Desk Drawer Redo!

drawers4

I guess there are certain things you’re supposed to do when moving to a new place, and there are very few places where these conventions are more entrenched than on college campuses. When I got to college, I kind of tried to do these things. I committed myself to making friends and enjoying the city with all the bright-eyed-bushy-tailedness that my persistently-nervewracked brain could handle. I didn’t get involved in any clubs or student organizations or anything like that, but I tried in my own way to be a productive, socially-healthy member of NYU and New York City at large.

It was only a couple of weeks into this New Socially Fluent Me that I was somewhere in Chelsea, let’s say, coming back from somewhere exciting, let’s say. I was too distracted by trying to act like less like a feral animal and more like a likable and attractive person to remember details. All I really remember is getting Indian food that was far too spicy, and a long internal debate that followed about whether it would be worse to order something else and risk looking like a pansy or grin and bear it. I chose Option B and sobbed/hiccuped (does anyone else hiccup uncontrollably when eating impossibly spicy food?) my way through the meal, which must have definitely made me look very attractive. No question.

There’s a valuable window of time in New York between when you and your acquaintances leave wherever you’ve been and walk to the subway. Amidst the traffic and the weird smells and the weird people and the weird-smelling people, it’s a time to reflect, to dispense final thoughts, and to debate your best route home. The goodbye itself is abrupt because everyone literally has a train to catch, so this window of time is not only brief but also pivotal to ending things with a good impression. This is what I was trying to do, after the Indian food fiasco. I’m so charming! I’m funny! BE FRIENDS WITH ME!

And then I saw a little crappy wood nightstand popping out of a pile of garbage and instinct took over. I NEED THIS GROSS DUMPSTER THING, my brain told me. I WILL MAKE OF IT A NIGHTSTAND (it was already a nightstand) AND IT WILL BE GOOD. I WILL STAIN IT. I WILL REPLACE THE HARDWARE. I WILL BE SO CRAFTY. I hailed the closest cab. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE MORE FRIENDS, my brain said while I tossed it in the trunk, BUT THERE IS ONLY ONE DUMPSTER THING. And that’s how I left things.

Charming and attractive.

before

On the left, that’s how it looked once I un-stuck some wallpaper (which I distinctly remember doing with rubbing alcohol, for some reason, which led my roommate to believe briefly that I had a hidden drinking problem), stained the unfinished pine, and replaced the hardware. Then, when the spirit moved me to own a desk, I did some primitive cobbling together of things to create a desk out of it. Which I had for a while until I replaced it with this desk, which is much more practical for our apartment. Sorry, old cobbled-together desk.

Some readers suggested that I try to sell the desk, but after a few years of use and abuse and my slightly shoddy workmanship to begin with (no formal training! can you believe it? I can.), I just couldn’t really imagine doing that. It would be like posting an ad on craigslist for a used dishrag. “PLEASE BUY THIS SCHMATA I’M DONE WITH IT.”  <– not something you would do.

It would have read like this:

DESK. MADE IT WITH MY HANDS. NOW I’M A BLOGGER. MAY NEED SOME REPAIRS. REALLY NOT WORTH THE COST OF REPAIRS. BOYFRIEND SPILLED PLUG-IN OIL ON IT, ATE A HOLE THROUGH TOP PAINT & POLY. WEIRD STAINS ON PAINT. BOTTOM DRAWER KIND OF STICKS DUE TO WEIRD LEGS. TOP IS SAGGING A LITTLE, BUT NOT TOO BAD. NOT DEEP ENOUGH TO BE A GREAT DESK, EVER. OTHERWISE YOU WILL LOVE THIS DESK $4 OBO.

See? It’s not a good look.

Point is, desk was a fun experiment and looked good and all, but it was time to move on. Obviously I couldn’t just do the natural thing and get rid of it though.

drawers5

BOOM rolling tool cabinet. New look, same great taste. I have too many tools and nothing great to hold them in, and this fits perfectly in our little closet between the hamper and the suitcases. I will not be showing that, due to shame.

process

This doesn’t even really merit much explanation, but you’re already here so might as well:

1. Removed the legs from underneath the cabinet and screwed some little casters I had laying around directly into the frame.

