Painting Your Counter Tops: A Tutorial. Sort of.

When you first move into a new house, there are usually a few things you have already deemed absolutely unbearable. As in, “This hideous monstrosity is THE very first thing we are going to replace!” But then this strange thing happens. Someone needs braces or baseball cleats or food, and suddenly, the once-embarrassing chandelier takes on a certain “Je ne sais quoi” and those counter tops feel sort of…”retro-hip” instead of outdated.

Fast forward 14 years and I suddenly decided I could not take the outdated laminate wood grain counter tops another second.  And so I’ve spent the past few months perusing all of the various DIY Counter top Remodel Projects on Pinterest trying to decide which would be the cheapest and easiest. (Read: which one I could manage by myself and eff up the LEAST.) Ultimately I ended up taking tips and ideas from a few different sources, coming up with my own tutorial, and deciding, “What’s the worst that could happen?” If I truly RUIN them, then I guess I’ll have to fully replace them. Which I wanted to do anyway. Fourteen years ago. So it would almost be like Plan A is actually working out, instead of Plan B getting all screwed up. And then suddenly I loved my idea even more.

The big makeover day arrived. I’m not big into the whole “preparation stage” of painting. I taped off a few sections of wall and stuff I thought I could possibly ruin if I got sloppy, threw a towel on the floor as a makeshift drop cloth and got to it.

Step One: Using a foam roller, paint the counter tops black.

This part was super easy and super scary. Because once you start, this is really it. You’re really doing it. You’re REALLY painting your counter tops black. And it’s even scarier when you realize that, in your haste of 14 years, you grabbed a can of enamel paint instead of latex. Enamel paint doesn’t quite clean up the way latex paint does. Do not ask me all the reasons I know this.

Okay. Um. Well. That’s okay.  I’ll just be extra careful, I promised myself.  And I will wipe up any drips or spills IMMEDIATELY, understanding they are sort of permanent.  And I will definitely keep this beach towel under my work space at all times. Pretty much.

There was no need to worry. The black turned out beautiful. And no one will ever really see the few drips on the floor here and there. I’m sure they will “buff out” eventually.

Step Two: When the counter tops are completely dry (or you feel impatient and in a hurry) begin the “marbling” process. Choose 2 or 3 colors that you will “sponge” on top of the black, allowing each color to dry in between. Or, you may also question, “Why do they have to dry in between? Why can’t I just do each color on top of the other, while wet?”

Well, you can. Yes, you can do that. And when “Safety 3rd” is your life’s motto, it turns out that IS exactly what you do.

It worked. I picked a few colors (taupe, white, grey) and got started. I used a professional combination of natural sponge, plastic grocery bag, and crumpled up paper towel. In the biz, they call this, “innovation” and it is a highly admirable trait. Then, because I was feeling like kind of a big deal, I used an old toothbrush and lightly flicked gold speckles all over. Everything. Everywhere. Oh well. It’s hard to be precise with a tool like that.

I was loving this! It was turning out better than I thought!

Step Three: When the counter tops are COMPLETELY dry, polyurethane the hell out of them. Because you are always in a hurry, shake the can vigorously, pour it in the tray, and get rolling.

Just as I did not completely follow any ONE tutorial, I do not recommend you follow mine to the letter, either. I hit my first big snafu at Step Three. When I started rolling on the polyurethane, there were air bubbles. Lots and lots and lots of tiny little air bubbles. I tried to convince myself in my best Mary Poppins voice that everything was going to be okay and these would go away on their own. Surely they would DRY smooth. Then I left the house in my state of polyurethane-induced delirium. They did not dry smooth. When I returned with a clear head, the air bubbles were still there. Shoot.

Step Four: Read the directions on the polyurethane can and learn that you must NEVER shake polyurethane. It causes tiny little air bubbles in the finish.  Whatever.

Step Five: Buy a new can of polyurethane.

Step Six: Lightly sand the air bubbles. Start over with the new unshaken polyurethane.

Step Seven: When you STILL see air bubbles, curse loudly. And repeatedly. In different languages.

