Tessa Meets the Corona Excalibur Brush

This is Tessa.  She looks cute, I’ll give her that.  But behind those eyes lurks a bizarre sense of humor and a complete lack of fear and forethought.

See, a week and a half ago, she microwaved something for 30 minutes or more.  The entire kitchen filled with black smoke and my wife and I spent nearly 5 hours (till 2:30 in the morning) scrubbing and cleaning and washing and airing out the home.

That was bad enough, but then last night, Tessa almost pushed things over the top.  Almost. She was thwarted in her attempts because of a wise purchase I had made a few hours earlier.

Allow me to explain:  A couple nights ago I started a paint project in our kitchen. I had finished most of the work on that first night and last night, I decided to finish up by painting some chalkboard paint on a small area on the wall so my wife could make notes, keep a small grocery list or whatever.

Anyway, that was last night’s project and before I left RepcoLite at the end of the day, I walked through the aisles picking up the supplies I was going to need. I grabbed some tape, a roller, some primer for another project and then, finally, I ended up in the brush aisle.

Now, you may remember another blog post where I wrote about a particular brush that I really love—the Chinex Excalibur brush from Corona. It’s a great brush—it cleans up easily, it applies paint beautifully and in every other way, it’s been the best brush I’ve ever owned. I’ve talked about it on the radio, I’ve written about it, and I’ve plugged it to our customers over and over and over again. I love it. Actually, I LOVED it.

See, about a month ago, I wrecked mine. I used it for polyurethane and forgot to clean it up. I found it a few days later, lying face down on my workbench. It was a terrible loss—an inglorious end for such a magnificent tool—and I’ve been mad at myself ever since.

Anyway, back to yesterday: I was walking through the aisles at RepcoLite and I came to the brushes.  My first inclination—since I’m trying to watch what I spend—was to pick up the cheap brush for my paint job that night. I could get a $7 brush, get a couple uses out of it and toss it. I was just about to do that when I saw a new Chinex Excalibur brush on the shelf. That made me pause. I debated back and forth for a while and finally settled on the more expensive brush—exactly the same as the one I had wrecked a month or so ago.

I felt a little bad about spending the extra money . . . but before long I was at home working—applying my black chalkboard paint to the wall using my new brush.

20560_excaliburWell, everything went well:  I finished the project quickly and started to wash out my new brush and put my stuff away for the night. I had only run the brush under the tap for about 30 seconds when one of the kids hollered for my attention. When they didn’t quit, I quickly spun the brush in my hands to remove the excess water and I set it on the counter planning to come back later and rinse it a little better.

5 minutes later, after dealing with the kid who needed help, I came back to finish my brush cleaning job and discovered the brush was missing. I looked everywhere. It was nowhere to be found. So I did what I always do when I can’t find something: I called for the kids and asked who took it.

Well, it didn’t take long for Tessa (ahh, back to Tessa)—the one who microwaved our kitchen a couple nights ago—to come slinking out of the living room with my brush in her hands.

When she gave it to me, I asked her what she had been doing with it. She answered, as all kids everywhere answer: “nothing” and then she quickly tried to leave.

Well, something wasn’t quite right, so I pressed the issue: “were you brushing things in the living room?”

She looked down, up, sideways—everywhere except at me—and finally answered: “yes.”

Well, that made me nervous—she’d been brushing in the living room with a brush that I’d just had black paint in and which I had only rinsed out for a few seconds before putting down on the counter . . . and then I moved beyond nervous when a horrible thought hit me: we had just received new chairs from my inlaws. The only new things in our home right now. The only things that really could be damaged or wrecked by a little kid with a paint brush.

I gulped and asked the question I didn’t want to ask: “Did you brush the chairs?”

Tessa looked at me . . . debated . . . I could see the turmoil in her little crazy 5 year old kid eyes . . . and then she finally answered: “Well, Hannah told me to do it.”

