Remodeling the Kitchen, Part 4: The second FAIL I’ll own up to . . .


Hello! You must be here because you read the first installment in this Kitchen Remodel Fail series (hopefully it’s a painfully short series) so let’s just get right into it, alrighty?

By the way . . . if you are a husband, and you have a wife, and you are working together on a kitchen remodel right now–or any sort of big household project that requires sacrifice, cooperation, and (most of all) flexibility–the following tale will give you hope in the simple fact that my husband–in the wife department–has it worse than you do.

Most assuredly.

You’ll be thanking your lucky stars after you read this, husbands. And you’re welcome, dear sisters-in-wifehoodness. *curtsy* I live to serve my Gentle Readers, after all.

Monstrous Kitchen Remodel Fail #2: Prefab Cabinets

Bryan and I were shopping in Lincoln at the Home Depot one afternoon. Again. Things were getting tedious between us, you know, in the manner that things get tedious between husbands and wives, in Home Depot stores and their ilk, world-wide. There were other husband-wife teams in the store that I had observed–tediousness oozing from their every line and mien–so I know that this is not an isolated phenom.

In fact, for the previous four hours I had been idly contemplating mysteriously fainting right smack dab in front of one of those really big humongous fork lift machines that scoot along so quickly, putting me (and my poor husband) our of our tedious misery, with my untimely, yet expertly-executed death, but I kept thinking about my grandchildren and how much I would miss them.

So I stuck it out. I was sustained with thoughts of Anya, Emmett, and Wesley–their sparkling eyes and their dear soft little ears and that wonderful nuzzling place at the backs of their dear little necks. And Anya’s little sister. Or brother. Whom I haven’t met yet. But will, soon. 🙂

Bryan had a long, very efficient list that we were working our way down, as quickly as possible. It was on his ‘phone. He kept squinting at it and frowning. Well. He was working his way down the list, while I contemplated other things . . .  (I am every husband’s worst nightmare, make no mistake) . . . look, honey! See what’s on clearance! It’s those paintbrushes that Cathy likes so much! Oooh, they have house plants in Home Depot? Who knew?! I’m going to just run over and take a look! Will you look at that signage? I hate that typeface, don’t you?! Look-at-the-redonculous-prices on these light bulbs, honey! and so on.

But Bryan kept focused on his list, tossing things into the cart with dogged determination and resolve: Shims. Check! Screws and bolts. Check and check! Light fixtures for the porch. Amy, Decide! Choose! Grab them! Let’s go! Check, check, check! and whatnot. It was like he had heavy, soundproof wife blinders on! It was amazing.

And don’t laugh. I think I saw those Wife Blinders on They are, after all, A Thing.

Reubsy put up this tarp ostensibly to keep the dust out of our living area, but I think it's really just because he wanted a bit of privacy.

Reubsy put up this tarp ostensibly to keep the dust out of our living area, but I think it’s really just because he wanted a bit of privacy.

And it was working. The cart filled up, inexorably onward and anon. The only thing more certain than that cart filling up, were the minutes ticking away. Bits of The Rest of our Lives–were ticking away. And we were in the Home Depot. Still. And Forever. I wondered (idly, again) if, once the cart was full, we could go home. I wanted a nap in the worst way.

There was some wintry weather moving into our area, supposedly, and I was antsy to get home and make some soup and some fresh bread and to enjoy it. At home. We had been in the store, after all, for about three weeks, I would guess—and we were both getting tired and Bryan was getting grumpy tired, also (cough). (Might as well go all the way here.)

(No worries. I don’t think he reads these long posts anymore. 😉 You don’t, do you, honey?? *breaking out in a cold sweat*)


So–through Bryan’s efforts alone (sorry, honey)–we got to the last thing, the hardest thing, on the list: three prefab cabinets, of varying sizes. We had decided to ask the most frustrating thing we could imagine of our contractor Reuben: insist that he take some old cabinets that we wanted to reuse, and build them together with some new prefab cabinets that we would buy, and make them look like a million bucks. Poor Reuben! Talk about making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, my goodness! He must have felt true despair over the whole situation, but didn’t let on about it. Not much.

Well . . . he did keep darting out to go help somebody else with their projects, supposedly . . . mythical folks, a “Spencer” and a “Marty” although I knew he was just making them up. 😉 He would say, randomly in the middle of the day “Oh! I must go help ‘Marty’ now,” and he would rush out. I suspect he was just going out back and punching holes in the shed wall. He would return a couple hours later, relaxed and full of resolve. His knuckles, bruised.

