Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Chapter 7 - Ten Top Things They Don't Tell You on HGTV

I think I have stretched out the writing about our kitchen renovation just about as far as I dare. Although there are still a few things to put away, I am, for the most part, finished with both the redo and the telling of it. Now when I walk in the kitchen I get a yummy feeling of accomplishment. And when I read my journal posts I'm proud to feel a little like an Erma Bombeck apprentice - able to find humor in the mundane and meaning in the chaos.

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,

Merry ME

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."


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Please Stay Tuned

Wow! For awhile there I was really turning out the posts. I was on a writing roll. But as some great sage once said, "all good things must come to an end." I'm not sure I agree with that logic, yet I suppose there is some truth in it. I'm of the mindset that when the chocolate cake is gone, it's always good to have an apple pie waiting in the wings.

My problem today is that I don't have much time. I'm on the run. So like the commercials for the 11:00pm news here is a little tease of what is to come.

1. The kitchen is done! Woohoo! The final pieces fell into place (or were shoved in a cupboard where history has proven that "out of sight, out of mind" is a 40 year old truism) with little trouble. All I needed was time.

2. I had a colonoscopy. I learned to my surprise that the a-n- t-i-c-a-p-a-a-a-t-i-o-n was way worse than the actual procedure. Of course I copped out at the end, put my journalistic career on hold and opted for what the nurses called "good drugs"!

3. Jack has had a tooth acting like a teenage kid who just got his driver's license. It wants out and has decided to throw a little snit until given its way. A little thing like being a diabetic and needing a cardiologist's okay for the procedure prolonged the agony for the duration of the weekend. I've got to give the boy credit. He's done very little complaining. We all know how I'd be whining. In fact, I was even heard to make the statement: "I'd rather have another colonoscopy than have a tooth pulled." Say what???????????

Stay tuned. I promise I'll be baaaaaack!
Inspite of (because of)it all I am,
Merry ME

Monday, August 20, 2007

Chapter Six - Mission Organization

"Every project worth doing has a crisis stage." Luther Reynolds

One of the more interesting HGTV shows I've been watching lately is called "Mission Organization." The perky young hostess -whom I suspect has probably never lifted a finger in her life or she'd have a job that's more difficult than wading through other people's stuff and saying something inspiring like "Oh, my!" with dramatic flare - leads the cameraman around a room piled high in debris that looks like a tornado blew through. In reality this is the way some poor couple has lived for most of their lives. I am not a pot who would dare to call a kettle black, but I am both fascinated and grossed out by the way some people live. Even my son's teenage bedroom or my daughter's grown-up bathroom would look, if not neat, at least liveable compared to some of these rooms. You get the picture ....

After displaying the mess du jour, the hostess turns the couple over to a person whose REAL job is organizing other people's messes. When I first watched this show, I didn't believe there were such occupations. But having googled it and found to my surprise this is a big business, I'm even more curious.* The organizer sits down with the organizee(s) to explain the facts of life about throwing things away. Nothing is sacred to these heartless, ruthless modification demons: stacks of Time magazines that date back to the Kennedy assination are fuel for the proverbial fire. Musical instruments from junior high, favorite books that are being kept for sentimental reasons, as well as the off chance that it will be read again are given the old heeve ho. Old love letters, hiking boots that have never been above sea level, topless magic markers and a childhood blankie ... gone. Madam Alexander dolls in their original boxes and photograph albums vying for space are all fair game for the "sorting" aspect of the show. I watch with both wonder and woe.
I'm not sure how it happens, probably the magic of television, but enough room is made in the center of the cluttered room for three piles. Each is aptly labled: Keep, Donate or Trash. It is the organizee's job to go through the mountain of junk and memorabilia. It is the cameraman's job to stand guard over the pile of treasures that each person will indubitably try to slip past the eagle eyes of the organizer. To her credit, the person in charge of this procedure has the communication skills of a hostage negotiator/marriage counselor. People, I've learned, especially husbands and wives, get very attached to their things. I've never seen the organizer ask them to put one of their children or pets in the throw away pile, but it becomes a close call when sacred objects are about to be tossed by an unwitting spouse.