Step Eight: Decide on a “texturized” finish. Which is really more durable anyway.

Step Nine: Add approximately 50 more coats (or 3). Open every window and door. Leave your home indefinitely because the air is completely toxic and not fit for life.

Step Ten: When you return home, admire your work. You are a Rock Star.

A few days later, when my girls returned home from vacation, they couldn’t believe the counter tops. They loved the update and how well everything turned out. At one point, however, the youngest ran her hand over them and gave me a slightly suspicious look. “Why are they kind of rough?”

I smiled. “They’re texturized. Don’t you love it?”


This morning as I crept downstairs to make my coffee, I set my favorite mug on my shiny, texturized new counter top. For a split second, I thought, “Oh. Wait. What if it leaves a mark, or a ring? What happens if these get scratched or ruined somehow?”

And then my brain made the type of jump it always seems to. I see metaphors for life everywhere– and the counter top project was no different. If they get ruined somehow, or do not hold up, I will paint over. I will re-roll. Re-sponge. Do a little sanding. I’ll replace them if I have to. You can’t really ruin them. We will fully use them. I’m not going to be scared or crazy about ruining the finish. Everything is fixable. I was scared to start this project, but it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to my kitchen.  I can’t believe I lived with that ugly wood grain laminate for so long.

When I bought that new can of polyurethane, the guy at the hardware store and I were chatting. I smiled and laughed and said, “I don’t really know what I’m doing.” He smiled back and said, “Nobody really does.”

And yet look. Everything turned out beautiful.

{If you’re seriously looking for more detailed instructions on how to paint your counter tops, please see any number of pins on my Pinterest Board, Paint it Like a Boss. Although I can’t imagine you needing better directions than this.}

Where There is Love, There is Life

06381cfd7315dff093c62bdf083ea2a3I am learning, learning, learning about love. Everyday. All the time. Not just romantic love, because, HELLOOO– Terrifying. But real love. All kinds of love. What it is. What it’s not. What feels like love. What decidedly does NOT feel like love. I even have a Pinterest board called, “Love or Something Like It” that I’ve been working on for a while now. 389 pins. But who’s counting? I know the name seems a little vague, but here’s the thing– We think OF COURSE we know what love is. But do we really? I don’t always know that I do. But I do know I want to get better at it. All of it. (So it’s almost like Pinterest is EDUCATIONAL. Smiling. I am totally smiling at this thought.)

And so recently, while I was ruminating about love, I unintentionally had identical conversations with two different people who land on two totally different paradigms of what is a very messy issue~

Conversation #1:

A friend and I are chatting casually about God, church, relationships and such. She talks about being raised in a deeply religious home, with extremely zealous parents, particularly her father. She refers to him as the type of guy who would stand on street corners downtown, handing out Christian literature and telling people Jesus loves them. (I know. Cringe worthy) But she went on to say that her dad is THE kindest person she knows. Super loving, super friendly. And then somehow, segues into telling me that her brother is gay.

“Ohhhh man. In such a religious family, how the heck did that go over? How did your parents handle that?” I asked in total wonder. (Sadly preparing for the worst.)

“They were actually okay about it. I mean, it was hard, but it’s their son. They love him and support him. What could they do about it? We’re all close. It’s fine. I mean, we love him.”


Conversation #2:

Another close friend and I are chatting. She is lamenting that she has not heard from her son, who also happens to be gay. She can’t understand why he doesn’t come to visit. Rarely calls. Doesn’t seem to make time for her. She misses him. She has, however, made it repeatedly clear that she does not accept that he is gay. Does not approve of his lifestyle. Cannot condone it. Refuses to try to understand. To try and…adjust. And no, he is not welcome to bring his partner when he visits. She will not have “that” in her home. ‘He needs to respect her beliefs and her wishes.’  And so there she sits. Alone. And sad. But by God, sticking to her principles.  And while I try to empathize with the seeming complexity of the issue, I’m so struck by the fact that she could make different choices that would lead to better outcomes– and yet how she would rather draw a hard-line, regardless of the cost and loss it has led to.