So my tired hubs and I found the prefab cabinets, finally, in the very back of the store. I was more than bored by this point—bored squared!–no, SO UTTERLY BORED AND TIRED OF BEING UNCHARACTERISTICALLY PATIENT that I no longer cared about anything. Red Flag, folks. A meteorite could have crashed through the roof in front of me, smashing all those cheap cabinets into smithereens and I would have yawned and flicked a bit of debris off my sleeve. So. Bored. Truth. In fact, I think that did happen but I was too bored to care.

*yawn* I’m bored, just thinking about it.

I looked over the prefab cabinets, in between mini-naps and yawns and heavy sighs. They didn’t look bad, but they didn’t impress me either. Basically, they bored me. I was up to my bloodshot eyeballs in Decision Fatigue, and I didn’t really want to make this decision. I didn’t want Bryan to decide, either, though. I would have smacked a Home Depot Associate who offered a suggestion at that point, too. I wanted to take a nap. I wanted to make soup and then take a nap. That’s it.

“Decide which ones you want,” Bryan mumbled, tiredly, studying his ‘phone with one eyeball  and his watch with the other. And yes. He can do this. It’s a man thing.

Though I attempted a conversation, feebly, to discuss options, Bryan was too crabby tired to discuss. I was too tired to decide. So we just chose something–“the ones made out of hickory are kind of pretty–” I began, lamely.

“Fine. Help me load them,” my poor weary hubby grunted.

‘Nother. Red. Flag.

The prefab cabinets that you can buy at Home Depot, by the way, look pretty good on the fronts, and they aren’t what I would consider cheap–the ones we grabbed were about $250.00 apiece. The sides, tops, and bottoms are wrapped in cardboard, by the way: tightly wrapped with strong (inexorable!) cords of plastic. You can’t peek under that stuff, even if you wanted to. They could be made of flattened, dehydrated lizards, as far as we knew. But we were too tired to care. We muscled them onto the cart, pushed the cart to the checkout, and were soon on our way home.

“They certainly are heavy, I’ll give them that,” I noted, cheerily. “Heaviness indicates quality in this case, eh?” Bryan didn’t even acknowledge my comments and lame attempt at humor. He clearly still had his wife blinders on. He was glad the choice was made, clearly,  and he wasn’t going back on it. Ever–ever–ever.

Not that there’d be any call for that, right? *uncomfortable clearing of the throat*

My old sink is abandoned and I don't miss it.

My old sink is abandoned and I don’t miss it.

Once we got home and unloaded all our purchases, and struggled mightily with those cabinets–hoisting them over the edge of the trailer (oof!), across the driveway (urg!), and into the house (groan!)--remember, I am a woman-approaching-middle-age (newflash!), and don’t have the upper body strength that I’d really, really like to have–Bryan remarked pointedly and with relief that he was glad we’d have to go through that ordeal–of unloading those cabinets—only once (cough).

Once inside, we removed the cardboard and the plastic straps that were holding everything together, and straightened up and brushed the sweat off our brows, and it was then that I realized–with hard, desperate dismay–that we had made a horrible mistake. I hadn’t even taken off my coat yet. My arms hung loosely at my sides. My mouth hung slack. I stared. Rivulets of sweat dripped down between my shoulder blades (not really, but I really wanted to write that). Waves of disappointment washed over me, inexorably onward and anon.

I love that phrase, by the way, so prepare yourself: I’m going to use it again. 🙂 You’re so nice to me.

The drawers seemed cheap and lightweight; one door wasn’t even hung very straight, and the sides of the cabinets were made out of fiberboard with a contact-paper-like coating on them. The backs were the cheapest possible, thinnest masonite I had ever seen. I mean–they were closer to paper than masonite.

My new kitchen cabinets: held together with contact paper and thin masonite. How proud I was of this decision, now! How would they bear under my rough and heavy treatment, that’s what I was wondering. I’m not an easy taskmaster in my kitchen, Gentle Readers. I demand MUCH from my kitchen and everything in it (including any unwitting human that stumbles in). I put everything and everyone to work. Just ask anybody in my family. Ask the kids! The hubby! The dog, for pete’s sake ask the innocent JW who stumbles in with a handful of brochures: I’ll have him chopping carrots for soup!

These cabinets were not going to cut it, I just knew it.

I felt sick, Gentle Readers. Absolutely ill. Because here’s the thing: I knew we had made a mistake, but I also knew that there was no way I could ask my poor husband to take the cabinets back. It would be grounds for . . . something drastic, I just knew it. Pushing me off a cliff, or somesuch rash action.

