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Stripping down and getting ugly

Many of you know that besides being a part-time blogger and internet tornado, I’m also a decorative painter. Or, as my friend Jim once introduced me as, a faux paux painter. Since my paint buddy Tamara went back to work full time, I’ve pretty much stopped accepting jobs, but I will do small projects for friends occasionally. A friend called last week and asked if I would be willing to do a faux finish in her powder room.

The above picture is how her bathroom currently looks. Rather, I should say it’s how it used to look before I began the prep work for the faux finish. It’s a perfectly nice looking little powder room, she just wanted something a little fancier for the guest bathroom.

This is how the powder room currently looks:

Stripped of the mirror over the sink, pictures and accessories removed, crown molding, fixtures and baseboards covered with blue tape, the room’s not nearly as attractive as it was just a short while before. Add some temporary task lighting (so I can see what I’m painting), and imperfections which were once unseen begin to appear.

The most obvious flaw is the huge gouge in the wall which is normally covered up by a mirror:

Once the ceiling vents were removed, I discovered the previous painter hadn’t bothered to remove them but instead painted around them:

Plus a multitude of small imperfections which go unseen in the dim light of the bathroom:

All which must be addressed before any actual painting begins.

I enjoy painting immensely, whether it be a simply repainting a room or doing a faux finish or mural. There’s something incredibly satisfying for me about the ability to completely change the mood and character of a space with nothing more than a can of paint, a paintbrush and a few hours.

Do you know what I don’t like about painting?

The prep work: taking down pictures, filling nail holes, taping, removing switchplate covers, wiping down baseboards and crown moulding and walls, etc. It’s tedious, boring and annoying. It’s also necessary if you want to do the job right.

All the aforementioned things make a room look considerably worse before it begins to look better. Now’s not the time for inviting your friends to see the room. It’s best just to keep the door closed until the painter can come back and finish what she started.

We all go through minor and major renovations in this life. There are times when what has worked well for years just doesn’t seem to fit anymore. Sadly, life isn’t a 30 minute makeover show with instant results.

Change is a process, and oftentimes things get a whole lot uglier before the get better.

If you’re in the prep stage feeling ugly and useless, ask yourself this:

Who’s in charge of the renovation?

Do you trust Him?

Are you willing to stick it out through the ugly mess and have faith the He knows what He’s doing?

I sure hope you are.

Because even masterpieces don’t start out as masterpieces.

Abstract Impressionist painter Jackson Pollock

On patience and painting, Part 2

Last week I wrote about my daughter and I practicing patience while repainting her bedroom. One of the things I mentioned was that the furniture scheduled for mid-July would arrive on Monday, which it did:

Fortunately, we were able to get the painting finished as well as some much needed purging and reorganizing before the furniture was delivered. We’ve spent the remainder of the week putting things away and putting the finishing touches on the decorating. On Tuesday, while my son was at his weekly horn lesson, my daughter and I went on a quick but fruitful shopping excursion. I haven’t been to Pier One is ages, but I knew they had paper lanterns and was hoping they would have them in colors that matched the new room decor. We found those as well as three canvases, one of which coordinates with the room so well that I chocked it up to decorating serendipity:

As a matter of fact, the room was completely finished save for one thing. That big green rectangle on the wall in the first picture? This is what that rectangle used to look like:

If it were up to her, she probably wouldn’t mind painting over that rectangle and be done with it. But I really liked her name over her bed. I just needed to make some that would match her new room. I figured I would do what I did the first time: find some scrapbook paper that coordinated with the bedding. But after going to three craft stores, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I opted for my second choice: hand painting the letters.

Which is a whole other lesson in painting and patience. The letters come painted white. But I never leave anything white if I can help it. So the first step in the project was sanding followed by a very unattractive base coat:

Followed by more sanding and a slightly less unattractive second coat:

And (you guessed it) more sanding then a third coat:

I suppose I could have left the letters purple and called it a day, but I can’t very well call myself an artist and have boring purple letters hanging in my house, now can I?

Then of course you have to put a sealer on them…

Don't worry. It dries clear.

Because I couldn’t stand to have a room almost finished. Especially when the one thing left unfinished was the first thing you saw when you walked into the room:

So, that’s why I’ve been a bit scarce the past few days around the interwebs. I’ve been practicing painting and patience. And hey, just to throw in another “P” word, I’ll say perseverance, too.

