Saturday, September 26, 2009

Peeling away the old layers

With the arrival of fall, I am reflective, ready to start new projects and make changes to enrich my life. Some people get this burst of energy during the spring and chalk it up to "spring cleaning." But I get my motivation to begin anew in the fall.

Our house was built in 1921, so to say that I've got a long project list is an understatement. This past spring and summer, I finished many projects: primed and painted the garage, renovated the bathroom so that it looks like a 1921 bathroom instead of a 1970s bathroom, painted our kitchen walls, ceiling and cabinets (thanks to my fab sister, Becky), and had the rotting back porch rebuilt. Although the list is impressive, the list of needed repairs is daunting.

Tonight I was in the "fall" mood to watch one of my favorite movies, "Under the Tuscan Sun" starring Diane Lane as a writer whose husband divorces her and takes her to the cleaners. But wait! That's the hard-to-watch part. Distraught and in a funk, the protagonist takes a trip to Tuscany, Italy. It's a gift offered by a friend, and she accepts.

While on the bus tour in Italy, she sees a 300-year-old run-down villa for sale--and she buys it. With the help of a crew of Polish contractors, she begins chipping away at the old plaster to see what might be underneath worth salvaging. What a metaphor for her life! She has the courage to believe that she can have a new life. That she can be happy again. That her life still has purpose.

By movie's end, the protagonist, Frances Mayes, has renovated her villa, helped several people and has grown in the process, has found true love and has written a book (That part always makes me cry! Yes, yes, she renovated a villa and found a hunky man, but WOW--she wrote a book!).

It was 9:30 p.m. when the movie ended, but seeing Frances working so diligently on her house inspired me to think of a small project I could finish within an hour. Immediately I thought of a project that has bugged me for the seven years we've owned this house.

On our second floor landing, a beautiful glass-front built-in cabinet separates the children's bedrooms. Sometime in the last 80 years, someone covered the glass on the cabinets with pink and green floral wallpaper. When we first bought the house, I removed the wallpaper from one of the cabinet doors almost immediately. But then a more urgent task called me away, and the other cabinet door has remained covered in pink wallpaper.

For the past seven years, every time I went upstairs, I'd tell myself that I HAD to finish that project. Tonight, after the movie, I did just that. It took less than an hour with a sponge, a bucket of hot water, and I'm sorry to say, my fingernails. Or what's left of them.

I couldn't find our scrapers anywhere, and I was in a hurry. My fingernails are in such sad shape because I continually use them as tools. I had broken off a good chunk of one fingernail earlier today while using it as a screwdriver because I was too lazy to go down to the basement to fetch a real screwdriver.

But I digress. After I scraped all the old wallpaper from the glass, I cleaned both cabinet doors with Windex. Wow! What a difference. Why didn't I finish the job seven years ago?

My new challenge is to find projects I can tackle in under an hour. Suddenly, I'm seeing how I can break down so many daunting tasks into more digestible mini tasks. What job can I do tomorrow in under an hour?

Maybe I'll organize the linens and games in that hall cabinet, now that they are visible. Maybe I'll tackle the overhaul I have planned for the east side yard. Who knows? I can hardly wait to see what task it will be!

As I dance toward 50, I'll chip away at those daunting tasks--but not with my fingernails. Maybe one of the "50 tasks I'll do before I'm 50" should be to get my first manicure.

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