How To Paint Your Own Cabinets

Make sure your house has plenty of ugly cabinets — ones with years of grease stuck to them. This is crucial for steps later on. The more cabinets, the better. Your first apartment in Brooklyn with four cabinets won’t do. 

Once you’ve got the cabinets, pick your color at the paint store. This will be a hard decision. If you have kids, give them lollipops to keep them busy for five minutes because you think that will honestly be enough time to choose. But there are at least twenty shades of light gray. Some with red undertones, some with blue. Spend a half-hour looking at all of them while your kids run amok in the supply aisle. Roll your eyes when your oldest asks you to buy her the purple paint roller, because you half knew she’d ask for something. She always asks,whether it’s a toy at Target, gum at the grocery store, or a purple paint roller at the paint store.

Finally, choose a grey based on the name, because they all look the same and your hypothetical kids are testing your last sliver of patience.

With your paint, brushes, rollers, and drop cloths in tow, head home.

Don’t plan your attack on your cabinets. Only reasonable people do that. Instead, dive right in. 

Remove all the knobs and drawer pulls and set them aside to donate. Brass might make a comeback, but this shade of fake gold will not be in your house. Still, tossing it would be wasteful. Someone else will love it.

Remove all twenty-two of your cabinet doors and all eleven drawers. Lay them in various places throughout the basement and the garage. Don’t buy tripod-stand-things to paint on, because that would make it easier on you. This needs to be the most difficult labor of love you’ve ever attempted.

Sand both sides of all the doors, all drawers and the fronts of the cabinets, then clean them all with wood soap. The cabinets and doors from around the stove will need an extra washing or two. They will be completely caked in grease. If you paint without cleaning, the grease will seep through and turn the paint brown. Then you will have to complete the sand/wash/paint steps all over. This process should be hard, not impossible.

Soak all the hinges in a vinegar and water solution, then scrub them with S.O.S. Pads and let them dry. The hinges are exposed, also made of brass, and purchasing new nickel ones would be the easy and expensive way out. You need to paint those too. Spray paint all sides of all forty-four hinges in batches. Ten at a time. Vinegar will linger on your skin, which somehow reminds you of your favorite drink. 

So, drink wine. Lots of it, because it calms your anxiety about the unfinished project.

Over the next two months, apply six coats of paint to each drawer front, cabinet front, and both sides of each door. Before breakfast, after putting your kids on the bus, after dinner, and before bed. Steal every moment you can to paint. 

Put off hanging with friends, getting out of the house, exercising, and pretty much anything else that brings you joy. Despise the paint, the color you chose, and anything that gets in the way of your mission to finish.

Develop pain in your right hand. Tell yourself it must be arthritis, because you’re approaching thirty-six. Don’t admit that it’s because you are painting all the freaking day.

Eventually you will finish. When you do, stand back and marvel at what you’ve done. All the days, all the paint, aches and bad days have ended. The kitchen looks bigger, cleaner even. It nearly killed you, but damn it’s beautiful.

Be proud. You did it on your own.

Once a Thief

Novembers in Toledo were dark and dreary. This Saturday in particular was no different. Temperatures had fallen from crisp to crap it’s friggin FREEZING. Dark clouds and high winds had settled over our city for the season. Because of the frigid air outside and our bad insulation inside, my stepdad had a fire going in our wood-burning stove with wood scraps from the backyard and old newspapers from the neighbor. Brittany, my sister, had plopped herself in front of the television to watch reruns of Full House, munch on knock-off Doritos and sip Sierra Mist from the can with a neon bendy straw. Brittany loved those Olson girls and bendy straws, as I’m sure most seven-year-old girls did at the time. I only watched because I had a crush on Uncle Jesse.

Mom stopped her needlework to look at me, freshly fourteen, full of angst and bored out of my damn mind. “Wanna go to Meijer?” She asked. For those who don’t know, think Midwestern Walmart, a mega-sized store with everything from groceries to electronics and discount clothes. It was a boring place to spend a Saturday, but better than my current situation on the couch.

“Sure,” I said. There was this new CD I wanted. Not to hang with my mom or to help her budget our weekly menu. “Coolio has a new single out,” I added. What I really wanted was to steal something.

“You have money?” she asked.

“Yes,” I lied. Until that point, I’d only taken Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper lip gloss and Designer Imposters U from Target. I liked the thrill of being bad, liked the feeling of having some kind of otherwise unaffordable luxury at my fingertips. Shoplifting was cool in junior high, and at the time I tried so desperately to fit in with my peers.

But other kids at school stole way better than me. They swiped Nike shirts and Levi jeans from Dillards when their parents dropped them off at the mall on the weekends. Put their own clothes on top of the stolen ones they tried on in fitting rooms and walked out like nothing. Not fair. Those kids already had nice things. If anyone deserved to steal, it was me.

Right?

As soon as we rushed through the doors of the massive retail chain with chill in our bones, we parted ways. Mom thought she was helping, letting me have freedom. She had no idea.

My feet mosied to the music section where I pondered my approach and went back and forth about my decision. Mom wouldn’t buy it. No extra money. I knew stealing was bad, but my id told me I needed it. I skimmed through the new releases for a while before I got the courage to finally shove the disc in my pocket. My right hand worked on ripping the cellophane while I occasionally flipped through the posters with my left.

I glanced over my shoulder on the sly. Behind me, there was suddenly a lady with feathered hair tamed beneath a Detroit Red Wings cap. She was reading the back of Mariah Carey’s newest album. Crap.

I left the aisle with the CD still in my pocket. The stubborn glue wouldn’t budge to let my fingernail slide in.

I ducked into the Hallmark aisle. Rows of paper apologies, thank yous, and celebrations in neat order lined both sides. There wasn’t a piece of paper there that could save me from the mess I was close to. I turned. Detroit Red Wings lady had followed, and she stood there seemingly distracted by the birthday cards. But I knew better. I’d heard of people like her. She had to be a loss prevention agent, and I was about to get snagged.

My heart raced, face flushed. I walked faster, out of the cards. Weaving, thinking, weighing the consequences of my impending actions. I desired a bit of naughtiness under my skin, not criminal status. That wasn’t me.

In the shoe aisle, I dumped the still – wrapped disc on top of a pair of work boots.

That’s when I jogged, almost sprinted but not enough to draw attention, until I found Mom bagging oranges in the produce section on the other side of the store.

“Hey, Mom,” I said.

“Find that CD?” she asked, examining a piece of fruit.

“Yeah,” I shrugged. “But I can’t afford it.”

Photo courtesy of Pexels.