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.

Why Asking for Help is So Hard

I just never know when the next ah-ha moment will happen.

Weed Eater

The man from the landscaping company came by to talk to me about some rocks.

We surveyed the backyard together. As we did, I apologized profusely for the condition of the grass along my fence line; as if the condition of the yard was some reflection on my character. I was embarrassed and explained that I had run out of weed eater string and was working on how to replace it. I assumed this would be the end of that conversation.

I do not know how to replace weed eater string. In fact, I did not even know that the string was designed to destroy itself. Yard work is not one of my gifts.

He smiled sweetly and said “I’ll do it for you.” I, of course, said something like “oh no, no I don’t want to bother you with that.” He insisted.

I stood and watched, uncomfortably, as he laced the string into the weed eater. I apologized for using his time to do this for me. I apologized for not knowing how to do it myself. Really, though, I was apologizing for needing help; I was worried that he would judge me because I could not do this myself. I explained, apologetically, that this is the first house I have lived in where I was responsible for the yard. In the past I hired someone to do it and growing up my Daddy always took care of the yard. As I gushed, needlessly, I wondered why I needed him to know why I did not know anything about weed eaters. Why would I?

He repeated sweetly and genuinely that he did not mind. He said that he was happy to do it and that “it makes us feel needed.”

It makes us feel needed – I thought about that comment for a couple of days. He did not care that I did not know anything about weed eaters; he did not expect me to and did not judge me for it. He enjoyed helping.

He liked being needed as much as I did not want to be needy. It’s clear to me now that when I refuse to ask for help when I need it I am depriving someone else of the opportunity to feel the joy of being needed.

Turns out, needing help is not a character flaw either. It is an opportunity to give someone else the gift of being needed.

Home Ownership Lesson #10

Shut up, accept and be grateful for help.

When I bought my soulless house in my little subdivision I never expected that it would see a real holiday event or celebration. Why? As I have said many times, holidays only happen at my Mommy’s house. Turns out, that is not true any more.

Sister, Brother-in-Law, The Princess, and the Benevolent Dictator decided that they would spend Thanksgiving 2012 in Vegas. My parents opted out of Vegas and instead they packed up half my Mommy’s cooking supplies, various ingredients (bring your own homemade cranberry relish), a giant sack of canned goods, and the dog and came to Fort Wayne.

Have canned beets, will travel.

Have canned beets, will travel.

On the surface this was the perfect plan. The parents still get to do a little traveling but we get to have a home-cooked traditional Thanksgiving feast (including a 17 pound turkey for 3 people). For me? I get to not drive to Virginia until Christmas. Everyone is happy. The devil, however, is in the details.

Five days, three people, two dogs, a small house, and no cable. Do you see where this is going now?

The dogs missed cable as well.

The dogs missed cable as well.

The key problem here, upon reflection, is the lack of cable television (meaning no Thanksgiving football). This forced us to talk, walk the dogs, burn things, then we resorted to rummy. I think the rummy could have gone on longer had I not beat the parents unmercifully and bragged about it (a trait I get from my father). As the rummy showdown wrapped up I went to the bathroom. When I returned my father was standing in the kitchen with the ladder. That is how long it takes. Why? He bumped his head for the second time (gasp!) on the low hanging light fixture in my kitchen. It was too much – he could not take it any more. By “it” I mean not having anything to do, but he probably meant the ill-hanging light.

Winning!

Winning!

Enter gratuitous holiday home improvement.

Now, in my family every group project is an opportunity for a fight. I am surprised my parents have remained married for 43 years. This little project lived up to those low expectations. I was irritated because I really had not planned for electrical work and this was not my idea. Mom went along with it, my guess, because that is easier. I have not gotten that smart, yet. So, at this point he is frustrated because I am irritated and not helpful. For instance, I refuse to go turn the power to the lights off because I don’t want to do it wrong and electrocute my father. I’m a total grown-up.

Me being unhelpful. Note my Mommy's little feet standing on my kitchen table.

Me being unhelpful. Note my Mommy’s little feet standing on my kitchen table.

Daddy the electrician

Long story short, 30 minutes later – after having to redo the entire wiring once because someone (who shall remain nameless) forgot to put a washer back on – the light is up and working. The end result is a huge improvement – no one can hit their head and it looks better (even though the fixtures are ugly and I want rid of them).

So, who feels like giant a@! now? Me. But you know what, it was a holiday and somebody has to be “that person.” Might as well be me. Hopefully I won’t win that prize at Christmas too.

Thanks to my Mommy and Daddy, who still love and are willing to continue “raising” their willful, independent, short-tempered, and high-strung 35-year-old child.

Happy Holidays!

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 #8

It is mine and I can do whatever I want to it.

The last two days have been a cleaning frenzy in my little corner of suburbia. Thursday was the screened in porch, Friday was the kitchen, Saturday was everything else. I love a house filled with the smell of Clorox.

I noticed that cleaning my master bath is tough because of the door situation. The bathroom closet door is right behind the bathroom door into my bedroom such that the door handles will bang against each other. In order to get into the closet I have to close the bathroom door. This makes sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping a huge pain. It also encourages me to leave all my products out on the counter so I don’t have to get into the closet for everything. Contrary to what my parents will say, I like to be neat, but my closet won’t let me. It is not my fault.

Since the bathroom was clean, all my bathroom stuff was in the closet in its proper place. I want to leave it there in an effort to be the neat person that I like to believe that I am. So, as I prepared for an evening out on Saturday night I got irritated at my bathroom. I rolled my eyes and closed the bathroom door and opened the closet door. Again. I thought to myself, I wish I could get rid of this closet door, it is a waste of space. Then I closed the closet door and opened the bathroom door and continued on with my primping.

Then, I realized, wait, this is my house. I can get rid of that door.

And that is exactly what I did. In party clothes and freshly coiffed hair (my impulse control on such issues is clearly lacking) I snatched a Phillips screwdriver from my cardboard box of tools and proceeded to unhinge the door. Ten minutes later the door was is in the garage and I have unfettered access to my closet. Ah, it is the small stuff that makes me happy.

Now, I wonder if I should paint the inside of the closet? It never ends.

“A good home must be made, not bought.” Joyce Maynard, “Domestic Affairs”

 

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?

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?