Now, this is Hannah.  She’s 3 years old. Would you listen to Hannah if she told you to do something?  No.  Nobody in their right mind would listen to Hannah on matters of grave importance. Why Tessa routinely chooses to listen to her is something that I cannot even begin to understand.  However, at that particular moment, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was thinking about all the different tricks I know to help me get black paint out of light fabric. That is, I was thinking about those things until I got to the chairs and noticed something amazing: they were completely clean.

Tessa even showed me where she brushed them. I turned on all the lights, examined them closely, and still . . . no paint. Not a smudge . . . not even a watered-down. gray streak. Nothing.

Well, naturally, I grabbed the brush and looked it over . . . and I realized how wise my purchase at RepcoLite earlier had been: the brush was perfectly—absolutely—clean.

I had only given it a quick, 30 second rinse in the sink. I had been pulled away from my task before I could adequately clean it. And yet, because of the special nature of the bristles used in this brush . . . that 30 seconds had been enough to rinse away every single last ounce of black paint. In fact, after just 30 seconds under running water this brush was clean enough to brush over brand new chairs and not leave a mark.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend trying that. In fact, I’ll never intentionally try it again . . . but I will, one more time, recommend the corona excalibur brush as THE best brush I’ve ever owned. Do yourself a favor . . . and pick one up. Drop the money just once and you’re not going to be sorry.

Cheese Graters and Dental Picks

There are some products or items that should only be used with extreme caution and with a full understanding of the ramifications.

Case in point:  cheese graters.  I’ve sliced up a finger and two knuckles just this past week alone.  And really, honestly, that’s only half the inconvenience.  The other half is trying to find all of the knuckle-skin I’ve shredded off without letting anybody else know what I’m doing.

You know how it goes:  you’re standing in the kitchen, helping your wife make pizzas for the family on a Saturday night and you drag your knuckle over the cheese grater.  Instantly, quickly and easily, a nice hunk of flesh is removed and deposited in the pile of grated cheese.

When that happens, you gasp, grab your bleeding knuckle and try to staunch the flow of blood.  And while you’re doing that, your wife (who’s standing there rolling out the pizza dough), asks what happened.

You look at your hand, see the quarter-inch-sized patch of missing skin and then your eyes drift over the mounds and mounds of mozzarella cheese on the counter.  And of course you say: “Oh, nothing.”

And then, you start sifting through the grated cheese–nonchalantly, trying to keep things on the low down–as you look for the part of you that the cheese grater lopped off.

But inevitably, when you start that, your wife clues in to what’s going on (you know how wives are–they have this sixth sense when it comes to hunks of skin being randomly shredded into the pizza cheese) and she says, “Oh, don’t tell me you lopped off another big hunk of skin into our cheese….”

And just the way she says it makes you feel stupid and disgusting–repulsive.  It’s almost as if she thinks you did this on purpose.  As if the sole purpose of helping grate the cheese is because you’re looking for your chance . . . your opportunity to grate your knuckles off into everybody’s pizza cheese.  (I don’t know about you, but nothing sounds better to me on a Saturday night than a good movie and some “me time” spent resting, relaxing and grating thick layers of my knuckle-skin into the mozzarella cheese.)

Anyway, as I pointed out at the beginning, there are certain products, items or tools that should be used with extreme caution.  One of these is the common cheese grater.  Another of these items is the dental pick–you know, the little metal hook or scraper that dentists use to scrape plaque off your teeth?  Yes.  Those things.  You need to exercise extreme caution when using those.

See, the other day, while wandering around Meijers, I discovered that you could purchase these tools for yourself:  for $5 or so, you could buy a kit that came with a little handheld dentist mirror and two metal scraper/pick things.  Well, naturally, I thought that was really cool–it’d be like being your own dentist–and so I bought a pack.  After all, this $5 purchase could well save me hundreds of dollars down the road if I could pull it off.

