If you read my book, you might remember the chapter entitled, "The Ceiling Fan". In that chapter, Jay and I tried to install a ceiling fan in an old house in Narberth, and after four hours of profanity, sweat and bodily damage caused by swinging fan blades, we accomplished it. What we did not suspect? We also brought profanity into the lives of our two young children. Greg is the absorbent sponge who picked up a few choice words and used them in school when he was bored one day.
Twenty-five years ago, we had no patience. With two young children, one autistic, and no free time, we did not have four hours to sweat out a fan installation. Now, we still have no patience, but Greg is back home from the group home. We are ever cognizant of his outbursts now, especially those which we cause when we are annoyed with each other, thus we try not to use angry tones when discussing. Greg cowers, shakes, bites his fingers and says, "Angry" when we argue, or even when we banter back and forth, which is often enough. We have to convince him that we are not angry, and then continue our conversation with quiet voices and softer tones.
Jay and I are both domineering types. We both like to be right and we both like to be the boss. That makes do-it-yourself projects that require cooperation next to impossible.
When I went to Joss and Main on the I Pad and read one customer's review that we could put together a kitchen cart in two hours, I imagined the worst, but knew we needed more counter space in our kitchen to avoid our ever present space issue. With a granite top and three shelves and a drawer, the cart was ideal. Another customer had written that it took two people to put together the cart. Uh, oh. I was not deterred. I optimistically forged ahead!
Now, if I were Phil Paulsen, my friend Carol's handy husband who can build train sets, or Denny B, my friend Linda's husband who has a degree in civil engineering and who can build anything, or even my nephew Brian Hofmann who expertly learned dry walling and painting skills and who can put together electronics by reading the instructions, I'd have that cart together in less than an hour. However, this is Jay and me. We do not read instructions from front to back because we are too impatient. We do not have a sense of looking at a picture and creating a piece of furniture that looks like the picture. Finally, we do not do well without verbal instructions from someone who teaches us each step from start to finish. Did I mention that we don't listen to each other? Although Jay did not excel in electrical shop and metal shop in high school, he made a foot stool and a book shelf in wood shop which I still have to this day, and so I thought we could put together a simple cart.
When we installed the wine rack backward, we did not go back to undo all of our work to fix it. We thought we would just face the wine bottles forward without a little dip in the wood for the neck of the bottle. Naturally, we had no idea that two minuscule holes located elsewhere on the back of one of the pieces, practically invisible to the human eye, would come back later in the instructions to be important.
What was different this time was that we didn't yell at each other during the creation. Instead, we laughed. Whenever our voice level escalated, I spelled T - O - N - E and we immediately calmed down. We didn't want to incite Greg who needs a peaceful, loving atmosphere in which to thrive. That is the biggest change in our household since Greg moved home. We are more aware of HIS needs, of HIS demands and why understanding HIS world must come first for the peace of our household as well as for Greg's happiness.
When we had the cart's side support bars backward, we were able to turn them around to accommodate the wire pull out drawer without a problem. Again, spelling T - O - N - E helped! No swearing. No stress. We'd been crushed many times before in life, so a little kitchen cart would not defeat us. We moved on to the drawer stop. I glanced at Greg who was watching the entire process. Perhaps he, himself, was shocked that Jay and I were on our best behavior? After all, he's seen us at work often, and it's not pretty. He was fairly quiet as if incredulous that Jay and I could work together.
Oops. By putting together the frame wrong, the two teeny drilled holes for that pesky little piece of plastic were on the wrong side of the structure. If we pulled out the drawer too far, it was crash on us in our old age and probably break a toe or two. Jay said, "I am going to put this screw through the drawer stop on the other side." I replied, "No you're not." He said, "Yes, I am. Get away." I said, "You are going to put that screw right through the side of the wood! Let me get the drill!" Despite my reluctance to allow him to move forward without the electric drill, he insisted that he could get that screw into the wood without it, and won. I am still shocked. Our drawer stop works. Greg weathered that argument well.
Without fail, each time we did something wrong, I looked ahead on the directions, and saw that we had created our own problems. Pictorially depicted only, the instructions were designed to be studied first from step one to step twelve, but Jay and I have our own way of building things. Without vision, Without taking time to examine first. We preferred to start with step 1 and move forward, one painful step at a time, just because.
Finally, we attempted to put together the frame that holds the granite and it just wouldn't go together correctly! First blaming the manufacturer for drilling the holes incorrectly, we proceeded to try to force them together so the edges met flush. I knew that I did NOT want to start all over again with a new boxed set. We refused to sacrifice two hours of time and another couple of weeks for a return.
We persevered, deciding that maybe the corners were meant not to be flush. And, they are not. If they are? Oh well. (See picture below.)
We are not perfect, either. We did, however, manage to put together a kitchen cart, with wheels. It rolls; the drawers pull out and close; the wine bottles don't lean forward like they should, but they sit nicely; the granite sits on a support structure that looks odd, but is functional; and we managed not to fight, not to swear, not to upset Greg, not to verbally harangue our spouse's lack of attention to detail.
We have evolved.
Wherever we move, this cart is going along. It represents triumph.
Could this be what the manufacturer intended? I think not. Jay thinks it is. Another example of belief, exclusively, in our own theory.
Serves to remind us that life comes with no promises. We are happy, blessed and got the job done.