Passions & Projects & Passion Projects
When Colt and I first got married, before kids, I was finishing up my senior year in college. The school was only about 15 minutes from our house, but the amount of time I actually spent on campus was pretty pathetic. When it came to attending my 10am class or sleeping in and having breakfast with Colt, it was almost always breakfast. Thankfully most of the professor’s PowerPoint presentations and lectures were online so I pulled off good grades. The extra sleep was necessary because I would go to almost all of Colt’s gigs with him as at tag along roadie. I would carry his guitar into different venues while he unloaded his sound equipment and haul it back out after the gig was over. It was a point of pride for me since he didn’t let anyone else carry his guitar. His Thursday night gig was usually pretty laid back, so I would go down there with him, sit at the same booth every week near where he was set up, eat dinner and bring out whatever homework I was working on that night (usually Spanish).
We would spend his breaks together, and make eyes at each other during his songs, whether flirtatiously or telepathically making fun of another patron that was singing the wrong lyrics to the song. One night, when I was heavily engrossed in Spanish verb conjugation, not really paying attention to my surroundings, a man at a table next to us asked Colt to sing “Brown Eyed Girl”. Obviously I recognized the song, but wasn’t paying attention enough to realize he was singing the words loudly in my direction to delight of the group he was with but to the dismay of the girl he was sitting next to. He didn’t realize I was with Colt and thought I was just sitting alone doing some work. He got up, grabbed the mic off of Colt’s stand (which Colt hates, so never try that if you see him) and started singing karaoke style. I heard him sing, “You my, brown eyed girl…Do you remember when, we used to sing,” and I lifted my head from my homework just in time to see that the man was standing in front of me with the microphone so close to my lips it was almost touching them. He wanted me to sing. If you know me, you would know that I would rather die 10,000 gory deaths than sing in public. It was do or die time, so my lips parted, my mouth opened and I managed to sort of sing, “Sha la la la la la la la la la la te da.” The problem was, I had been sitting in concentrated silence for the last several hours, and I hadn’t cleared my throat, so my sha lala’s sounded like they had escaped the lips of one Mr. Barry White. It was weird for everyone. The karaoke man didn’t seem to notice anything, but when he moved so I could get a clear sight line to the stage, Colt was doubled over laughing. That’s the day I realized if I was going to be hanging out at Colt’s gigs, I needed to leave my homework at home. After that I started to bring a little red point and shoot camera I had to the gigs. It was nothing fancy at all. In fact, most of the pictures I took of Colt during those gigs were very blurry due to the low lighting and my lack of photographic knowledge of how to fix that with my camera settings. I chalked up the blurry photos to artistic license, and was excited to show Colt the pictures I had taken on the way home those nights. Those days were so spontaneous and carefree. I remember one night after his Thursday gig we decided we wanted pancakes. That gig ended pretty late, but we still traipsed into Wal-Mart at 12:30am to find the perfect pancake spatula and some Bisquick.