Finally, out of sight of the camera, the room is cleared. The same people who have been arguing over a terra cotta statue of John Wayne now have to go to bed and sleep together, only to awake bright eyed for the next day's job of putting the "Kept" stuff in its correct space. In walks the organizer with a cup of coffee, bright smile, and an artist's rendering of her design plan. Still a little sleepy-eyed and not yet given to speech, the couple looks at the picture of what their new room is going to look like and don't believe it for a minute.

Then the miracles begin. While the organizees have been sorting, the designer has been visiting the magic wonderlands of Ikea, The Container Store or Walmart. She comes in carrying a wide variety of baskets, boxes, labels, vacuum sealable bags - you name it. Like walking down the school supply aisle of any office supply store, my heart begins to beat faster. I love organzing boxes. I love the feel of them, the way they smell. I love that you can store so much stuff in so many different sized boxes. Let's face it, I may not be totally organized, but I'm a sucker for plastic organizers. Add a label and I'm in heaven!
Then, right before your eyes, everything has a place, a decidely organized place; and takes on a whole new look, a decidely useful look. It all makes sense. What once was chaos now defines my mother's decorating style: a place for everything and everything in its place.

Before you stop reading and tune into this show, I have to tell you that I am convinced it is all done with smoke an mirrors. There is no way one person, even with the help of the not-so-fastidious homeowners, can make these transformations. Forget about making them look easy to do, so people like me go out and buy hundreds of dollars worth of acrylic boxes. I just don't think it's possible for stuff that obviously multiplies in the dark of night to sit still and let itself be corraled into new and tight living quarters. Much less stay there.
Finally my point. Before our kitchen renovation began I was careful as I took things out of the drawers and cupboards. I tossed things into the trash can when no one was looking. I washed crystal glasses that hadn't been used in years so they would look good on Goodwill shelves. I reminisced as I held the monkey pod salad bowl that my mother received as a wedding present 60+ years ago.
I had a plan when I put things in the dining room for the duration of the construction work. Sadly, the plan was all in my head and that's not always a good place to be. By the end of three weeks, there were so many piles of kitchen paraphenalia and canned goods in the dining room that we couldn't even walk through the room. Closing the blinds was akin to dodging land mines in Iraq. It was a job for only the most hardy or lightest on her feet. It was a job done with much grumbling.
After our new floor was laid, my menfolk seemed to think that putting things away was going to be, dare I say - a piece of cake. Even I thought it would be easier than it's turned out to be. I lost two drawers, but gained four. You do the math, it should all go back easily, right? My new cabinets have lazy susans that I can do nothing with except stand an admire. I literally have no idea what to put where.

This might not be the place to admit one of my financial character flaws. But this kind of anxiety usually manifests itself in a trip to Walmart. I'm hoping that looking for just the right container to put on the shelf that BJ built will curb my inertia. I'm obsessed with hanging pictures on the wall, but frozen when it comes to finding a place for 7 measuring cups and too many tupperware bowls to count. I know I could free up one whole shelf if I'd just gently lay the 3 electric knives, my mother's cast iron frying pan and my father's martini pitcher on the garbage pile tonight.
Instead, here I sit writing about what seems impossible for me to do ... finish the job. I'm ready for it to be finished. I want to be the organized lady, the unorganized homeowner, and show hostess all at the same time. I want to cry tears of joy at the transformation. For now, I'm crying tears of frustration and blaming it all on Jack! Go figure!

In case you are wondering if this story will ever be finished, I just want you to know that I am closer to the end than this post might lead you to believe. AND I'm scheduled to have a colonoscopy later in the week. I promise to spare you any detailed photographs but I'm sure the procedure will be good for a story or two.

Going back to the salt mines [whatever that means] but I remain,
Merry ME
* There is actually a group called the National Association of Professional Organizers.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Life goes On

I've been so preoccupied lately that I haven't given much thought to things happening in the world outside of my kitchen. But, don't get me wrong. I'm not a complete hermit. I've heard about the new home run king, the miners trapped inside a mountain, and a heat wave covering most of the country. For reasons I've stated before [see June 26 post], I think inhaling paint fumes is somehow more pleasant than spending time processing the perplexing prose of the press.

I can't explain why but this morning's story of an earthquake in Peru shook [no pun intended]me out of my self-induced stupor. I guess because it is just beyond my ability to comprehend something so horrific. Not that suicide bombings, ethnic cleansing and starvation in Darfur are not horrific. I think, perhaps, I've simply tuned those stories out. La, la! La, la! That's one way for this paint encrusted ostrich to keep her sandy fairy tale world devoid of reality.

