My favorite thing about my mother-in-law

I’ve been really hung up about my mother-in-law’s raw deal with no-answer cancer, which I’ve discussed, oh, three days in a row now. You never get sick of me! I’m your internet lover bestie! So let’s talk about my favorite thing about her. She does things.

Back in the way-back times of 2006 when we bought our first house in the city, I didn’t care what Maria did. I’d come home and she would have rearranged the furniture or taken my art off the walls and put up whatever jick jack she wanted. As a result, I was 26 years old living in a house that looked kind of like a retirement home. LOVE YOU MARIA. But seriously, the dried floral arrangements and the tasteful still life paintings – what? I didn’t really get decorating anyway. I guess I thought houses were for moms and she was a mom, so . . . have at it dude. I was busy.

We had a saying in the car business. “Mental ownership”. I once knew I had a deal in the bag after a test drive when a customer insisted on parking the vehicle on the sidewalk because he was afraid it might get a scratch on the street. He had taken mental ownership of it and that’s when things change. I didn’t take mental ownership of our first house until a year or two after we bought it and I was in the mood to have a baby. I tried and tried to get pregnant and nothing I did (oils! shots! massages! hormones! charts! prayer! cartwheels!) resulted in good news. So I decided to change the bathroom to get my mind off it. I figured I’d have to hire someone. How do you even pick a paint color? Suddenly Maria wasn’t driving the ship anymore.

Naturally, I asked her what to do.

“Just do it. You can do things. Go to the paint store. Get a fan deck. Pick up a magazine. Buy paint.”

And so I did. I picked an ugly adobe pink/sand/salmon/barf color and when I ran out of paint halfway through the job, I walked back to the store and bought off-pink/off-sand/off-salmon and ended up with four walls colored with two different barfs. Two weeks later I found out one of my 19 kids and counting was on the way (I have lots of kids) and I learned my lesson. Well, it was probably the wrong lesson, but I came away with the idea that I can do things too.

Next, I made a play room and then I refinished a table. Soon, I was spit shining bookshelves and rescuing nightstands from the dumpster. All you need is confidence. Who cares if you screw up a table or some walls? Practice. Do it again and you’ll get better. What’s the worst that can happen – you’ll get glue on your hands or use the wrong sand paper? So. Just get the right sandpaper and go over it again.

A few days ago I was clutching this woman in sadness and I said, in the most sensitive way you can when someone you love is dying, “HOW WILL I DECORATE ANYTHING?” In so many words, before she promised to haunt me, she said I had already learned what I needed to from her. Fine. Maybe that reality show I pictured us on – the one where we cook and argue and splatter paint around would never happen, but I can’t say she’s wrong about the fact I’ve absorbed so much from her that maybe I really am okay on my own. (I did get better at picking paint – here’s my kitchen and here’s my nursery!)

I’d like to impart to my girls early on that they can, too. They can do things. So I set out to Micheal’s to fix something that’s been bugging me since we moved into house #2: The small recycled letters over their beds are too small. It didn’t look right. I bought two thin, wooden frames for like $6 total and grabbed a bottle of $1.25 acrylic paint and sat down with my kids today. My job was to eat cashews and their job was to paint frames to go around their monograms.

The surprise at the end was that these were really going on the wall. It was a huge deal for my five and three year olds. Kids always see their art on the fridge for a day and spot it in the trash, but when they get to make something that goes on the real wall and actually contributes to the home, it’s just a damn good feeling. They can do things. Just like their Oma. Just like me.

Here are the pictures!

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Filed under: Being German, Crafty Stuff

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