1. Sawed down the original desktop (which is 2 pieces of 3/4″ MDF sandwiched together with wood glue) with a circular saw on the roof. Discarded excess.

2. Sanded the top and sides of the remaining top to rough up surface. There were some weird stains that wouldn’t come out and some chipped paint, so I decided to just repaint the whole thing.

3. Sanded the newly-sawed edge lightly and applied some Ready Patch with a spackle knife. Ready Patch is my new favorite thing in the world—harder than spackle, not as hard as wood filler, very easy to work with and dries quickly. Perfect filler for like everything?

4. Painted the top with a 2″ angle brush in semi-gloss white latex paint. When I did this originally, I used a small foam roller for the top, but I prefer the look of furniture when it’s painted with a brush. It’s a personal preference thing.

contents

And look! It does things! Like hold tools! Obviously I have more tools and DIY tchotchkes than fit in this little thingy, but this now holds pretty much all the essentials I’d want for a little fix-it job around the apartment. It’s easy to just roll it around to wherever I’m working and have everything at arm’s reach. Maybe I’ll even invest in a few drawer organizer things (like for utensils) to further organize stuff. I know, edge of your seat with excitement.

The knobs are the SNODD knob from IKEA, by the way. They were the cutest little knobs and IKEA only made them for like 5 minutes and it’s not fair. I should have bought a thousand of them, just to hoard. Or at least more than 4.

drawers1

Yay! This thing has more lives than Keanu Reeves.

Ring by Spring!

engaged

Not that I think there’s anything necessarily wrong with it, but I’ve always been wary of people who choose to get married young. It always seemed like something that was reserved for people who were fundamentally different than me—Jesus freaks, for starters, and following that, hopeless romantics and fools. I was mostly horrified when, at around 18, I did the mental math and figured out that my own father was only 23 or 24 when he proposed to my mom. That’s only 5 years older than me, I remember thinking. The 80s must have been fucking nuts. 

This was probably around the time that it somehow lodged in my brain that I was walking a radically different path. Absent sunny personality traits, basic people skills, or even a baseline amount of emotional stability within my day to day life, I figured I’d be alone forever. I’d probably get a dog at some point down the line, but anything approaching real human companionship would more likely start and end with a few very close friends. It’s generally hard for me to be around even those I love for more than a few hours without needing a long break, and I decided that I was OK with being the sort of person who just cherishes their alone time. It was kind of dark and mysterious to be that way, and a decent way to recast the anxiety that I’d very likely die alone into a conscious, liberating choice.

There was a long time when I would have told you that I loved living alone, that I preferred my hours spent in solitude. In a way, it was kind of true, but it was a notion fueled mainly by self-delusion. Truth be told, left up to my own devices, my behavior seems to toggle somewhere between dysfunctional and mildly self-destructive, but in the thick of things I couldn’t really see that. But then I met Max.

“Love at first sight” has always seemed, to me, like one of those stupid, sappy, mythical concepts that bad music and dumb movies have made us all believe in. And I won’t say that’s exactly what I experienced with Max—more like a creepy obsession, like discovering an incredible new band and being rendered useless to do anything but listen to their music and look at photos of their tour and dream hopelessly about a relationship with the frontman. I’d just seen the movie Fatal Attraction for the first time a few months before we met, and all of a sudden I had a glimpse of what might drive a person to boil a pet rabbit. It was both terrifying and exhilarating.

What I remember most about the early months of our relationship was the emotional chaos of feeling so much fear and insecurity and something not unlike bliss simultaneously. I had a difficult time imagining that my feelings could be reciprocated, and besides, I couldn’t fathom that they would last. I knew myself, and worried that the feelings would get stale, or I would get bored, or he would get bored, and the bottom would fall out. But then the early days gave way to weeks, which became months, and nothing really changed. And now we’re two and a half years out, and we’ve moved swiftly to create this whole life for ourselves that I can’t see ending. And I really don’t want to see it end.

