Wednesday, August 26, 2015

No Bucket List Summer

It was 54 degrees when I woke up this morning, opened my window and greedily inhaled this prelude to fall.  

But, it's still August.  Even by the most liberal application of seasons summer does not end until after Labor Day weekend, despite having packed up our giant pool bag and replaced it with backpacks.

You might have gathered that fall is my favorite.  

I've got this huge chalkboard in the entryway of my home that I change with the seasons.  You might remember it, it's the one that also doubles as a cover for giant, misplaced drill marks?  It's the most Pinteresty thing in our home, and I love trying my hand at different fonts with multi-colored chalk paints. 

Last year's bucket list at the start of summer

For the most part, the board has become a revolving seasonal bucket list, a sort of cutesy, less stressful version of a to-do list for those of us who have an aversion to actual to-do lists.  I convinced myself that if I wrote out all of the fanciful joys of a given season in bright colors, they would feel more like friendly reminders than a task list to be completed.  Hayride!  Bonfire!  Apple picking! 

But the truth is those chalkboards still left me with a sense of anxiety, a heightened awareness of the passing of time and a fear of missing out.  August 31st would find me panicking, "Kids!  Get in the car now!  We only have eight hours to hit the water park, have lunch at the farmer's market, go strawberry picking and make it to the summer concert series!  What do you mean strawberries are out of season?  We didn't check it off the list!  Go, go, GO!"  

In short, if we didn't get to all of the happy suggestions, I felt like I had failed the season in some way.

Last May, as the end of the school year approached and sunscreen hit the shelves at Target, I pulled the chalkboard down to start this summer's bucket list and just couldn't do it.   Instead, I went with an entirely out of context use of the lyric from Porgy and Bess -  "Summertime and the living is easy" -  and decided to face the summer without a bucket list.  

Here's what happened:

We "missed" a few things that I'm sure would have ended up on that list.  A trip to the Muny.  Six Flags.  Homemade ice cream.  Those sneaky strawberries. 

But we also did a lot of things we never would have thought to put on the chalkboard.  Spontaneous day trips.  Playing in June's abundant rain showers.  Spending a day creating a hideout under the basement stairs.  Board game tournaments.  Creek walking.  Hours of uninterrupted play with the neighborhood kids coming and going.  







So now it's the end of August.  School is back in session and we've entered summer's final days.  For the first time in years, I don't feel that familiar sense of urgency at summer's end, panic to wrap up the bucket list, sadness that it is coming to a close.  We've had a good summer, a sweet summer, a slow summer, an imperfect summer.  

I'm sure there is more at play here than the lack of a chalkboard bucket list, but just in case, I'm taking suggestions for a fall-themed quote.  Bonus points for lyrics from musical theater.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Redefining Optimism

About a month ago, I sat down in a university auditorium with several hundred thirty-something year old women including my own teenage bestie to listen to my favorite childhood author, Judy Blume, speak about her new novel and writing process.

I might as well have been a eleven-year-old girl at a One Direction concert.

I took surreptitious pictures from the audience, choked back tears as she spoke, refrained myself from jumping out of my seat when she answered the question I had submitted, and could barely contain the shaking in my hands as I waited in line to meet her afterward.

Please read the rest of this post over at Mamalode ... 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Adventures in Carpentry


I almost didn't write this blog post.  

You see, I've read all the articles about social media envy, and how hard it is for us women to stop comparing our real lives to someone else's highlight reel.  As a blogger, I'm acutely aware that I contribute to this phenomenon by choosing what I share and what I don't.  I wrote recently about how my journey in de-cluttering has caused my local friends to apologize for the state of their homes, even though in reality my house usually has dishes in the sink, things piled on the table and desk, and piles of laundry stuffed into a closet, out of sight.

So, I've hidden away a talent of mine because I don't want to cause a rift between me and the people I love most.  But it's time to tell the truth.  Hopefully, you'll be able to put your envy aside and we can still be friends.  


So here it is.

I'm basically a master carpenter/handy-woman.  I'm like the next Ana White.  I'll probably be hearing from HGTV after I hit publish on this post.

It all started a few years ago when I wanted to hang some shelves and my husband was balancing a full-time work load and school.  I decided that women can use power tools too, and decided to just take matters into my own hands and complete the project myself.  The results were pretty stunning, and I invented some great tips I'm willing to share with you all. 


Pro Tip -  If the cabinet is too thin to drill into, just drill on the one side that's thick enough.  It's totally fine if the other side doesn't have any screws holding the shelf up.  Just make careful choices about what you put on the shelf.  



Pro Tip - If you accidentally put a gaping hole in the wrong spot on your wall, just put a giant chalkboard in front of it.  No need to fill the hole in.  No one is going to look back there.