I get that this can be complicated. And messy. And gray. And I also get that very many of you will absolutely land squarely on one side or the other, with no doubt in your mind and actually tell me that it’s clearly black and white for you. I can’t answer tough theological questions about it. I can’t even say anything all that profound about it.  And it’s totally within the realm of the way I think to actually hold a few opposing thoughts about the whole thing. But I can tell you this: I know which one feels like love. And which one doesn’t.

Conversation #1 felt like love to me. It felt like Jesus-love to me, because I’m quite sure it was sacrificial love; As though this mom and dad had a love so big, and so wide, and so deep, they were able to lay down their “rights” as parents, their need for religion to reign, so that love could reign instead. It saved their family, but it also may have saved their son. I walked away feeling grateful. Grateful for generous love. Grateful for love that accepts, forgives, overlooks, embraces. For love that leads to life.

Conversation #2 was hard. It was frustrating. Stiff. Stubborn. It was sad. I couldn’t help but think about the years that are being wasted while they both miss out on so much because of my friend’s daily conscious choice to not love her son unconditionally. It has felt hopeless to try to expand her thinking in any way~

I get that you have your beliefs. I get that it makes you uncomfortable. But what I don’t get is your inability to set all of that aside for the sake of love. For the sake of your son. For the sake of wholeness in your family. And really, for your own sake. I know you– and I want to believe that you possess bigger love than that in the deepest places of your heart. After all, you love ME– and damn if I couldn’t give you a thousand reasons why I’m not entirely worthy of love either.

The lack of love here has led to death– the death of relationships, of family, of connection. And it’s being grieved daily. By both parties.

I think what makes me most sad is that my friend thinks she’s loving Jesus in her convictions. And so that’s why I try so very hard not to judge her. She.Thinks.She’s Loving.Jesus. By refusing to accept her son and his lifestyle. And it reminds me of all the times I thought I was loving Jesus by judging and correcting and refusing to accept. And I grieve that now. That misperception of love. That disullisionment.

I certainly could never claim to know exactly what Jesus is thinking. But everywhere I look in the Bible, love comes first. Always. Love above everything else. Because love leads to life. And if we’re still ever asking the question, “What would Jesus do?”, I can’t help but think it seems pretty clear. Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.” And when it comes to love, all I know is, I want to do better.


If this is an issue you wrestle with and you’d like to read more, please read about one couple’s heartrending journey with their son over at Rage Against the Minivan. 

The Un-Fun Truth about Self-Discipline

F4J38849-2I didn’t write a blog post last week.  Or finish one, anyway. I started 3 or 4 different posts that felt totally inspired when I first got into them. But somehow, I lost interest and they suddenly they didn’t seem so great after all.  Whatever the case, I skipped a week.  And even though I was a little disappointed, I totally cut myself some slack. (Super generous and sweet of me, right?) But the days have passed quickly and here it is, next week already, and I still didn’t have anything prepared; Just several unfinished posts…waiting. Undone. Incomplete. But this week, it doesn’t feel like NBD. This week it feels lazy. It feels like too much time wasted scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. And Pinterest. (Ohhhh. Pinterest. How I love thee. Hashtag TIMESUCK. GIANT. HUGE. TIME SUCK. But Please. Never leave me.)

There’s an un-fun truth here that won’t leave me alone: In my life, writing needs to be a daily discipline. Just like working out. Just like eating well. Just like making time for reading or meditation, or anything else that requires brain power, body power, will power, or focus. It’s a discipline. And generally speaking, we tend to resist things that are even loosely connected to discipline. Or maybe it’s just me. I tend to resist things that are even loosely connected to discipline.


 

self-dis·ci·pline
noun
the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.
synonyms: self-control; restraint, self-restraint, self-command; willpower, purposefulness, strong-mindedness, resolve, moral fiber; doggedness, persistence, determination, grit

By very definition, self-discipline sorta sucks. I mean. Ugh.

Self-discipline equates with hard. It requires something of us. It costs us something– time, energy, pleasure, sleep, relaxation. And yet, the hard is what leads to greatness. The hard is what separates the men from the boys. The badasses from the wimps. The accomplished from the unaccomplished. Catch me at the wrong time and I’m likely to say, “Who cares?” But the truth is, I do. I tell my girls all the time: We can do hard things. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.

