The One Thing I Needed to Guarantee My DIY Project Succeeded

Which goes against the principle of doing it yourself, I realize

It was 4:30 on Sunday morning when my husband plopped his pillows close to my head and chuckled as he curled his body into mine.

“I feel safe with you,” this man told me, as he wrapped his arms around me.

Before I could guess where sweet Steve was going with this, he continued:

“Because I know you can’t frame me.”

We both burst out laughing.

Let the framing begin

After watching YouTube videos, making purchases, taking measurements, cutting, sanding, and painting, we were ready to install frames around our large bathroom mirrors piece by piece.

We is a strong word. I might be more accurate.

Steve had purchased liquid nails for the job and cut the tip so I could pull the trigger to squeeze glue in his prescribed zigzag on the back side of the painted wood.

He also said I could do his mirror first; in case it didn’t come out perfect.

It didn’t.

I started with one of the square rosette blocks that would anchor each corner of the frame. I added the zigzag of glue into the center of the piece, pressed it into the spot I’d mapped for it — and watched it slide down.

Frantic, I repositioned it and stood pressing it against the mirror. Steve happened to notice my predicament and searched for something to brace it.

A dusty metal desk organizer with one of Steve’s old leather wallets stacked on top did the trick.

Let the mistakes begin

With that now-stable base, I added glue to the vertical piece I would stack above the rosette, then pressed it into position. Upon its solid foundation, it stayed in place.

With misplaced confidence, I zigzagged a dollop of liquid nails to the 42-inch-long horizontal piece of frame and placed it onto the mirror.

Too high.

I lowered it — but left a smear of grayish glue across the new mirror. I used my right hand to remove the ugly smudge while my left hand kept the board in place. Of course, the glue that refused to dry under the wood dried so fast on the glass it wouldn’t wipe away.

It was a mess.

And the mistakes continued…

At this point, I decided to forego the liquid nails and use my trusty hot glue gun instead. I added the remaining pieces without incident and moved to my much-larger mirror.

This time, I created a platform to guide the 6-foot-long horizontal piece into place. I plugged in another hot glue gun, realizing I had a lot of real estate to cover and get into place before the glue dried.

To make this work, I became a two-fisted gluer.

Using hot glue was the key, I found, but I had to be quick. Everything went as planned — until I tried to put the last piece into place — the top horizontal one. Clearly, I’d misaligned other pieces along the way, because the remaining space was too tight.

But like any other “Little Red Hen” type of girl, I didn’t think to ask Steve for help. No, I did it myself. To be clear, I did not use a saw to trim a smidge off the end as he might have done. That would have taken too much time.

No, I whacked it into place with my fist. (I know. Mirror. Fragile. What was I thinking?)

But the mirror remained intact. Whew.

However, the wood was wedged so tight I couldn’t get it out to add the glue.

So, I put the glue gun above it and squeezed a little hot adhesive in between the mirror and the wood. I noticed some gapping and pressed the board into the mirror.



My mirror said it first: You can’t frame me

I cleaned up, used a razor blade to scrape away the glue from Steve’s mirror (and a little paint from the frame — pooh), and put my tools away.

Mission accomplished.

Or not.

An hour later, Steve came to get me.

“I’m sorry to tell you this,” he said. “The frame’s fallen.”

I couldn’t believe him. Well, I could believe the top piece I hadn’t glued sufficiently had fallen.

But no. All the pieces, save a couple of the rosettes, had collapsed onto my countertop.

Not even close to perfect

The hot glue wasn’t the problem. (Now it is, of course, as I have to scrape off that glue and start all over again.) The problem was the wedged piece of wood putting so much pressure on the rest of the frame.

The problem was me.

(When I confessed my DIY faux pas, Steve agreed my action was the cause of the frame’s failure.)

But it wasn’t the only reason.

The back story (why we needed frames)

We recently renovated our bathroom — tore out the old shower and built a new one, replaced the 1970s gold counters with modern Formica pretending to be granite, and added new sinks.

We also removed the false ceilings above the shower and two sink areas and replaced old fluorescent tube lighting with energy-efficient LEDs.

(We, again, is a strong word. By we, I mean our contractor and our checkbook.)

The removal of the false ceilings left a ginormous space above each counter — plus my mirror had tarnished around the edges and needed some love. (Steve’s was so bad it had to be replaced.)

Framing the mirrors would hide those blemishes and give the space some character, I thought.

Raising the mirrors five inches above the backsplash would help fill the vast space.

I still like the look, but I missed the perfectly level, solid foundation the backsplash would have provided — if I’d been able to rest my frame on it.

It would have changed everything.

If at first, you don’t succeed…

But on the afternoon of that Sunday when Steve awakened me only to tease me for my framing failure, I tried again and succeeded. Only perfect-ish still, but permanent.

This time, I created a scaffolding as both a guide and support on which the bottom frame could rest. Instead of heating my glue guns, I used liquid nails plus some permanent double-sided foam tape — so the wood could stick to the mirror immediately while the glue took its sweet time to dry.

And I enlisted the help of my son AJ.

Because we is a strong word, when it’s true.

The power of we

I know we call these projects DIY, as in do it yourself. But I prefer “do it yourselves.” Plural. That, I think, may be the secret of success. Certainly, it was the secret of this project’s success.

The wisest man of all time, King Solomon, said it this way: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, NIV). He finished that thought with this: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (v. 12).

Actually, though Steve hadn’t helped with the installation so much, he had helped me cut the wood in Home Depot, then again more precisely at home. He’d coached me in sanding and painting and storing the finished boards.

And he recognized my fear of failure before I attempted to glue the frame into place, gave me time to prepare, and offered his mirror for my first imperfect attempt.

He is sweet.

And he also made we — a cord of three strands we. (I have always thought of marriage as a cord of three strands — my dear husband, me, and God. We’re still together.)

But being part of the we team didn’t mean Steve wouldn’t tease me after I did fail. Or remind me of that failing even after I succeeded.

For after AJ and I labored together for the good return of a permanently framed mirror, we returned to the kitchen. Where my teasing husband reiterated his earlier comment to his new audience, “Mom can’t frame me!”

(At least AJ didn’t have to be awakened at 4:30 a.m. to hear that nonsense. I suppose it’s true. I couldn’t frame Steve alone, anyway.)

But AJ didn’t hesitate to respond.

“It’s not framing if it’s true.

So true. (And what “frame” did Steve fear?)

Smart AJ. Sweet (I thought) Steve. And me. (And my heavenly Father who is with me in all things.) The power of we.

Can I add a P.S.?

Driving to work this morning listening to the JoyFM, I heard Tara-Leigh Cobble’s Bible Recap for Paul’s message to the Ephesians. Her “God shot” this morning was about the “full armor of God.” You know, the armor that includes these elements:

  • belt of truth
  • breastplate of righteousness
  • feet fitted with the gospel of peace
  • shield of faith
  • helmet of salvation
  • and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

Tara-Leigh pointed out the large gap in this armor, leaving us exposed: the back! Nothing covers our backsides.

Except that when these armored soldiers carried swords, they went into battle back to back — they had each other’s backside.

My friend, we do too, when we fight our battles — whether it’s a DIY project doomed to failure or lies from the pit of hell threatening our peace — together.

The power of we.

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