One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

March 1, 2013

Date night

It’s been a busy February.

Ian’s birthday is in early February. This year we’ve been setting ourselves a mandate of being super-frugal and getting our debts paid off. So that kind of let out any plans of just giving Ian tools – which is my usual go-to for presents.

But we did have this big pile of reclaimed wood waiting to be processed and put up on our kitchen ceiling, and I knew we had more wood than we needed, so I took some of that wood and made him tool shelves.

It was kind of a timely gift because we were coming out of the demo and repairs part of working on the kitchen, so we had a back room and garage full of tools and he could never find the right one when he wanted it. I wanted for him to be able to just always find what he needed, but garage organization systems are ridiculously expensive. Also, he hates the look of things like pegboard and slatwall – your typical configurable organization system stuff.

It took two weeks of sneaking out to the garage during the day. And I had to be so careful to put all his tools back where he left them – which is random places since he doesn’t have any shelves to organize his tools. And then between times he’d use them and they’d end up in a different random place.

There were also so many times I thought the jig was up. One evening, I put on my jacket to go somewhere with him and he said, “is that sawdust all over your jacket?” and I mumbled something about how it gets everywhere.

On the Wednesday I cleaned the house for Hannah to have a playdate. That night he commented on how clean everything was. “You even vaccuumed the back room!” The next day I’d brought some boards inside to drill some holes in them and that evening, the cat rolled around on the carpet and came up coated in sawdust and flecked paint. “Does it ever need vaccuuming in here,” he said. “Yup,” I mumbled.

Getting ready to assemble shelves

There was a horrible cold snap during the two weeks when I had to not work. It just wouldn’t have served any purpose to go out to an unheated garage on a -38C day for the five minutes I could have stood it before I had frostbite.

But the third day, when the cold was just breaking, I had no choice. It was a Friday, we were planning weekend renos – that meant he’d be sifting through piles of boards where I’d hidden some of my materials. And it meant he might adjust the tablesaw which I had set to the perfect height for my lap joints. It wasn’t horrible, but it was about -15C and I was out there for a couple of hours. “How do you keep getting chillblains when the walk to school is ten minutes?” he asked me the next day as I furiously rubbed my toes. “Do you need new boots?” “No, no,” I hastened to say. “I just don’t wear thick enough socks. I’ll double up.”

So much sawdust

I had to sweep out corners of the garage in order to organize myself enough space to work and I thought for sure he’d notice when he took the garbage out. But he didn’t.

I arranged space in a friend’s garage to hide the shelves during the second week. They were too put together and too big to hide anywhere by that point. So before and after every work session, I would run down the alley to my friend’s garage to fetch or replace the shelves.

I took pictures on my phone so I could show friends at the school when dropping the kids off. And one of them would say, “Oh my god! Did you dado that joint? I’m so impressed. That’s hard to do nicely like that.” And I’d want so desperately to run home and brag to Ian.

Testing the layout with cat

I’m the worst secret keeper.

We had babysitting set up and a date night planned for the Friday. And I managed to get the shelves done for that day. I set the shelves up over his table-saw and stocked it with things. Then I took out one of the shelves and sharpied it with a romantical birthday message and wrapped that up for him to open inside with a note directing him to the garage for “the rest” of his present.

It’s kind of dangerous hand-making a thing for someone when the craft you’re using is one that they’re familiar with. But I think he was happy with it. I’ve certainly got so much feedback that was, “I love it already. I took this board out to the garage and set it on my table-saw and was like, ‘okay, I’m going to find my tape measure and the level and- Oh, it’s all right here!'”

It’s all right here

After that, we had a quiet home-cooked supper for a frugal date-night. (Also, because then I knew I would be able to eat everything.) I made chili-lime mushroom goat cheese enchiladas that I already can’t remember how to ever reproduce.

Chili Lime Mushroom Goat Cheese Enchiladas

Which is horrifyingly sad because they were amazing.

And then in keeping with our home improvement nerdiness, we spent the evening discussing woodworking, then went for a walk around the neighbourhood scoping and ogling beautiful architectural details, then came home to curl up by the fire with a couple of episodes of This Old House and then went to bed early so we could get a good start on patching our kitchen drywall the next morning.

