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!

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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 #5

There will be mysteries.

I remember the day that I looked at my house for the first time. It was house number three for the day.

The house immediately before it was the same floor plan but a corner lot that exposed the entire backyard to everyone who drove by the house. I was not raised in a subdivision. My parents quite literally carved a house seat out of the side of a mountain in order to build my childhood home. Our road had one other house on it and it belongs to B & Daddy Pete. My Daddy and Daddy Pete lived across the road (a different road) from each other their entire childhoods until Daddy Pete went into the Navy and then Daddy went to college. But, soon after the Navy and college they resumed their normal locations. Across the road. Needless to say, I am not used to having neighbors much less having a backyard that total strangers (there are no strangers in the holler at home – we know everyone) can observe. So I passed on that house.

My house has a large backyard with mature trees and no neighbors to the rear – only two neighbors!  Then there is the screened in porch where I can sit and listen to the rain and look at the trees. I did not need much more encouragement. Although, the inside of the house was nice – fireplace, tile, hardwood, and surround sound. I was intrigued by the surround sound. The crafty sellers were wise enough to have the surround sound playing during the showing. And it was on NPR – that helped – I do enjoy some public radio. Every room has speakers, including the screened in porch. Very nice, especially since my laptop works overtime playing music all the time.

So, I make the deal, sign the papers, erect the fence, move in and set up housekeeping. During all this I assumed that I would find the surround sound controls. Seems reasonable that the controls would be obvious. I was wrong. To date, I have no idea exactly how to make sound come out of the surround sound speakers. There are little knobs in every room and tastefully recessed speakers but no obvious outlet, control panel, or plug-in for the system. After weeks of looking I thought I found it. There is a Honeywell panel in the closet. That must be it. When Donte from Comcast came to fire up the internet I asked him and he said, oh, no this is not for surround sound this is where al the telecommunications go. Wrong again.

I began to get desperate. I emailed my realtor.

My parents came for a visit after I moved in (they very kindly brought a bed from my house in Virginia and returned The Queen to her new kingdom). Daddy was bored, I don’t have cable, and needed a project so I suggested he find the surround sound. At this point I am somewhat embarrassed because this should not be this hard, right? Dad inspects. He notices an outlet near the cable hookup in the living room. The outlet has four wires sticking out – green, white, black, and red. Of course, I have no clue what these do and have avoided touching them. Always the 7th grade teacher (he did do that for 25 years), Dad says what do those look like? Oh, well, I guess they kind of look like the kind of wires you hook to speakers and the wires are the same colors as those that go into the back of the TV to connect video and audio from the DVD player. Bingo.

So, we think we have found them but neither of us have any idea how to actually connect a stereo or amplifier to the wires.

My realtor gets back to me with the phone number of the seller. This is so interesting/mysterious that she wants to know what I find out.

I have not gotten around to making that call. I wonder why they would bother taking my call. We’ll see. If they don’t help me (at least tell me where to go to get some geek to help me make this work) I guess I will hang Christmas ornaments from the wires and control knobs and call the speakers fancy decorations.

I never enjoyed mysteries.

Home Ownership Lesson #1

A house requires tools.

I bought the house on Monday. By Friday I had spent more than half of my down payment even though there were no major or minor defects and nothing was broken. These expenditures were just to prepare for The Queen and I to move in. We may be a little high maintenance (mostly her). So I will be posting a series on all the things I am learning (the lessons are coming daily at this point) about owning a home.

I was so excited to go to Lowe’s and buy my new door hardware. I bought some good-looking round knobs for the front door. I dislike those long straight handles – too much to go wrong, jiggle, or break.

I got into the car with my purchase and was on the verge of reporting my first home purchase to my Daddy when I realized that . . . I have no tools. That is right, my toolbox included one hammer, one tape measure, and one vice grip. I live in an apartment – I have people for that stuff.

So, next stop, Sears. Ruby Falls, an experienced handy-lady at home, advised me on a solid list of tools I should have and I trucked myself to Sears. Screw drivers, pliers, wrenches, nails, and a box cutter now join my hammer, tape measure, and vise grip. I’m set. For now. Except, I soon learned that you can’t buy just ANY old door knobs. You must buy the “high-end” knobs. I bought off-brand door knobs. According to the Father of Six, this is bad. Generic doorknobs break. So, I went right back to Lowe’s and exchanged (did you know that Lowe’s will take things back without a receipt – I was amazed) my generic knobs for a Schlage knob and deadbolt. I am told that you get what you pay for . . . I hope that is true.

Four-way screwdriver in hand, I attacked the front door and successfully installed new door hardware. Just like a real big-girl homeowner. Tools and all.