Me: Well… I was hoping to finish my book for book club. Maybe do some stuff on the computer… putz in the yard… You?
Hubs: Well, I want to get that new kitchen sink faucet installed.
Hubs: You know, that one we’ve had in the box for several months now?
Hubs: I’m going to need your help.
Me: Um… sure.
Dear husband gathers his tools and all of the things he’ll need to complete the job (including the ancillary items he has purchased over the prior week), then puts together a handy-dandy platform so he can contort himself comfortably while under the sink.
I’m at the ready in case he needs me to hand him tools and parts… as I multitask on my iPad and read a few chapters of my book.
I am so grateful for my husband who not only has a lot of very handy tools, but knows how to use them. I’m also grateful that he dives into less-than-enjoyable projects that need to get done instead of putting them off like I tend to do. Because of him, we now have a new faucet that works beautifully… and no leaks!
The strong El Niño we were warned about is finally here. Although it is sunny today, last week the skies over Southern California opened up and began to pour rain. And, they say it is only just the beginning. After the long drought we’ve had, most of us are extremely grateful for the precipitation. I know we’d prefer gentler showers, but, unfortunately, we don’t get to choose.
The last time this area was hit by a record El Niño was the winter of 1997-1998. That was the winter that we didn’t have a roof.
We had purchased our house three years earlier with the intention of remodeling. The house had a great view but its small dark rooms, pink kitchen with pink appliances, and single bathroom (with pink tile!) were indicative of its 1950s pedigree. We wanted to open it up, enlarge some rooms, and add a second floor master suite. Because we were living in the home during construction and doing much of the work ourselves, the project took a bit longer than we initially anticipated… two years longer, to be exact.
When the El Niño storms hit Southern California late in 1997, the house was in the midst of demolition and construction. Our second story was framed out but there were no roofing materials over the rafters. When it started to storm, water poured down through every opening—and there were a lot of them—into the first floor below, soaking the original hardwood floors we were trying to protect.
We tried to channel the water as best we could away from the floors and other vulnerable areas. We stapled plastic tarps to the ceiling joists, hoping to divert the water into the trashcans and buckets we had positioned around our house. One day I stayed home from work to try and manage the situation, but, at one point, I had to give up. The rain was coming down in torrents, the wind was howling, and our tarps were rendered useless. After shedding some tears in frustration, I picked up my camera to document the mess.
Then, after several months of what seemed to be constant rain pounding our area, El Niño was finally over. We slowly dried out and proceeded with our remodel. Although it impacted our project, what happened to us pales in comparison to what others experienced. Roads were washed out, crops destroyed, businesses flooded, homes devastated by mudslides, and people lost their lives. One report indicated that El Niño’s global impact caused upwards of $45 billion in economic losses and claimed an estimated 23,000 lives.
Now, almost twenty years later, another El Niño is here and some say this one could be even stronger than 1997-1998. Fortunately, this time our house is buttoned up tight and we can observe the rain from the inside out – not from the outside in.
I am so grateful that we are ready for it this time. I hope others are too.
Our living room has been in disarray for a couple of months as we’ve been working on our latest home improvement project: removing our old fireplace, reframing the wall, installing a new fireplace, tiling the surround, and installing new cabinets. While working on this project, we have completely reconfigured our living room and dining room furniture to get it out of the way of the mess and allow room to work. We hope to be done with everything before the end of the year.
The toilet in our master bathroom is currently sitting on its side in the middle of the floor. Also, all of the items that usually reside under our kitchen sink are now out of the cabinet and in the garage.
Although the living room project was planned, the toilet and kitchen sink were a complete surprise. When we returned home after being away for several weeks, we discovered water where it shouldn’t be; first around the toilet, then under the sink… totally independent, totally unexpected, and totally not what we need right now. Although there wasn’t a lot of water, any water where it shouldn’t be can’t be ignored.
It seems like my husband and I have at least one home project in the works almost continually. Sometimes big, sometimes small, but almost always it (or they) becomes a focus in our lives for far too much time. After the living room is done, there are at least two more good-sized projects I can think of waiting in the wings. This doesn’t include the normal house maintenance projects everyone has (our water heater should be replaced, the living room needs repainting, bushes need trimming, etc.).