Pro Tip - Drywall anchors are a totally overrated extra step.  You can just drill right into the drywall.  In fact, screws are overrated.  They make this tacky stuff for posters, and most of the time, it works just fine for hardware too.  



Pro Tip - You know the expression "Measure Twice, Cut Once?"  It's for amateurs.  I prefer "Don't Bother Measuring OR Cutting and Use What You Have On Hand."  It will work out almost perfectly, minus a few inches, every time.  Also, I made that hanging thing in the picture below myself.  I put those handles on that wood and made a professional looking hanging unit.  I'm probably going to pin that later.  Or you can pin it now.  


Last week, we got home from a beautiful beach that I did not want to leave and the very next day my husband and his buddy Joe dove headfirst into a week-long set design project for a local theater company.  Jason and Joe are also sort of talented in the woodworking/carpentry department, if you are into the whole "utilizing artistry to provide a visual interpretation of a play's underlying themes" thing.  They can build things like this:


 Or like this:


Which I guess are okay.  

Now, it's still a little unclear why I wasn't asked to participate on the set design team (if the above pro tips didn't adequately convince you of my skills, you should also know that I took a set construction class once in high school), but I'm not bitter or anything.  In fact, I had my own project to work on last week anyway, and I'm here today to share this DIY masterpiece with you.

DIY Bunk Bed Desks

Both of our boys have bunk beds but rarely utilize the top bunks.  While brainstorming ideas for various studying and work surfaces around our house for the upcoming school year, we came up with the brilliant idea of creating removable bunk bed desks that they could use on the top bunks.  The desks would look a lot like this:




But, as you can see from the above link, that item is discontinued.  

No problem.  I decided to just make those desks myself.  

I know, it sounds really intense.  Don't be intimidated.  I'm going to write out all of the steps one at a time, and even those of you who have never done any woodworking should be able to make this happen.  

1.  Take a mental picture of your child's bunk bed and estimate the width of the piece of wood you will need.  Sometimes, when I'm doubting my estimating skills, I'll use my arm as a ruler.  It comes within inches every single time.  Then just remember that number.  No need to write it down.

2.  Smile and  praise your kid for locating a measuring tape and taking exact measurements and writing them down.  He's only a child, and hasn't perfected the art of eyeballing measurements yet.  Plus, isn't it cute the way he uses tools to complete projects?  

3.  Drive to your local hardware store and locate the lumber department.  It's the department with all of the wood.  Wander around the lumber section until you find the pre-cut boards.  Choose the least expensive pre-cut board that is closest in size (but not smaller) than the size you estimated.  When your child balks that this board is too small and pulls out his measurements, humor him.  Put your board back and get the one he thinks is the right size.  

  
4.  If the board is a few inches too big, don't panic.  If, like me, you are a semi-professional wood-worker who doesn't actually own any cutting tool things, it's okay.  Don't abandon the project.  You can take your board to the lumber cutting section of the hardware store and they have this big fancy machine that will cut it for you.  When you ask the man to cut four inches off the end of the board and your child interrupts to ask the man to measure the board first in case it doesn't match the advertised measurements, go ahead and let him do it.  It's an important life skill for children to learn how to talk to adults, even if they are asking a really silly question.  But when the board turns out to be two inches shorter than the advertised measurement, you don't have to say anything.  You don't want it to go to your kid's head or anything.

Fancy wood cutter thingy at Lowes

5.  Bring those boards over to the paint section and look for some wood stain.  If one of your kids wants the board to match his bunk bed and the other kid wants his board to be pink, just pick a stain that is somewhere between mahogany and pink.  It's all basically the same right?  

6.  Find a well-ventilated spot and hand those kids some paintbrushes.  (I'm a master carpenter, remember?  I never said anything about painting.)

Just look at that pink-mahogany color.   It's perfect.

7.  Carry the boards to the bedrooms.  When your kid complains that the board's edges might give him splinters, tell him that they are "pre-sanded" and it will be fine.

8.  Carefully remove all of the splinters from your child's hand and put some fancy-looking duct tape around the edges of those boards.  

9.  Place the boards on the top of the bunk beds and you now have bunk bed desks!



There you have it!  They look exactly like the picture, right?   I probably should have started you off with an easier project.  Don't be discouraged if you try this at home and you just can't duplicate the results.  It is a nine step project after all.  

I feel so much better now that I've shared this talent with all of you.  If you ever have any questions about hanging picture frames or putting together prefabricated furniture, don't even hesitate to call me.  If I'm not too busy with my new woodworking show on HGTV, I'll be happy to help. 









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