Grief-nesting and Unleashing My Inner DIY-er

So remember last week when I asked folks for feedback on the best type of paint and painting method to put some color on my wooden Adirondack chairs? Well, many of you were very, very helpful, and you made me feel like I could actually DO a project like that.

So I decided to do several projects! (And I actually haven’t gotten to the Adirondack chairs yet …)

I am sure that many or even most of you paint chairs or hang curtains all the dang time. But for me, this is a big deal. I have always been the girl from whom others carefully hide the paint … or the battery-powered screwdriver … or the  hot glue gun.  You get the idea. I’m not known for being crafty or handy — in fact, I am known as being exceptionally UN-crafty/handy — and that reputation is not entirely undeserved. As a teenager and young adult, I definitely messed up a few DIY projects I undertook, so more and more as time has passed, I just sort of accepted that I am not someone who does things like paint walls or furniture. In fact, I have yet to ever paint a single wall in my life, and the people in my family are good with that. They encourage me to step away from the paint roller.

So as time went on and this external and internal identity as NON-DIY KATIE took root and became entrenched, even when I would sometimes see a project I thought maybe I really could do — and would like to try —  all by myself, I would then remember that I am just not someone who does projects, and I would move on.

But as I have discussed before, one of the things that’s happened to me since Henry died is that I feel like I’ve lost all fear of most things that used to hold me back in life — not just the big stuff, like taking on incompetent and/or corrupt local politocos, but the little stuff, too.  Since May 31, 2010, I find that I am just more willing to say, “Ah, what the hell, I’m gonna go ahead and makeover Henry’s bedroom into a special space just for me, whether anyone has time to help me or not; I am just going to do it all by myself,” or in the case of this week’s fearless DIY project(s), “I’m just gonna go right ahead and spray paint that chair a bright cherry red. What’s the worst that could happen? Right.”


Grief manifests in some funny ways. Last year at this time – as the one year anniversary of Henry’s hospitalization (which started on April 27, 2010) and eventual death (May 31, 2010) drew closer, I was doing everything I could just to drag myself out of bed every day. I was making it every day, but I had only just begun to emerge from my emotional widow’s weeds. As I blogged last spring around this time, Henry’s Garden coming into bloom in that first April since his death gave me huge comfort, but I wasn’t really doing anything to it myself. At that point, I was really just letting the beautiful little garden work its healing magic on me, with no actual engagement in (or with) the garden on my part, beyond pulling weeds. Not much digging or planting. I just sat in there a lot.

This spring, however, I am almost obsessively active in working on and expanding Henry’s Garden (lots more on that later), and in general, I am just in this incredible nesting mode as the second anniversary of Henry’s death approaches. I know that many women experience a nesting compulsion as the birth of a baby draws near, but I’ve never heard of mothers experiencing “grief nesting” after losing a child. But that’s what I have had going on lately, starting with the room makeover I did with Henry’s bedroom over the winter. Essentially, I find that I have just been almost obsessively drawn to creating better, prettier spaces in and around our giant, old Victorian, especially when the spaces remind me of Henry.

This grief-nesting has been in full effect in the past two weeks as I have begun a complete overhaul of the “outdoor room” comprised of our wonderful front porch and small, city-sized front yard.  Our porch and yard are special spots for our family and friends; we spend a lot of time out here together. And as it happens, the last time I ever saw my son before the beating and overdose that killed him, we were hanging out here together on our porch (where I am sitting right now, typing this and listening to Neil Young). He and his girlfriend Lizzie, plus E and I all ate at the table on the porch — a stirfy I’d fixed — and then E and Henry rode their ripsticks together up and down the sidewalk in front of our house while I sat on the porchswing and talked to Lizzie. If I’d only known that that would be the last time I would ever see my two sons together outside of a hospital room, the last time I would ever see Henry walk, or play guitar … as worried as I was about him in April of 2010 — two years ago this month — I had no idea as I sat on our porchswing and felt so happy to see the boys playing together — one 12 and one 18 …



So, well, if you’re interested, here’s my progress thus far on my “outdoor room” grief-nesting makeover. Let me know what you think.

(just click the arrow to the right of each photo to view the next one in the series)

  • Small glass jars for my fig tree 1 of 15
    Small glass jars for my fig tree
    I bought these in the dollar aisle at Target. The plan is to hang them in our fig tree with tea lights glowing in them at night.
  • This is what they look like in the tree 2 of 15
    This is what they look like in the tree
  • Porch lighting 3 of 15
    Porch lighting
    One of my $1 Target jars hanging from a ribbon from the top of the porch, with a battery-powered tea light in it. (Yeah, I may be testing new skills here, but I know my limits. Live flames are one of my limits ... )
  • I looooooove how the jars and tealights look in our fig tree 4 of 15
    I looooooove how the jars and tealights look in our fig tree
  • Love. Love. Love. 5 of 15
    Love. Love. Love.
    View of the fig tree from the porch.
  • Dear Rustoleum, I think I love you 6 of 15
    Dear Rustoleum, I think I love you
    I now need to buy stock in this company.
  • Ugly chair, ready for some cheery color 7 of 15
    Ugly chair, ready for some cheery color
    I've had this set of metal chairs and table for 15 years or more. I think I got them when my first marriage ended. Not sure. Anyway, they are super heavy cast iron outdoor furniture, but they looked dull and ugly. Ready for SPRAY PAINT!
  • Metal Chairs in Progress 8 of 15
    Metal Chairs in Progress
    Okay, okay ... I do know now that I should have put a drop cloth down. But don't the chairs look good red?
  • Before 9 of 15
    This is the area of the porch I am working on right aftrer I'd mopped the floor. FYI - Oxiclean is a MIRACLE for cleaning a painted, wooded porch.
  • One chair down, three to go 10 of 15
    One chair down, three to go
    New paint job with new outdoor pillow
  • Two of the curtains hung … 11 of 15
    Two of the curtains hung ...
  • My neighbors RAWK 12 of 15
    My neighbors RAWK
    My friend and neighbor, Mr. Dr. D came over the other night after dinner and hung my new curtain rod. Jon wasn't available to do it, and even with a ladder, I would not be tall enough. THANK YOU JERRY!!!! xoxoxo
  • Porch swing in progress 13 of 15
    Porch swing in progress
    The plum colored porch swing is out in the yard today getting a cherry red, high glossy, spray paint makeover.
  • Curtain rod and curtains 14 of 15
    Curtain rod and curtains
    The curtain rod I picked for the white curtains I wanted for one section of our porch has glass finials. This isn't a very good photo, but maybe you can see.
  • We’re getting there … 15 of 15
    We're getting there ...
    All 4 metal chairs now painted, with new pillows, and placed in the area of the porch with breezy new curtains. Tomorrow I hope to get the metal table that goes with the chairs done.


If you absolutely hate what I am doing, please be gentle with me in expressing that because I am feeling sort of shy about showing y’all my little projects in progress. I am sure some of you have built your own houses by hand, but for me, spray painting some chairs with no help or oversight is kind of a biggie …





Article Posted 4 years Ago
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