Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Living With Transition


My mother posted pictures of a remodel they are working on
in response to water damage in their laundry room.
The repair goes beyond the laundry room, into the kitchen
because of future plans for the house.
She said this, after explaining what they were doing,
"Don't know when we'll be able to completely finish the kitchen 
but we're willing to live with transition to save steps later."

I grew up walking on splintery plywood subfloors,
and writing Scripture verses on exposed sheetrock,
because the walls were unfinished, too.
We lived in a number of different houses.
Sometimes my parents bought places that needed a lot of work,
and although they were 'finished', they weren't quite right,
and they were promptly plunged into an unfinished state.
I remember when they ripped out the living room and kitchen floors,
subfloors and all, and I had to jump down in between the studs
onto the pea gravel in my bare feet outside my bedroom door
before they poured a foundation right through the big picture window.
When it was finished, it had become an appropriate home for people,
and no longer a haven for snakes and banana slugs, and spiders.
They left every house they ever owned better than they had received it.
But quite often that meant we lived in it with some lack for awhile,
while we waited for the resources to finish.

Sometimes the changes were to enlarge,
or to make it more functional for the family we were at the time.
Sometimes they were repairs of things that had worked well
when they were put in, but something malfunctioned,
and damage had been done.
As an adult living in my own home, my dad also helped us sometimes.
I bought a house that had leaked behind a bathtub wall,
and mold had become a problem.
Over and over again the previous owners
had added new caulking over the mildewed old.
The mold kept overtaking the shaggy mess.
My dad helped me rip it all out.
New sheetrock was in order before the tile surround could be put in.
Stripping back is part of building up.
Without the stripping back, the same problem will again seep through in time.

One time I was surprised with a new laundry room when I got back from a trip.
It was so beautiful, and functional.
But a few years later, a flood from my broken washing machine
necessitated tearing out the brand new floor and laying a new one again.
Homeownership involves responding to problems at hand
before going forward with dream projects.

Buying a home wisely includes getting problems assessed before you buy.
The last home we bought had a list of issues we needed to consider.
None of them were dealbreakers -- it was a house worth buying --
but some had to be addressed before we could fix other things.
The electrical had to be replaced
before I bothered painting the upstairs hallway.
The house had plenty of power,
but the way it was arranged meant that we were constantly blowing fuses.
It required redistribution, and it needed new wiring.
Replacing wiring sometimes doesn't look like anything is happening.
Just a few new holes in walls, and little piles of drill dust, and little by little,
a change in how the power is being supplied.
The power becomes less noticeable, because it's responding as it should.
But once it's finished, the insurance rates go down,
because a danger has been eliminated.

Living with transition requires patience from the dwellers.
The laundry room cannot function while it is disconnected for remodeling.
And leaving things undone for a little longer may save steps later.
You see, that laundry room-- the one that had to have its floor replaced again?
The subfloor had been rushed to meet the deadline for the surprise.
As we were fixing it, I heard a comment:
"This should have had cement board for a subfloor."
The plywood couldn't take the water.
It swelled up and broke the grout when it flooded.
Another day spent preparing it properly (and living with the transition)
would have meant not replacing it again later.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Notes From the Garden


I pull a lot of different kinds of weeds from my garden.
Just because it's green, doesn't mean it's good.
I want to see my garden full of green things.
But not the green of weeds.
I'd rather see empty brown dirt around my potato plants
than this abundance of greenery that chokes out the health of the real things.
The last potato in the row, the one close to the edge,
has a lot of green on it.
I look closer, because the leaf shape seems wrong.
It has been entwined in a viney weed.
It takes me a long time to free the plant.
The weed that has entangled it started growing a foot away from it,
and crept over inch by inch.
It wound itself tightly around the potato,
strangling it out in its climb higher.
I feel along the length of the vine, until it enters the earth,
and grasp it and pull out its roots.
But its body is still wrapped in and around the potato.
When I finally pull it free, the potato sags,
because it has been unaccustomed to supporting its own weight.
It doesn't know how to stand, and its leaves are small and look beaten.
I wish I had gotten there sooner.

There were some happy surprises, too.
Some volunteer tomatoes seem to be growing well.
I left them where they stood, though I did not plant them there.
And buried under the weeds, as I pulled them away,
the purple leaves of basil that I thought was bad seed advertised its beauty.
First one, then two, then six or so plants made themselves known.
A joy to find good seed among the insidious weeds.
All is not lost.
I weed on.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

And That's Because It Is


Sometimes
it feels like life is throwing containers of cold moldy oatmeal at you
when you open the fridge,
while you are trying to fix a meal for someone else,
and there's a baby crying in the background.
And that's because it is.
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