Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writer's Lesson: on not seeing the forest for the tree

Two days ago, I had a mini-meltdown.  I said to myself, "I give up!" and then fumed a few more hours.  Here's why: I spent 5 hours, without pause for a break, trying to make my lazy susan and oven cabinet level and plumb.  My floor is almost level, and my walls are almost at a 90 degree angle, but almost doesn't cut it for the precision of cabinetry.  At least not for this missy.

I shimmed here and placed the level for depth, and shimmed there, and leveled. Here's a shim, for those of who need a visual:

Then I trimmed the shims with the saw, applied glue, re-inserted the shims, and suddenly the whole shebang wasn't level again.  And I haven't even mentioned "plumb."  Once I finally got the lazy susan level with the oven cabinet, I screwed them together and fastened the adjacent cabinet to the lazy susan, and I thought I was getting somewhere.  Mind you, the additional fastening of cabinet #3 was post-5-hour-epic shimming fiasco.  

I started to lose it when I noticed that the cabinets were getting farther and farther from the wall as I fastened them together, a consequence of that right angle in the lazy susan that wasn't quite plumb.

My college-student son wandered in from wherever college students hang out on break, patted me on the back, and said "Hey Mom, I think you just need to take a break."

"Take a break?  I can't take a break!  I'm on a schedule here, and I have to be done with this before the semester begins!  That's what you would do--just take a break when things get hard.  But I can't do that!"

Ahem.  Not one of my finer moments of parenthood.

But, sweet son that he is, he just smiled, patted me on the back again, kissed my cheek, and moseyed quietly to his room to finished packing for college.

I'll tell you, I was pretty maniacal come dinnertime.  I about wanted to chop Miss Lazy Susan and feed her to the fireplace.  But then my sweet compagnon came home and poured me a glass of wine, and I stood back and surveyed the damage.  With a glass of wine and a different perspective, I finally appreciated the scary trend that all four corners of practically all the cabinets had two shims.  Not a steady foundation for a granite counter top.  This joint was the one of contention:

 I slept on it, and kept waking up with nightmares about the shims sliding out or the granite installers looking at me like I'm insane to want to place the counter top on such a rigged foundation. But when I woke up, I had the little epiphany that I was so focused on making the lazy susan exactly level with the oven cabinet in my very first step, that everything else suffered from it.  After a cup of hot morning tea, I got to work unscrewing and unshimming everything.  Five plus hours of work undone in less than ten minutes.  I let the lazy susan fall naturally a half inch lower than the bottom of the oven cabinet, and miraculously, every other cabinet fell into place, level and plumb.  I had all the cabinets fastened in about an hour.  Here are the results:

Yesterday I worked on the floors, and today, I hope, to finish them.

I immediately saw a lesson in that whole cabinet leveling trauma.  I've done this sort of thing in my writing.  In the editing process,  I get so wrapped up in the trappings of revising one character that I miss all the other obvious ways to make the scene work better.  I miss the big picture sometimes when I'm so focused on one "thing" that needs to be changed.  I think all of us do this.

Speaking of tunnel-vision, I'm signing out now, so I can play a little Wii with my 7-year-old, who reminded me of my promise to play games with him.  Everything in balance today, as it should be.

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