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September 06, 2002: My blue

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My hands feel bruised from pressing so hard on the roller. My knees ache from kneeling, crouching, and the constant bending up and down. There is a streak of dark blue paint on my left leg, a dab of the medium blue on my right arm, and the light blue lining my fingernails refuses to come off no matter how much I scrub at it. And worst of all, my feet hurt, standing without shoes on a hard floor for hours at a time while I worked.

But these are all good aches and pains, no matter how much whining I might want to do about them. They are good because they mean that the project is over, and the dining room has been painted. No, not just painted, but sponge-painted, with three different complimentary shades of blue against which the white of the baseboards and ceiling molding, and the rich stains of the wood furniture stand out in stark, beautiful contrast.

I've wanted to paint the dining room for quite some time now. I'm not sure when it crept into my head that color was just what that room needed, but there it was. I pondered colors, weighing the pros and cons of darks versus lights, blues versus reds versus greens. I occasionally lingered at hardware stores, fingering through the vast rainbow of color strips, searching for just the right one - the color that I was sure would eventually leap out at me as perfect. A small stack of color strips has been growing steadily on the kitchen counter for months, each color nearly forgotten as I bring a new candidate home to mull over.

I'm also not exactly sure how it was that I determined that I needed to do something other than just plain paint in that room either. For whatever reason, my brain latched onto the concept of sponging, and refused to let go. I eyed home decorating books warily, but it all looked far too complicated for someone like me - someone whose best friend has called, quite bluntly, "artistically challenged." But no matter my glaring lack of talent; sponging was what it had to be. And so I turned to the TUS forum, in the hopes that someone else there might be able to help.

Enter Toni, who not only has sponged an entire room with 11-foot ceilings all by herself, but sent me perfect step-by-step directions on how I could accomplish the same thing in my much smaller dining room. Of course she also included photos of a room lifted straight from House Beautiful, which intimidated the heck out of me as I eyed her perfectly sponged aged-red walls and started down my usual path of 'who are you kidding? There is no way you can do this.'

But then, this weekend, we went to the hardware store, and there it was, the color strip with the perfect trio of blues, and a wonderfully helpful man at the paint counter who mixed a quart of each shade for me, handed me a bottle of glazing, pointed me toward sponges and rollers, and sold me huge chunks of sheetrock on which to practice. And Monday, despite my still-lingering fear that this was all going to go horribly wrong, I primed and painted my sheetrock and then pulled out a sponge and got to work.

Minutes later, there it was, this chunk of sheetrock 2 feet by 4 feet, covered in that incredible trio of blues all swirled together. Perfect. Beautiful. Something lovely that even I couldn't mess up. Once I got over the shock and the euphoria set in, I dragged it inside and set it up against the wall of the dining room and all that day and night Richard and I would look at it and nod our heads and say "yes. That's it."

It took me two days to do all the sponging, and then a little bit today to go around the room with a tiny bottle of paint and a skinny little art brush to clean up the dribbles and drabs that managed to sneak underneath the painters tape. It's darker than what I'd originally created on my piece of sheetrock, but in a way, that makes it even better. We peeled off all the tape yesterday evening, and then stood for a bit to admire it. All day today I have found reasons to go through that room, just to see it again in each different phase of light as the sun passes by outside.

And each time I look at it I think: I did this. Me. This beautiful room. Me.

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