Anyway, I bought a pack and spent the rest of the day thinking about them.  When I arrived home that night, I grabbed my new purchase and made my way excitedly to the bathroom to begin doing dental work on myself.

I moved in front of the mirror, flicked on every light in the bathroom, opened my mouth wide and started poking around inside with the metal pick.  It was an amazing experience.  I felt important.  I felt “dentisty”.  And then, I felt pain.

See, I started scraping at what I thought might be plaque and the tool slipped.  It bounced off my tooth and firmly embedded itself, point first, into my gum.  Just below my tooth.

And of course, as I stood there with my hands in my mouth and my little hand-held dentist mirror trembling in my now shaky hands, trying to figure out how deeply the pick was imbedded in my now bleeding (profusely) gums, my wife started hammering on the door.

“What are you doing in there?  Can I come in?  What’s going on?  Are you crying?”  You know, all kinds of questions, fired at me machine-gun-style.

I just shouted “I’b fide.  I’b nob do-id anydin.  Bud dobe cub in . . . .”

In the end, the whole thing was just like being at the dentist:  I was bleeding, my teeth and gums hurt, I was forced to talk with fingers and tools in my mouth . . . and when my wife walked in and saw what I was doing, she gave me the same look of pity mingled with disgust the dental assistants always give me when they tell me I should floss regularly.

So there you go:  dental picks and cheese graters.  Two tools or products you shouldn’t use without understanding the risk.  Next time we’ll take this topic and apply it to home improvement stuff.  We’ll talk about some commonly used items which commonly cause problems.  And we’ll talk about how you can avoid those mistakes in your own home.  Until then, leave the dentistry to the dentists and don’t eat pizza until you’ve given it a good once-over.

The 15 Minute Paint-Exercise Regimen that Will Change Your Life!

Last time, I wrote about an email I’ve been receiving lately that has the following subject line:  “So Now That You’re Fat, What Are You Going to Do About It?”  (You can read that post by clicking here.)

It’s an obnoxious subject line and I hate seeing it in my inbox because, sadly . . . it’s dead-on.  I have gained some weight and seeing that email in my inbox reminds me of that fact and depresses me.  I’m especially depressed when I go on to read about the exercise programs and regimens designed to take off the fat.  They’re incredibly grueling and I think their main strategy is to kill you and let the normal flow of decomposition take care of the weight loss.

For example, my wife bought a Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred video.  It’s a 20 minute workout that you can do everyday.  If you keep up on it, Ms. Michaels promises that you’ll see tremendous results.  I don’t know if she’s right or not.  See, I’ve tried to do this on two separate occasions and each time . . . after about day 4 or 5, I found myself at the Dr.’s office trying to figure out why I  was having chest pains, shortness of breath, chronic back spasms and shin splints.

Each time, they’ve told me I’m healthy and they’ve sent me off home with a laugh.  But I’m not laughing.  Because the only reason for my symptoms–that I can determine–is that I’m not man enough for Jillian Michaels.

In fact, when I boil it down, I’m not man enough for exercise in general.  It tires me out.  If I do the easy, slow, low-impact exercises . . . I’m going to have to exercise 6 hours a day, everyday, for the rest of my life just to maintain my current weight and not gain any more.  If I do the quick, high velocity, hard-core Jillian Michaels’ workouts, I may lose weight, but it will likely be while lying in a coffin.

And so, needless to say, that’s a little depressing.  The death part, sure . . . but also the fact that getting back to my slim, high-school body is going to take forever . . . if it’s even possible.   In the end, it kind of makes me want to just forget the whole thing and quit trying.

And finally, that brings me to the home improvement point I wanted to make:  our homes can be just like our bodies.  They get pudgy and out of shape just like we do.  And when that happens, getting them back in shape can take so much work and effort that we sometimes feel like not even trying.