I’ve kind of taken a long time to actually document this and some other updates about our work on our house because it has seemed over the last few years that some people around me have taken some really weird notions about divisions of labour and credit in my home projects with Ian.

That is, some people seem to have the idea that credit should be divided according to merit and that I don’t do anything significant for our home improvement projects. Or else they think that I’m full of myself and take credit for the things Ian does? Or something.

Possibly the issue is that I have always been very insecure about things and tend to be a giver away of credit. The kids have a running joke about how every time they try to thank me or Ian for supper, we will both say, “I didn’t do anything [the other parent] deserves all the credit.” But I have been tentatively working on letting myself be proud of my accomplishments. So sometimes instead of saying, “Oh, I didn’t do anything” like people expect of me, I say, “Thanks! And I know, right?! I love the finished product so much!”

So maybe part of the problem is that I blog things like, “And then Ian built X and we installed it yesterday” and then I have the gall to act excited and proud of it, thinking I shouldn’t have to explain that there are way more steps to making and installing X than assembly and that, shit yes I did a heck of a lot of those steps. And also thinking that people who know me should know that I don’t act proud of things casually, so if I’m acting proud of something there must be a good reason for it.

I have to admit that I’m not clear on what it is people think because they don’t say anything clear about what their problem is with me acting proud of a project, they just sneer whenever I do act proud of something that we’ve done together or if I say something casual that implies that I worked on something, then sometime some people are awfully quick to tell me that I actually didn’t and shouldn’t be so full of myself. And then I sit there with my jaw on the floor because where would they have got the information to declare so with such certainty other than from me or my blog, but now that I’m acting like I had a hand in the project at that point I must be a liar?

Anyhow, as a feminist, I wish I had the clarity and perspective to disseminate where it’s coming from or what people are about when they do that – because I feel like it’s common enough and comes from enough different directions that it has to be systemic in some way. But I don’t have that clarity. As a human being, it’s made me even more gunshy about credit. I keep waiting for people to pull out their sneering “gotchas”. And I fret every project now wondering if I’m doing ENOUGH to be allowed to say “we did X”. It’s ridiculous, I know, to let that crap start to run how Ian and I handle our teamwork since that teamwork has been one of the most awesome things in my life. And it sucks feeling like I have to keep track of how much each one of us does on a project when I know that’s not and never has been how good teams work together.

So anyhow, this is my answer to that. That I’ve decided that the dynamics of our teamwork were too awesome for me to let myself waste any more time on second-guessing. That I don’t know how to fix how gunshy this has made me, but my attempt is that I’m going to make myself go on telling the stories, even if it means that they’re a little forced for a while. But I’m also calling that stuff out. I do work hard on our household projects. All the things you think couldn’t have got done if it weren’t for Ian – that’s 100% true. But it’s equally true that they couldn’t have got done if it weren’t for me. Which is fine because that’s how teams work.

And now I’m done being defensive. If I act proud of myself, you should know there’s a good reason for it. And if you don’t know me well enough to know that and you think that when I show any satisfaction with myself you need to take me down a notch like a self-important child, I’m done with giving your opinion about me any weight. The next rudeness about my audacity in daring to be proud of something that I’ve worked very, very hard on better be prepared to be straight up corrected on how much goddamned work I have to be proud of.

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2 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Alison

     /  2013-03-02

    This is the sweetest entry. I love the sneaking out and subterfuge involved in making him such an awesome present. And the shelves are beautiful! I love all your mad home reno skillz.

    I don’t know who you’re referencing in the second part of your post, but their opinions obviously aren’t worth much – though why is it so hard to let go of stupid opinions anyway? (Yesterday, I had someone who thought I should have been able to accomplish 30 hours of work in the 12 hours since I got the work given to me – and the 12 hours included the overnight period. I’m still annoyed by it, even though it was so obviously ridiculous.)

  2. Thanks, Alison.

    My facebook feed lately has been full of all those great quotes about how “changing who you are based on what people say is like changing in response to a reflection in a fun house mirror” or how what others think of you reflects more on them than on you – buuuuut, yeah. Obviously those quotes wouldn’t be so popular if everyone didn’t struggle with the same thing.

    I think the last half of this entry was about the idea that it’s very hard to say to yourself, “I’m going to quit modifying myself for this situation,” but maybe it’s easier if you’ve publicly explained it?


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