But wait! Just when I think the world can't get any worse or bad things are never going to end, a baby is born. Or better yet, two babies are born! Even though babies are born every minute of every day, when it is a baby that extends one's own family by two more hands, two more feet and one more heart, well, that's GOOD news! Babies, I think, are God's way of saying that even though we humans are doing just about everything we can to mess up this world that's been given to us, He (she) believes in us and our ability to one day get it right one day. [Photo R: Liana's feet]

Last month my niece Lauren gave birth to Liana Sky and on August 13, Jack's granddaughter presented him with his first "GREAT" granddaughter, Riley Renee [not that all his grand children aren't great - but you know what I mean]. It's hard to think that the same girls we thought of as babies not so long ago, are having babies themselves. [Photo L: Miss Riley]

I was just 19 when I had my first baby. I thought, at the time, that I knew what having children was all about. As I look back on it, I think all I really knew was how babies are made! [Apparently that was(is) the easy part.] Knowing what I know now, I worry about these young mothers and their daughters. I am concerned about what's in store for them in the days and months and years ahead. I'm pretty sure it won't be easy. At times it won't be fun. But on any given day, [whether she is one week or 36 years old] when that little one puts her hand in mom's, all doubt and worry will be washed away by the power of love.

So to the two newest members of our family, I say welcome and here is my wish for you:

That you will be happy and healthy.
That you will be strong and courageous.
That the colors of the rainbow will brighten your world.
That you will embrace gratitude.
That you will listen to the wind.
That you will hear your own voice; that you will know your own truth.
That you will believe in something greater than yourself.
That you will give back.
That you will laugh often but are not afraid to cry.
That you will dance under the stars.
That you will climb mountains.
That you will share your gifts.
That you will reach for the stars.
That halos of daisychains will encircle your head as fireflies and moonbeams light your way.
That you will not go hungry.
That you will not be cold.
That you will not be alone.
That truth will be your compass; harmony your song; and love your guiding light.
That you will know peace.
And, as you fall asleep each night, I wish
That you will feel God's gentle embrace and hear Him whisper,
"Sleep tight little one, have no fear, for I am with you."
With hugs and smiles and gratitude that the circle of life continues to spin,
Merry ME

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Chapter Five - I adore chaos!

After the cabinet guys left, I had the weekend to sit back and contemplate how wonderful everything looks. I'm having trouble deciding which improvement I like best: the pristine white laminated cabinetry, the fine paint job (not counting a few semi-gloss booboos), the new drawers or the cupboards with lazy susan swivel shelves. Oohlala, it is just too much to take in all at once.
As kitchen mavens the world over know there is no rest for the weary. Monday morning dawned with sunshine and the realization that there was still a lot of work to do. The floor man called to say he'd be here bright and early Wednesday morning (today). That meant I had to step up my pace. I needed to finish the wallpapering and tackle the job of gently placing old "stuff" on new shelves. [Photo: Old floor autographed by Girl Cat]

Wallpapering seemed the lesser of two evils. I've done that before, albeit more years ago than I can remember. I trusted my ability to complete the task. I trusted Jack to help hold up the wet sticky end of the border while I smoothed and sponged. I trusted, perhaps foolishly, that I would not fall off the ladder midway through the process. I soon discovered a nice little unexpected by-product of a DYI project. All that climbing up and down on the stool was akin to a stairstepper drill. Not only were our out of shape arms and legs shaking from the activity, even our hearts got an aerobic workout. That's good, right? We hadn't exactly planned for it, but then we hadn't planned much of anything. Suffice it to say my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants style is definitely clashing with the Boy Scout/engineer "be prepared" method of doing things. In fact, adding an exercise regimen to a home makeover might be another idea I could sell to HGTV when this process is all done. [Photo L: Border; Photo R: Wainscote wanna-be wallpaper - the walls look white in the picture but they are actually a beigy yellow.]

Refilling the cabinets is like one of my worst nightmares. I want everything to have a place that's easy to get to as well as be fuctional. I want everyone who works in the kitchen to approve of AND be wowed by my decisions. I figure this is the last time this particular kitchen will get a make-over like this, so I want every dish, spoon or utensil to lie happily in its new home. Hell, let's not beat around the bush ... I want my mommy.

