The instructor kept telling me to KICK IT UP A KNOTCH and I really just wanted to tell him to MAKE ME.
Is it possible to be bored and overstimulated at the same time? I was. The music was loud and threatening. Every song sounded like the hidden tracks on a one-hit wonder’s comeback album.
The seat was incredibly uncomfortable (although it helped when the instructor showed me how to adjust it so I wouldn’t get violated during up downs). And I know what you’re thinking, that it’s exercise and not supposed to be comfortable. But that’s my problem with bike riding. I’m a leisurely bike rider. I want to look at stuff and feel the wind in my hair and see how far I can pedal with no hands. The most fun I’ve had biking was on the back of a tandem with my father-in-law, but even then Rafe and I were only dating and I was mortified that I would accidentally touch his dad’s butt.
I just can’t fathom a situation in real life where I would need the strength and stamina to pedal a bike that hard and fast. This was my only thought all class, like a freshman in geometry: When am I ever actually gonna use this?
Walking into the cycle studio was exciting and scary and new (the instructor also had to show me how to change gears). If I was looking for a mindless workout, spin would be a great option. I undoubtedly got a good workout because I was sore for a day or two afterward. Maybe I was just grumpy that morning, but I think I would just much rather use that time running or throwing a barbell over my head.
I tried to change my oil. It didn’t go as planned. I will try again. Later. So I’m calling it a temporary failure.
To start, I know that it doesn’t make a whole lot sense to change your own oil. Mechanics can do it cheaper and faster. But the point of this project wasn’t to save time or money. It was to learn. I didn’t like the feeling of paying some one to do something I had no clue about. I didn’t like feeling stupid when a mechanic tried to up sell me on oil or filters or tell me that my car needed something else done with it. So I just wanted to learn, or at least become less of a moron.
I visited my old friends at The Art of Manliness. I read my owner’s manual. I researched. I watched. I learned. I bought the proper weight oil and a new filter and an oil filter wrench just in case and even splurged the $3 to buy a container for the used oil. The man at O’Reilly’s looked at me like I was crazy. He might be right.
One of these things is not like the others.
Look how happy and excited I was after I bought all the supplies. So young and naive.
I spent a few minutes looking under my hood and under my car just to get familiar with everything. My husband, father, and father in law all seemed a little nervous when I told them what I wanted to do, but I was completely confident in the job. When my dad told me to make sure the old gasket comes off with the filter, I told him he was right and that I should lube the new gasket with fresh oil so it seals and comes off easier the next time. I knew what to do.
So I grabbed my pink bandana and put the baby down and popped the hood and took the lid off the oil pan and crawled under my car with my 15mm socket wrench and began to loosen the oil pan plug with the container and rag in place.
Like my old friends Tire Lug Nuts, it was stuck.
Unlike my old friends Tire Lug Nuts, it is still stuck.
I worked that wrench for about an hour on three different days. I tried the PVC pipe trick. I tried open ended wrenches. I tried a mallet. I even tried this guy’s psychotic idea of using a jack to knock the nut loose. Knowing I could cause some pretty serious damage, I thought it was best to take a break from this project. Because the solution is either one of two things: either the nut is stripped, in which case I’ll take it to my body shop, play dumb again and make them think they stripped it, or I’m just not strong enough to loosen it.
The second option is most likely and the absolute worst. After working so hard to rotate the tires and proving myself, I hate the idea that I physically cannot do something.
There’s a great Key & Peele sketch where a basketball player is so fired up after winning a game that he tells kids they “can actually fly!” The kids can’t fly and perhaps I can’t loosen a nut.
So moving forward, I’m choosing to look at this temporary failure like this: I learned. I learned what my car looks like under the hood and where most of its parts are. I learned the process for changing oil. I learned I spent $53 on supplies when I pay $28 to have someone else do it and that includes a car wash. I did something scary for the first time, which is technically a success. In the meantime, I’m going to keep hitting the weight room like a total bro, and in a couple of months, I’ll try again. Because that oil is still sitting in my garage and because my son won’t have a mama who gives up.