Much to the disappointment of everybody close to me, there’s no great story about how we got engaged. There was no scene on a mountaintop, or a rooftop, or a beach, or a Jumbotron at a sports game. There wasn’t a moment when I turned to find him on one knee, the sound of a small box clicking open, or even any real impassioned rejoicing. As I’d been the first to use both the words “boyfriend” and “love” so many months before, at some point I’d made it impeccably clear that the proposal—if ever there was one—would not be my duty. I won’t say it was a fair deal, but it was one we both agreed to.

When you know you’re probably going to marry someone but nobody’s really ready to make the leap yet, you find all sorts of awkward ways to embrace the tension surrounding the issue. For my part, I fell into a horribly unbecoming habit of hinting at it all the time: “I don’t see no ring on this finger!” I’d yell after jokingly waxing poetic about one of the One Direction boys long enough for Max to get annoyed. It became a kind of perverse game: describe a future that didn’t include him for long enough and in enough detail for him to take the bait, at which point I’d pull something from the limited arsenal of familiar refrains. “You don’t own this!” I’d scream in mock-outrage. “Like Beyonce always says,” I’d remind him, “if you like it…”

And then, one cold night when we’d both had a little too much to drink, with friends in the next room probably mixing more cocktails, he just said “OK.”

“OK, what?”
“OK,” he said, “maybe we should do that then.”
“Do what?”
“You know—that. That thing, with the rings.”
“You’re drunk.”
“No I’m not.”
“No, you are. If you want to talk about this tomorrow when we’re both sober, we can do that, but we are not making this decision right now.”
“OK, but I’m going to keep asking.”
“You haven’t even said what you want me to do yet.”
“You know.”

I thought that would be the end of it, but it was the first topic of conversation when we woke up the next day, and I think by breakfast, we were engaged. Or something like that. It happened, in any case, and that’s all I really care about.

I sat on this news for a while, sharing it slowly, piecemeal, among various friends and family before it really became public information. It wasn’t any big secret, but in a way, I liked the privacy of it all, the feeling that I could think about it by myself before opening it up to the congratulations and excitement of others. When another student in my writing class this past semester noticed a ring on my finger, the whole class took part in a sort of collective ooo-ing and aww-ing and questioning that left me, frankly, a little queasy. Am I really that kid? That person who, in 2013, ended up with a ring by spring, who is thinking simultaneously about final exams and my wedding? It’s so far from the type of person I took myself for, so distant from wherever I expected my life to be at this point, that it’s all a little hard to wrap my mind around.

The next week, during a couple of hours before the class was set to meet again, I went to sit in the park and read. I’ve never worn any sort of jewelry, so for a while it was a shock to the system to feel the small weight of a band around my finger, like when I got braces and spent weeks running my tongue over the textured, metallic surface where my teeth should have been. A group of 8 or 9 homeless-looking alcoholics stood around some benches nearby, squabbling over the dregs of a vodka bottle and the last hits of a small joint. Evidently, one man had borrowed another’s sunglasses and hadn’t returned them. A woman had recently started smoking pot again, and her boyfriend (they broke up and got back together twice in the space of 30 minutes) slurred his disapproval. One man slept quietly on a bench in the middle of it all. Due to substance abuse, mental illness, or some combination of the two, each of them was, individually, a walking disaster, and the interactions between them moved so quickly between love and hate that it was impossible to keep track. Just as I was losing interest, among all of the yelling and the fighting and the making up again, I saw one man turn to another, put his hand on his shoulder, and say “I don’t have a life vest, but can I grab your arm, man? Because I know you’re going somewhere safe.”

In the moment, I didn’t know what to make of them, but out of context, the words took on a kind of weightiness. They’ve reverberated in my skull for the last few weeks, I think because they encapsulate so much of what I feel. I’m the type of person who has always spent more time worrying about things than enjoying them, more time feeling anxious about the future than looking forward to it. It’s a condition that makes it hard to just let go and be happy, to feel confident that I’m doing the right thing, to dispense with the lingering, crippling fear that I’m making terrible choices at every turn. But I’ve found a certain kind of foil in Max, who isn’t that way, and who accepts my certain brand of crazy but doesn’t allow it to define me. Max, who is patient with me, who is unreasonably kind, who has made me more happy than any other person ever has, who makes me happier than I can imagine anyone ever will. Who, when bobbing around in what often feels like choppy waters, makes me feel so safe.

