Painting and the Meaning of Life

not bone not sage just right

I painted my kitchen the other day. Not the most exciting start to a blog post but stay with me. I promise there will be a deeper, more meaningful conclusion and that “painting my kitchen” is a euphemism for “I found the meaning of life”. Or something like that.

My husband and I painted our house all the time before we had kids. Our living room went through a series of badly chosen colors like Blue Jean and Burnt Orange. Our kitchen was original to the 50s and we painted the cabinets a shocking Grass Green that went stunningly with the manure-brown tiled countertop. We did these little home improvement projects ourselves and with plenty of beer. Beer and painting go together like chips and salsa, as long as you don’t care if the project ever gets finished (the beer, on the other hand, always got finished). I got close most of the time. Sometimes the baseboards went without paint or were lazily painted the same color as the walls. In the case of my bathroom, it stayed half Lilac and half Peach for years.

At one point in 2006, we decided that we were too grown up to have a half/badly painted house.  We just had our kitchen remodeled and thought it would be a good idea to start with a fresh slate so we hired someone to paint every room a reasonable shade of Bone.

The last remnants of Grass Green during the remodel.
The last remnants of Grass Green during our kitchen remodel.

Then we procreated and it didn’t really matter what color the walls were because we figured they were going to be covered in mashed peas and crayon for a few years anyway. Grown up furniture was soon out of the picture when our 14 month old son busted his head open on our coffee table and needed stitches. The next day, he fell and got a massive black eye from hitting the flagstone hearth around the fireplace, which we then covered with black foam pipe cover and duct tape.

The foam that prevented more stitches.
The ghastly protective foam. Attractive, yes?

I’ve been okay with this until recently. I caught a bad cold and then the flu and spent the better part of the last month in a semi-conscious state on the couch, staring at the Bone walls and black duct-taped foam around the fireplace. As I rested my feet on the cushioned toy box/coffee table, I realized that we didn’t have to live like this. Our kids aren’t wild poop-throwing monkeys and a little paint and artwork isn’t out of the question.

So, I made a list of small home improvement projects that wouldn’t cost a lot of money. Almost immediately, Naysayer Voice started giving her two cents like Do you really think you’ll finish all this? You hate painting to begin with and this time you’ll be doing it without beer. Is that even possible? Do you remember when you painted the bathroom?

You: This beer would sure taste better without all these paint fumes. I’ll just take a break and go outside for awhile.

Husband: Hey, aren’t you painting the bathroom?

You: Yup, right after I finish this beer.

Naysayer Voice had reason to believe I wouldn’t finish my list. A few months ago I decided to paint our kitchen. I found a picture in a magazine of a kitchen similar to ours painted a lovely color called Sage. Unfortunately, I hated the color as soon as I saw it on the wall. It turns out that Sage is barely a shade greener than Bone so I painted half the kitchen and abandoned the project. Hilariously, hardly anyone noticed that only half the kitchen was painted, which only encouraged my procrastination.

So when Naysayer Voice piped in on my new list of projects, part of me felt defeated. True, I could probably flip back in the notebook I wrote my list on and see a similar list from 2005 with half an item checked off but I wasn’t going to let the voice deter me.

I resolved to finish painting the kitchen Sage just so that I could say I finished it but every time I thought about that color, it depressed me. Then, I had an Oprah-like aha moment. Paint it a different color.

I walked into Home Depot brimming with confidence that I would pick a color I adore. I settled on a lovely shade of beige and then started thinking it sounded a little too close to Sage. Beige/Sage. I endured the nickname of “barren” as a kid because it rhymes with Karen. I didn’t have kids until I was 38. Coincidence? I remember looking it up in the dictionary and thinking those rotten kids got it right. Unproductive, desolate, bleak. That about summed up my life. It wasn’t until years later that it occurred to me that maybe they meant “baron”. Most likely, they were hardly literate and just got lucky picking a real word at all. It just as easily could’ve been Farren Karen! or Garren Karen!

Anywho, my concern over picking a shade of beige dissolved as soon as I saw the name: Fawn. Rhymes with dawn and lawn. Two beautiful things I love.

Long story short, I painted my kitchen completely from top to bottom without pause. It turns out that painting without beer is much easier, faster and less messy. Who would’ve thunk it? The surprising part to me is that I actually enjoyed it. I’m not the procrastinator I used to be because I’m not dependent on instant gratification. I owe that gem to sobriety. I almost let old, self-defeating behavior and thought patterns color my new world. But I’m not the same person I was and it’s not only because I’m sober. It’s because I’ve worked to change everything that no longer serves me (including Bone and Sage). It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I’m capable of starting and finishing a project, which is a good thing because my list is long. I’ll probably need help with the rest of it. Yes, Husband, I’m talking to you.

The Fawn kitchen.
The Fawn kitchen.

