One of my life outlooks is that if there’s a room full of shit, there must be a pony in there somewhere. It’s a helpful, optimistic way to frame things when life’s stresses and pressures pile up.
There were many positive milestones this week at my old house remodel. First, I completely unpacked and dealt with everything delivered by Mobile Me Moving. Everything! All the boxes are unpacked. All of them!
I dispersed of my excess stuff in many ways, one of which included sending an entire carload of things to my booth at Oregon Street Antique Mall, where I’m actually paying a fellow antique mall vendor to sort, price and display everything for me. It’s one of those weeks where my spare time is so skimpy that I asked myself my test question, “Is pricing and displaying hundreds of things in my booth the highest and best use of my time?”
No, it wasn’t. So I outsourced it.
Second, I posted a request on Facebook to give away free boxes, and away they went. Whoosh!
Third, I found a bunch of names on Nextdoor.com and Facebook for guys to interview for the last leg of my remodel; the pretty stuff. Finally the pretty stuff!
I hired two awesome guys: Doug, a licensed contractor, for finish work – trim work, hanging doors and windows – and Ken, a handyman, to do anything that required drilling into an interior or exterior wall, which is a big deal with an old house like mine because of all the plaster walls, because it requires a masonry bit. Or many bits.
Also, I am excited to now have four down-light (better for night skies) exterior sensor lights that go on at dusk and go off at sunrise, one for the front porch, one for the back laundry room door and one for the back bedroom exterior door, plus one over the peak of the garage. I really hope they’re not so bright that they bother my neighbors, because I love how those lights illuminate all those formerly dark corners around my house.
The next cool thing that happened was I bought a little refrigerator for the back guestroom, which is really like its own little wing, since it was added on in 1950. I call it the Czech Room, because son Joe, his wife and mother-in-law from the Czech Republic will be the room’s first guests soon.
I can cram a lot of stuff in my little car, but not a refrigerator.
So I asked a friend who has a truck if he could please pick up the refrigerator from Home Depot, where I’d purchased the sweet little appliance the night before. First, I’d had a nice talk with a guy at Home Depot and they promised to have the refrigerator waiting for Dan at customer service, so he wouldn’t have to wait for three hours as staff searched for it, which is exactly what happened to one of my handymen at Lowe’s a few months back, which was especially distressing since not only did it waste my handyman’s time, but I was paying him by the hour.
When friend Dan got the refrigerator to my house and unboxed it, we noticed a crunched place at the bottom of the refrigerator, right about where a forklift might have hoisted it.
I contacted the store and explained that no way would I ask my friend to return to the store with the refrigerator, only to pick up another one and bring it back to me. Come on, people. He’s not my husband.
The store agreed, and we arranged a time for Home Depot to pick up the damaged item and deliver a new refrigerator.
I suggested that this time, maybe they could unbox the appliance at the store, before delivery, and check for damage. Sure, OK, the store representative said.
I am fairly sure my name is on a “special” B list at Home Depot and Lowe’s by now. Whatever.
Lo and behold, the same nice guys delivered my second refrigerator who’d been here through at least four returns and calamities at my home, so it was like seeing old friends. This time, though, my delivery friends looked sheepish, and asked if anyone had called me.
They explained that someone had unboxed my new refrigerator at the store, before delivery, as I’d asked. The thing is, they found damage. And what did they do when they found that damage? Why, they loaded the crunched refrigerator on the truck and delivered it to my house anyway.
Where’s that damn pony?
I won’t bore you with phone conversations, but suffice to say Home Depot delivered yet a third refrigerator that day, but this time the kindly delivery guy said his dolly wouldn’t work, so he carried the refrigerator on his back like a turtle, and did the same for the damaged one that he took away.
Sometimes this remodel feels like something out of a crazy dream.
Third time was a charm. No damage. The thing works. I’m stocking it with Hexagenia and Häagen-Dazs.
One of the high points of the week was my first delivery from Weaver Lumber with all the trim, which means soon I’ll have baseboard, door and window trim and crown molding.
And it can’t be much longer before Weaver Lumber delivers exterior doors for Doug to install, which will be one of the best days of all. Be gone, ghetto security doors! Gone!
Speaking of doors, one of the most dramatic events this week was saying goodbye to the tension-rod and shower-curtain set-up that’s hung in my bathroom doorway since the first week of July when we removed all the 80-year-old doors for refinishing.
Wednesday, Doug installed the bathroom door, which literally almost brought tears to my eyes. I’m serious.