Thank you for letting me grab your arm, Max.

 + + + + +

In case you’re wondering, our rings are actually inexpensive brass rings from here. I don’t know how other gay couples deal with this, but we both liked the idea of upgrading to gold bands at the wedding, because an engagement without some bling is just no fun (and gold is kind of spendy).

Life
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GIVEAWAY: Erie Drive!

As I, uh, heavily hinted at a few days ago, I’m really excited to be able to share a giveaway from one of my very favorite new shops, Erie Drive!

eriedrivegiveaway

You Undress, Christopher Gray Giclee Print | Cube Clock by Newgate | Enamel Pot by Orla Kiely | Block Lamp by Design House Stockholm | Apothecary Soap Dish by Izola | Magno Radio by Singgih Kartono for Areaware

Picking just a few things to highlight for this giveaway was more or less impossible because Erie Drive just has SO MANY NICE THINGS (including the print I blogged about last week!). And guess what? You can win ANYTHING YOU WANT. Yep, that’s right—anything in the store! That tingling in your fingertips and lightheadedness is probably totally normal and not something to worry about? Just go with it.

TO ENTER:

1. Go check out all the fabulous things at Erie Drive and pick your favorite item!

2. Come back here and leave a comment telling me what your favorite thing is in the shop and how you’d use it in your home or life! Maybe you need some art on your walls? Maybe you need to make some coffee? It’s all there!

3. For an extra entry, go “Like” Erie Drive on Facebook! Then just come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so!

Due to shipping constraints, this giveaway is open to US residents only.

UPDATE: THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED. Congratulations, Ash! 

promo

And oh heyyyyy, you know I love a good discount code! Use and abuse this thing for the next 10 days! Get crazy!

This post is in partnership with Erie Drive.

Adventures in Vignetting

Some things I could stand to be better at:

1. Dressing myself.
2. Cooking.
3. Saving money.
4. Waking up in the mornings.
5. Eating breakfast.
6. Eating lunch.
7. Going to sleep.
8. E-mails.
9. Socializing.
10. Vignetting.

So basically I’m mediocre at nearly all aspects of daily life. Go me!

That last item, though—the last one I struggle with. All the other stuff seems like things I could fairly easily improve upon with a little focused attention and effort, but vignetting is more like a frustrating art where owning nice things and understanding concepts like composition and color and scale and being fabulous intersect. You’d think it would be simple: buy pretty things, plop them on top of other pretty things, and BOOM: prettiness occurs. Not so.

For some people, I think this sort of thing comes really naturally, but some of us have to work at it. And maybe some of us also get careless and flustered and feel ridiculous working at it. I mean, this isn’t a model home, it’s where I live, so when I put too much effort into arranging things just so I tend to feel stupid and petty and I give up and go on being mediocre. It’s a weird hang-up. I want my home to just look easy, breezy, beautiful, like I’m just naturally cool so therefore I have pretty stuff (duh) that all looks nice together (double duh).

before

Take this situation, for instance. When I brought home the new desk, the painting that had been hanging in that spot just stayed where it was (except leaning instead of hanging). I had that black lamp on the old desk, so it stayed, and then I thought, hey, here’s a Dala horse and a Dansk candleholder and a vase thing I can put pens in and I’ll just put all that up there, too! Great plan, D!

Except it wasn’t so great because it looked crowded and nothing really looked good together. Then, factoring the lamp on the desk and the lamp next to the couch, which don’t look so good together, it was feeling very lamp-y ’round this corner of my world, which doesn’t look so good FYI. Plus the painting is too big and overbearing here, so the desk looked small, and it didn’t provide enough contrast with the painting over the couch (which I recognize is not in the above picture, but trust me). See what I mean? It just…isn’t right.