I love CrossFit. It’s as simple and Kool-Aid covered as that. I love the people. I love the confidence. I love the mild case of PTSD that follows a good workout. I love what it does for my mind and my body.
Rafe started CrossFit in the Spring of 2013. He kept telling me how much I would love it. I told him he was dumb, that he didn’t understand.
“Girl are mean,” I tried to explain. “The guys may all love working out together, but the girls there are all going to be competing against each other and judging each other. I don’t need that.”
I was wrong.
CrossFit quickly became a huge part of my life over the next three years. I was at our gym 5-6 times a week. I watched CrossFit videos and read CrossFit articles. My social media feeds were filled with CrossFit athletes and organizations. It became such a huge part of my life that suddenly when the baby was born, it felt like there wasn’t room for it anymore. I cried when I missed events. I felt resentment towards my son for ruining this amazing part of my life. I felt guilty for missing my favorite 5am class with my friends. Rafe and I got in too many fights at 4:30 in the morning about who was going and not going because we both wanted to go, but the baby was up late and didn’t sleep well (as if fighting with your spouse isn’t awful enough, try doing it mostly asleep with an alarm clock buzzing and the fear of waking up an infant). My love for CrossFit started working against me and became unhealthy. It seemed the best thing to do was to take a step back and refocus.
I miss it everyday. But I knew I wanted to continue weight lifting. So I hit the weight room.
I’m comfortable with the rules and etiquette and people at CrossFit. The weight room is unknown and terrifying.
It took three separate days for me to actually step up to the squat rack in our new weight room. It looked different than I was used to. There were too many people there. I was just plain chicken. But yesterday, I did it.
I reminded myself that I knew what to do and that I could fake confidence and that Rafe had promised no one would talk to me. He was wrong.
I did one warm up set and heard people laughing. Like a crazy person, I assumed it was at me, so I put in my ear buds and tried to block it out for the second set. The cord got tangled on the bar and my phone dropped out of my waistband. I laughed at me then ditched my music. Then two old guys (the only other people working out) came over. One of them asked if I used to run track. I almost spit out my protein shake.
“I bet you would have been a great sprinter,” he said. “You have a lot of power in your legs.” I didn’t tell him that I have run a sub-ten minute mile three times in my life, and two of those times ended with me vomiting in a parking lot. It didn’t even occur to me to be creeped out by these guys. They just genuinely seemed interested in my athletic background. I had clearly disappointed them.
I finished up my last set red-faced, either because it’d been months since I had felt the weight of a barbell on my shoulders or because I was blushing. I snapped a quick selfie in the mirror for documentation and also because as far as I can tell, that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re in a weight room.
Thing 7: Get on the Jumbotron Go crazy at a ballgame
I blew on the shiny part of the final navy blue brush stroke on the poster board, simultaneously waving my hands over it. This made my FitBit light up, and I saw how late I was running. I’d have to rely on the Houston heat to dry my hair on the way. The baby was stirring on the monitor, but not waking. I’d have to get him up, risking him being grumpy the whole baseball game. I tiptoed in his room hoping to at least wake him gently. But how gentle can you be changing and dressing a baby when you’re supposed to be in the car eight minutes ago? He looked adorable in his Astros shirt, and I was a mess in my tank top and wet hair and paint-smeared jeans. This would have to do.
I’ve been pretty spoiled with my Astros experiences. Through various friends and their connections, we’ve scored some pretty great seats. The fans surrounding us always seem used to the premium seating, clapping politely and eating their hotdogs with forks. Somehow I must have got sucked into that, because I’ve caught myself thinking some pretty terrible things about the people on the big screens:
Wow. Calm down guys. Act like you’ve been in public before.
Goodness lady. Have another beer.
Cool selfie. I’m sure your “friends” will be pleased to see what a real baseball fan you are.
Double fisting hot dogs, huh? I bet your cholesterol is all sorts of bad.
My baby is so much better looking than that baby. Why don’t they show my baby instead?
You’re a bad dancer.