And now I can truly say the project is finished:

Except for 2 pictures I still need to hang, but I’ll get to those tomorrow…

On patience and painting

Last month I wrote a post called Holding on to the past. If you missed it, I talked about how we had ordered new furniture and bedding for my daughter’s room. Because she suffers from what many of us suffer from: too much stuff and not enough space to put it all, she finally agreed to part with a sizable collection of My Little Ponies, Littlest Pet Shop Pets, Barbies and all the various and sundry paraphernalia that accompanies said collections. Save for that one special item we retrieved from the giveaway box, all the others toys she agreed to part with are gone in order to make room for the new furniture. Her old desk and chair and a very large storage unit/entertainment center from IKEA are also gone. Her bed is still here, but it’s disassembled and will most likely be picked up this weekend.

The redecorating process is going as planned, just not as scheduled.

I received a call on Tuesday informing me that the furniture tentatively scheduled to be delivered July 15 will instead be delivered on Monday. Yeah, this coming Monday.


I had planned to take my sweet time getting my daughter’s room painted. That’s all changed. It has now become a bit of a rush job. Having said that, a rush painting job does not equate to sloppy or bad painting job. I’m fairly laid back about certain jobs I do around the house, but I’m a little particular when it comes to painting.

Soup Nazi photo courtesy of

Which would be fine if my daughter wasn’t so helpful. She REALLY wanted to help me paint. She’s asked me roughly 74 times when that would happen. She wasn’t really interested in the patching and cleaning of the walls and baseboards, the removal of the outlet covers, the retexturing of the mysterious hole in the wall and whatnot.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t exactly excited about the prospect of her helping me paint. Like I said, I’m a little particular about how a room should be painted. But we both shared some valuable lessons today. She practiced patience while I performed all those mundane but necessary tasks before the actual painting began

She learned how to roll paint on the wall

I learned that I actually didn’t freak out when things weren’t done exactly the way I would do it

(Okay, I freaked out a little. I also rolled over that spot.)

She rolled, I cut in. We’ve got a day’s worth of painting yet to do. But I’m confident we can work as a team and have her room ready before the Monday furniture delivery without any major incidents.

Maybe just some minor ones…

Update: That previous picture looked kinda weird. Here's the wall after I cut it in with a brush.


The following is my first attempt at a short story and is part of the One Word Blog Carnival: Patience hosted by Bridget Chumbley at One Word at a Time.

image courtesy of

She was 17, just a few months away from graduation and looking for a fast way out of a bad situation. She’d heard her dad promise her mother he would stop hitting her; had been hearing it for years. And her mom waited for him to make good on all those promises. Patiently.

She’d seen so much hurt in her young life that when she saw the “health care professionals” booth during the career day at school, she thought being a nurse would be a good fit. She wanted to help some of the hurting stop. So she filled out the necessary paperwork to enroll in nursing school, mailed it off and waited to hear back. Patiently.

Five years later, she’d made a good life for herself. She loved being an ER nurse. The money was enough to get her a place of her own. A good life in many ways, but also a little lonely. So when the handsome EMT took more than a professional interest in her, she agreed to dinner and a movie. When dinner and a movie turned into a something more, she wasn’t so lonely anymore. Sure, he drank a bit more than what she would have liked, but he worked long hours and needed a way to unwind. Besides, he promised her he would quit after he got the promotion he was working so hard to get. So she waited for the promotion to come and the drinking to stop. Patiently.

A year later, the promotion still hadn’t come and the drinking hadn’t stopped. She got up the courage to tell him she was leaving one night, but instead she said yes to him as he took her hand on bended knee and placed a ring on her finger. He must really love her, and she knew she could love him back.

She paced the floor of their tiny kitchen, waiting for him to arrive home from a late shift. The pregnancy test had confirmed what she already knew – they were going to be parents. Surely the added responsibilities of fatherhood would make him stop drinking. He said he never wanted to be a drunk like his dad.

When he finally arrived home much later than expected, he smelled of bourbon and sweat. She was angry and probably shouldn’t have told him he was going to be a drunken dad just like his father. That was the last thing she remembers before she saw his fist coming towards her face. Then everything went black.

She woke up the next day in the hospital with her husband by her side. When the doctor started asking questions about her multiple injuries, her husband’s cold stare and the tightening grip on her hand drained any courage she had left out of her. He had already convinced the police it was an accident. Surely he could convince the doctor as well.

