Home Ownership Lesson #12: If it’s not the painter, it’s a thief

If it isn’t the painter, it’s a thief.

I try to do everything at once. It is just who I am. I can’t just watch TV, I have to watch TV and write emails or read the paper. I can’t just talk on the phone, I have to clean the house while doing it, or play solitaire to try to stay in the moment with the person on the phone. This same nonsense applies to the important things in my life as well.

IMG_3211I decided about six or eight months ago that no amount of new flooring or painted cabinets was going to make me happy in my old (first) house. The location of the house had grown inconvenient for my life and I was tired of not knowing any of my neighbors. I think the latter is a symptom of the welcome to my garage subdivision culture. We pull into our garages, close the doors and never see anyone. So, after months of looking at every house in the sweet little non-cookie-cutter/non-subdivision neighborhood I found my house. It is on the street I’ve wanted to be on and is super close to the nicest park in town. Winning.

Here’s is where the problems start. In the month of July and first week of August, I closed on two houses, moved out of one, started renovations on another, had significant renovation delays and drama, stayed temporarily in another house, took a trip, turned 40, and finally moved into the new house.

Turns out some painting contractors (or maybe all contractors) don’t actually do what they say they will do. This can result in starting 5 days late, doing a sloppy job, sending the same guy back 3 times to fix the problems he created the first time, and finally fixing the problems 3 weeks later. Then we discovered crumbling concrete under the carpet we removed from the basement. I say “we” here but I really mean someone far handier than me. The kitchen flooring had to be reimagined and is now vinyl instead of tile. The master bath shower is unique – meaning waiting a long time for a special door. And I won’t even talk about the half bath faucet that won’t be in for another 28 days.

Despite all of this I moved into the house this week. It is lovely and I am remarkably not annoyed by the paint issues that remain. It must be love.

The first night I slept in the house some friends came over to celebrate. I went to bed, slept great and woke up feeling at home. I started my day with a dog walk and as I passed my neighbor’s house she came outside and informed me that her home was broken into overnight.

IMG_3210Naturally, I went back to my house and locked the door and glanced at my car. It was unlocked in the driveway. Sure enough, the thieves had stopped at my place too. My car was a mess – compartments open, papers everywhere. I immediately noticed my change cup for tolls was gone – $15 dollars or so of quarters.

It instantly felt awful. I have never been robbed before. I let the neighbor know and then continued my dog walk on the phone with the boyfriend. I returned home and called the police to report it, ate breakfast, worked some and then hopped in the shower. A bit later as I was drying my hair it occurred to me that my garage door opener was in the console. I dropped the dryer and ran to the car. It was gone. Along with my iPhone charger. Some random people either have unfettered access to my garage or my garage opener is laying in a neighbor’s yard. I didn’t know which.

I lost it. Whatever tears wanted to come earlier were unstoppable now. All of the time and work, so many houses, the careful planning, the inspections and offers and counters and bargaining, the cleaning and packing and unpacking, rolling with the changes because this was my house on my dream Fort Wayne street, coupled with a milestone birthday. All of that and now I just wanted to feel HOME, to not have to keep on doing everything at once. It seemed totally unfair. I immediately called the garage people and the kind man at Raynor felt sorry for my weepy self and sent someone over the same day to reprogram my garage door openers. Not the welcome to the neighborhood I wanted.

After a day of crying and fixing and praying, I am back to normal. I love my little house and street. I have great friends that helped me to put up all my first-floor curtains, make sure my motion light works, and call/email/text me to make sure I’m okay. And, of course, I’m now locking everything all the time and keeping the car inside the garage. And in the process of the crying, fixing, and praying the house feels a little more like a home and a bit closer to finished. Although, I wish that activity hadn’t been driven by a welcome-to-the-neighborhood theft.

Just when you think you are doing all you can do at once, life throws something else at you.

At the end of this and most importantly I was reminded and will more often think on the truth that “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalms 4:8 (NKJV). I’m grateful for that because if it’s not one thing, it’s something else.

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The Oldest Thing I Own

What is the oldest thing you own and why?

I was at a dinner party recently where the hosts used a question game to keep dinner conversation moving. Everyone at the table drew a question from a basket and shared their answer with the group. My question was something about what I do on my days off. But this question – what is the oldest thing you own and why? – has stuck with me.

