Or lack thereof

Due to Gannett’s company-wide mandatory furloughs from April through June, I spent last week doing everything but work. And by “everything” I mean mostly drywall. Here’s a ranking of my furlough week projects from worst to best.

Level the porch swing
We have a crooked porch swing that needs to be leveled. I didn’t do it.

Touch up paint scratches on the car
A few weeks ago I purchased the correct paint color needed to touch up a couple of scratches on the car that are beginning to rust. Didn’t do this, either.

Get better at guitar
I’ve been playing guitar for more than 20 years now, but I don’t think I’ve improved since the age of 18. I decided during this period of stay-at-home isolation to try to get better, so I bought an instructional book on fingerpicking (a skill I’ve always fumbled and faked my way through), with the idea that furlough weeks would be ideal opportunities to make some headway. I don’t think I opened the book once last week, and instead reverted, as usual, to songs I already know how to play.

Dad boot camp
My furlough week coincided with my kids’ spring break, and while we did work on some exercises in the mornings, the end result didn’t quite live up to the “boot camp” descriptor.

Build raised garden beds
When we moved to a different house a few years ago, I left behind a vegetable garden that I still miss, including an asparagus patch that I really hope someone is benefiting from. But after checking off other various outdoor projects on our Clintonville property, my wife and I identified a sunny spot where we can put a couple of raised beds and get back to planting lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, etc.

After researching a bunch of preassembled options, I concluded that I could buy some cedar planks and posts and build the beds myself for less money — or at least the same amount, and hopefully higher quality. So I purchased the wood and got ready to do my best Bob Vila impression. But then I hit a snag...

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Mini-split installation
My daughter’s upstairs room gets incredibly hot in the summer and very cold in the winter, so we finally bit the bullet and scheduled the installation of a “mini-split,” which provides both A/C and heat. It’s a costly endeavor, but with summer coming and a previously inherited auxiliary unit kicking the bucket, we went for it.

Upon arriving, the HVAC guys told me the wall-mounted unit wouldn’t fit where it needed to go. There’s an odd lip on the wall that juts out about an inch, and there wasn’t enough room to fit the unit in between it and the window. I would need to build a new section of wall from the window to the lip to even it out.

After a deep sigh, I got out my long-dormant drywall knife, putty knives and a container of now-clumpy joint compound and got to work, improvising with wood from the garage and some shims to navigate the tricky slope from lip to window. Then I mudded and sanded, then mudded some more, then sanded some more, then did all that a few more times until the wall was passable and my daughter’s room was sufficiently coated in enough white dust to resemble a hotel room party hosted by an early 1980s Chicago Bulls team. This seemingly simple task took up about half of my furlough week.

When the crew returned, they admired my new wall (“You did a really nice job”). But they also said it still wouldn’t work. The slope was too severe for the unit.

In the end, after many deep breaths and some teeth grinding, they were able to get creative and figure it out (mostly because I instructed them to “get creative and figure it out”). I’m still not totally sure if the wall I built mattered or not.

First family bike ride on the Olentangy Trail
This was awesome, and we will be doing this a lot more. But I had to bump it down a spot or two because it’s absurd that it took us this many years to accomplish this one.

Massive filing project
Every time my wife has made a to-do list in recent memory (and yes, she is always the one in the marriage who makes to-do lists), the “file pile” has held a place at the bottom. And there it has stayed, resisting a strikethrough on countless lists for months. And then years. The longer it went, the more I didn’t want to tackle this project. But finally, last week, we littered the living room with stacks of paper (dating back to fall of 2017), which we then sorted, recycled, shredded and, eventually, filed away. And by “we” I mean 95% my wife, though my moral support and occasional opinions were undoubtedly crucial.

Watching movies
I’ve suspected this for years, but it turns out this is maybe what I’m best at.