Twenty years and two children later, the drinking and the beatings continue. So do the empty promises. And just like her mother, she still waits for her husband to make good on all those empty promises. Patiently.


According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

85% of domestic violence victims are women.

Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew.

Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline website features a “quick escape” button that will immediately redirect you to an unregistered site in case you think your computer may be monitored, or you can call them toll free, 24/7 at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or 1.800.787.3224 (TTY).

If you are being abused, there is help out there, and no one has the right to raise a hand to you. This story is a work of fiction, but sadly, all too real for many women. You can find other, real life stories here: Love Fraud dot com

To read a story with a much better ending, please visit Recover Your Joy.

Fixing what’s broken (by Billy Coffey)

“Dad, can you fix this?”

My son holds out his favorite toy, a super-duper Buzz Lightyear action figure complete with spring-loaded missile and nine (count them, nine) preprogrammed phrases. He strategically places himself between me and the baseball game on television, brazenly demanding immediate attention. I am normally left alone during Yankee games. Not because I require it—I do not—but because I tend to get a tad…involved.

“What’s wrong with it, bud?” I ask, keeping one eye on him and the other on the thing of beauty that is Robinson Cano’s swing.

“Dunno,” he answers. He turns his Buzz around, flips a switch and turns a knob, and shrugs.

Both eyes are on him now. My son is confused and dejected. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with his toy. All he knows is that it’s not what it’s supposed to be.

“Sure I can fix it,” I answer him. “No problem.”

And it isn’t a problem. I know what’s wrong with is toy. And I can make it what it’s supposed to be, too. All I need is a screwdriver, some batteries, and a little time.

He takes a seat beside me on the couch and fidgets. I think it’s because the Yankees have just stranded two runners on base, but I’m wrong. No, he just wants to play. Not iin a few minutes or a little while. Now.

“Hurry up, Daddy,” he says.

“Hang on,” I answer, prying the cover off the battery compartment.

More fidgeting. Then, “Daddy?”


“I don’t think you know what you’re doing.”

I raise my head and offer a look that is half question and half amusement.

“Why’s that?” I asked him.

“Because you’re taking too long. If you knew how to fix it, you’d hurry up.” He sighs and adds, “I’d be playing by now.”

“Just wait and see,” I tell him. “I’ll have it fixed in a minute.”

But my son can’t wait and so doesn’t see. “Never mind,” he says. “I’ll just go fix it myself.” He grabs the Buzz Lightyear from my hand and trudges off to his room carrying it upside down by the right foot.

I shake my head in a fatherly way. Kids are so impatient nowadays, I think to myself. I know what he’ll do. He’ll go back to his room and play with his Buzz Lightyear for a while, substituting the real sounds of laser blasts and Tim Allen’s voice with his own paltry imitations. He’ll flip switches and turn knobs and pretend everything’s working just fine, but it won’t last long. He won’t have the patience for that, either.

I know this because as my son, he carries around inside of himself bits and pieces of me. He has my smile, my eyes, my skin. And there are the deeper things too, like a common desire to put people at ease and a constant craving for ice cream.

And also to be impatient. With everything.

“Father,” I often say to God, “can you fix this? Fix this problem or this situation. Fix this life. I don’t know what’s wrong with it, I just know it’s broken.”

“Sure I can fix it,” God answers. “No problem.”

And it isn’t a problem. God knows what’s wrong. And more, He can fix it. All he needs is a little grace, a little mercy, and a little time.

So I’ll sit beside Him for a while and watch. But then I start to fidget.

“Hurry,” I say.

“Hang on,” He answers.

I fidget more. Time passes, and I begin to wonder if He really knows what He’s doing. If He did, I’d be better by now. I tell him so.

“Wait and see,” He says.

But I can’t wait. And because I can’t wait, I don’t see.

“I’ll just fix it myself,” I finally say. I take my problem back and trudge off, pretending that everything is just fine.

That’s how it is with my son and me. And with me and God, too. But I know this: my son will be back. Imagination can carry one only so far. Pretending is great, but it’s no substitute for the real thing. He’ll realize that fixing what’s broken is worth the wait. Especially when he knows he can’t fix it on his own.

And it’s for those very reasons that God knows I’ll be back, too.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

Also, for you writerly types in search of an agent, check out this article by Billy on Guide to Literary Agents: How I got my agent.