One summer, I took a
fluffy fun writing class called Write Around Portland, in which our class went to various places around Portland (OR) and wrote stuff that we would then read aloud to each other. That’s how I came to be sitting on the floor of a tattoo parlor one day with a small group of fellow teachers, reading aloud a piece I’d written about why I’d never get a tattoo.
That summer I was contemplating the possible end of my marriage, which meant that my ideas about permanence were shifting (more like lurching) to all kinds of uncomfortable places in my head–which might explain why the idea of getting a tattoo was about as unthinkable to me then as divorce had once been.
When I finished, there was a moment of silence, and then the big, burly, heavily-tattooed guy behind the counter (because, of course, he had to be big and burly and heavily-tattooed, right?) leaned over that counter and stabbed his finger at me and growled,
“You need to learn how to make a commitment!”
I still struggle with commitment, with doing big things that are hard to undo–which is why my latest project is an easy-to-undo standing desk.
Six years ago I left the classroom and took a job that required me to sit for much of the day. If I had been a teacher like Ditto, that wouldn’t have meant much to my physical well-being:
But I wasn’t a teacher like Ditto. I rarely sat at my desk. Now, after 6 years of mostly sitting through my work day, I can see that it’s taking a toll on my body. I not only look different, but I feel different–and I think that’s about more than just aging.
This summer (like every summer since I stopped teaching) I could feel my body getting back into better shape. Although I do get to the gym more in the summer than during the school year, I realized that most of my “exercise” came from just being up on my feet more. I was working in the yard, painting walls, cleaning house. So, I decided that this year I would have a standing desk at work. (Want to read about the benefits of standing desks? Check out this or this. Although not everyone agrees that they are great.)
Problem is, standing desks aren’t cheap, and I wasn’t sure that it was really going to work for me. I didn’t want to invest in something that I might not want to stick with.
I considered several different kinds of hacks to transform my traditional desk into a standing desk, but none of the ones I found seemed super-feasible. I was still going to have to pay quite a bit for parts, and I wasn’t even sure I’d like standing for most of the day. (You can see a nice round-up of Ikea standing-desk hacks here.)
On top of that, making sure the parts would put the desk at the right height started to seem pretty tricky, pretty fast. I had my existing desk, which I didn’t want to get rid of. (Too much hassle.) I wanted something I could put on top of the existing desk, and it needed to be at just the right height, or I was going to have other kinds of physical issues from poor ergonomics.
I also didn’t want to lose any work space. Most of the Ikea desk tops I originally considered weren’t as large as my existing desk top, which I tend to use all of.
I began wondering what I could use other than table legs to elevate a desktop, when I suddenly realized I was surrounded by just the thing I needed: Books!
As I shared during the summer, part of library business is discarding books, and we had a mess of textbooks in the back room of the library waiting to go. I originally thought I’d use a random collection of weeded books–and cover them with pages from about-to-be-recycled books so my desk would look cute and Pinterest-worthy (instead of random and janky)–but when I saw these I knew they were a much better deal. Because they are all the same size, I wouldn’t have to do any futzing around to get the desk level. And I gave up on the idea of covering them because ain’t nobody got that kind of time. Well, I know some people do, but I’m not one of them.
That left just the top. When I measured my existing desk top, I realized that it was almost exactly the same size as a half-sheet of plywood–which is much less expensive than the Ikea desk tops I considered and was the right size.
So Cane and I went off to Mr. Plywood (shop local!), where I found a lovely piece of birch plywood. My half-sheet ran me about $35 (I think). All I needed to do was stain and poly it, and I’d be good to go.
Now, here is another place where my project could easily have gone off the rails. I started thinking, why not make the top look really cool? Maybe I could paint some awesome geometric design on it, or do something creative with stain.
But I had a Monday morning to get it done, and I knew that if I didn’t get it done, it was going to be another week of me sitting. I decided I was more committed to my health than to creative exploration on this one.
I did let myself have a little bit of fun and bought a grey stain.
Then it was simply a matter of painting the stain on and rubbing it off:
I really liked how the stain made the grain stand out:
I put two coats of stain on, then two coats of poly. The hardest part of the project was getting it into my office. I had to carry the desk top in by myself, and it was heavy. I dropped it on my foot, which is still stiff/sore almost a month later.
But I love the desk!
I do think I need to get a pad to stand on. And I’m more committed than ever to buying quality shoes. One of Cane’s mantras is “I’m too old for that $h!t,” and I’m definitely too old for crappy shoes, especially if I’m going to be standing in them for most of the day.
But the desk is great, and I do feel better now that I’m standing more.
I don’t stand all the time. I’m lucky that my little office has another work/desk area, and I sit here when I’m working on a project that requires creative thinking. I’ve found that I do prefer to sit when I’m figuring out something conceptual, probably because I’m drafting my thinking by hand on a note pad.
So, even though the tattoo guy thought I was incapable of committing, I think I am. I’m becoming committed to my health. Still working on a few other things.