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I’ve been trying to streamline and simplify and pare-down, though, and I’m really happy with how things are looking now! Breaking it down from left to right:

1. The Telescoping Otis Light from OneFortyThree. I’ve been a huge (huge, huge) fan of Logan’s work at OneFortyThree for a longggggg time now, and I’m so thrilled to finally have one of his creations in my life! It perfectly solves the too-many-lamps issue, since it easily swivels from side to side to illuminate both the desk and the couch, and it extends! Now I can say, firsthand, that Logan’s work is as exceptionally made as I imagined it would be from stalking his transformation into a full-blown prolific lamp-making, plywood-bending superhero.

2. Plant from IKEA. I don’t know what it’s called, but it seems hard to kill, and that’s how I like my plants.

3. Christopher Gray Winter Logs Giclee Print from Erie Drive. I’d never heard of Erie Drive until very recently when the creative director and buyer, Alexandra Grenham e-mailed me, and then I was filled with lust and envy and very intense feelings to buy all the things! Alexandra has a really amazing eye that she’s used to curate this store with SO much great stuff, it’s a little overwhelming. I fell head over heels for this Christopher Gray print, though—I love the black and white (no shocker there), and the composition and balance of it. It’s bold and graphic, which contrasts perfectly with the other abstract paintings we have in the room. The quality of the print is really nice, too, which was an unexpected surprise. AND it fits perfectly in an IKEA RIBBA frame, which is really the only way I ever frame anything, ever. Love.

4. Nybro Crystal Volcano tea light holders, vintage Swedish from a stoop sale. Yep, it’s stoop sale season again (finally!) and these were my first scores! I love how big and weighty they are, and as we know from my deep and abiding yearnings for Ultima Thule, I pretty much love whenever glass looks like it’s melting all over the place. Mine were a total steal, but here’s one and here’s another one if you need a pair and have no impulse control (like this guy!).

5. Vintage studio pottery, thrifted. Amateur studio pottery is tough because I love basically all of it, but it doesn’t all look great together. This might be stating the obvious, but I finally figured out that they key is matching up the right scales and keeping things contained to a complementary color palette. There are lots of nice options here, but I’m cheap so I wait for them to show up on my thrifty rounds.

6. Dansk candleholder, stoop-saled! This was from last summer and was only $5, so I kind of had to. I’ve yet to find candles that actually fit in it, but it’s such a great shape that I don’t care. Tons of similar ones on Etsy and on eBay if you can’t live your life without one for another second.

7. Dog, scavenged.

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Here’s a slightly better angle of that swivel in action and how the lamp, couch, desk, and two pieces of art all look in relation to each other. Feelin’ it.

closeup

If you also love the Christopher Gray print or other lovely notions from Erie Drive, then maybe you want to stick around because maybe the amazing Alexandra is maybe a fabulous and generous sponsor who wants to offer you a fabulous and generous giveaway very soon. Maybe.

Probably.

This post is in partnership with Erie Drive.

Happy Birthday, Linus.

linus1

Of the many strengths of the human mind, gauging the passage of time just isn’t one of them. Sure, we do well enough sometimes with minutes and hours, but things seem to get progressively sketchier when we scale up to weeks, then months, then years. It isn’t a coincidence that every time New Year’s rolls around, we experience a collective sense of wonder——my god, another one, already? I’ve come to think we’re just wired with this deficiency, an adaptation of sorts, because if we realized how swiftly everything truly goes by, we’d feel so hopeless.

So, I know people always preface with this kind of thing, but I can’t believe it’s been a year since we went out for a walk with one dog and, long story short, came home with two. I mean, when I really think back——about the weeks of trying to figure out where he’d live, of finding him a foster home, of eventually deciding he could just stay with us, and then of the subsequent weeks of potty training and trying to get him to eat decent food, and now the months of forgetting what it was like not to have him around——I guess I can believe it’s been a year. But it still sounds like such an awfully long time.

When we first found Linus, the vet thought he was between 9 and 11, so we went with 10. So I guess now he’s between 10 and 12? So we’ll go with 11? Happy birthday, Linus. You’re old. Or as the vet put it recently when discussing an upcoming blood test, “geriatric.”