In the wake of that kind of neediness, I have taken the day off to watch the floormen do their thing. If I feel like it, I might do a little more painting. HGTV's "Room by Room" girl, Shari Hiller, calls the final, and perhaps the most noticeable, step of any project "accessorizing." Sharie is usually off buying accessories while, Matt is busy re-electrifying the room or building a versatile storage unit. Matt usually has a smile on his face, and come to think of it so does Sharie. She is, after all, out shopping spending the homeowner's money.

My mind is a-twitter with what accessories to put where. Forget organizing I want to accessorize ... spice racks, drawer organizers, sponge holders. Flowers, candles, pictures, doo-dads, tchotchkies. Can a girl have too many?Dad is taking bets as to how long it will be before the new counter top is no longer visible under the clutter - ah, excuse me ... accessories!

I don't remember where I found this quote, but I wrote it down for an occasion such as this:
“I adore chaos," said Maggie Soklick of El Ceritto, California. "Some may detest counters covered with food processors, rolling pins and stacks of mixing bowls, [purses, dog bones and wine bottles?] but my kitchen says, ‘a cook lives here.’”

I say, "Right on, Maggie old girl!" My kitchen, while new, and as yet unsullied, has made an almost miraculous transition. But it won't be long before the heartbeat of the house begins to pulse again. It won't be long before everyone knows Mary lives here.

Signing off to add a coat of paint to a cute little re-cycled shelf, just like they do on TV!

Merry ME

Monday, August 13, 2007

Chapter 4 - It's coming together

What a difference a day makes. Okay, so it was more like five days. Five of the hottest days of the season; yet luckily a week with no afternoon thundershowers. While I have no doubt that my very own "Home Improvement" tool men, BJ, Mark and Zack, could have weathered the rain, I suspect it would not have been good for the treasure trove of a tool trailer wet.

Brad, the kitchen Tune-up contractor, was right on with his estimates ... number of days it would take to order all the parts; number of days it would take to do the work; number drawer pulls and knobs. His only teeny tiny discrepancy was the fact that the old cabinets were built in place so when the boys started pulling them off the wall, they sort of crumbled. Oops! This was not a problem for BJ, Super Carpenter. It did, however, become a bit of a problem for Dad's wallet. But what we got for a couple hundred dollars is two cabinets that rival any work of art. I'm talking awesome!

So now that the carpenters are off to renovate kitchens in other parts of the city, I'm back to sanding and priming and painting. I've gotta ask, will it ever be done? Then I answer myself with an enthusiastic, "look how far we've come" and pull out my trusty paint brush.

I came across this quote by Greg Anderson, founder of the American Wellness Project: "Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but it doing it." Much as I hate to admit it, I think Anderson might have a point. I'm not sure what the Wellness Project is all about. But if I had to guess, I'd say the author was most likely up to his elbows in Kilz and was trying out positive affirmations that would motivate him to finish what he'd started. And to quote Oprah one thing "I know for sure" is that there is joy to be found in seeing one's new kitchen take shape right before her eyes.

Gotta get back to work,
Merry Me

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Chapter Three ... Do Overs

At the risk of sounding years older than I really am, I want to ask, "do you remember when?" Remember when you were a kid and you had to walk to school, uphill, in the snow, without a coat, or some such thing?

Okay, okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But in my case, there IS a true story of me trying to get to the bus stop on a blustery winter's day when we lived at Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago. In my memory, the hill was of Everest proportions, but I'm guessing if I saw it today it be more like a molehill on steroids. The snow and ice were, as I recall, something even Eskimos with sled dogs would have tried to go around. In reality it was most likely just a normal Chicago snowfall.

The sidewalk I had to climb was right across the street from our house. It led to a set of stairs from which it wasn't much of a walk to the bus stop. I can only say that now with the benefit of hidnsight; I wouldn't have believed you when I was 7 years old. I felt like Sgt. Preston of the Yukon even if I had never heard of the Yukon.

