96: Opportunity Knocks

96: Opportunity Knocks

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Opportunity Knocks

Sometimes if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands.

~Clint Eastwood

“The front doors look terrible,” I said to my husband. When one’s front doors face the afternoon sun in Southern California, there are bound to be problems. Ours was not spared from the intensity of the heat and, over time, the veneer on our oak-stained double front doors began to blister… for the second time. The first time it happened, my father came to our rescue and repaired them, stripping the buckled veneer and painting the doors a bold barn red.

For several years afterward, the doors looked great. But it was as if the sun came back at us with a vengeance, and now the doors looked worse than ever before. Thin strips of red painted wood made hills and valleys on the surface of our front door, taunting me every time I came home and put my key in the lock.

When I complained to my husband that the doors looked awful, I wasn’t really expecting a response. Even though he is a very handy partner, able to do almost every home repair himself, I knew his business kept him too occupied for home-maintenance projects. We couldn’t afford to pay a contractor to replace or repair them, and asking my father to help again didn’t seem right since he was now busy with his own projects. So I had to ask myself, Is this something you can do yourself?

Over the years, I have considered myself a handy woman. I still remember the time we were rehabbing our first home, and I was helping to build our fence.

“Hey, Jeff,” I heard our neighbor yell from the other side of the yard.

“No, not Jeff,” I replied. When I walked out into his view, I could see a look of shock on his face when he saw me and not my husband. I had a hammer in one hand and my son in a baby carrier on my back.

“Oh,” he said, “I heard hammering, and I thought…”

“Surprise!” I waved at him with my hammer.

Yes, I knew my way around tools, and more than once they ended up on my Christmas wish list. One of my favorite gifts was a cordless Makita drill that I still use regularly. So I wasn’t a complete novice when it came to tackling home-improvement work. I had even recently landscaped our front yard. With some help from my husband, I tore out the entire front lawn and replaced it with California native plants.

But these were our front doors — the first thing people would see when they came to our home. The project seemed so daunting, and the consequences of a job poorly done seemed high. Even so, I couldn’t stand to look at them any longer and decided to look at this as an opportunity to stretch myself.

New tools would be required to strip the buckled veneer. I bought an electric multi-function tool that could scrape and sand in small spots. I also bought a small hand-held electric sander. Even though we had tools that might have done the job, I realized that having tools that were more suitable to a woman’s hands was worth the investment.

Learning to use the electric scraper was a challenge. More than once, I thought I was in over my head. If I pushed too hard, it would gouge the wood, which meant more repairs. I wasn’t expecting perfection, but I sure was hoping for presentable! And just when I thought I had gotten all the loose veneer scraped off, another piece would start peeling. It was days of scraping, then sanding, then filling with wood putty, and then sanding again. It was tedious work, but I was determined to finish.

Finally, the prep work was done, and I was ready to paint. I chose to go with the same barn red color we had used before. And after several coats of paint and new doorknobs, my work was done. It wasn’t a flawless job — if people look closely, they will still see many furrows in the wood and a less-than-smooth finish. But when I stepped back and looked at the doors, I was proud. No more covering them up with Christmas wrap during the holidays. No more cringing when I put my key in the lock. No more embarrassment when friends and family knocked on the door.

Not long after I completed the front-door project, my dad came to visit.

“Hey, Lynne,” he said, “the doors look good!”

“Thanks, Dad,” I said, stopping to admire them with him. His compliment meant a lot, but the satisfaction of transforming the entrance to our house all on my own was enough.

Finishing the front doors inspired me to tackle some other deferred maintenance projects around our home. I demolished a rotten patio cover, repaired and rehung gutters, and dolled up a dingy backyard enclosure into a cute she-shed that we use for storage. And for Christmas this year, my husband got me a cordless reciprocating saw. I can’t wait to find a new project to use it on in the New Year!

~Lynne Leite

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