This all hit home for me last week when my wife and I spotted a house for sale.  Now, I should point out that we’re perfectly content with our home right now.  We had no plans to move.  We weren’t looking for a new house . . . we weren’t even thinking about it.  But then, late last week, we saw one that was for sale.  And it was amazing.

It was located on the edge of a big city park in Zeeland.  A screened-in porch looks out over a baseball diamond.  There’s a huge yard for the kids to play on–a yard that is mowed and maintained by the CITY (does it get any sweeter than that?).  It was a perfect home for my family . . . it was a house we’d looked at for years and always dreamed about . . . and now, it was for sale.  To top it all off, we called on the price and discovered, much to our shock, that it was in our price range.

We were excited.  Shocked.  Thrilled.  Nervous.  Excited.  And then we drove home.  And I walked into our home . . . and the scales fell off and my eyes were opened and I realized how out of shape my home was . . . how fat I’d let it become.

I looked and I saw cabinet doors that needed to be painted, others that needed to be touched up.  I saw chipped-up woodwork and dinged-up walls.  I saw wallpaper that was coming loose in a couple spots, a kitchen that needed a new paint job.  A back entry wall that needed to be cleaned and a floor that needed some work.  I saw little things like a broken switchplate or two and some lights that were burned out.  And I saw big things like carpets that needed cleaning, porch screens that needed sanding and repainting, and the exterior trim that needed to be completely redone.

If I was going to try to list this house and get people interested in time to have a chance at this other house, I would have to list it now–almost immediately.  But I couldn’t.  I had months of “home exercise” to do before my house would be even close to being in shape.

That was a depressing realization. It’s exactly how I felt about myself after receiving my “So Now You’re Fat” emails:  getting back in shape was going to take months of grueling work and effort.  In fact, getting back in shape (both me and my house) was going to take so long that I found myself wondering if I had the energy to even start.

But since we were interested in this new house, I decided I needed to buckle down and start working for hours on end for the foreseeable future until I had all these little projects finished.  But then, before I started my work, we toured that new house and decided it was not for us.  Beautiful on the outside . . . but not big enough for all my kids on the inside.  The whole new-house-thing was a no-go and I slowly downshifted and slid back into my planning-to-live-in-our-current-house-for-awhile mentality.

However, even though we’re not moving anytime soon (as far as I know) this experience has taught me something.  It has taught me that you never know when the right opportunity might present itself when it comes to buying a new home.  That particular home wasn’t the right one for us . . . but who knows . . . next week we might find the perfect place.  That meant I still needed to tackle the jobs at my home and get them out of my way.  So I resigned myself to horrible nights of grueling, 4-hour and 6-hour shifts with only time to sleep and eat in between.

But that’s when the light dawned and hope sprang to life.  See, right around that time, I read an article about the benefits of walking for 15 minutes a day while eating the right food. 15 minutes a day?  I re-read the phrase . . . I could do that. And that’s when I realized that I don’t need to do the Jillian Michaels’ Kill-Yourself-To-Get-Thin Exercise program to see results.  I can watch what I eat and I can find time to walk or jog 15-20 minutes every day.  Something low-impact and manageable . . . something I won’t tire of instantly . . . .  Something like that will produce results in the long run.

Oh, I may not ever find my way to the cover of People magazine . . . but at least I won’t be able to nestle my mountain dew in my belly button when I’m trying to change the channel on the tv.

Once that dawned on me . . . I realized the same is true with my home.  I looked at all the projects I had sitting around and I realized that each one of them could be tackled . . . in tiny, bite-size chunks . . . if I’d just allot 15 minutes a day . . . or even every other day.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to implement something I’m calling RepcoLite Paints’15 Minute Paint-Exercise Regimen that Will Change Your Life.  Yeah, it’s a mouthful . . . but it’s going to work.  And it’s going to produce results.  And I’m going to invite all of you to try it.

Next time, I’ll tell you how it works.