Sigh. I’m sorry, strangers. You don’t deserve that. My mom used to tell me that when people are mean, it’s just because they are jealous. She is right. I AM jealous! I want to be the glamorously carefree girl on the big screen, housing hotdogs and showing off my biceps during the Muscle Cam. I want thousands of people to see my ketchup-faced baby and collectively “Aww!!” at the pure American joy of a small child staring wide-eyed at a baseball game. I want the world to see how in love my husband and I are with a modest, yet love-soaked smooch on the Kiss Cam (Rafe, for the record, would hate this and would probably fake his death to avoid the PDA).
I thought back on every game I’d attended at Minute Maid Park. The elements of getting the camera guy’s attention in a stadium that seats 40,000 people seemed simple enough: precious children, witty and relevant signs, silly people enjoying themselves. So I bought my tickets on the upper deck and made my signs and dressed up my baby and invited two of my beautiful friends along. You guys. We were golden. We would have our three seconds of fame on the Jumbotron.
DO YOU SEE ALL THE GROUPS IN THE BACKGROUND??
Thanks to my sweet friends for playing along with me. You’re great.
…except we didn’t. Every area day camp and summer school program in the city also chose this game. We just couldn’t compete with hoards of sugared-up kids in matching T-shirts. But my goodness did I have a fun time trying. I had never done the wave with such fervor or “EVERYBODY CLAP YOUR HANDS” so spot on (plus Rafey was clapping too so that was adorable). Whatever singing competition show is cool right now would have loved to have me after my harmonies on Take me out the Ballgame.
We didn’t make it on the Jumbotron or the broadcast (I recorded the game so I could watch for us later that evening), but we had a ton of fun. I now promise to stop being so mean to strangers that are also having a ton of fun on the Jumbotron. You go, strangers. You dance and you eat and you ask the beer guy for another. Don’t worry about stuck up people like me. We are just jealous.
I missed my family. Or my family missed me. One way or the other, we had to get to Wichita. Big Rafe was hard at work, so little guy and I took off.
We had flown before as a family, plus my mom, so I knew the basic ins and outs of flying with a “lap child.” But without the convenience of being able to pass a fussy baby off to another person, and then another, and having four extra hands to lug luggage, I was in for a challenge.
I strapped the baby on with the wrap, draped the diaper bag across my chest, hooked the car seat around my elbow, and dragged an extra large suitcase behind me. My set up would have been perfect if I hadn’t accidentally chosen the farthest parking garage possible.
A man in steel-toed boots and an orange vest hopped on the elevator with us. Rafe immediately waved at him and started calling him dada, making everyone very uncomfortable. The guy was a total trooper though, doing his best to make conversation with an infant, a creature he clearly had never spent much time around.
“When you check your bags, that’s where they go,” he told Rafey, pointing to a series of conveyor belts and chutes as the doors closed. I wasn’t sure what reaction he was expecting from a ten month old, but he didn’t get it. He shrugged and explained to me which garage would be better for our next flight. I appreciated that and have since forgotten everything he said
We made it through a maze of tunnels and escalators, elevators and breezeways to the check-in area. It teemed with slews of amped up youth group kids in matching t-shirts and hurried businessmen. Rafe was growing anxious in the sling and his wiggling loosened the knot. He must have felt the relief because he continued to arch his back in an attempt to simultaneously break away from me and break his neck. A similarly loaded down mom and I exchanged solidarity smiles. Then a man in a suit with a briefcase made a beeline towards me with wide eyes and frantically asked if he could help me. “That’d be great,” I said, just needing to adjust babe in the carrier.
“Okay,” he began. “You’ll want to enter your confirmation number in this computer here, and then take your boarding passes to the front desk lady there. She’ll take your checked baggage and then you can head up those stairs to security.”
I believe this is what the Internet would call “mansplaining.”
Still, I appreciated his concern and I thanked him. I continued to trek toward the computers like I already knew to do, feeling Rafe squirm against my chest trying to crane his neck to see where the heck we were.
With my boarding passes printed and my checked luggage paid for (miss you, Southwest), we stood in line to drop off our stuff. Another gentleman in a suit quickly let me know I had cut him.
If you’re a grown up, let’s stop being concerned about being “cut.”
