flooring taught me this past month.

Lesson the first: Cardboard is a wood floor’s best friend.

Lesson the second: As a friend said, yay for dads.

Empty room with wood floor
The new wood floor in all its glory.

Lesson the third: I liked seeing my floor stripped down to the plywood, though I’m still not sure why. Maybe it’s reassuring to know there’s something under it all. Maybe the unpretentiousness of plywood—its simplicity—appeals to me. The plywood, paint-splattered as it is, appears to be comfortable with itself and its role in the universe, a state of being I often fail to achieve.

Lesson the fourth: Home improvements are worth it. Every time I walk into my bedroom and see the floor, I think to myself, “Wow, this is my room” because I’m that surprised by how beautiful it is.

Lesson the fifth: Do-it-yourself projects provide an excellent opportunity to practice the spirituality of imperfection (not my term, stolen from Richard Rohr). The first time you use leveling compound, it’s not going to be pretty.

Lesson the sixth: Beds are awesome. I slept on a cot in the living room for more than a week and the return to my bed was, as previously stated, awesome. I think Tux, my cat, was happier than I was.

Lesson the seventh: Though unanticipated moments may lead to quality time contemplating different shades of brown caulk, they may also form the happiest memories. One of my favorite moments had nothing to do with the floors. Dad and I were leaving for dinner, and Tux had snuck out into the patio. I was attempting to lure him in with treats, and he, being a cat, was determined to remain uninterested. Then my dad—who usually addresses Tux with, “Yes, cat, out of the way”—said, “Go on Tuxer. She has some treats for you.” Anything is possible.

Painting Lessons

If you thought that painting your house was not the activity most likely to produce profound philosophical insights, you were right. Here are some mostly not-so-deep but potentially useful lessons learned from my recent painting adventure:

  • Before you pick up the cat that’s been locked in the garage for five hours, make doubly sure the paint on your hands is actually dry.
  • Abba is good painting music. Wait to start dancing until your roller has made contact with the wall.
  • If you know it’s going to take two days to paint your bedroom and you’ve put your bed in the middle of a pile of furniture covered by plastic, don’t put the air mattress you’ll need to sleep on under the plastic with everything else.
  • If you forget the advice above, have the good sense to look in the garage to see if by any chance you put the air mattress there instead of under the plastic as you thought you did.
  • Invite lots of friends. Some of them will come, and they will make your life so much more fun. Plus, a lot more paint will get on the walls in a shorter amount of time.
  • Tall people have amazing super powers that allow them to reach high ceilings in a single bound. Ok, there was no bounding, but there was also no ladder.
  • The back swing of someone using the long handle for the paint roller is dangerous. Use the skills you learned playing Mario Brothers to time your crossings on the upswing.
  • Plan some time to put things away. Otherwise it will be Thursday and all your stuff will still be shoved together in the middle of the room. Or at least so I imagine. Clearly I wouldn’t do anything like that.