So Now That You’re Fat…

Fat Hippo by Eric Kilby

“Fat Hippo” by Eric Kilby is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Now, I don’t know how this happened, or what I looked into once upon a time on the internet, but suddenly, I’m getting emails with the following subject line:  “So Now That You’re Fat, What Are You Going to Do?”

OK . . . when I started getting those emails, I  found I had a couple questions.  First off, who thought up this marketing campaign?  I mean really, as a marketing guy, I found myself wondering who thought this was a good idea to start an email campaign with that subject line.  After all, starting with a line like that is no way to win friends and influence people.

Try that kind of brutal honesty on a first date–(or a second date–or even on your wife of 50 years) and see how far that gets you.  Seriously, can you picture it?  You arrive home after a long day and your wife greets you at the door.  You give her a hug and then, before you pull away you give her another hug.  Then, you kind of step back and reach out and poke her in the stomach.  And then, just to make sure, you slowly and gently  squeeze her sides with both hands.  Finally, you loosen your tie and say, “wow honey, now that you’re fat, what are you going to do?”

Yeah, just try that.  I dare you.

It doesn’t take a behavioral specialist or an FBI Profiler to know that uttering those exact words is going to end in domestic violence.  Those words are just not the kinds of words we use in normal conversation. Which is why I’m always a little stunned and surprised when I get that email in my inbox.  Do they truly think that belittling me, teasing me, mocking me is going to urge me to take action?

Yeah, that’s the first question I have whenever I find this little gem in my inbox.  My second question, however, is much more important:  How do they know?  Think about it:  How do they know that I’ve gotten fat?  Are they watching me with hidden cameras?  Tracking my purchases at the store and keeping tabs on how many Hostess Apple Pies I’m cramming down?  Are they keeping tabs on the clothing sizes I buy?  The numbers of pairs of sweatpants in my wardrobe?  Did they figure it out because they’ve monitored my phone calls and have heard me refer to sweatpants as “my wardrobe”?

Yet, as mystifying as that is (it’s probably got something to do with GOOGLE), as much as I wonder how they figured out my secret . . . I still have to come back to one sad little harsh reality, though:  They’re right.  And even though I don’t necessarily like their assessment or agree with their blatant, in-your-face honesty, I can’t dispute the facts:  I’m pudgy.

I’ve let myself go.  I eat more than I should and rest more than I need.  In fact, I usually double those activities up and do one while I’m doing the other.  As a result . . . I’ve blossomed.  I’ve found myself digging through my dresser, looking past shorts and jeans and looking instead for sweatpants or things with stretchy waistbands.  I’ve noticed that my baggy sweatshirts are kind of clingy and that my clingy sweatshirts are like a second bulgy and unnattractive skin.  Finally, and most alarmingly, I saw video of me swimming in the lake with my kids on vacation.  It was truly horrible to look at.  So much pasty skin occasionally breaking the surface of the water like some kind of large fish going belly-up.  Horrible.

At any rate . . . the bottom line is that I’ve let things go and I need to get them under control.

And that brings me back to that original email.  Now that I’m fat, they have tons of suggestions for me.  Oh, I haven’t opened the email to look, but I know it’s all about exercise regimens and diets.  In fact, everywhere I go, everywhere I look, I discover that the only way out of this mess is to buckle down and spend at least 6 hours every night doing crunches and jumping jacks.  It’s overwhelming to realize how much exercise is necessary to get back to my suggested weight.

No, I take that back.  It’s not overwhelming.  It’s overwhelmingly depressing.

But, the good news keeps coming.  See, after I discovered that I was fat (thanks to that long email campaign designed to thoroughly convince me I’m a blob), I made a secondary (though equally depressing) discovery about my home.  It seems my home, like me, has also fattened up.

And I’ll explain what I’m talking about in the next post.  Hang with me and check back tomorrow!