All of my elders would be proud of me for not immediately biting this man. I simply apologized for the confusion and moved all of my stuff out of his very important way.
Once I dropped off the extra stuff, we were golden. Rafe was charming as usual, smiling and waving at the flight attendants. He slept most of the flight, and save for one “Oops this snack mix is spicy” incident, didn’t shed a tear.
Such a nervous little flyer.
We had a great time in Kansas visiting my family and can confidently make the trip again. I was thankful for the number of people that offered help or smiles or at least pretended not to notice what a disaster I was. One self-important jerk out of the thousands we passed isn’t too bad.
I’ve been working at this for well over a month. When I first started, my goal was to have all Twenty-Seven Things done by Rafe’s and my birthdays in mid-August. It’s become clear to me that that’s going to be hard to do.. So far, I’ve done five Things for the first time. I’ve already learned a lot and I’m excited to keep going without the pressure of a time frame. Here’s an update on what I’ve accomplished so far:
Thing 1: Plant a Vegetable
My vegetables are all deader than any dead thing that’s ever died. I’m not sure what happened. I tucked each seed carefully into the soil and lovingly spritzed them with water every so often and placed the container on my front porch in the sun every day, and wished them good luck in the evenings. I squeed when I saw little green shoots erupting from the soil and thought that I was now some sort of horticultural genius. And then one day those adorable green sprouts turned brown and collapsed to the soil like a wacky waving inflatable arm tube man with his cord unplugged. I mourned for a few days and told myself this was likely to happen. Two weeks ago I took the remaining seeds of the basil, mint, cherry tomatoes, and zucchini and quite literally threw them into an old whiskey barrel on our back patio and forgot about them. Yesterday I looked out and saw SPROUTS EVERYWHERE. Things are happening and I did absolutely nothing to encourage it. So who knows what that means.
Thing 2: Rotate my Tires
Pretty much still feelings like a badass there.
Thing 3: Get a Blowout
I haven’t been back to stylingbar, BUT I WANT TO. I just haven’t had the occasion or the time or the energy or the need. But I’m on the lookout because that experience was sort of amazing.
Thing 4: KonMari my Closet
Guys. My closet is still organized and looking beautiful (except for when the babe is in there… he seems to think my shoes look better thrown on the floor). I even reorganized Big Rafe’s closet. He came home and asked where all of his clothes went. I didn’t even get rid of that many things (some stained Old Navy graphic tees and polos from ex girlfriends; you’re basically 30 and we’ve been married seven years. I think you’ll be okay). I just put everything in a spot that made sense and folded things nicely. Hooray! I’ve become ruthless in getting rid of stuff I don’t like. I even found myself doing it at a friend’s house the other day. So yeah. I guess I am now the type of person that judges your belongings and desires to get rid of your things that don’t bring me joy. Sorry about that.
Thing 5: Remodel(ish) my Bathroom
Most of the anxiety this project caused me as worn off. I’m now to the point where I can look at the mirror frame and think about fixing it up a bit. The shelves are still lovely and I still love being in there.
Rafe had to leave town for a few days for work. I repainted the bathroom to keep myself from going crazy. As I started working, one “If you give a mouse a cookie…” moment led to another and I ended up completing a slight remodel rather than just a repaint.
This wasn’t supposed to be a Thing, but this project made me cry three times, so I’m counting it. Here’s what happened.
After I finished the paint, I took a step back to examine my work. Something wasn’t right around the mirror. Any mistake I made with the blue became two mistakes next to the mirror. I decided to build a frame for the mirror. Wood and saws and nails and measuring! I had never done that. Off to Lowe’s!
With astonishing grace, I carted the eight foot boards I needed to the wood cutting station. I danced around nervously, tried to find a button to call for help, and did my best to look like my fussy baby and I belonged in a Lowe’s lumberyard amid hoards of contractors. I practiced saying the measurements I had quadruple checked.
A man finally hollered down the aisle asking if I needed help. He came within fifteen feet and then simply said, “We don’t cut those.” He looked at me blankly and refused to give me any more information.