There were no such things as "snow days" back then - kids were tough and that's what snow suits were made for. I was shooed out of the house with the goodbye I remembered well enough to use on my own kids: "Go! Get! You're going to be late!" I have no idea where my sisters were or why I was on my own. Perhaps they'd left en masse with the naval base sherpas sent around to accompany minors to the mountaintop waiting area and I'd dawdled so long I was expected to attempt the slippery slope singlehandly.

Whatever! Like the dramatic diva I was, I wrapped my coat around my bony body and shivered as I faced my icy demon. I didn't get very far before I started slipping and sliding. Like the proberbial dance I took one gingerly step forward only to slide backwards by two or more. I stayed on two feet for only a few minutes. I stayed on my belly like a beached whale (perhaps more like a beached eel due to my preadolescent thinness) for much longer. Let me just say, that while I thought of myself as lissome, I doubt that my glacial belly flop was what anyone would have considered graceful.

In my mind, all this effort was done with quiet determination. I was fully convinced I'd make it to the bus before the winter was over. My father, however, tells a different story. From his vantage point at the window in the toasty warm kitchen, he insists that my dogged, lady-like assent looked a bit like a salmon trying to swim upstream; that my genteel grunts were really screams and childish carrying ons. Although his version is hard for me to accept, I do remember that Dad finally came to my rescue. He was decked out in full foul weather gear - officer's cap, wool overcoat, gloves, and robber galoshes that were undoubtedly fitted with crampons. He took my hand and up the hill both of us went, not quite like a Sunday stroll but with a lot more ease than I had previosly had. I think it had to do with traction.

But I digress ...............

The reason I bring that up is that I think kids today have some things easier. No not the social problems and peer pressure but some things. Back in my day, if I "made my bed" I had to lie in it. Or in other words, if I botched a test, I had to live with the poor grade and family guffaws. If I took something that didn't belong to me and got caught (which I usually did since I was never cut out for a life of crime) I was expected to return it, make full remuneration and live my life with a scarlet "T" (thief) on my chest.

Kids today get what I call "do-overs." They get to "do-over" the third grade until they finally pass what in Florida is called the FCAT (a year-end standarized minimum achievement test - minimum being the operative word). They get to stay in elementary school until they pass the test or grow a beard, which ever comes first.

Today's divorce rate (of which I am a statistic) is evidence of a growing trend of "do-overs." If it doesn't work the first time, well then try it again. Ouch!

Even Paris Hilton got to do going to jail over. She wasn't so happy the first go round, so was given an opportunity to get her head on straight before heading back to lock-up. Sure I exaggerate but I'm trying to make a point. And that point, in an essay that is supposed to be about kitchen renovation is this - after my sweetie took out the old fashioned flourescent light that buzzed awhile before it came on, then shone like a lighthouse beacon throughout the room, I had the job of painting the spot on the ceiling. Good thing for me, do overs are a accepted practice in life.

I'd already spackled, sanded, primed and painted most of the 14x20 foot ceiling. It had been my suggestion to take the light down before the original paint job. Someone smarter than I and who wears pants explained that this would mean I'd have to paint and cook and do the dishes in semi-darkness. Besides, after doing the whole ceiling, a 12x24 inch space would be easy ... sort of like walking up an ice hill?

Sand - check.
Spackle - check.
Prime - check.
Paint with white semi-gloss trim paint. What? Did I say semi-gloss paint? Oops - wrong paint! Damn! The spot wasn't big, but it sure did have a shine to it. Damn!

Jack assured me, all I had to do was re-paint the spot with the correct ceiling paint and no one would ever know the difference. Easy for him to say! Ever determined I headed back to square one, checking to make sure the semi-gloss paint was well out of reach.

Sand - check!
Spackle - (some of the cracks came back when I sanded) check!
Prime - check!
Paint - check! Voila! Done!

On to the wallpaper! Have I mentioned this is NOT a weekend project?

FYI: The Kitchen Tune Up men have been here all week. It's just like being on TV. There is a tool trailer in the driveway. The buzzing of the table saw echos through the neighborhood, drawing a crowd of interested dog walkers. Guys sporting nail guns walk through the garage like construction-worker John Waynes . The only thing missing is the cute girl with big boobs directing the whole show.

Hey, wait a minute - that would be me! Not that I know what's going to happen next. I just walk in and out of the kitchen and jump up and down with delight at each new improvement.

Stay tuned!

Merry ME - aka the "Do Over Queen"