Off on the Blueberry Pie Tangent

In the last post, I wrote about an experience I had with a toy that required some assembly.  I told you how I started well but then, eventually, got ahead of myself and started thinking on my own.  I discarded the instructions and put things together as I understood they would have to be put together.  This worked fine until I got to a point where I couldn’t continue.  The parts I had wouldn’t fit where they were supposed to.

After some frustration, I picked up the instructions and discovered I should never have attached this or that part to this or that post until the very end.

I had stepped out of order–and I screwed everything up.

Another example of this . . . as I was reminded yesterday . . . was a great little event my wife and I experienced shortly after we were married.  See, we were in love (and still are) . . . like all newlyweds . . . and we decided that nothing would be more romantic on a Saturday afternoon in the summer than baking a pie together.  Yeah. A Pie.

Well, that sounded like fun and so we headed in to the kitchen and compiled the ingredients.  My wife read from the cookbook and I did all the little tasks as she reeled them off.  Everything went well until she read–(and I’m screwing this up because I don’t remember the exact recipe . . . so for you bakers out there . . . this is not meant to be taken as an accurate and literal recipe!)–she read, “Add 1/2 cup of sugar.”

I looked at her.  She looked at me and winked.  I liked that . . . and so I measured out the sugar and dumped it into our mixing bowl with all the other things I’d amassed so far.  I looked back at her and winked.  She turned back to the book.

Clearing her throat she continued:  “Add 1/2 cup sugar . . . to a separate mixture of 1/2 cup flour and 4 eggs.”

I looked at her.  She looked at me and winked.  I looked at the bowl of other ingredients and the sugar I’d just dumped in and looked back at her.  “Babe, you said to add the sugar and now you say to add it to a separate mixture of flour and eggs?”


“Well, I already dumped it in there,” I said, gesturing with my powdery fingers toward the big mixing bowl.

She followed my finger and looked and then said, “Hmmmm.  Why don’t you try to take it out.”

She looked at me and winked.  I bit my tongue.  Yeah.  Sure.  Let me just wave my magic fairy wand and I’ll take out the sugar.

I looked at the bowl and was getting ready to say something rude when I remembered that we were in love and that we were newlyweds.  So I pushed my frustration aside and started scooping.  After about 3 or 4 minutes, I’d removed most of the sugar and had it dumped nicely and stirred thoroughly through a mixture of 1/2 cup flour and 4 eggs.  Just like she said to do.

Now, we were cooking.  Stirring that mixture, I felt all my frustrations fade away.  I mean really, was it worth starting a big fight just because she read the instructions in such a way as to lead me into error?  It was just a pie, right?  We were in love, right?  Right.

When I had the mixture stirred thoroughly, I looked at her and winked.  She turned back to the book and skimmed over the instructions, trying to find her spot.  She mumbled to herself for a few seconds, until she found where she’d left off.  She smiled and read, “Add 1/2 cup sugar . . . to a separate mixture of 1/2 cup flour and 4 eggs . . . being sure to separate the yolks from the whites . . . before mixing.”  She trailed off at the end and stared at the cookbook for a few seconds, re-reading.  When she looked up, she didn’t wink.

I winked.  Or, I guess you’d more accurately call it a twitch.  I twitched.  A whole bunch of times.  And then the veins started pulsing on my forehead.

We both looked down at the mixture of everything . . . yolks and whites . . . on the counter and then we both looked back at each other.  We were in love, right?  Of course. But still . . . .

And so I said, in my most loving voice (but of course, sarcasm snuck in), “Babe.  Let’s try something new.  Let’s read a whole sentence.  From the big Capital letter all the way to the little period at the end . . . let’s read that whole thing before you tell me to do something.  Would that work?”

Well, as all husbands know, that didn’t work.  Before I knew what had happened, she was sitting on the front porch rocking violently in the rocking chair and I was standing in the kitchen all by myself, covered with flour and sugar and looking at a pile of fresh blueberries and a bunch of other ingredients I didn’t understand.