“Not even just a straight cut?” I asked, making a slicing motion with my hand and ffffffth with my lips, demonstrating how easy this would be for him with his a big man saw and his cool goggles.
Cool. Thanks, guy. You’re helpful.
This, for the record, is why doing stuff is hard. I was already out of my comfort zone in order to complete a task that was out of my comfort zone and Mr. Monosyllable made me feel like an idiot. Let’s all do our bests to not make others feel like idiots.
So I loaded up my eight foot lengths of board and psyched myself up for the jig saw. This turned out to be a ton of fun, so I decided I wasn’t mad at Monosyllable anymore.
…until I started measuring again and realized my eight foot boards were actually seven foot, four inch boards. I looked closer and saw they had been previously cut and apparently returned to Lowe’s as damaged goods. Let’s all do our bests to follow return policies.
Another trip to Lowe’s, one warped board, numerous coats of blue paint, white paint, caulk, caulk jokes, and Liquid Nails later, my mirror was framed. It looks fine. If you’re ever at my house, please don’t look at it too closely. But I learned a lot and I had fun and I didn’t even need rude Lowe’s guy or his big man saw.
Everything was going fine. I had a few bumps but I got them figured out. I could have stopped there. But the mouse needed his napkin and I needed to build shelves.
The concept was simple enough: I would stain boards I found in my garage and rest them on pipe pieces I would spray paint and drill into the wall. My boards looked beautiful. I took my time spray painting and did it right for the first time ever. I marked my holes in the drywall where I would drill as soon as baby woke up. My little level bubble told me I had done a great job. I was ready to drill.
I can’t find the words to explain what happened next, perhaps some residual baby brain or the world’s biggest brain fart or maybe the baby had roofied my coffee that morning. I couldn’t figure out how to attached the drill bit to the actual drill. The same drill I had used several times before. The same drill I knew how to operate and was comfortable with. I was completely paralyzed and frustrated.
I swallowed my pride and called my dad. I had a simple question that would make me look dumb, but I have looked dumb before and moved past it. I called him on FaceTime so I could show him the drill and what I was trying to do. Instead of just answering my question, he got all fatherly on me and asked what anchors I was using, how much weight I expected my shelves to hold, and how the drill was obviously broken because the chuck shouldn’t come off so easily. This was Day 3 of working in the bathroom. Day 3 of Rafe being out of town. Day 3 of my only human interaction being with my sweet son and the Lowe’s guy. So my frustration just all sort of boiled over, and I cried. I cried because I was embarrassed and tired and lonely and overwhelmed. Then for the first time in my life, I hung up on my parents.
I FaceTimed my sister because I knew she would understand what I was trying to do and how crying to your parents as an adult is the worst. As soon as she answered, I jumped right in explaining what I was doing and why I was frustrated and how I didn’t need anyone’s sympathy and assured her that I was a grown, capable woman all without taking a breath. When I did, she rotated the camera to show me she was sitting next to our parents at a baseball game and they, along with the rest of the stands, had just bathed in the emotional geyser that had spewed out of my mouth.
The baby and I ate and I took deep breaths and did more Internet search and tried to create my own version of Sherlock’s Mind Palace. Rafe had called to tell me good news, and I was so happy I cried again (#allthefeelings). He could tell something was wrong, but I didn’t want to explain what was going on because, fun fact, I hadn’t told him I was doing anything in the bathroom. I’m a sucker for good surprises. I did anyway and he assured me he would help when he got home.
I felt like a failure. I was reminded of sitting helplessly in my driveway surrounded by car parts. I was the damsel in distress again, and I hated it. My best friend reminded me that if I could rotate my tires, I could do this.
The doors of my Mind Palace swung open. The paralysis wore off. That whole time I was attaching and reattaching the chuck, I was also loosening the grip for the drill bit. I plugged it in and gave the trigger a few test squeezes. pew! pew!
The shelves went up gloriously. While you are busy NOT looking at my mirror frame, look at my shelves. They look more than fine. They are beautiful.
So I guess that’s it. I started with a simple paint job and ended up, again, learning how easily I tend to give up, how easily I become frustrated, and how easy the solution usually is.