20 thoughts on “Painting and the Meaning of Life

  1. When my twins were toddlers I recorated. (I know right? What was I thinking?) Wallpaper was still in then. While one distracted, one would go and find loose little bits and peel it off the wall. Didn’t take long to repaint every room to a nice, neutral beige.

    Now I paint often and you are so right, it works so much better without wine. In fact…I think my bedroom needs repainting this weekend.



    1. Oh Sherry, that’s so funny about the wallpaper! I caught my son wiping boogers on the couch (sorry to anyone who has ever sat on my couch) and when I asked him what the heck he was doing he said, “That’s where I always put them.” Hopefully I won’t find any on my freshly painted walls. 😉


  2. Baron! Kids can be such weasels. It has a classy sound to me. And I lol’d at poop flinging monkeys. For many years I wouldn’t buy anything white or new for fear our kids would ruin it. They’re fine. My husband and I both spilled more on the couch. I love your new color choice and paint job and how you simply got it done. Beautiful!


  3. First, glad to hear you are feeling better. Second, there is no denying those kids are yours, they are as beautiful as you are! Third, my kids are at least 5 years older than yours, and I still consider them poop-throwing monkeys, and have a furniture-less formal living room to prove it. This tells me it may be time to re-evaluate.

    This post is just the kick in the pants that I needed. I too have the laundry list of things that I SHOULD be doing to my home (re-appropriating the formal living room being one of them), but, sadly, I still have a tendency to procrastinate. For sure, sobriety has helped me improve that character defect by leaps and bounds… if I am comparing self to self, then I am a shadow of my former procrastination! But I definitely have more progress to make, and seeing your beautifully painted kitchen is the shot in the arm I needed.

    Thanks for the inspiration!


    1. Glad I could help! If you get started on those projects, you may find, like me, that the fear of still being a procrastinator is worse than the reality. I just got stuck in the past and what I used to be. Thanks for the kinds words too!


  4. Love this post and the zen quality to it.
    I haven’t painted anything but your friend bornsirius escrowed my new attention to rhythmic tasks, something I never had time for before (also, I used to not be allowed near knives!).
    I wanted to note how much I ADORE your new photo….Karen and Happy Buddha, a lovely combo!


    1. I cut my hand once chopping onions while drinking so I know what you mean about knives! I love our Buddha statue too. He sits right at our front door to welcome everyone who comes. 🙂


  5. I love what you said at the end about no longer being dependent on instant gratification, so painting was much more enjoyable to you this time. As I’ve continued through sobriety, I’ve found that rhythmic things have become comforting. I went and cut up potatoes at the soup kitchen in mid-November and I deeply enjoyed myself. It was a lovely, mindful task. Before sobriety, I would have been chafing at doing something so mundane and annoying as chopping potatoes over and over. BO-RING. Now like you said, I can actually start AND finish a project.
    Pretty cool stuff! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this, Karen, wonderful as usual and I so relate… as usual. 🙂


    1. It is definitely different now in regards to rhythmic things and mundane tasks. I hadn’t really thought about it but painting is like that. There’s a method and a process that I didn’t have the patience for before and it does bring a certain comfort. Thanks!


  6. I was laughing about the kids not being poop-flinging animals any more…ha ha. I think we are getting into that stage now, so it’s almost safe to have “nice things” as they say. We don’t have to worry about fingers in sockets and crayons on walls or any of that stuff. So I am totally understanding that one. And for painting – I never painted anything until about 4 years ago (not sure if I was drunk at the time. Maybe). It was fun. And yet I don’t look forward to doing it soon. It was a novelty thing, I suppose.

    I love how through this, you not only transform a room, but your inner landscape too. The idea of seeing something through and seeing what works for you and what doesn’t, exorcising the things that not longer serve you…it’s amazing. I love seeing this process in you. We bob and weave through so much and it’s these simple, yet profound, things that serve as markers on our journey. What a blast.

    Thanks for this…wonderful as usual, Karen.

    Much light,


  7. I discovered I LOVE house painting – who would have thought it either b/c I’m messy – but when I’m slow and deliberate with my work, I am much much better at it than I ever thought possible (yes, I have to tape off everything but it’s better to spend 2 hours taping stuff off than 4 hours retouching everything). I actually have a post in mind about my zen painting moment and not fighting against your nature (if you’re messy – put down a lot of drop cloths)…

    I LOVE FAWN! And it’s much easier to do things not-drunk, I would imagine. I want you to come over and choose my colors 🙂


    1. I used to hate taping but I now appreciate the process. It was cool to see something transformed and to be present in what I was doing. I can see the zen aspect of it! My mother-in-law (an interior designer) once told us not to decorate with paint, advice we never heeded until we painted the whole house bone. Then we got stuck in bone and we’re now trying to find our own sense of style. I’m not sure you really want me to help you choose. I haven’t had much success until Fawn!


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