In the end, I produced a pie.  I’m not sure how good it was, but I do know that it took me forever to finish it.  That’s not the point, though.  The point I want to convey is that things work best when you follow the intended order.  We were trying to bake our pie out of order.  We were doing things that we should have waited to do.  We were skipping steps that should have been accomplished before moving on.  And in the end, it was a confusing, head-scratching mess.
Just like my experience with the Scooter from yesterday’s post.  Stepping out of order created mass confusion and problems.  It cost me extra money.  It cost me extra time.  It made me bleed on my carpet.

And all of this ties directly to home decorating.  See, when folks overhaul a room in their home (or, remember when people used to build new houses?).  When folks overhaul a major part of their house and start over with new carpet, new wall colors, new furniture . . . new everything . . . it can be a complicated and confusing job.

I meet these people at RepcoLite all the time.  They stand at the color racks and try to figure out what in the world they should pick for their colors.  They look at over 3,000 options and before long, their brain starts to smoke.

They grab colors they like–blues and greens and tans and greys–and then they head off to the carpet store (or, if they’re at our Lakewood RepcoLite, they just turn around and browse the samples)–and they try to find a carpet they like that matches their colors.  But many times they can’t–not exactly–so they decide to put that part of the decision off until later and they head to the furniture store.  There they look for couches they like and try to match one to their paint colors.  And again, 9 times out of 10, they can’t do it.

Before long, they end up back at the paint store, looking for new colors.  And this time, they’re even more frustrated and confused than before.

They’re starting to hate the process.  They’re starting to dream about colors and they’re starting to call those dreams, “nightmares.”  They’re arguing with their family, their tempers are short, and they’re, in a phrase, “sick of it all”–the whole remodel, the redecorating, the repainting–all of it.

But there’s good news!  The reason they’re so sick of it–the reason you’re so sick of it if you’re in that same boat–is because you’re most likely working out of sequence.   Is it possible you’re working your way through the home decorating recipe out of order.  Are you doing what I did when my wife and I baked the pie?  Or what I did when I tried to build the scooter?  Are you doing things first that should be saved for last, you’re doing things last that should have been done earlier?  Well, if you are, no doubt the whole thing is confusing, frustrating, mind-boggling.

But there’s good news as I said.  There’s a recipe you can follow.  It will help you discover order and clarity in your decorating process and it will make everything you do, every step you take, easier and less painful . . . and most likely, even fun.

Tomorrow, I promise, we’ll cover those steps.

Some Assembly Required

super_fix_it_dadEvery Christmas or birthday our kids get one or two toys that have those dreaded words on the box:  Some Assembly Required.  I know all parents out there reading this know the pain those simple words cause.  Oh, the box usually tries to calm us down and trick us by telling us not to worry, that the assembly is easy.  Or that it only takes 5 minutes, but we know the truth. See, we know how WE WORK.

Let me explain by using a brief example.  We bought my daughter a scooter a few weeks ago.  We brought it home and opened up the box and many small plastic and metal pieces fell out.  Naturally, I groaned.  (See, even though the box rattled when I shook it and even though it said “Some Assembly Required” I was still hoping that the “assembly required” meant I had to put stickers on and that the rattling sounds were just a whole bunch of those little packets of silica gel that come with new shoes.)

When I saw that the rattling parts were really washers and nuts and screws; and when I realized that “Some Assembly Required” meant I had to build the entire scooter from scratch . . . well, I wasn’t terribly happy.  I was tired.  I wanted to rest.  I’d just been at Target with 5 small children.  I NEEDED quiet and rest.  But I knew I was not to have either of these things.  Because Tessa was standing there, looking at me with big brown eyes (that always have fire smoldering just beneath the surface) and a quivering lip.  And so, against every inclination in my body, I decided to trudge through the task and build the scooter.

The first step was easy:  Amassing my tools.  It took only 5 minutes and I was seated on the floor of the living room with screw drivers, a hammer, and a couple different pliers.  I felt ready.  I knew I could do this.