That night, after I put the baby down, I soaked three days of paint, glue, and dust off of my legs in the tub. I wondered again why I am doing this, if it matters. I wondered if I was just another bored housewife looking for validation and meaning from the world. I am going to ask myself that a lot in this life. I hope I can always come to the conclusion that the work I do matters, because as I drilled the last screw in on my completely unnecessary shelves, I looked down at my son, making sure the loud noise didn’t scare him. He sat on the floor smiling, watching me overcome my struggle and reap the benefits of my persistence.
I know he won’t remember this particular day. But all this work I’m doing is practice for a day he will remember. Someday he will see me struggle. He will see me get frustrated, and he will remember it. But with any luck, he will also remember me never giving up, trying harder, persisting, taking chances, and succeeding.
I heard about the KonMari Method last summer when a friend posted picture after picture of bulbous trash bags and stunning before and after photos of her living spaces. I brushed it off as new-age, feng shui crap. Then a brand I follow on Instagram mentioned its new “KonMaried” displays. Then Amazon suggested I buy Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I make passing judgements on my friends, but I trust Amazon.
The basic principles of the KonMari method require me to hold every item I own to determine if it sparks joy, focus on deciding what to keep rather than what to discard, and aiming for perfection: a perfectly tidied home will stay tidy. “To summarize,” she says, “the secret of success is to tidy in one shot, as quickly and completely as possible, and to start by discarding.”
I read the first 120 pages or so in one sitting, though it was difficult. I fought the urge to just walk in my closet and do it — clean it out, get rid of things I don’t wear or don’t like. But I wanted to do this by the book. I knew if I read about sorting, I would want to do it immediately rather than finish the art of discarding.
As Kondo suggests, I started with tops. I dropped in a pile every top I owned, whether a nicer blouse or a camisole or a workout tank or my Maize Softball 2000 t-shirt with the sleeves cut off.
Y’all, 218. I owned 218 tops. That is absurd. You’re welcome to judge me like I did my friends, or you can go count in your own closets.
Let’s stop here and do some maths. After I sorted my tops, I went through the same process with my bottoms: yoga pants, running shorts, maxi skirts, and denim. 57. So, assuming an outfit is one top and one bottom, I had 12,426 different outfits in my closet. I could wear a different outfit every day and not repeat for 34 years. This ignores the general concept that clothes should match, but the point is that THAT IS TOO MANY CLOTHES.
I followed the KonMari method with every item in my closet. Four hours of work later, I am down to 113 tops and 37 bottoms that all spark joy. I can still go 11 years without repeating an outfit.
I like clothes. I like wearing pretty things. My confidence often comes from what I’m wearing. I stumble into thinking I need to wear something new in order to feel good, but I have held each of my remaining 150 garments and have made the decision that they make me happy.
So with that, I think I am issuing a separate challenge to myself: no new clothes until my project is finished.
I want each of my Things to be something that pushes me out of my comfort zone or scares me. Cleaning out my closet wasn’t scary (although walking into was starting to be). But shutting down the temptation to add a pretty little somethin’ somethin’ to my wardrobe whenever I’m bored or have an event coming up is scary. Learning to feel confident in what is already hanging or folded perfectly in vertical rows in my closet is scary.
Kondo promises that her clients experience life-changing magic after tidying. I’ll keep you posted.
When I first heard about blow dry bars, it seemed silly. Why would you pay someone to do what the air does for free? (I have similar, yet stronger, feelings towards tanning beds.) But I kept hearing friends talk about their blowouts, seeing more blow dry bars pop up, and getting more and more careless about the state of my own hair (see Thing 2 for photographic evidence).
So after Thing 2 left me bloodied, dirty, and sore, I thought it might be fun to try something on the more girly end of the spectrum: I got a blowout.
For those that are unaware, a blowout (as far as I can tell) is basically having someone else just do your hair. Big Rafe described it perfectly: it’s a pedicure for your head. The experience was relaxing, I left feeling good, and it is supposed to last a couple of days. That was really what convinced me to try it. If my hair could look decent for a few days without me having to touch it, that might be the solution to the love-hate relationship I have with it.