Sometimes a shower curtain is fine for a bathroom closure, but other days it’s crucial to have a bathroom with actual wood doors, rather than flimsy fabric. Tuesday was one of those days. Starting at about 7 a.m. I had back-to-back guys at the house either giving bids or working on the house.
I don’t know about you, but my body is a finely tuned machine that has a routine, especially when it comes to my – forgive my indiscretion – morning constitution.
That gauzy material and a Scentsy plug-in would be scant comfort with a house full of workers. So I willed myself to postpone my constitution. I imagined toxins swirling through my body during the re-absorption process. I felt lightheaded. More guys arrived and left. Eventually there was still one worker in and out of the house. Clearly, my home was constitutionally unsafe.
During a major remodel, your house belongs to a series of VIPs: drywall workers, electricians, architects, plumbers, HVAC people, floor installers, finish carpenters, laborers, and on and on and on it goes. During a remodel, you, the homeowner, have two jobs: Stay out of the way and burn stacks of money.
It was shortly after I’d put in a load of laundry – during its drain cycle – when I heard the horrifying familiar sounds that only someone who’s had a finicky sewer will recognize.
Glug. Glurg. Blub.
I rushed to the hallway bathroom, where, sure enough, the tub and toilet were doing full-on Linda Blair imitations. Then the toilet water disappeared completely, which, I suppose, is preferable to the sewer alternative. But an abruptly waterless toilet is unnatural, and that’s disconcerting.
I turned off the water at the tank, just in case. I called Holly Adams at Edgewood Plumbing, my favorite plumbing company, who said she’d have someone out before the day’s end.
Of course, it was Halloween. Trick or treat? One trick coming right up.
By then I was in genuine discomfort. The remaining handyman was still on the premises. My sister was here, and she kindly volunteered to spot me so I could use the back bathroom, which has been curtainless since it was tiled last week.
But what if the sewer system failed? Shelly suggested I use the toilet and simply not flush. “Plumbers see worse,” she said with the nonchalant air of someone who is free of constitutional issues.
An unflushed toilet was absolutely not an option for me.
I briefly considered going to a neighbor’s house, but the imagined scenario just didn’t sit well with me.
Hi. I’m Doni, your new neighbor. Would you mind if I borrowed your bathroom for a little while?
Shelly’s suggestion No. 2 – so to speak – was to test the toilet with something, like a piece of bread. So I tossed a piece of bread in the toilet and flushed it. Down it swirled without a care in the world. How I envied that little piece of untroubled bread.
I took a risk. I used the bathroom. I flushed. I waited. All was well. Oh happy day. Free at last, free at last.
Edgewood Plumbing arrived before the trick-or-treaters. The diagnosis: tree roots. No biggie. Come on! Since July I’ve dealt with being homeless and bouncing from place to place. I’ve encountered vintage live gas lines uncovered outside as I tried to dig down to prevent water from running under the house. I’ve suffered through electrical interior errors like punctured gas lines and crossed wires and fire shows in the laundry room that melted the dryer hose. I’ve discovered exterior open air vents buried more than a foot underground. I’ve dealt with legions of rats – dead and alive – and a raccoon skull in the attic. I’ve uncovered walls and floors that revealed charred wood and dry rot. I’ve had my longtime homeowners insurance cancelled because of “yard debris”. I’ve had a completely bogus CSLB sting operation on my favorite handyman at my home, who was threatened with jail time and fines as he installed an $89 bathroom window in its existing opening.
Tree roots in a sewer line? Piece of cake. Pardon me while I take a well-earned drag from my cigarette.
Oh wait. I don’t smoke.
Friday will be a great day. Pacific Crest Granite will install the marble kitchen counters. And handyman Ken will finish everything that involves drilling through plaster. Once the counters arrive, I can have the kitchen sink set, and kitchen faucets, garbage disposal and dishwasher connected, which means no more washing dishes in the bathtub.
But Friday is also the day when it might rain. With that in mind, I turn my attention to the courtyard, which I hosed off one evening this week just to spiff the place up, in case an insurance guy showed up for a surprise inspection. Within a few minutes the courtyard flooded, and the flooded water rushed through the ground-level vents and under the house. Yes, the house that I paid dearly to have all new joists replace the rotten ones.
I need to deal with this asap. But first, I’m going to take a long, hot bath. With the door closed. Granted, there’s no doorknob. That’s OK. It gives me something to look forward to.