I thought about it on the drive home and woke up thinking about it the next morning.

I first thought of my grandmother’s ring that I wear everyday. It is old. Then I thought about my Uncle Jim’s turquoise bracelet, it is old too. On my way into the garage to leave for work I saw the oldest thing I own. It was sitting in the garage waiting to be moved into the house.

At the end of summer, my Daddy delivered a cabinet to my house that belonged to my grandmother. For as long as I can remember it lived in her bedroom. She kept lots of things in it – VHS tapes, trinkets, or blankets in the windowed shelves. In the drawers were cancelled checks, mementos from trips, scarves, and gloves. I remember waking up as a child in her bedroom and seeing that cabinet first thing in the morning. I know the feeling of the cabinet doors catching as I opened and closed them because the door frames are no longer even. This cabinet was part of her house, part of the experience of living there. It was a fixture. I used this cabinet when I moved into her house in 2006, after she was gone. I used it in the same room and in same ways, minus the cancelled checks, for the next five years.

On the way to work, I called Daddy and asked him about the age of the cabinet? It was older than I thought. It originally belonged to my great-grandmother and according to Daddy it could date back to the 1920s or 1930s.

We talked about what it is made of and whether the glass was original. It is likely that the glass has been replaced and that it wouldn’t stand up to much stress. The back is particle board and it has been stained and painted and repainted many times. He said, “That is why that cabinet is only valuable to you.”

So true.

Attachment-1

The cabinet’s current home in Indiana.

I thought about the why, why do I have it. It wasn’t that it was given to me, I asked for it. I wanted it more than I wanted the darkly stained regal-looking claw-foot cabinet that my sister has in her home. Comparing the two this one is not much. It is the same green color it has been for the last 40 years and lined with the same floral paper my grandmother put in it 20 years ago. And until its arrival in Indiana it probably had never left Buchanan County, Virginia.

It has stood watch in her house for many years and if it talked it could tell many stories – births, deaths, holidays, and everything in between. For many years it was positioned against the wall across from where she knelt every night to pray and was the first thing she saw every morning. It was something she touched nearly everyday and when you open the drawers today it still smells like her house. I can’t look at it and not think of her or her house on the mountain that at one time or another was home to every member of my immediate family. You can’t buy that.

I own it because it is a tangible memory – something to rekindle the memories that fade with time. A precious heirloom. Because, in the words of Hazel Dickens, “there are some things memories can’t bring home.”

The Polar Vortex of 2014

I came to Fort Wayne for the first time in November 2010 for an interview. On the drive to town I became convinced that it was too far from home, too weirdly flat and not easily accessed. The weather was chilly but sunny. There was talk about what the weather would be like but in this two-day visit I fell in love with the academic community and small college campus I was going to join. I left Fort Wayne trying to decide how I was going to explain this move to my family and friends.

I returned in February 2011 to find a place to live. I flew this time and found myself in the midst of the Groundhog Day blizzard. It was cold, roads were snow-covered and at some point prior to my arrival there had been a travel warning prohibiting non-emergency travel. During that visit it all seemed manageable. My realtor drive me around in her minivan. I drove myself around in a rented Ford Explorer. It was an adventure and surely would not happen all the time.

My assessment of the Indiana winter weather was true for the first two winters I was here. The winter of 2011-2012 was barely existent. It kind of snowed once. The winter of 2012-2013 was a bit more serious, it snowed twice and I learned how to shovel (there are strategies and techniques for shoveling snow). That was manageable and I learned something.

Now we have the winter of 2013-2014. This one is not like the others.

Since December it has snowed over a 12 inches. In the last week we have lived in the snow globe that was early January 2014. Thanks, polar vortex. This has been an unwelcome introduction to the other extreme of Indiana winters. On day one of the storm I shoveled 5 times to keep up with the snowfall.

A state of emergency was declared, the National Guard was called out and a non-emergency travel was prohibited. On day two the temperature and windchill was frightening. The temperature was around -20 with windchills as low as -40 and wind speeds of 20 mph. I did not venture out that day.

