Wednesday, October 23, 2013


My dad had a milestone birthday yesterday, so I called him and said "happy birthday, old man!" and he laughed and told me, unprompted, about his latest medical procedures.

We got a new water heater on Monday. It makes the hottest water ever and suddenly my showers are GLORIOUS. The old one was doing a slow leak onto the basement concrete. It was rusting out at the bottom. "They're warrantied for 10 years, usually," the technician told us. "But you know yours is 23 years old?" Way to overachieve, water heater. I could have begun taking glorious showers years ago.

But our master bathroom doesn't have an exhaust fan. Why? Nobody knows. It never much mattered, but GLORIOUS HOT SHOWERS: we might need to install an exhaust fan now because I am not relenting on the hot-water knob.

You guys, that was just a metaphor for simplicity. We don't have a knob. We have this fancy lever-thingie, just one piece, angle this way for cold and that way for hot; and it grows like a shiny tumor out of this other single lever, just one piece, angle this way for on and that way for off. We got that new handle a couple of months ago after we had to rebuild the walls of our master shower from the studs up because lukewarm shower water was running through the rotted walls and onto and through our kitchen ceiling.

Today a different technician came out for the seasonal cleaning of the heating unit because winter is cold and I really hate to be cold. He told us it's not an issue yet but our c. 2001 heating/cooling unit runs on freon, which is now illegal except as replacement fluid, and servicing this puppy is about to get expensive. So we don't need to do anything yet, said Technician Guy, but we should start considering replacing the unit. Oh, they're anywhere from five to fifteen thousand dollars. No bigs.

All I want in home improvement, by the way, is to get the ugly hall wallpaper stripped and painted. 2013 was going to be the year of no more wallpaper, but instead it became the year of new teeth. We spend gazillions of dollars in invisible improvements and I still have to stare at that wallpaper. Teeth before wallpaper: the ultimate in grown-up fiduciary thinking.

So I gulped. And gulped. And started to see an opportunity? Because what if...while we replace the unit we also adjust its location by a few feet? What's involved in that? Because when we bought this house eight years ago (eight years ago!), Home Inspector Guy told us that the back deck wasn't built up to code. It doesn't have proper concrete footers and it's slowly pulling away from the house and also sinking.

So eight years ago (eight years ago!) we made the decision to invest no money in the deck, since it was going to crash any minute anyway. We haven't stained it or sealed it or any of those responsible things, and indeed it is sinking, but way more slowly than Home Inspector Guy led us to anticipate. All that means is that I've spent eight years daydreaming about what the deck would be shaped like if I got to decide what it looked like, instead of Corner-Cutting Former Homeowner Guys. And my very second-favorite scenario can only be built if we...wait for it...move the heating unit(s!)!!

(My first-favorite scenario involves bumping out the whole back wall of the house, expanding the kitchen and dining room, building me a sewing nook off the dining room (with French doors) where a huge but useless holly (I think) currently stands, and expanding our shower-only master bathroom to a shower-and-tub happier master bathroom, with room for a reading area in our bedroom; all of which, due to the reconfiguration of the whole backside of the house, would necessitate a new deck, obviously.)

(So we're only dreaming as high as Plan B for now.)

Tonight I'm headed to a committee meeting. It's the first meeting of this convening committee and somehow I find myself involved. It's a synagogue committee and for a long time I avoided being involved, first because I was too annoyed with how things were run and who was involved, and then because my kids needed me next to them more than they needed me running things (and it's totally not a contest, but my kids are more anxious than your kids (two of them are, anyway) and I win).

At the beginning of this year we switched synagogues and instantly I was no longer annoyed, but I had too many New Girl Feelings. But then I was asked to join a committee and I had to face down my excuses, the main one being that my kids, even the two anxious ones, don't need me all the time anymore. They're getting bigger, it seems, and accordingly more self-reliant. And so I'm available. So I've set aside a dozen years of no-thinking and said yes. That's so grown up of me, yes?

I always think I still feel 19 in my head. But I had a realization this week that maybe I no longer do. All this very unexciting grown-up money spending on house stuff. I said yes to a thing I've said no to for years. My dad is standard-issue retirement age. My mom is about to have her first knee-replacement surgery. My brother, ladies and gentlemen, after 16 years of college, just finished his PhD this month (okay, not really, he still has revisions. But almost!). My kids are getting big enough not to constantly need me. (That's a revelation all in itself, isn't it?) And you all know the lovely husband wears fake teeth.  

I heard an 88-year-old woman call into a radio show yesterday and say that 80 is the new 60. I liked her! I might be the latest of the late bloomers (I'll be 37 in two months) just now starting to feel in my head like an adult, but her concept that youthfulness is what you make of it is encouraging. It means I met yet see the day that the wallpaper comes down.

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