Sunday, August 16, 2009

Between a Wall and a Toilet

For years I’ve said, “I’d rather clean a toilet than paint.”

I’m not sure when my aversion to painting began, but it could have been when I painted my Nana’s house, the summer “Afternoon Delight” was released. Let’s see. I had just turned 17.

Being a singer who loved the outdoors, painting Nana’s large home emerald green while earning a little green seemed ideal. Enough space and trees separated her home from the neighbors, so I could belt out the high notes without any apologies.

The worst part of the two-week job was on the last day. And believe me, it wasn’t because I was sad to be almost done. I was exhausted, my arm ached, and I really started hating the color green, which for an ecologist-environmentalist is sacrilegious.

During the final days, I ascended and descended the ladder numerous times as I painted the trim white. Finally, at about 4:00 in the afternoon, I was delighted to be on the last side, a short one.

As I climbed the ladder and lifted the paint can up to set it on the fold-out tray, my aim was a negative attitude off. I hit the side of the tray causing the can to tip, slosh, then fall out of my grip. I watched in slow motion as white paint glopped all over my emerald green work. I screamed.

Painting is not just about coating a surface with a liquid. It’s also about preparation, gathering the needed materials, and cleanup.

The interior of our current house was looking shabby last year. I knew that touching up the white baseboards would perk up the place, but I had to tease myself into the job. First I got the can out and set it on the kitchen counter. Three weeks later it remained unopened, so I put it away. Three weeks after that, I went into the garage and shook the can, then put it back.

“How does Joanne do it?” I asked aloud. My former flatmate painted rooms all the time. Wild thing.

Finally I thought, Maybe I’m scared of big brushes! So I shook the can, cracked it open, slipped on latex gloves, and started painting baseboards with a small watercolor brush. Sure it took longer, but cleanup was a breeze.

Eventually, I graduated to using a small rag moistened with paint to complete the baseboard project. I felt empowered!

By Christmastime 2008, I bit the bullet. I hadn’t remodeled my daughter, Ivy’s, room in five years, so I decided to Africanize it. Bed, Bath & Beyond had a fabulous sheet and comforter ensemble, a friend donated African fabric and a vase, and another friend allowed me to enlarge and frame photos he shot in Africa. Ivy’s dad contributed a new ceiling-light cover, and all that was left to set the scene was paint.

On Christmas Eve I suggested terra cotta for the color, which Ivy and I decided should be on two adjacent walls. I spread most of the paint with a spongy applicator. Oh my gosh! It turned out beautifully. At night when she illumines her room, a warm glow flows into the hallway, creating a warm, inviting welcome.

I was on a roll, preparing mentally for my next project.

There were two special paints I’d purchased in 2005 to match my dining room furniture—cerulean and mauve. The plan: Atop the one tan wall, I’d use a rag to create a design with the cerulean. Once dry, I’d rag on the mauve, so the colors would bring out those in the chairs.

The plan never materialized. But as I lay in my bed one morning, I realized those colors would look good in my room too. After thinking about this for several months, I did it!

The result? Everyone who sees it is in awe. My real estate agent even said, “People pay thousands for work like this!”

I might have to start singing a new commode-free tune: Rubbing moist liquid on a bumpy or smooth surface can be an afternoon delight and create ecstatic results.


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