Our nights together started after we got home from his gigs. We would eat dinner (or maybe second dinner?) around midnight. After dinner we would turn on the oldies station and play poker until around 3am. Then I would show him some of my pictures I had taken that night, we’d watch a movie and head to bed around 5 or 6am. Our cue to go to bed was usually the newspaper delivery van, or this old man that would come around on trash day in the early morning hours to see if anyone had left any treasures out for him to collect. Once he took our old couch that was sitting by the curb and we didn’t even have to call for special trash pick up. I still don’t know how he loaded it up by himself. Colt was always encouraging about the photos I took of him, no matter how blurry or badly composed they were. At one of Colt’s gigs, the manager walked over to see the photos I was taking. I was going through the photos, explaining where each one had been taken and what was going on, and he said, “You know what, if I were you, I would invest in a really good camera and make something happen with this. You have fire in your eyes.” I will never forget that. I looked up the prices of different cameras, but they were all really expensive. I didn’t know what I wanted, or what I should be looking for. I had no idea what the best brands were, or what specs would be best suited to me. I truly knew nothing. I told Colt I wanted to get a nice camera that I could take better photos with, and one that we could use for years to come when we had a family. One night after dinner we walked into Circuit City on a whim. Also, R.I.P. to Circuit City. This part is super embarrassing. I didn’t know what to tell the sales associate when he asked what I was looking for in a camera, so I said, “I don’t know…one that goes clickclickclickclickclickclick when I hold the button down.” I know…He was probably cackling in his head. That was the best way I could think of to describe that I wanted a camera that had some kind of a sports mode, where I could take pictures in rapid succession. I figured that would be the best solution to combat the blurriness of the photos in low light. I still had no idea how to adjust the settings in manual mode. But Colt stood, proudly beside me, and didn’t flinch when he saw the price tag. Well maybe he flinched a little in his head. Even after I chose the camera I wanted, he still insisted I get a good bag to keep it in despite the fact that it tacked on an extra fifty bucks. He had seen the countless blurry, not so great photos I had taken at those gigs, and with more than enough evidence of my lack of ability, he had all the reason in the world to nix my expensive purchase. But he didn’t. That camera has been my sidekick at all of his gigs, it was in the delivery room when all of our babies were born (I even asked for it while I was on the delivery table after they took Cash over to the warmer to clean him up so I could get some good shots of Colt holding Cash), it has been at the weddings of our siblings, the births of their babies, on every vacation, and in countless, fields, beaches, mountains, cities, and homes of clients that have become friends. Even now, all these years later, after upgrading to a newer camera with video capabilities, I can’t sell that first one. It sits at the top of my closet in a place of honor (on top of my wedding shoebox). Every time I see it I think about the day we bought it, and how much blind faith Colt had in me. He never doubted me.
Right now we’re in the middle of a couple of projects. I am finishing up building a massive twelve foot outdoor farm table build with six benches. It’s modelled after the one I made for our backyard when we moved into our current house.
I’m thankful the client (and friend) is a patient woman because it has taken me a while. I started the build a few weeks into quarantine, and then we began making the YouTube videos which led us into a whirlwind of attention we never imagined we’d received but have been so thankful for. Also, between Colt’s equipment, the kids’ bikes, and my work bench, there isn’t much room to move around in my garage, so I have been building things in shifts to save room. My dining room has doubled as warehouse the last few days, accommodating six heavy farm table benches waiting to be stained. This table is my first commissioned piece of furniture, which has been really exciting for me. Woodworking was not a skill I’ve always had. I picked it up over the last few years as a response to my frugality when it came to furnishing our new house. There was a beautiful, patterned wood entry table I fell in love with on Etsy that I coveted for my new entryway. It was a pretty small, thin table and there was no way I could justify its $300 price tag, especially since it really served no purpose other than being decorative and cool looking. Just out of curiosity I went on Lowes’ website and saw that their miter saws were on sale. The saw was half the price of the table, and even with the price of wood, screws and stain, it would still ring up less than the Etsy table. When I told Colt I wanted to buy a saw, I’m sure in his mind he thought I was a little bit crazy. I had never used a power tool of any kind other than a drill. No one in my family had done much woodworking, so I really didn’t have anyone to teach me. But Colt knew me well enough to know if I had made up my mind to make the table, I would figure it out somehow. I brought the saw home, opened the box and set it out on the dining room table, that was doubling as a Lego table for the boys in those days. For a few days it sat there. I would pass by it as we came and went in the house, looking at it, but being far too intimidated to try and figure it out. I despise reading instruction manuals. I simply can’t learn anything by reading about it. I remember trying to study for tests in high school, when the teacher would assign certain pages to read in our textbook and it was a nightmare. I have always been a pretty fast reader, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to get through an entire chapter and realize I had no idea what the topic was even about. My mind would always drift to things I actually cared about. Thankfully, I could concentrate during the lectures, and I have a pretty good memory, so I made good grades. I learn pretty much everything in a hands on, or at least visual way. One night, I knew it was time to bite the bullet and try out the new saw. It took me 10 minutes to realize I couldn’t even figure out how to unlock the saw to raise the blade. After a YouTube tutorial from two sweet 13 year old woodworking boys, I figured out how to raise the blade, and get everything set up. I was still nervous about holding down the handle, and letting the blade spin. I was worried that somehow I had installed the blade wrong, and that when I held down the handle, the blade would spin off and cut me in half. I called Colt into the dining room and told him how nervous I was. I said, “Can you just stand on the other side of the saw, and squeeze the handle? I’m too scared, and that way, even if it flies off, it will stick in the drywall and not in our ribcages.” He must’ve trusted my blade installation skills more than I did because he walked confidently over to the saw, gave the handle a squeeze and I heard the very loud roar of the machine for the first time. After that I was off to the races. I built that mirrored chevron entry table and burned each of my kids signatures, as they were in 2017 into the top to commemorate the first piece for our new home.