 

“If it was easy, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

 

If I want to grow as a writer, increase my readership and finish the books I’ve started writing, I need to discipline myself. If I want to grow as a runner, I need to discipline myself. If I want to be healthy and fit, If I want to eat clean, If I want to feel good, If I want to be the best mom I can be, I need to discipline myself. Even when I don’t feel like it. Even when it’s not convenient. Even when the hot flash of inspiration has passed. Even when my social media is all lit up with stuff more exciting than…this.  There are always plenty of good reasons to cut myself some slack, with “I deserve it” being my favorite and most used line. Ever.  Discipline for anything is hard. It hurts. It’s a conquering of the lesser part of ourselves with the better part of ourselves. 

Here’s the un-fun truth. As much as I love social media. And reading. And doing crafty Pinteresty things. And shopping. And candy corn. And beer. Lots of candy corn and beer, too much of any of these things will keep me from reaching my goals, no matter how good and deserving they feel at the time. And if ever there were passing pleasures, all of these things rank right up there. Do I really want to sacrifice (insert important goal here) for candy and Pinterest? Um. Some days I do. But not mostly. Really. Not mostly.

Somewhere along the way, our brains started firing backwards about what it truly means to be good to ourselves. Why does my brain equate both physical and mental junk food with indulgence and pleasure, yet link hard work and successful, meaningful results (that I truly want to achieve) with deprivation? Self- discipline is a gift we give ourselves so that the things we want most are not over shadowed by the things we want now.

We all sort of know there are no shortcuts to greatness. We just wish it weren’t true. (If there are, I swear on everything holy I will find them for us and pin them. Trust me. They’ll be on my “Shortcuts to Greatness” board)  Author Jim Rohn has said, “Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret” and “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” And really, who could disagree with such clearly inspirational statements that sort of make me feel crappy ? Not this girl. And so here I sit,  with a beer and a bowl of candy corn beside me, about to press “Publish” on this bad boy and recommit myself to the process of self-discipline. Because after all, I deserve it.

 

 

Love Me Extra Today


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You guys- I saw this quote on a pin late last night when I was working the Pinterest graveyard shift (any girl will tell you- YES- that’s a thing) and it’s totally messing me up today. Imagine this? Imagine if love was really this simple? Imagine if we could just say to each other, on really tough days- stressful days- insecure days- sad days-overwhelming days, ‘Love me extra today’?

I love John Mayer’s music. And even though he was apparently a total DB to Taylor Swift, whom I. Adore. I’m trying to overlook that for a few moments here. (And Mom, I’ll tell you what DB means later.) His music is the perfect combination of passion and angst- and sort of  predictably, Heartbreak Warfare is one of my favorite songs:

If you want more love, why don’t you say so?

If you want more love, why don’t you say so?

But I wanna know: Can people really do this? Do you guys love like this? If you want more love, can you really just say so?  I’m trying to figure out if this is …legit. Could we really just tell the people in our lives so plainly on the days we need extra love? (Maybe you guys already do this easily and you know…it’s just ME that’s having an awakening here.)

I am a semi-recover[ing]{ed} self-proclaimed Queen of Passive Aggressive Behavior (I know. It’s not good. I’m working on it and I’ve gotten better. For real though.) For myself and other PA types, asking for what we need is hard. But this seems easy. Too easy. Even I could text this say this. I could have the courage to ask for extra love on tough days. And I could hear this request from someone else and not feel defensive or threatened or… like I was not enough.

I want my girls to know this, my boy to know this, the people in my life that I love and that love me–Because this isn’t just about lovers. It’s about all of us being able to identify our own needs and love better. When we ask for what we need, we’re loving better. This feels revolutionary to me. I know maybe it’s not– but the simplicity of it all moves me. Asking for more love. Saying ‘Love me extra today’ feels like a novel concept- A beautiful novel concept.

Simply ask for more love.

Somebody, talk to me. Tell me what you think.