IMG_6041On day three the temperature got up to 5 but the roads remained nasty with snow drifts and layers of ice. On day 7 we got a break, it reached nearly 40 but it rained (yes, that is nearly a 60 degree change in 3 days).

Now roads, yards and fields are slush-filled ponds. Yesterday on a dog walk I stepped into an area with shin-deep slush on the sidewalk.

I’ve never seen anything like it. It is only January.

I’m told that this kind of weather builds character and stamina. I appreciate that and while I’d prefer to do that voluntarily and in the sun it is rewarding to know that I can handle it – I can live in an extreme weather event by myself (I was in the house for 3 days without any face to face human contact). One day when I live or am vacationing somewhere very warm I’ll say something like “I remember the Blizzard/Polar Vortex of 2014 and it was a mess, but Scout and I had fun.”

Also, snow in large quantities is pretty.

Home Ownership Lesson #9

Buying a new dishwasher is kind of like having a baby. Once you get the new one you conveniently forget the pain (cost) of getting it.

It was a lovely Tuesday afternoon, sometime between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., when the Sears installers arrived. They promptly pulled out the old, gross, and mineral encrusted dishwasher. As they did, installer #1 let me know that they did not include the mandatory “install kit” with my order. Um, okay. I looked at him, with what must have been a face of panic, because he responded “don’t worry we keep them in the van.” Super. Oh, but it’ll be $15.00. Of course. Fine. What’s $15.00. Then they carried in my brand new shiny Kenmore Elite dishwasher. A beacon of freedom from using the same three dishes and one cup over and over again and soapy water.

I wrote installer #1 a check, to him (which was odd), signed the installation form and said farewell to the fellas. Note: they were very good, clean, respectful. Then I had a moment with my new equipment.

It is a beautiful thing and its arrival could not be better with Thanksgiving next week. As I gazed at the shiny stainless front, new adjustable racks, stemware holders, and removable silverware tray the thoughts of the cost of such a luxury slipped away.

My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance. —Erma Bombeck

Home Ownership Lesson #7

Hard water is bad. Soft water is good, but it will cost you.

Every morning of my childhood was a crap shoot. Would there be enough water to finish my shower? Maybe, maybe not. It all depended on how long Sister decided to shower. More than once I was left with shampoo in my hair and no water. The good news, though, was the water from our well was clean, smell free, and bubbly. We may not have had a lot of it, but what we had was pristine. Fortunately, around the time I turned 16 we got county water in the holler and my days of will-there-be-enough-water anxiety was over.

Since that time I have never had water issues. Sure, I have heard people talk about hard water and I’d smile nod. I did need to know anything about that. Right?

Wrong.

When you buy a house and this inside of the dishwasher looks like this, then you have to know something about hard water . . .

Yes. That is the inside of the dishwasher in my new house. The inside of the dishwasher is not supposed to be white and crusty. At the inspection the inspector ran the dishwasher a full cycle. It worked. Yeah, it ran. Turns out, that doesn’t mean it will clean anything. Shortly after moving in I discovered that it won’t clean a thing and no amount of lime-whatever or vinegar will fix it. It is hopeless.

Why? Hard water. Solution? We must soften the water. A call to Culligan, a visit from the salesman, and $1,700 later I have this . . .

The Culligan man informed me that a pound of mineral is being deposited in my pipes and appliances every five days. That is a pretty effective sales pitch. He also laughed aloud and said that Culligan “loves” the service authority in my area because the “water is awful.” I am now wondering if the service authority is in cahoots with Culligan? It seems like they could treat the water? But what do I know.

What he did not tell me is that they automatically set this thing to “regenerate,” whatever that means, at 2:00 a.m. when it is unlikely that I will be using water. Um, it is true that I am not using water at 2:00 a.m., but I am asleep at 2:00 a.m. I was not amused when I was awakened the first night by the growling of this machine. Not cool. It is now set to run at 10:00 a.m. and unless The Queen is doing laundry and I don’t know it there should not be any water running then either.

The final blow, after the confusion, cost, lack of dishwasher (did I mention I’ve been hand washing dishes for months), and early morning disturbance, is that I cannot tell a difference in the water after the softener installation. I can’t. Expectation fail. I guess the best I can do now is to buy a new dishwasher and feel confident it won’t get a permanent calcium coating.