So instead, I wallowed. In my despair. But silently. Oh, so silently.


My original kitchen countertops. I will not miss them, nay, not even for a minute.

All this work and expense and effort, spent on my lovely new kitchen (NOT the kitchen of my dreams, NOT the perfect kitchen, but still I wanted it to be nice) and I was going to have these cheap, crappy* cabinets? I couldn’t stand it.

*pardon the language, Mom!

I continued to wallow, ever-deeper, into my own private despair. Without a sound.

Here’s the thing–you may be too bored and weary to make a good decision while shopping, but you always have the energy and the time to indulge in full-scale regret when you get home—thick, wet, sloppy, soaking waves of regret, you always have time for this.

I was imagining this: Every day when I worked in my new kitchen, when I would pull out one of those cheap drawers to retrieve a knife or a box of plastic wrap, I was going to suffer over this poor decision, I just knew it. Every time I opened a cabinet door and felt the cheapness and thinness of it, I was going to feel disappointment.



Disappointment. Darn it. Every day for the rest of my natural life: inexorably onward! and anon.

A day would come, I just knew it, when I would walk out into the kitchen to prepare a meal, and the cheap cabinets will have just fallen to pieces, and would be lying there, surrounded by the pitiful bits and pieces that they held–a pencil here, a roll of tape there, a smattering of kitchen utensils–a mockery–a farce!!–of my poor decision-making skills.

The FAILS were coming so quickly now! First the devil-lights, and now these cabinets! What a doofus I was at making decisions all of a sudden! What had happened to me??

You’re wondering, of course, what the big hairy deal was. Why not just come clean, tell the hubs of the mistake in judgement, and take the things back?

Oh, Gentle Reader. Oh blessedly naive, dear and innocent Gentle Reader. Although I am a pretty terrible wife at times, this lesson I had learned thoroughly in the hundredorsoyears many decades that Bryan and I have been married: Timing is Everything.

My dear husband was still tired and spent from the day’s shopping ordeal, not to mention the weeks of toil and work on my new kitchen. I knew that if I were to reverse this awful decision of mine, that I would have to time the process carefully. If I just did what I really wanted to do—which was to blurt out “I HATE THESE CABINETS–LET’S PLEASE TAKE THEM BACK NOW!!” that it would probably be much more than he could take. He might crack. Or blow up into a million pieces. Don’t laugh, sister-wives. I’ve heard of this happening.

I saw something like this on Fox News just the other day, when I was at my dad’s place:

Anchorwoman on the local news: Here we are on the scene just minutes after a local husband unaccountably just blew up. Can you give us an account of what just happened here, Mrs. M?

Middle-aged woman, (graying, tired): I don’t know what happened–I sent him to the store for milk, and when he got home I just pointed out that I prefer whole milk and he got 2% and then he just . . . blew up! There are bits of him all over the neighborhood! I never would have asked him if I had known that he was at that point . . .

I knew it would be a completely loathsome thought to Bryan to even contemplate loading these pieces of junk back into the trailer and driving them back to town. No. I didn’t whisper a word. But I did make sure that the receipt was safe in my purse, for future use, after biding my time. I knew that there was no way he would haul them back to Home Depot for a refund, not without a decent span of time elapsing–at least a day or two–during which he would forget how much trouble it was to get them home.

Listen. This is an awful lot of words without a photo to break them all up (sorry, I am nothing if not long-winded) (also I’m aware that I’m breaking all the Blogging Rules with this post) so here’s a picture of our gerbils for your enjoyment:


Aren’t they cute?

And here’s a picture of our sweet Goldberry on the table where she’s not supposed to be, though (of course) I’m loathe that I cut off her tail in the photo.


Okay, there, are we good now? Moving on . . .

So I didn’t say a word. Bryan may have noticed that I was a bit close-mouthed about the new cabinets, but would have chalked that up to my being tired, or distracted, or bored, or needing to make soup, or something. As sick as I felt, Gentle Reader, I knew that everybody needed to eat. That is always the case, isn’t it? But as I chopped veggies and defrosted some excellent broth,  I made my strategy. Inexorable and anon. My hands were engaged, and so were my brain cells.

Young wives, watch and learn. You start with gratitude, of course. The next morning, I began to ease in to the subject. I made one short, simple statement, to wit:

“Honey, thank you for all your work–my new kitchen is going to be so fantastic! But you know those cabinets we bought? I wouldn’t, you know, take a bullet for them or anything.”