I don’t say “old” as a derogatory term. I love old things. I love old houses, and old furniture, and I especially love old people. And as it turns out, I love old dogs, too. Linus’s past is full of mystery and intrigue, a whole universe of stories we’ll never get to the bottom of. In a way, that’s frustrating——the not knowing——but it’s also kind of romantic. While I know he’d been horribly, inhumanely neglected when he came to us, I don’t like to think that his whole life was spent that way. I prefer to believe that was just some weird pit-stop he made in the land of Bad Luck, that maybe fortunes changed and he fell on some hard times and decided to pack up his knapsack and hit the road in search of greener pastures. And when he finally found them, he was all perfectly weathered, world-weary and ready to settle down.

I think it takes a certain type of person to decide to adopt an old dog, and I won’t pretend I’m one of those people. It means knowingly missing out on stinky puppy breath (which is my favorite smell in the whole world), and silly doggy adolescence. It means never seeing a full set of teeth, or watching your energetic puppy calm down into some version of itself that’s calmer, more dignified, and wiser, somehow. And, the unpleasant truth of the matter, is that it means you just might not have your dog for very long, which is a particular point that nobody seems altogether comfortable talking or thinking about.  But I’m not really one of those sunny people who walks around ignoring stuff like that. And despite my deepest admiration and respect for people who make the choice to adopt old dogs, I can’t really imagine signing up for it. The way we saw it was that we didn’t really have a choice——he fumbled his way into our lives, and we either had to accept that graciously or risk that nobody else would decide to love him, ever. And that just wouldn’t do.

Who knows how long Linus will live——maybe he’ll be one of those wonder dogs who lives until he’s 25, or maybe he’ll be a normal dog who lives until he’s 13 or 14. Either way is OK. That’s always been one of those unspoken understandings between Mister Linus and I. I’ll take care of you as long as you stick around, little guy, and all you have to do is love me. That’s your only job. I won’t try to put you through the mental hurdles of sit or stay or learning your name. You’ll have everything you need, and you just have to hold up your end of the bargain.

Max’s mom, Sue, once commented offhandedly that all Linus really wants is a warm body to cuddle up to. In some senses, I think that’s basically true. Linus likes everybody and everything, and nearly anyone who sits still for more than a few minutes on our sofa will find a dog sprawling peacefully across their lap. But I think Linus and I have a special thing between us—a type of love that I can’t really convey to most people, or even expect other dog owners to understand. When I was little, I read Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass because I liked the cover when I saw it at Borders. I don’t recall enjoying the book, but one of the ideas in it really appealed to me——that everybody got a little spirit animal called a dæmon, a dedicated creature metaphysically attached to them through, like, magic n’ stuff. And that’s how I feel about Linus. Mekko is my beautiful, perfect baby——my lovable problem child——but Linus? He’s my dæmon.

People often think it’s weird that we have Linus and Mekko, a high-spirited Pit Bull, in the same house. I do, too. Mekko is the dog I always wanted——beyond intelligent, sharply focused, energetic, overly friendly, and as neurotic as her dads (which is to say, extraordinarily neurotic). Mekko is the sort of dog who could probably learn all sorts of exceptional things if we put her up to them, like sign language and math and how to rescue babies from burning buildings. She’s the type who wants to get where she’s going, who’s always looking ahead for the next challenge or exciting thing. People say dogs live in the present and don’t think consciously about the past or future, but I don’t think that’s really true. Mekko probably doesn’t think about what her life will look like when she’s 30, but I know she’s always thinking about somewhere just a little ahead of the present, just beyond it enough that we don’t know what it looks like yet.

But Linus lives thoroughly in the moment. He moves quickly when he feels excited, but most of the time he moves at a pace not much faster than a crawl. Fresh flowers, discarded food scraps on the sidewalk, the fragrant aroma of someone else’s pee——these are all things Linus feels obligated to stop and appreciate fully, with every ounce of his attention. He greets each discovery anew, as if it’s the most fascinating and enticing thing he’s ever encountered. Absent any schedule to keep or goals to fulfill, Linus is left only with what’s in front of him, here and now. He’s the one that literally makes us slow down, take long pauses, and remember that maybe everything doesn’t have to happen so fast. Maybe time will just wait for us a little longer than we thought it could. Maybe we have all the time we need.

Life
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