Anyone want to go dishwasher shopping?

My Indiana Home

Alright, enough about the mysteries, hardships, and annoyances of first-time home ownership. This morning is a great example of why I love my Indiana home.

This is the view from my kitchen table where I happily sit having tea, eating eggs, and reading the New York Times and Washington Post. All I can see are the lovely trees in the backyard, no highway, no neighbors, and no strip mall. All I can hear are the bugs and birds outside and The Queen as she lounges in the kitchen floor. Ah, quiet is pretty. And all this loveliness is mine.

I hope you are enjoying your Sunday morning.

 

Home Ownership Lesson #6

Curtains are dumb.

It is true, experts agree. By experts I mean Daisy, one of my Cosmic Sisters, and me.

Yes, I know that they are necessary. I, too, enjoy privacy. But honestly, I have an easier time selecting major pieces of furniture (sofas, tables, beds, you name it) and art than I do buying curtains.

The kind sellers of my new home left the curtain hardware in place, which saved me a fortune. Very nice. However, the curtains they left are not my favorite. The living room set were close to the right color but they were rigged-up and hung by white rope. Clearly handmade. Not good. I was able to repurpose the gold sheers from the bedroom as tolerable temporary curtains for the living room.

Since I have an internet addiction, I started online. I was looking for two 60×84 aubergine or deep purple opaque curtains. Simple? Sort of. I found many and zeroed in on a set from Sears. They were the right color, price, and there is a Sears down the road. Quick and easy. I tend to lack impulse control when it comes to these types of purchases, so I immediately went to Sears. I found what I thought was an great deal. Purple panels for $10 each. Who can beat that? I also snagged a set of tab-top sheers to go under the purple panels.

Mistake #1 – when buying curtains one should know what “tab-top” actually means. Apparently, I do not.  I thought the sheers were the kind you slide the rod through. No. Tab-top means that they have the loops hanging on top like a shower curtain. I should have called Mommy. Because I have an aversion to returning things to stores (I really really dislike doing it), I elected just to keep them since it did not affect the light entering my room and I was sure that the panels would hide the tabs. Fine.

Mistake #2 – the reason the panels were so cheap is because they were 60 inches long – not the 84 I needed. I did not find this out until I got one panel completely out of the package and on the rod. Having the white sheers hanging down below the panels was not a look I was going for, especially since the panels were not long enough to actually reach the window sill. Imagine Jethro Bodine’s high-water blue jeans as curtains. Fancy. I could not avoid returning these jewels. Of course, in order to do that I would have to get this panel folded up perfectly to get it back in the tiny little plastic zipper bag it came in. Nearly impossible. I got it in there but it was not pretty. I made sure to stack the unopened one on top of it. Fun times.

I should add that these curtain discoveries were made at 4:00 a.m. I could not sleep due to the unfortunate digestion of a Claritin-D at 10:00 p.m. So my desire to sleep coupled with the sinus attack I was taking the Claritin-D to cure probably added to my curtain frustration.

The next day after a couple cups of tea and some food I came to terms with returning the curtains. What else could I do? Then it occurred to me that I threw the receipt for them away at the Red Robin. I ate there after the purchase because I heard they had a g-free menu (they do, it is good). So, this increased my stress level. I already hate to return things and now what would I do when they wanted a receipt or told me that because it was a sale I could not return them. The anticipation was killing me.

I carted myself and my curtains back down to Sears. The nice lady at the register was an angel. She did not ask for a receipt, she paid no attention to the packaging, and gave me cash back. It was a short-lived victory. The celebration ended when I had to go back and do more shopping for curtains. Because, of course, the kind I bought originally are not available in the 84 inch length.

Decorating is not as fun as people what you to believe.

Sears did have more deep purple curtains ranging from $13 per panel to $50. I had to decide whether little swirly stitches were important enough to me to pay an extra  $37. That did not take long. I checked and double checked the color, style of the top, and length repeatedly between the rack and the check out. I was out the door $28 later. Happily these worked. They hid the tab-tops, are the right color, and length. Win.

Now I just have to find curtains for the living room and kitchen. Maybe I should just buy blinds?