Bryan barely acknowledged my comment, but that was okay. I knew I had planted a seed. And that’s all, at this point, that was warranted. The following day, I murmured that I didn’t exactly love the cabinets that we bought, AND I called the instructor of the cabinet-making class at the local trade school, in town, to see if there was still a chance that I could get cabinet doors made, during the next semester’s class. There was (I had checked on this earlier in our project). So I got a Plan B in action, on the sly.

On the third day, two big things happened: I fell in love with quarter-sawn oak cabinets. Don’t laugh. The woodwork in our living room is quarter-sawn oak, and I really love it. I don’t know what possessed me to choose hickory cabinets at Home Depot, honestly, except for the fact that my dear dad built a hickory countertop which I love for use in my party/temporary kitchen. I had felt ambivalent about the fronts of my cabinets, but no more. I finally, at least, had a vision for what I wanted them to look like.

Of course, the arts-and-crafts style houses and anything of that nature, style-wise, I’ve always admired completely, and my folks live in one now, so the simple straightforward lines of the quarter-sawn oak cabinets that fit so well into that style was suddenly the only thing I could see in my kitchen. Secondly. I found a place nearby, a Hardwood Artisan store in Friend, Nebraska (thanks, Dad), that had quarter-sawn oak boards for sale. During the day, at one point, I made sure that Bryan  saw me studying the drawer that was a bit lopsided, the door that hung a bit awkwardly, and tsk-tsking about the lack of quality of those prefab cabinets.

Then I pulled Reuben in, and pointed out the various and many flaws of the prefab cabinets. Tactfully. He agreed with me. The lad–though he has questionable taste in music, and can’t apparently remember my name for the life of him–has great taste in remodeling matters. He’s always trying to steer me, for example, to the more expensive option. Don’t think I don’t notice this, Reubsy!

Then it happened. I was passing by the kitchen when I heard my longsuffering husband say this: “She doesn’t really like these cabinets . . . ” and Reuben said something to the effect of “Yeah, I can see her point,” and I knew we were almost there.

By the end of the week, my dear hubby was ready to hear me say it: “I think we should take those cabinets back,” and moreover, by then I had formulated a plan for what to do instead of buy prefab cabinets from Home Depot. Bryan–bless him–helped me wrap the cardboard back around the cabinets and load them back onto the trailer and he took them back. I still had the receipt. So that unfortunate saga holds loads of lessons, Gentle Reader, if you aren’t too bored to catch them:

  • Don’t push the Decision Fatigue. Trust it. It’s a thing. Stop making decisions while you are still capable of making good ones, and then take a break. Or a nap. Or both. Make some soup.
  • Communicate, but be nice about it. A big new kitchen is a pretty sweet thing. Don’t make unpleasant memories about such a blessing.
  • Don’t put up with something you hate, even if it might upset somebody to bring it up.
  • Timing is everything, oftentimes, in bringing up an uncomfortable subject.
  • Look very carefully before you buy. Look behind the curtain, as it were. Pull back the cardboard.
  • Remember the phrase: “inexorably upward and anon” when referring to difficult tasks that need doing. Why? I don’t know but I think it’s a good idea.
  • And a note to Husbands, remember that the pretty little mouth (on your wife’s face) that will say “I think these cabinets need to go back” will be the same mouth that announces “supper’s ready!” and buck up and deal, baby.

Gosh, I certainly enjoyed telling you this story! Clearly! *phew*
I have much to do today, as we have a big show coming up, the nitty-gritty details for which that we are trying to iron out during Christmas vacay—so I must run!

Thanks for reading, you!





18 thoughts on “Remodeling the Kitchen, Part 4: The second FAIL I’ll own up to . . .

  1. Michele

    Wow. Really enjoyed this; so well said! I laughed and identified with your story. I will remember, “inexorably upward and anon”! Cute gerbils, too.

  2. Kay

    Yes to all the lessons learned above. And always save the receipt. I had receipts and paint samples and countertop chips in my purse for weeks and weeks but at least I had them and we could take back the extra BOXES & BOXES of tile we did not need. And learn what you love, research and Pinterest and ask advice. I LOVE my Bosch dishwasher. And LOVE my new (old looking) woodwork, LOVE my ceiling light/fan so much and am ENJOYING the paint color on those cracking and uneven new drywall walls.
    While you are kissing things… you’d better go kiss Brian again. And bake something for Reuben. They just saved you years of kitchen cabinet angst.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Well put Kay. Thanks for the nudge. And you’re right: I ought to add Always Save the REceipt to the bulleted list at the end.

