Monday, October 12, 2015

This Stupid Doorway

I'm not in a great head space lately. My days are very full and very long. Devin is working absurd hours, which means that I spend most nights alone with both kids, looking on helplessly while they mess up the house in new and interesting ways. One boy won't go to bed, the other won't stay asleep. I can only hope that chasing around the pair of perpetual motion machines I have for offspring is doing a sufficient job of burning calories because I haven't seen the inside of a gym in months, and I'm eating this for lunch. 

And, you know, I'm tired.  I don't mean sleepy. I mean tired. In that disturbing way where I don't even feel tired because I'm running on adrenaline. I can hear my brain buzzing. There's always something to wash or cook or buy or pay or plan or respond to or look for or schedule or Google or call customer service about or reassemble.  Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. And since a month-long vacation doesn't appear to be on the horizon, perhaps the better goal is to embrace the exhausted numbness and hope for a psychotic break that results in a Tyler Durden situation because I could really use the extra set of hands.

But deep breath. Big picture. The world is a crazy, messed up place, especially lately, and man am I lucky that everyone I love is happy and healthy and, aside from the impending obesity and dementia, so am I.

I warned you I wasn't in a great head space. Anyway, where was I?

Oh right. This stupid doorway.

In February, as we know, I set about single-handedly demolishing the ModLodge. To make way for the wallpaper, I was going to need to remove all trim and base boards. And because the trim in this room matched nothing else in the house, I wanted to replace it rather than re-hang it.

Shiny new pry bar in hand, I was hesitant to make the first move. This was taking apart my house! What if I couldn't figure out how to put it back together?

I was relieved when I found the trim fell gently away from the wall, like a delicate cod filet flaking apart with a fork. The pry bar may as well have been a backhoe, its involvement was so gratuitous.

As I'd suspected, all baseboards, the doorjamb and door casing were made from flimsy particle board, slathered with glossy white primer.

The finishing nails couldn't get a grip on the stubborn plaster walls, so the trim was held very loosely in place and I managed to yank everything down in a matter of minutes. HULK SMASH!

The mass destruction gave me a rush of empowerment. I was fearless. And that fearlessness guided me through the window frame refinishing, the spindle removal, and all other assorted ModLodge projects in that time period.

Then I needed to take a break to re-calibrate my work/life balance and so for, oh, seven months, the doorway looked like this.

After a while I didn't even notice it. If you leave anything long enough-- a basket of unfolded laundry on the dining room table, a 16 pack of paper towels in the middle of the kitchen-- it just sort of blends in.

From time to time I would Pinterest new looks, take measurements and make lists. I relentlessly texted my friend Dave, who is redoing his whole house, for advice and guidance. Yet while I could find the time to plan, I couldn't seem to make room in my schedule for the actual labor.

In the evenings, when the kids were in bed and the house was quiet, I would stare at the exposed wood and the chipped plaster and feel hopeless. Why did I get myself into this? Who was I kidding, thinking I could handle a project of this magnitude during a chaotic time in my life? I suck at this. I suck at everything. Why can't I just get it together and figure this out?

Then I'd snap out of it and remember this was not about life, this was about a stupid doorway and I should really refrain from making an allegory out of a simple hobby. This was supposed to be fun damn it.

After several weekends of false starts, I finally woke up one Saturday morning and immediately set out for Home Depot, supply list in hand. I brought Milo, which I realized was a bad call because it would be difficult and dangerous to maneuver lumber onto a cart with a hyperactive baby strapped to my chest. As it turns out, I would never have to take that risk because I couldn't find the materials I needed.

I was trying to do things the easy way by purchasing a natural wood (as opposed to primed) door jamb kit that I would stain to the color of my choosing. In the size I needed, Home Depot had fingerjoint pine, meaning it looks just good enough to paint over, but they didn't have "clear" pine. Nor did Lowe's. Nor did an independent shop specializing in doors, which I drove all the way out to only to find it had gone out of business. I made a few more phone calls to home and hardware stores and in short, I learned that door jamb kits can be stainable grade pine, and they can be plaster wall width (5 1/4"), but they can not be both. Why not? For no good reason whatsoever. I wanted to cry. I canned the project for the weekend.

I picked it back up the weekend after by driving to Anawalt Lumber (alone) to attempt, once again, to pick up supplies. No kits. I would need to do this all from scratch. I walked into the warehouse and immediately felt a wave of panic.

This was no Home Depot with its consumer friendly signage and "let's do this!" tutorials. This was an actual lumber yard. Everything looked so tall and heavy. Once again, I wanted to cry. The self-doubt crept back in. Where was that fearlessness that got me into this mess in the first place?

But before I could back out, an employee named Tino came to my rescue. I surrendered my sad drawing of the doorway with scribbled measurements and admitted I had no idea what to do. He took pity on me, though I'm sure he is very sick of customers who require this much handholding.

He very patiently lead me around figuring out the right materials, making notes on a slip of paper. Then he cut everything down to size, leaving a few extra inches on the pieces of door casing because I was second guessing my measurements. When he summoned me over to collect my pile of stuff, I thought he was going to wish me luck or perhaps pat me on the head. Instead he gestured over to the pile while turning away to speak to his next customer.

I loaded everything easily into the minivan (#vanlife) and drove home, hopeful, and unjustly satisfied as if I'd solved my own problem back there.

Finally I had the pieces to the puzzle, but would I be able to put it all together? Find out in part 2...

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