Even that small build was not without some hiccups along the way. Ohhhhh, but the hiccups are the best and most imperative part for me. I don’t think there has ever been a project that I’ve worked on where there wasn’t some part I’ve had to pause and think through, or even go back and make right. Each time I’ve built something new, I have learned little ways to improve upon it for the next time. I am self-aware enough to know that this is pretty much the only way I can learn anything new, because I’m too stubborn to listen to anyone else and I don’t like people telling me what to do anyway. 😊 That may sound like a character flaw, and it probably is, but unless I can prove to myself that I can’t do something, I believe I can do anything and no one can tell me any different. The last couple of weeks as I have been working on this table in the garage,
I have had some time to myself to think. I wondered why I had so much self-assurance, not necessarily in that I’ll be able to do anything I want perfectly, but in that I will be able to figure out whatever problems arise in the process. Growing up I don’t remember being a “get your hands dirty and figure it out” type of person. After some reflection I think it comes from three different sources. Daddy always taught us that anything we were doing was worth doing right, even if it takes longer. Mama was a problem solver, and the definition of a “get your hands dirty and figure it out” type of person (who also didn’t like being told what to do 😊). Their example showed me that even if you take on too much, or get to a place where you feel like you can’t overcome an obstacle to finishing, there’s value and integrity in going back, doing it right, and finding a solution, even if it’s a creative one. Those principles, mixed with marrying someone who believed in me, even when he had reason not to, gave me the self-assurance to try anything I was interested in or felt drawn to. If you had told me when I was 16 years old that I would be into woodworking when I was 34, I would have laughed in your face on the way to my after school shift at Forever21. These days, my literal blood and sweat soak into the wood of every table I build (especially in July) but I’m happy as a lark doing the work. And hey, maybe one day my clients’ great, great, great grandchildren can find my wood trapped DNA and clone me like they did from the mosquitos on Jurassic Park. The tables have five coats of stain and spar urethane on them, so those puppies aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. 😊
Its 4am now, and just as I was finishing up this post, letting the dogs out, and about to wake Colt up from the massive dog bed he just fell asleep on next to me (its seriously like a tempur-pedic mattress for our 130 lb. boxer/mastiff), Beckett and Bellamy skulked downstairs after having bad dreams. Bellamy is still in that sleepy, not quite awake twilight but she still has the wherewithal to respond to a woman on the HGTV show I have on, complaining about her outdated house with, “Its just a bathroom, lady!” Tomorrow, I’m going to put the last coat of spar urethane on the farm table benches, and start on a laundry room project with Colt and the kids. It’s another project in which I have no idea what I’m doing exactly. At least I know, even if all else fails, we’ll figure out how to fix it. Or, you know, end up with that window I’ve always wanted anyway. Silver linings. 😊