  3. Chef William

    Gush, I learn something new from you every time I read your blog. For example, until today I never knew that you could approach middle age twice in one lifetime. I always though that once you reached it, you started going away from it in another direction at warp speed (which I won’t mention at this time) so I did learn something today. I would love to NEVER take my wife with me to Home Depot but I must. While she will take hours to choose just which one to buy and usually allow price to be her main guide, I want the best available. I know it will be something that will last a lifetime so what is another $100 dollars in the grand scheme of things. Her on the other hand “Honey, do you have any idea what I can buy at Goodwill with that extra $100?” Me, “Yes dear, $100 dollars of cloths that you will wear once and then sell at a garage sale for half the price of what you paid for them” But I buy what she wants, give her the money “she saved” and make do with whatever, knowing full well that I will be replacing it within a couple of years…..Poor Bryan and Reuben, I do feel for them. Have they started adding a splash of whiskey to that coffee you serve them? If it has not happened already, It sound like it won’t be long now.

  4. Susan

    HaHaHa! Loved your story. And the lessons. I’ll especially try to remember the one on timing. From past experiences, it’s the one I need to work on the most. I save receipts like crazy…yes, crazy…I found a grocery receipt today from October in my purse! Looking forward to your next post.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh Susy. A receipt from October? I can top that. I probably have grocery receipts in my purse from October—last year.

  5. Tina

    I have been dreaming of redoing our kitchen since we moved into our house two and a half years ago so this past summer I gently asking my hubby what he thought of doing it sooner rather than later. I tried to hide the crazy excitement that I was feeling, no reason to worry him, and I must have done good job because he gave me the go ahead to “look into it”. He has been pretty good-natured about my research and babbling about the merits of different counter tops and flooring options that we could use “someday” in our kitchen.
    I just read him this episode of your wonderful kitchen redo updates because it is the exact type of interaction that we have almost every time we go to pick out something together. The difference is that I am so interested in all the options that I must look at them all and talk to a salesperson about them and then… I want to go home and think it over. Poor hubby can’t understand why I don’t just pick something and get it over with. We obviously don’t have the same method of shopping but I still love shopping together. 🙂
    Thanks for shedding some light on the redo process, I love reading your blog!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Tina, thank you so much for your kind words. Here’s a tip (I might have already written this on my blog), even if you don’t have a firm date to begin your kitchen remodel. Start developing your tastes and desires (kitchen-wise) now. I’d recommend spending a bit of time on Pinterest, and then (when you are within a stone’s throw of getting into the remodel) do schedule some time to walk around the big stores and just study their kitchen set-ups and so forth. You can learn a lot about what you do and don’t like, and you won’t be as clueless (hopefully!) as I have been. Word to the wise, chickie! and *hugs* It’s not a task for the timid.

  6. Robin

    Oh goodness and stomach rolls and sweat beads and teary eyes – all felt for you. I’m making mental notes. I felt bad when last week I needed to say “it was a mistake and i can’t use it and it has to go back,” and I waited until Steve came around to the same point. It was just exercise equipment and it was only $179, not nearly the cost of cabinets. “It looked smaller in the store,” he said. Kristin said “you must be this tall to board this ride,” and I said, “…and I’m not even close to that tall.” It isn’t going back because it’s a 200 mile trip to the box store. I do have new equipment that fits me now and the behemoth I cannot use is still standing in my dining room. I’m going to give it away as soon as I find someone who can use it. All this and I haven’t gotten to remodeling the kitchen. I’m grateful to you for sharing all of this with us. You ARE saving me from mistakes I know I’d have made.

    I’m waiting until I can afford the custom made cabinets I want. I’m glad you have your plan B!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      OH my Robin, I do feel your pain! BUYER’s REMORSE is a thing! It’s something I struggle with too, but I’m even more of a tightwad than the average person, and so (as long as I haven’t pitched the receipt!) I take things back quite often.

  7. cookinmom

    All this for a kitchen!! 😉 I’m sorry to say, “been there…” I wish I had remodeled a kitchen instead of building a house with my husband! Not a pretty picture. Can’t say I would want to build again. BUT, we’re still married (phewww), 30 years and counting. You would have to jump through hoops and do something special for me to want to do that again! I think next time, I will let him build it and when it’s done, just give me the key! I’m so glad you did finally speak up tough, so worth it!

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