We claim that we don’t want to keep taking on these projects, yet, for some reason, we do. We say that our idea of a fulfilling retirement includes more focus on fun, travel and hobbies, and less on construction, dust, and upheaval, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
One of the problems is that we (and by “we” I mean my husband) are pretty skilled at do-it-yourself projects. And, because we (my husband) know how to do these things, we like them to be done a certain way. In addition, we (that would be both of us) are relatively frugal and have a hard time justifying paying someone else to do what we can do ourselves.
Upon returning home from our latest trip, we walked into the living room we left. The one wall was still just bare studs; the brown craft paper was still taped to the floor; the furniture was still topsy-turvy. We didn’t expect HGTV to visit our home and finish everything while we were gone, but the contrast of where we just were (on vacation: pure leisure for three weeks) and what was in front of us was striking. It was good to be home – we love our home – but we had a hard time facing the work we still have to do.
We’ve recently talked about our habit of taking on too much and agree that we need to make some changes in our approach to large household projects. We want to be more realistic about what REALLY needs to be done and, if we decide the outcome is worth the effort and expense, be more open to paying someone else to do the work. Then, after receiving a tradesperson’s bid, the (usually shockingly high) estimate needs to be evaluated against the physical and psychological costs of doing the work ourselves. Are we willing to have our retirement filled with days (weeks, months) of labor? How about the little quarrels that often occur when we are tired and stressed? And then, of course, there are the aches and pains we most likely will suffer because we are no longer 30… or 40.
When we take everything into consideration as we compare one cost to the other, I expect that often the value of freeing up our time will be worth the expense.
A little over ten years ago, in preparation for our wedding festivities, my future husband and I purchased a barbecue grill. We were hosting our rehearsal dinner in our back yard and planned to grill and serve carne asada to our guests. At that time, our yard was just dirt – we had not yet poured concrete for the patio nor did we have any landscaping to speak of. Because our vision for the backyard included a barbecue island, the grill we purchased was a “slide-in” and didn’t include a stand.
Not to be stymied, my very resourceful and skilled soon-to-be-husband welded up a temporary stand to hold the grill for that night and, we figured, for several months to come.
Ten years later, the grill is still sitting on that stand. As a shout-out to the hubby, the stand is still solid. Rusty, but solid. The grill has been moved from place to place over the years and gets a lot of use, especially in the summer. He built one terrific temporary stand.
That situation is about to change. Over the last few weeks (OK, months), we’ve been building our permanent barbecue island. Its metal frame has been screwed together, the cement board attached, and we are ready to add the countertop and siding material. Once that is complete, we will carefully remove our grill from its home of ten years, place it on its new resting site, hook it to the natural gas pipes, and fire it up.
My husband and I never do anything quickly. We agonize over every detail and question every decision. We’ve made many false starts then have backtracked when we decide to go another way. I guess the good news is we are just alike this way; one of us paired up with a quick and sure decision maker would probably lead to disastrous results, or, at least, abject misery for both people.
Despite this flaw in both of our characters, we’ve managed to make some pretty good decisions (or, maybe non-decisions) along the way. Because of our propensity not to take compulsive action, we didn’t rush out of the stock market when past crashes have occurred (as they will again). We ride the market down, than back up again, taking advantage of “cheap” buys along the way. We didn’t rush into our marriage (only after 13 years of “dating” did we tie the knot) and we are likely not to make compulsive, poorly considered choices that will threaten our relationship.
After the barbecue island is built, we have a few more big projects to finish. Topping the list is the cabinetry in our living room (our remodel was completed, except for this area, about 15 years ago), and a wall between our house and our neighbor’s (should it be a block wall, wood, metal. or, maybe a combination? to replace a rickety wooden fence poorly constructed by a former neighbor maybe 8 years ago. We also have plenty of smaller projects to keep us busy for a while.
My personal goal was to have all of our bigger projects done by the time I retired. I envisioned being able to relax and enjoy our fully completed home for a few months before starting to tackle some of the smaller “to-dos” on my list. This is clearly not going to happen.
When the area for the living room cabinetry was designed years ago, flat screen TVs didn’t exist so the space is deep enough to accept an old-fashioned tube TV. This change in technology has caused our original design to be scrapped. I hope that we get the project done before we are all wearing virtual reality headsets, making the need for a TV obsolete. I really hate the thought of having to start the project all over again.