I organized all the parts into separate piles and reached for the instructions.  I then flipped past the poorly worded introduction telling me how I was sure to be happy with this “Super-Happiness Scooter Toy” until I found the actual instructions.  Again, these were poorly worded (they always are) and after trying to interpret what was meant by vague and cryptic commands like “find Part A and combine Circumlocutor Nut B with all force to Part C, being always sure to turn counter-clockwise Part A until clicking sound is heard”, I decided to quit reading and go straight to the pictures.

And this worked out pretty well.  But then, before long, two things happened.  And I’m betting these things happen to you as well.  See, first, I got ahead of myself.  I started to see what was happening.  All the confusing instructions and piles of bolts and circumlocutor nuts started to make sense and I saw where this was going.  In fact, I even said that out loud.  I looked up at my wife with a smile–a smirk–my Indiana Jones smirk–and I said, “I see where this is going.”

Yeah.  And that’s when I threw the instructions aside.  I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  I saw how “this” was supposed to connect to “that”.  Everything made sense.  And I breezed through, putting things together rapidly.

But then the second thing happened.  I arrived at a point where what I just put together couldn’t possibly be  connected to the part to which it needed to be connected.  There was just no way.  It was physically impossible.  In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say it was metaphysically impossible.  There was a fundamental flaw in the design plan.  This scooter was never meant to roll.  Somewhere, somebody in the vast “Super-Happiness” toy factory screwed up.  I was convinced of it. There was no other explanation.

But then, after about 20 minutes of fussing–twenty minutes of trying to make the wheel fit where it obviously was supposed to fit–I picked up the instructions.  After flipping through them for a few minutes . . . I realized the problem.  On page 5, on the bottom, there was a large picture with a huge circle around it and the words:  “WARNING!!!  Do NOT connect Part C.A. to Post B.D. and turn until you hear clicking sound.  This MUST be done AFTER Wheel One is connected to Scooter Body.  If you happen to be unfortunate enough to have made this mistake, please call our Super-Happiness Technicians at 1-800 . . . .”

With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I looked down at Part C.A. and saw that it was indeed connected to Post B.D.  And I distinctly remembered turning it until I heard the clicking sound.

I turned back to the instructions and started looking for a solution.  But there was none.  The only thing I could do–according to them–was to call their Super-Happiness technicians.

Well, that’s not how we do things in America.  We don’t ask for help.  We don’t ask questions.  We don’t stop for directions at gas stations when we’re lost.  We DO.  And so I started DOING with all my energy all over that Part C.A. and Part B.D. Oh, I started DOING with a vengeance.

And eventually . . . nearly 2 hours and 3 trips to the hardware store later . . . the “Super-Happiness Scooter Toy” was rolling up and down the driveway propelled by a happy little girl.

As I picked up all the torn papers and sponged my blood out of the carpet, I reflected on the fiasco that took nearly 4 hours of “easy, no-problem, assembly”.

In this deep soul-searching, I realized that all of my problems came about because I stepped out on my own.  I stepped away from the boring instruction book.  There was a plan . . . a guide . . . a series of steps that should be taken in sequence to make this thing work.  And I stepped outside of it.  I was doing step 7 before I completed step 4.  I completed step 3 when I was supposed to wait to complete it until the very end of the project.  I screwed up the order and, in the end, it cost me:  extra time, extra money, extra trips to the store and constant needling from Tessa as she asked exactly 107 times “Is my scooter done now?”

Well, believe it or not, there’s a paint related tie-in to all of this.  We don’t have an instruction book on the steps to follow when you’re choosing colors for a decorating project in your home . . . but there are steps you should take.  And there is an order that these steps should be completed in.  In fact, completing these steps out of order (as I did with the scooter) is one of the main causes of decorating frustration in existence.

Next time, we’ll dig into them.  Today was just to lay the groundwork.