Give us this day our daily humble pie

At the Catholic school I attended as a teenager, our mascot was a friar. That’s right, a FIGHTING FRIAR. We couldn’t help but snicker at that ridiculous fixture of our pep rallies: a bald, sandal-footed dude with a rosary around his waist. Not exactly an ideal instigator of GO! FIGHT! WIN! battle cries.

But I’m realizing now that our DIY-renovation lifestyle of late is something akin to monastic life. And I’m here to tell you: It aint for sissies.

SOLITUDE: Though we’re often in the same room, most of our work requires respirators, so our speech is about as intelligible as Darth Vader on a snorkeling expedition. We spend hour after hour sequestered with our thoughts, ticking off time with every flick of the paint scraper, every shot of the nail gun.

FASTING: We’re subsisting on really dumbed-down food lately. Poor Dylan is starting to shrink. So I brought home a case of Snickers bars last week—our most indulgent purchase in a long while, due to….

POVERTY: Go figure. We’re housepoor.

OBEDIENCE: We’re such DIY neophytes that I can’t really say we’ve proven ourselves on this vow, but maybe someday; housebloggers seem to take to it naturally. They call themselves “slaves” of their homes and confess to “selling their souls” for a cheap renovation. At every turn, they freely admit their own foolhardy missteps—often exhaustion colliding with good intentions, loyal servitude—and then, by golly, they keep going back for more.

Perhaps best of all, we’re learning humility (which I will now brag about…. smart!). We have joined a class of people that we’ve had a long-standing inside joke about: the Don’t Give a Damn tribe.

This joke started a few years ago when we drove past a jogger. He wore a disheveled mullet; tube socks at half mast; and undersized, purple paisley shorts that seemed rather unlike outerwear. Though there was plenty of room on the sidewalk, he ran in the street, into oncoming traffic. Mr. Doesn’t Give A Damn.

We are the Don’t Give a Damn family. We scare salesmen as we answer the door in our masks. We roll into Home Depot looking like alley cats, with plaster dust all over our butts, our hair, our everywhere. We have constant bedhead from showering at night, after long hours in DIY hell. Whatever doesn’t wash off, we add to the running tally of battle scars (the heat-gun welts on our biceps look like cigar burns—classy!). “Gee,” I say, shaking my head as I survey the damaged to my epidermis each night. “THAT musta hurt.”

Another inside joke arose a few weeks before we bought the house, when Dylan was at Construction Junction. He happened upon a real steal—a whole mess of 15-foot crown-molding boards, more than enough for our entire first floor. When he saw the price—$5 each—he bought them all on the spot. There was just the small detail of getting it home.

In our Honda Civic.

There he was, bending over these boards in the parking lot, hacking away at them with a hand saw, stubbornly willing them to fit. A guy walked by, laughed, and said, “MAN! Doing what you gotta DO!”

We are the Doing What We Gotta Do family. We are learning the fine art of tying all KINDS of inappropriate things to the roof of our car, like the drywall we bought for the upstairs hallway a couple of weeks ago. After we hoisted the giant planes up to the roof, we set to work securing it with rope. “I got it,” Dylan said halfway through the task, motioning for me to get in. So I did, and when he joined me inside not two minutes later, I was impressed at his speed.

….. until he handed me the ends of the rope, which, I finally realized, he hadn’t bothered to tie. “Hang on to these,” he said, as though we were just going to fly a kite. Before I could protest, we were off, on a wing and a prayer.

One evening last week, we hauled home a fireplace mantle (thank you, Craigslist!). Once again, Dylan secured it tightly to our car’s roof with rope, but stopped short of tying any knots and insisted that this was all perfectly safe. (I don’t know why I keep agreeing to go out with him on these dates with DIY disaster.)

Just blocks to go from Casa Vitone, we stopped at a red light, and a guy in the next car over caught our attention with his nonplussed stare. He looked at us, then at the mantle, then back at us, squinting in the dusk as if to say, “What the hell IS that thing?” Just as the light turned green, he put it all together, and he laughed, speeding away with a thumbs up—that universal sign for Doing What You Gotta Do.

There is something liberating about losing all pride, like a stroll through city streets in your drawers. We are our own peculiar breed of warriors now, and we don’t give a damn.


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