Tuesday, June 01, 2004


So most people when faced with the prospect of a three day weekend usually get together with friends, barbecue, relax, hang out, have fun, travel, or do absolutely nothing. I was leaning toward the "do nothing" and maybe some "get together with friends" if I felt like it, but was trying to fly by the seat of my pants, since my social life has been feeling rather scheduled and lacking in spontaneity.

But I run into trouble when I'm in my house, attempting to do nothing, in that I am faced with all of the "projects" that I have started and not finished. I get great ideas and I start things and then I am quickly bored, or I get busy, and I just walk away, leaving them to be finished at another time. I have been doing this all my life and I am probably lucky that I grew up in less medication-happy times, or chances are good that I could have been identified as an Attention Deficit Disorder kid. Instead, because I tested well I was identified as "gifted" and that carried with it a whole different set of luggage.

So it's Saturday and I'm laying on the couch all ready to do nothing and I start obssessing about the Mosaic Table project. This project began about 8 months ago when I talked my neighbor - the good one that I garden with - into letting me call the city to haul away all of the junk that she had brought home that was sitting behind our building - to her they are treasures, to me it was all trash. In return for allowing me to get rid of the rusted patio table that she said she liked to sit around and use when she barbecued (um, yuck!), I promised to take the nasty formica table and do mosaic tile on it, thus transforming it into a fabulous piece of art/furniture that she could use for said sitting and barbecuing.

So her husband carries the table into my house. Where it sits in my living room for 2 months until I get a little motivated and go to the lumber yard and buy wood to build up the sides, and to the paint store to get primer to prep it. And I spend a day nailing on the wood and priming the surface. Then it sits for another 2 weeks while I get my tiles together and go to the arts and crafts store to get some glass beads and tile adhesive. I glue down a few tiles and some beads, nip some more tile into pieces, and then I get bored and busy. The table sits in my living room, now with bags of tiles and my smashing hammers and the paint brush and glue piled on top of it - for another six months.

About 3 months ago I went to this place and picked up some more Talavera tiles from Mexico. Look in the catalog under Art - those are them. I had already glued down the ones that I brought back from Delores Hidalgo and decided more would be good. They had so many beautiful tiles you would've thought that would motivate me, but no. The mere effort expended to drive to South Pasadena and pick them up was all I could manage for the moment.

Back to Saturday, and I'm looking at the table and thinking about how I promised my neighbor I would have it done by Memorial Day which is now 2 days away. I pull the table to the CENTER of the living room so that it will be harder to ignore. I take the pile of crap that has grown atop the table in the last several months and make a new pile in another place to be dealt with at a later date. And I begin to glue down the tiles that I've already nipped. I glue from about 4pm to 10pm and I barely make a dent.

The table is 3' x 3' and the last time that I did a mosaic tile project was the day that they were looking for JFK Jr. when his plane went down. The building I live in had no legible address plate on it, so I decided I would make one out of mosaic tile. How hard could it be? I got a board in the proper dimensions, approximately 14" x 6" and I got tiles and nippers and grout and glue and the next day - that fateful day - I went to work. This is rather mindless work so I turned on the TV and watched the news coverage. It took me 8 hours to make and glue down the numbers out of the bits of tile that I nipped from the green squares I'd bought at Home Depot, set in a background of nipped white tile with a border of nipped flowered tile. As I sat and toiled I watched the search and rescue helicopters and felt hopeful. I was still nipping and gluing when they announced that it was now going to be called a recovery mission since they didn't believe that any survivors would be found. By the time I was finished I was a sobbing wreck from the tedium and seeing those images of John-John saluting his father's casket that they hauled out to make it that much more tragic, and I swore I would NEVER again start such a tedious and boring project.

Although, I must say, to this day, it looks awesome over the gate and I am still so impressed with myself everytime I look at it. It's also one of those weird associative things that makes me feel sad and wistful about JFK Jr.

So it wasn't like I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but I had kind of forgotten one thing which is this: while I am very good at starting things and then walking away, once I set my mind to completing a task I become obssessed with it. That's what happened to me this weekend. I woke up on Sunday and went right back to work on the table. No shower, no brushing the hair, I don't think I even brushed my teeth. I did go in that frightening state to the craft store to get more glue and more glass beads when I ran out of both. Did you get that? I left my house without brushing my teeth! I came right back and worked all day. I told a friend I'd be up to lay by the pool about 4 o'clock, but called to say I was on a roll and didn't want to stop. After 8 hours the sides of the table were completed. I had glue in my hair and all over me so I brushed my teeth - finally - took a shower and went to bed about 10pm - woohoo swinging weekend so far!

Yesterday morning I woke up even more determined to finish - the end was in sight, but I was so sick and tired of working on this stupid mosaic table project. I was feeling deeply resentful, but there was no way I was going to walk away and not finish. So I went back to my childhood training - food as reward - and began to polish off a container of Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered english toffee squares. I ate two every hour or so. If I could stay on task then I could have candy. And I know that it's all going to show up on my butt and belly next week, but at the time I wasn't thinking straight, also, at the time I didn't care.

The phone kept ringing. Invitations to go do fun stuff came in, I had shoulder and back cramps and my hands were filthy from all that nasty glue. I got sloppier and sloppier and the pieces of tile got bigger and bigger. I became less concerned about filling in the gaps with little perfectly nipped pieces of tile and just focused on getting it done. Finally at 8:30 last night, after 9 and half hours of nipping and gluing, with tiny glass shards from shattered tiles imbedded in my fingers, I placed the last piece of tile and uttered the words, "it is done."

I was exhausted and pissy and in pain, but despite all of that I had impressed the hell out of myself. Even before grouting it is beautiful and I can't wait to see what it looks like grouted. But even more than that I can't wait to get it out of my house. I wish that I could find the balance between my enthusiasm to begin and my single mindedness to finish and somehow get the timing right so that it's not so all or nothing - maybe some center time wherein I enjoy the process?

For now I'm just really glad it's done and I'm going to go have me some fun!

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