I love the Home and Garden channel – that’s HGTV to those in the know. My nine-year-old daughter watches with me. It doesn’t matter what we watch either – House Hunters, Designer’s Challenge, My House is Worth What? We are mesmerized by the home buyers or home owners as they consider what will for many will be the major purchase of a lifetime or remodel that commands thousands of dollars in disposable income on projects that will at best garner 80% of the initial investment. The nail biting decision as to which house they will make an offer on or which designer they will choose for their home redesign never fails to command our attention.
Why do I have such an obsession with this network of shows when I so clearly do not have any of the skills possessed by these designers and craftsmen and women? It must be because there is the possibility that any home, no matter how down trodden or unkempt, can be turned into a castle with the right set of hands. Really. It’s true. You should see some of the popcorn-ceilinged houses with shag carpet and moldy kitchen cabinets that can be turned into charming, freshly painted bungalows with just a little imagination, elbow grease, and maybe some two by fours. Those entrepreneurs that run the ‘Flip this House’ type of enterprise are the most amazing because they turn hovels into havens in such a short amount of time. It’s amazing!
My home is fantastic – couldn’t ask for a better home in which to raise my large family of four children. When we moved in, we didn’t know what we would do with a five bedroom house and now we are completely full up. No vacancies at the LeBleu Inn. We do have a few projects we have neglected over the years, due to too much work, too little time, too many children, and too little money to afford to invest in some of these home improvement initiatives. New carpet badly needed, rotting deck, new gutters. I could go on but it makes my husband think I am complaining so I won’t. Now if only I had some of the skills that these do it yourselfers possess, we would be in business. Our home is a blank slate in many ways for endless possibilities!
I truly admire (ok, envy) the do it yourselfers. In fact, there is also a whole network of cable shows and online instructions for those people that actually possess the skills to take on some beginning tasks, like painting walls and cabinets to very advanced projects like installing real hardwood floors or replacing kitchen cabinets or even those that involve electricity or plumbing. My neighbor is an uber-goddess of the do it yourself project. She is a true renaissance woman – attorney and mother by day, chef, plumber, electrician, painter, tile and brick layer (she and her husband built a brick oven in their back yard). Good grief, is there anything she cannot do? She has set the bar pretty high but thankfully, she is also a teacher, and is kind enough to help do a little skill transfer with those who are willing and able. I’m willing, just not able.
There must be a handy gene God forgot to give me in lieu of … something else. I’m still trying to work that one out. I can’t cook, sew, paint, or play an instrument. I did take piano lessons when I was young, with my brother and sister, and even tried the violin for a few months in the third grade, in an ill-advised attempt to groom a musical talent that my parents and siblings are still laughing about. I just don’t seem to possess any of these artistic tendencies that allow one to attack the myriad of home improvement projects that seem to keep growing each year. I try to do some of the elementary things, like paint, and even those attempts don’t turn out how I think they should in my head. There is a gap between what I think I should be able to do and what my hands actually execute. And these projects always take longer than anticipated. Isn’t that just the ugly truth of home improvement projects?
My dad had a career in construction, both residential and commercial, so when he comes to visit a few times a year, I always had him – not the ‘honey do’ list of things that have been ignored but the ‘papa please’ list of small chores that we need done and help him feel useful (he is an achiever like me – always needing a project to do). The trouble is, now after living in our home for eight years, only the big projects remain and he’d rather play with his four grandchildren than replace a crippling wooden deck or replace cracked floor tiles.
My husband also does not have the handy gene (so much for opposites attracting). I’d like to think we both make up for it in our vast intellectual abilities that would allow us to earn enough to pay someone ELSE to do these things. Outsourcing, I think it is called. I remember one request I made to Tom to change out the ceiling fan in the baby’s room. (What’s wrong with the old one? Works just fine. She won’t notice the peeling gold finish or the thunk-thunk-thunk. In fact, that might help her sleep better!) I still recall the cursing and grunting as he kept dropping the tiny screws from the top of the twelve foot ceiling down to the wood floors. Boy, those little screws sure can bounce a long way! We still have a few fans to replace throughout the house but I don’t dare ask Tom to do it and I sure won’t get up on a ladder (fear of heights!).
I learned another expression on HGTV in an episode of House Hunters. The prospective home buyers were being led by a realtor through a particularly expensive (California!) but upkeep-challenged home. A unique fixer-upper opportunity. The realtor referred to all the ‘deferred maintenance’ that would be inherited by the new home owner. I thought that was a really nice way of saying – we’ve just let things go – for now. I recently saw a movie (don’t even remember the name, it was so hokey) in which Queen Latifah (who I adore) had a ‘possibilities book’ for her life. I keep one for my home – clippings of kitchens I’d like mine to look like one day or furniture that I think would look just right in my house. Some day I’ll get to do these things – I’m hopeful but impatient to get on with the lists of projects that grows unexpectedly (like the shower tiles we now need to replace in the master bath – when did that happen?). I used to work with a fellow who liked to imagine a ‘big bucket of money’ into which you could dip your hands and pull out whatever you would need for this or that. I fantasize about a big bucket of money so I can start to make a dent in some of these. Alas for now, I'll just have to keep shouting to the kids out back 'watch out for the holes' on the deck but I’ve just got plenty of possibilities.