I went to styling bar in Rice Village because it had good reviews and though the fancy hair salon scene is foreign to me, that area of town is one of my favorites.
You know that Pinterest board, whether actual or imaginary, we all have with pictures of hair we like? Mine is real but “secret” — I don’t want anyone thinking I’m vain enough to actually care how my hair looks when there are starving children and whatnot. I guess that secret is out. Well stylingbar has one of those too, except I actually got to point at a picture and say, “Make my hair do that.” AND THEN THE STYLIST ACTUALLY DID IT. Amazing!
My girl was a sweetheart, though I don’t think she found me super interesting. She seemed upset that I wasn’t getting my blowout for any other reason than I’d never had one before. We bonded over the final season of Gilmore Girls, but after that moment ended, we pretty much left each other to our jobs: hers making me pretty, mine watching Hugh Grant dance down the stairwell in Love Actually.
She worked carefully, pinning sections of my wet hair up and then flicking her wrists with a round brush in one hand and the blowdryer in the other. I tried to take mental notes so that I could repeat her technique on my own, but I gave up pretty quickly knowing I would never have the patience. When she was just about finished, she took a step back and said, “Wow, you came in here straight from working out and now you look like a runway model!” which I heard as “Man. You looked disgusting and now I’ve made you look presentable. You’re welcome.” Insecurities make us believe crazy things. I’m working on it.
I watched a young girl get her hair styled in the chair next to me. She played with her fingers a lot and blushed when her mom tried to take her picture. Because I’m a bit of a creep, I did my best to listen to their conversations to figure out what her special occasion was (something more exciting than “never had one before”), though the cacophony of the blowdryers made it difficult. I imagined she had a performance at school or maybe she was a flower girl in a wedding. When her sweet little curls were finished, I watched her hand the stylist some cash and tell her she loved it. Her mom popped open an umbrella as they ran out to their minivan leaving me to wonder about their plans.
My curls were finished up shortly after, and I gotta say, I sort of loved it. The process took about 45 minutes from beginning to end. She sprayed me with something promising to combat the humidity (the skies were straight pouring at this point) and sent me on my way.
That evening, feeling too pretty to cook, Big Rafe took little guy and me on a family date to one of our favorite little spots. They have a patio, good cheeseburgers, and a guy who insists he play me Jack Johnson on guitar.
I had a good meal in front of me, the man of my dreams to my left and a french-fry covered baby to my right. The breeze was cool and clean after the rain. Guitar Guy was playing something low and subtle. It was one of those moments I didn’t think could get better, and then it did. The sweet girl from the blow dry bar walked in wearing a pretty lace dress holding her daddy’s hand.
As it turned out, she and I did have the same exciting plans for our weekend blowouts: enjoying the company of men who love us. That’s a special thing, and well worth getting pretty for.
When I was learning to drive as a teenager, my dad ensured I knew the basic ins-and-outs of my 1988 Blazer. My brother drove the truck before me, and I’m sure many people drove it before him. The Dust Buster leaked oil all over town and was known to die if it idled too long. But for a teenager who barely passed her driver’s test and wouldn’t be traveling far, it was perfect. I learned how to use jumper cables and check and top off the oil and other fluids. Somehow, though, my lessons didn’t ever quite make it to the tires.
The Dust Buster finally croaked, and I upgraded to increasingly more reliable vehicles as I grew older. When we found out I was pregnant, I upgraded again. I didn’t want to be forever reliant on AAA to bail me out of any tire emergencies, so I knew changing a tire needed to be on my List. Unfortunately this also meant waiting on a flat tire, which seemed silly, so I went all in on rotating all four.
I started where any person in 2016 begins something new: I googled “how to rotate tires.”
And man, did I learn some things! I learned there is an actual pattern I should follow, that I don’t just switch the front tires with the backs. I learned that in America, we tend to take left turns faster than right turns, and that the the front tires carry 60% of the vehicle’s weight. I learned that it was not recommended to use the jack that came with the vehicle, as that is typically included for emergency use only. I learned good car jacks cost about $100, and that I would need jack stands for about $30. I learned I wasn’t sure if my car had rear-wheel, front-wheel, or all-wheel drive and that directional tires are a thing.
