Our house needs re-shingling. The shed needs a paint job. Twenty-eight storm windows need replacing. The yard requires nothing short of an HGTV makeover.
(Note to “Curb Appeal” producers: A short acre of unruly yet potential-filled land, a charming but challenged cottage, and camera-ready homeowners who will argue on cue and be all too happy to keep your crew filled with beer and barbecue. Think about it. And, yes, that’s a bribe.)
So, what did my do-it-yourself-or-die husband announce the other day?
“It’s time to remodel the kitchen. I’ve got one big project left in me, so we’d better do it now.”
“‘One left in you?!’” I replied, startled. “You’re only 56! Is this a knee-jerk reaction to your lab results?”
(His recent physical exam resulted in a prescription for cholesterol medicine — the first drug he’s ever had to take on a daily basis, signaling, in his mind, an express train to the nursing home.)
“Just because your numbers were high doesn’t mean you’ve got one foot in the ...”
I stopped, abruptly.
“What the heck am I thinking?” I asked myself. “‘Time to remodel the kitchen’? I’ve been waiting 20 years to hear those words. Finally, I can break out the home magazines I’ve saved since 1991! No more sticky drawers! No more gooey cabinets! No more mouse droppings under the ...” (I’ll stop here before someone reports us to the Health Department.)
This is a game-changer, I thought. With a new and improved cooking environment, I can become the Food Network star I KNOW I should be. Look out, Paula Deen! Your days of fame are numbered!
I decided to ignore all the unfinished business in house and garden and embrace the idea.
“Alrighty then,” I said, giving him a hug. “Prooooo-ject!!!”
I love projects. I believe partnerships go better when couples have enterprises to work on together. Raising children, planning a vacation and, of course, home improvement projects unite people in a common cause, as opposed to the “two ships passing in the night” scenario all-too-common in households these days.
And yet, projects are stressful. Especially the kind that suspends life as you know it, throws you into a chaotic world of inconvenience, and forces you to make a thousand choices you have to live with for years. Have you any idea how many decisions there are to make in a kitchen: countertops, floor, lighting, fixtures, appliances, backsplash, knobs, pulls, wall color, where to stash the vodka? It’s enough to make a flip-flopping, fence sitter like me flipping INSANE!
Then, there’s the money, the most stressful issue of all. And, the “down time”! DIY projects take four times as long as “hired” jobs. Could I survive the summer with a makeshift kitchen in the dining room?
My only consolation was knowing it would be several weeks before my husband’s words turned to action. I figured I had until June to get my design ducks in a row.
Not this time. My ticking time bomb of a spouse had other plans.
Next thing I know, two strapping men in ball caps and boots are in my bedroom at 8:15 in the morning. (They were heating and cooling guys accessing the crawl space from the closet. Otherwise, this might have been an entirely different column).
I’m informed our air-conditioning compressor needs be moved in order to bump out the wall and the furnace is going to the attic. Since they’re both old and inefficient, we might as well replace them. But there’s a tax break, so no worries.
Ka-ching! My inner cash register begins to tilt.
Next, discussion ensues about raising the family room floor to create a “great room” — ideal for entertaining, but requiring approximately 247 more decisions and untold amounts of cash from our savings.
“And, by the way,” my husband says the other night, “because I’ll be working on the kitchen nights and weekends, it’ll probably be Thanksgiving before the job is done. We can move the fridge to the dining room for the duration, but the table will have to go. And the dog will have to sleep with us for a while. Maybe we ought to have a garage sale to get rid of some stuff?”
I wanted to scream. But, his cholesterol was already high; I didn’t want his blood pressure to skyrocket, too.
“OK,” I sighed. “I think I’ve got one project left in me, too. Let’s get it over with.”
— Cathy Hamilton is a 54-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author. She can be reached at can be reached at 832-6319.