For awhile there, the blending of the new with the old seemed daunting. From the day I chipped that first cabinet door off its painted hinges, I had a good idea I was in over my head. Likewise, when I started writing I realized it might not be easy to find the fine balance between humor and whiney drama queen. In my opinion I think I measured up to both challenges. I gotta feel good about that.
All in all I'd say it was a good experience. There was a lot to be done and a lot to learn. There were times when my emotions, both up and down, got away from me. To my surprise and astonishment when I hung the last picture on the newly painted walls, I think even the stone-faced check writer wanted to join me in doing the "happy" dance. [Not that he'd ever actually do the happy dance, but I could see his feet beginning to tap! Wishful thinking? Nah! He likes the transformation!]
I continue to watch the shows on HGTV but not to get ideas. Mainly I watch to try to guess what's going on behind the camera. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a stay-at-home-caregiver) to realize a lot of editing magic goes into those weekend renovations. Don't get me wrong, they make some amazing changes in just a couple of days. However, as Paul Harvey would say, I've discovered the "rest of the story."
In conclusion I'd like to list my top ten things they DON'T tell you on HGTV. I've already pointed some of them out but here's my final list:
10. One of the key elements of any home project is the "preparation." Moving funriture and appliances and "stuff" out of the way is one of the first things that has to be done. Not to mention the cleaning, sorting, and removing of the cobwebs that have become a permanent part of the decor. Then there's the priming. On TV, the designer opens up a can of brightly colored paint, dips in a roller and wipes a big swoosh across a bare wall. I learned ... the hard way ... that the swoosh is going to cover better and stay longer only if a liberal coat of Kilz has previously been applied to the wall.
9. Painting on the TV show is a relatively neat undertaking. Paint in real life is a tad messier. When you are planning a paint project, you might want to consider this when picking the color. I'm not sure how it happens but paint has a way of landing on anything and everything that is NOT covered with your carefully placed drop cloth.
8. You will notice that the families on TV rarely if ever have pets around for the redo. That is probably because pets rarely if ever like their environs turned upside down. Cats in particular, I've found to my acute vexation, don't cotten to chaos and/or confusion. When their normal surroundings are piled high with everything that was once in another room, they sometimes decide to pee on those things to lower their sweet little feline anxiety levels. I have noticed that none of the shows I've seen on HGTV ever conclude with the guys from Stanley Steamer trying to get the stinky urine smell out of the rugs. [Photo: Mission organization - keep or toss?]
7. When trying to decide what to keep or throw away, the organizing guru's on TV rarely sit in the middle of the floor and cry over mementos long forgotten.
6. On TV the decorator walks into the room in question. After taking a no-nonsense look around, she comes up with an attractive yet useful new design. Then the work begins. At the end of the day, "homework" assignments are given to the already exhausted homeowners. While the decorator goes out for a steak dinner and glass of wine, the DIY work force spends most of the night painting or organizing or cleaning up cat pee. There is never any mention of eating, doing the laundry or sleeping. In other words, real life is what happens after the designer leaves. Eating out becomes a necessary evil. Sadly, after weeks of fast food, even 2 big Bufords for $3.00 no longer seems like such a good deal.
5. TV carpenters and craftsmen weild nail guns like Wyatt Earp or Bill Hickock. To the casual television watcher these tools seem to carry no weight at all. In reality, they are heavy and every bit as scary as a 38 revolver. I know you must be wondering how I would know what a 38 feels like. It is not something I advertise, but I have taken an NRA-sponsored firearms class. After sitting through an hour of propaganda and instruction, I fired one round from a weapon that felt like bowling ball in my hands. That was enough for me. I handed the weapon back to the instructor (hurty end down and finger nowhere near the trigger), waved goodbye to the paper person I had just ripped a hole in and left the range without looking back. The ear shattering kaboom of the nail gun was enough like the real thing that I knew I was way out of my league. I'm not much good with a hammer, but I'll take a good whack over a loud bang anyday. [Photo: Annie Oakley eat your heart out!]
4. There are few if any mistakes made in the TV rooms. Obviously they practice the carpenter's adage - measure twice, cut once. In reality, even the professionals make mistakes. I stood and watched as the flooring men measured and cut the sheet of vinyl that was going down in our den. It was supposed to go from wall to wall and only have one seam in the doorway. I was still standing there when it became evident that the cut was about 3 feet short. Oops! I don't think he said the "F" word, but I'm pretty sure he thought it! [Photo: Slight discrepancy in measurement noticed. On to Plan B!]
3. The TV designers are the people who get to do the shopping. As in #6, the reality of the DIY project is that the do-it-yourselfer is the person who spends time shopping for supplies, furnishings, accessories, and other gotta have gadgets. It is also the do-it-yourselfer who becomes best friends with the lady behind the returns counter at Lowes when the gotta haves don't quite fit into the big picture.
2. Even though some of the shows I've watched have a two-day time limit, there is never any fear that the work will not be completed on time. In reality, the project takes on a life of its own. As our work headed into its third week and I still had a dining room covered with kitchen utensils, I began to worry if we'd never be back to normal. Obviously the three P's of DIY projects are "Preparation, Perseverance and Patience." (Okay, you can add a 4th "P" but I'm trying to give the cat a break!)
1. And the final thing that they don't tell you on HGTV is this: When all is said and done....the walls cleaned and papered; the new cabinets hung; the floor replaced and the lazy susans balanced to spin like merry go rounds ... it might still feel like something is missing.
You see, what they don't tell you when they tear apart and put back together a room on TV is that no matter how much work is done, the changes are only skin (wall?) deep. The character of the room doesn't change with the color of the paint. The pulse of the room is not found in the accessories but in the people who live there. Memories live on long after the shelf paper has been replaced and unused crystal glasses are gently put back in their corner of the cupboard.
Like I said before, a DIY project sometimes feels like it will never end. At some point, however, you have to take off your tool belt, survey your handiwork and say "I'm done!" Before I stepped back to reflect on the changes, my last job was to hang a picture of my mother, the only real Kitchen Maven this home will ever know.
Even though my mother passed away almost five years, she was a part of this project from its beginning. At times I wondered about what she thought when she first laid eyes on what was to be her domain for forty years. Did she pick orange flowered contact paper because she liked it or because it was on sale? At other times I tried to imagine what she would say about the changes. When trying to decide what to toss and what to keep, I often used Mother's practicality as a gauge, so hopefully she's okayed my present day choices.
Today I stand in the middle of the clean, white kitchen that has become my "headquarters." My mind does a weird sort of rewind and fast forward two-step. Like one of those books where you flip the pages real fast to see a mini-movie, I remember the summer afternoon my mom handed me a bag of Nestle's chocolate chips. (Obviously she believed when life gives you chips, it was a sign to make cookies.) I look at the new corner cabinets and remember the toddlers banging on pans inside a cupboard that no longer exists. I remember eating family dinners around a table set for six; the same table I've cut in half to provide more room for three.
The photo of my mom that lovingly hangs in the dinette is an old black and white taken in 1962, on the occasion of our family's first Thanksgiving in Jacksonville. The table is set with china, crystal and silver flatware. Mom is dressed in a simple black dress, her hair perfectly coiffed. She holds in her hands one of the biggest turkeys I've ever seen. And she has a huge smile on her face.
As I write the end to this story, I realize that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I can't help but wonder if I'll be able to present my family a perfectly browned turkey and still have a smile on my face. That remains to be seen. For today, however, I think I'll just look stand here and do the happy dance.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. I don't believe much in horoscopes but get a load of yesterday's message for Pisces: "As you finish one job, start planning the next. List what worked and what didn't so you can make all new mistakes next time."