Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Green acres is the place for me....
When we first moved here, thirteen years ago, the house was scary. My mother-in-law sat on the back steps and sobbed that her grandsons would be living in a slum. Mind you, my mother-in-law had played landlord for fifty years for the place and hadn't thought to keep tabs on it so that too, made her cry. We laugh about that now. The house had NO electrical outlets on the second floor and a grand total of FIVE in the house. Two were in the kitchen, two in the living room and one in the downstairs bedroom. Please note, NONE in the bathroom. Hello, I have curly hair and my flat iron is my best friend. Within several weeks of moving in, the house had been totally rewired and the house thankfully had outlets everywhere. Oh and switches, too! No more pulling the chain to get the lights on. I think the reason it was done so quickly was because hubby was tired of me calling him at work, singing him the "Green Acres" theme song whenever there was a problem. And there were lots of them.
Being an interior design major in college, I kept waiting to make the house cute. But of course, I had to put up with the electrical issues, plumbing issues, a new furnace and new roof. I kept asking "When do I do cute?" No one, and I mean no one - okay, maybe guys - wants to see a new furnace or electrical box (did I mention they are located in a creepy basement that causes hubby and I to do rock, paper, scissors to determine who goes down there?). Finally, after three years I got to do cute. It was then I learned the old saying "Be careful what you wish for."
We found a contractor who liked working on old houses to do our kitchen remodel. The guy and I bumped heads from day one. His vision wasn't my vision and he didn't like it. He showed up to demo the place and then didn't return for days. This saga went on for months until he finally just never showed up again. We were living with our "kitchen" in the dining room and our only sink was a tiny one in the bathroom or the big claw foot tub. We ate out just once a week and the rest of the time, I cooked using hot plates, electric skillets and a microwave. Looking back, I don't know how I did it without losing my sanity. I finally took over the job and got the walls done and painted (and let me give a shout out to the local paint store who failed to tell me that a tinted primer would be best for the color red I used. Yep, six coats of paint later and I got the color I wanted) and the floor laid. During my tenure as contractor, I found a valuable resource in a fellow old house dweller who worked at the local hardware. I would walk in and look for him and describe my predicament in my own unique language - this do-hickey does this and the thingamajig does that - and he knew what I meant. Finally, after nine long months - the kitchen was done. I was so happy, I actually sent out birth announcements.
Just like childbirth, one forgets the pain and trauma involved in remodeling and you decide to do it again. This time, it was the back porch. The open, gaping hole that allowed critters to visit was the determining factor for that job. I thought this job would be easy without the impact on us that the kitchen had presented. The porch would finally allow me to have the washer and dryer in the house. No more driving to the next town to the laundry. Yeah, right. Needless to say, the porch was finished - no washer and dryer because of something called pitch (maybe because of the fit I pitched upon learning of the news)- and the contractor took it upon himself to finish the ceiling without talking with me. Starbursts weren't not discussed. Nothing was done as I had envisioned.
The third time was the charm. We tackled the only bathroom we had. We found a contractor who understood me and was adorable. That helped to make the whole ordeal more pleasant. I had the support of friends who would show up regularly to watch him work. Their nickname for him, Eye Candy. He understood the one rule during this whole process - there must be a working toilet at night. Unlike the males here, I refused to do my business outside. The same friends who came over to offer "support", opened up their bathrooms to us so we could shower. The contractor even found a way to put in a tiny laundry area in the tiny bathroom. He was my hero. He even understood hubby's desire to save the huge, heavy cast iron tub (which now is fondly referred to as my West Virginia garden and resides on the patio). He and his workers would laugh at my sagas of previous remodels. They called me "Laura Ingells" and would laugh that their wives/girlfriends wouldn't put up with the things I had. (Another class I missed along the way - along with nagging, creating honey do lists, etc)
These are just a few of the adventures I have had living in an old house. I haven't touched on the frozen pipes, the art of the shim or the creative uses of newspaper for insulation that I have dealt with. Those are for another day.
As trying as it has all been, green acres is the place for me.