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Finishing

May 24, 2011

Last week I got a delivery of three pallets of retaining wall concrete bricks and a pallet of Oklahoma 2″ flagstone. We’re going to build a very small retaining wall and lay down a level flagstone path along the slope below the deck in our yard. The slope is steep enough that without countermeasures, erosion will be a problem; already, the concrete footers of our deck are becoming exposed.

This weekend, Chris in superman mode laid in the concrete bricks for a large section of the wall. We haven’t filled it in yet, but two thunderstorms later, the work shows results: after the deluge, our garden steps are no longer covered in sand eroded from underneath the deck. Finishing the job will take a good part of the rest of the summer, but it’s a great start. I suspect, though, that the fun part of the job is almost over.

The hard part is going to be when I’ve filled it in and the soil sinks down and I have to add two or three or more bags of garden soil, for the fifth time. The hard part is going to be figuring out how and where to lay down flagstone to make steps leading down the slope in front of the deck. The hard part is going to be when something we’ve planned on doesn’t work the way we thought it would, and we have to figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how we can fix it.

It’s why the deck was built the way it was, and why it was left not-quite-finished when the previous owners sold us our beautiful house and relocated out of Dallas to cooler climes. There’s not an easy solution: the deck is great, but unfinished, and the work that remains is neither straightforward nor obvious.

It’s why they say the hardest part of any job is the last five percent. Five percent of the deck remains to be finished. I know after a few weeks, five percent of that five percent will plague us. It always does.

The lovely people who we bought our house from described themselves to me as “not gardeners.” After six months of working outdoors, the yard looks great, but it is still 95% grass and five percent dirt and weeds.

We’ve lived in our new house for ten months now and I still haven’t gussied up the bedrooms. There are still squares of paint colors to choose on the walls of both Chris’s and my unpainted offices. I have one junk drawer in the kitchen, and one box of stuff in my office yet to unpack. Five percent of the work of of moving in remains unfinished.

My children are 95% polite, and when they bathe themselves, they are 95% clean.

On a good day I feel 95% recovered from cancer.

Cancer aside, I’m 95% funny and 95% a good friend and 95% a good wife and mother.

I used to be so good at the last five percent of life. It used to be the fun part, the drive to perfection, the polish on the polish. The finishing.

It’s not that way any more for me. I don’t know whether it’s motherhood or cancer, but then I remember way back to high school and college when I was such a complete and total screw up, and I say to myself, “Self, I know you! You’re the person who turns in papers in the nick of time, with no time to proofread. The person who leaves the dorm room uncleaned. The person who leaves bills unpaid, phone calls unanswered, thank you notes unsent, and dishes in the sink,” and I say to myself, “Self, you learned not to do that kind of stuff the first time around. Get with the program.”

This morning, instead of doing housework, I met up with some good girlfriends. Conversation worked its way around to the giving of advice, and the frustration we all, all of us, feel when we can see so clearly what someone we care about needs to do to fix a problem, get with the program, and we offer sound advice only to be met with a brick wall.

“We could solve so many problems for people if they would just take our advice,” lamented my friend C.J.

“We could,” I told her. “But the thing is, we could solve our own problems too, if we could just separate ourselves from our problems for a second and think, ‘What advice would we give someone in our shoes?’ and then take our own advice.”

I need to do a better job with the details. I need to work on the last five percent. I need to give each of these blog posts more time to sit, waiting for a final polish and a thorough proofreading before I hit “publish.”

I need to remember to put on jewelry.

I need to brush my kids’ hair and tuck in their shirts in the morning, and inspect their rooms before they go to bed, and I need to check to make sure they’ve brushed their teeth thoroughly morning and evening and whenever in between I tell them, “Go brush your teeth.”

I need to stop leaving dishes in the sink.

It’s going to be hard as all get-out to seize back the last five percent of my life, but I think I need to do it in order to feel 100% recovered from cancer.

From → Garden

2 Comments
  1. “progress not perfection.”

  2. To stand back and say, “Done,” not “Out of time and energy.”

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