I stared at my computer screen completely discouraged and overwhelmed. I almost gave up for the first of many times throughout this experience.
Generally, I am a terrible problem solver. If my plan or idea doesn’t work the first time, I will either give up immediately or do the same thing over and over until I become unreasonably upset and then give up. Either way, I’m giving up. I knew one of my goals for this Thing should be to fight this tendency to its death.
And so I began problem solving, one step at a time. I took my notebook out to my car and immediately saw the “4WD” emblem. First problem solved. Nailed it. My owner’s manual detailed the recommended rotation pattern (a rearward cross). I googled the name of my tires and found out they were non directional (which I learned probably wasn’t relevant but good to know anyway). I still had the issue of the jack and the jack stands, but I figured I could just plug the spare tire in the first tire, then rotate them all around and end with the spare again, securing it back in its hole in the back of the car. Brains! Problem solving! I was doing it!
With the help of YouTube’s Tool Dude Tony and the Art of Manliness, I felt ready to begin. Shoutout to any one else who has watched mechanic videos on YouTube while hooked up to a breast pump.
“How to Fix Sh#t 101” said this was an easy 15-minute job that would save me some money. Let’s all go ahead and laugh at that.
My first victory came when the car was jacked up and the first tire came off. It amazed me that a few small tools and I had lifted a large vehicle off of the ground. It felt awesome. Before then, I’d always been the damsel in distress waiting for my AAA hero or knight of a husband to come rescue me. I wouldn’t have to be that any more. It took much longer than I had anticipated because I had forgotten to use my brain again. The picture on the car jack showed the long rod-like screw being loosened with pliers. I thought this was dumb, but had pliers in the garage, so I grabbed them and went to work. Forty-five minutes later, my knuckles were bloodied and I had basically stripped the screw. There was no way this could be the efficient way to do this. It was another setback and another time I wanted to give up. This is wear the pink bandana becomes important. If Rosie the Riveter could do it, so could I. I was tough and adorable because look! I’m wearing a pink bandana! And oh my gosh the lug wrench fits the screw on the jack as well as the lug nuts… face palm.
The process continued smoothly (Rafe did wake up early from his nap with the help of his furry big brother, but with a little more rocking he went back to sleep). Until the third tire.
Those lug nuts were not moving. I used every muscle in my body, everything I know about lifting weight safely. Not a single budge.
I’m not sure how long I fought those lug nuts. Of the five on the tire, three of them were stuck. I kept thinking that I even if I got one loosened, there would still be two more. I was sweaty, hungry, thirsty, and had to pee. I was afraid if I went back into the house, I would wake up the baby and be forced to abandon the project completely. I clenched my phone in my hand fighting the urge to yet again call AAA. Parts of my car were strewn all over my driveway. I had grease and dirt all over me. The whole scene was ridiculous. But maybe if I slipped the the guy a twenty he wouldn’t laugh at me and promise not to tell him buddies. I imagined Big Rafe coming home from a long day at work and being frustrated at the mess I had made.
Again, I fought my urge to give up.
In the movie The Martian, Matt Damon’s character is faced with a big problem. Yes, I’m equating being stuck on Mars all alone with having a stuck lug nut. He takes a step back from his problem and uses his brain until he comes up with a solution, then delivers one of my favorite lines of any movie ever: “In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option: I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”
I owe my knowledge of this science to my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Leep and her intriguing unit on simple machines. I had a piece of PVC pipe that fit nicely over the lug wrench, increasing the length of the lever, giving me more torque (did I use all those words correctly?). A bit of oomph and I had scienced the shit out of all three lug nuts.
The next tire went great and the last one was just replacing the spare where I had started.
Three and a half hours later, I had rotated my tires for the first time. More than that, I fought my urge to give up to its death. The rest of that day, I felt unstoppable. I am still pretty sure there’s nothing I can’t accomplish as long as I have my brain and Matt Damon.
**I also want to add that the baby took a record-smashing four hour nap this day. He woke up about five minutes after I got out of the shower. God bless him.