Welcome to my running commentary on life.

Welcome to my running commentary on life.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Of Simple Renovations and Other Traps Set by Satan




Simple? Allow me to describe this simple reno. It started in early August. I had the bright idea that seventeen years of living in this house now required a major cleanup job. I’m not talking about knocking out walls and building rooms. I’m talking about cleanup, paint, refurbishment of already existing walls and fixtures.

First of all, flocked ceilings. I truly would like to know who the sadistic, lazy ass was who invented this stuff. What person has not looked up at one time or another at the discolored popcorn hanging over their heads and said, “How do I fix this?”

Well, dude-meister on YouTube said to tape a spackling knife to the nozzle of a shop vac and vacuum the ceiling. It seemed to work well enough, but it took days—even with a dear friend and co-writer helping me. A little bright white paint later—also applied by JJ Gasparin—and the kitchen and dining room had new ceilings. It took me longer to do the hallways, but that’s because I don’t have JJ’s goliath height and nine-foot reach. I’m 5’4”. I had a ladder.

Then there were the kitchen cabinets. I think they were installed at some point in the 70’s. I’ve been using the kitchen for seventeen years. People who know me know I cook. Really cook. From scratch and everything. Hence the expensive appliances I purchased back in April. I deserve the best—at least that’s what I told my husband when he balked at the price. (It’s the new appliances that started this mess. They looked like three Cadillacs sitting in the middle of tarpaper shacks.)

But I digress. Back to the dilapidated cabinets. I had restored the finish a couple of years back, but it was no good. They were worn, scared and in need of replacement—but who has the money, right? So, I decided it would be best to paint them.

Ever wanted to know what it takes to paint finished wood cabinets that live in a house where someone cooks for real? Well, first, you have to degrease. That is, you scrub. You scrub until your fingers bleed. No, really. They bleed. I even bought one of those horrendous, bad-for-the-environment, skin-melting chemical compounds guaranteed to make the mess disappear. Yeah, no. It didn’t work. I was down to Brillo and brutally hot water. My fingers bled. Taking pity on me, the husband even decided to help on one of the many days I worked the project. After that day, he realized just how hard the work was and decided to see to our meals.

Then the doors and hardware have to be removed, and every square inch has to be sanded. Thoroughly. The hardware went into the trash. I refused to clean it and put it back up. No way.

Oh, and here’s a lesson: While your mother is in to help with the painting, don’t allow your 15-year-old daughter and her 18-year-old cousin to paint the cabinet doors in the garage. With the door open. With their long hair unbound. With the little doggie running wild over the freshly-painted panels. If you do this, you will spend the next week re-sanding and repainting, that is, after you scrape all the hair and dirt off. I’ll admit, the puppy prints were somewhat cute, but not on kitchen cabinet doors. Also, when you tell them to be careful not to get paint on the inner side of the door, make sure they understand you. Apparently, that instruction translates to, “Don’t worry. Mom’s just kidding. Make as big a mess of it as you want.” Thusly translated, you get smears and globs to look at when you open the doors. I’ll fix that mess later. I don’t know how, but I’ll fix it.

Once all the painting was done there was the reassembly. Allow me to describe this special ring of hell. First of all, the old-fashioned hardware is no longer available. One cannot simply buy the same hinges and put the screws in the same holes. Oh, hell, no. You have to figure out a way to apply the new hardware, perfectly line up each freaking door and shove the screws into the wood without an extra set of hands to help hold it in place—and in my case, no experience doing same. If you make a mistake, you have to take it back down, putty the holes, repaint and scream. In that order. (The scream is necessary to inform all those in the household who don’t bother to help that they should stay far away lest they get a cabinet door drilled into their backs with Mama’s handy-dandy power driver. It’s very effective.)

Owing to various levels of frustration—or rather my inability to function at the level of frustration the hardware issue caused me—it took me a couple of weeks to accomplish the reassembly. This was frustrating on its own. Then it was time to go through everything I had removed from the kitchen and dining room and decide what would go back up on the walls and what would be disposed of. In the end, some things went to the attic, some to the dump, and some to charity. I went to the store and bought all new decorations. Three items, in fact. Just three that would enhance the gorgeous mural my daughter painted for me some weeks before. I chose three giant flower wall hangers done in brightly painted steel. They’re pretty cool-looking and very simple. Picture perfect and finished.

Except for the countertops I had to order and the new chandelier that’s still in the trunk of my car.

By this time, August and September are gone. There is still the guest bath and the living room yet to go. Oh, joy. I’m so out of steam.

Living room redo started with the removal of some furniture for disposal. I had planned to donate it all, but unfortunately, the day I moved said pieces outside to be loaded on the truck and hauled away, we got a tornado. I was on the phone when it hit. (I work from home, for a health insurance call center, adjusting claims and quoting benefits for healthcare providers.) The nice gentleman with whom I was speaking, judging by his accent, was from somewhere in the Middle East. It was obvious he had no experience with tornadoes as when the sirens and radio alarms started going off and I told him I had to get off the phone to seek shelter, he became a bit miffed. I had hoped to get the humongous desk under cover before the storm hit, but he wasn’t having it. He wanted his information, so I tried to throw it at him quickly. He failed to get it all and told me to repeat. Just then, the wind crashed through my open window and sent the desk flying. I told him I wasn’t going to die for his information and to write more quickly next time. I disconnected and dove for cover—after closing the window and making sure I knew where the dog was.

Buh-bye desk. Fortunately, that was the only damage. Sigh. It was a nice desk. Past tense.

Screw it. Off to the dump with what’s left. Sounds like a job for super husband and his trusty sidekick, the princess. He was not pleased. When he started to argue, I gave him the look. I think I’ve explained in a previous post about the look. It’s enough to drop the most stalwart of men and children in their tracks. Funny how it doesn’t work on other mothers, though. Anyway, he clamped his mouth shut and hollered for the kid to help. They were off, and I was scraping ceilings again. Oh, what sheer joy. Before and after work, scrape ceilings. Remove things from walls, scrape ceilings. Patch holes, repair cracks, scrape ceilings. Sand patches, scrape ceilings. The walls are now ready for painting, but first, the ceilings have to be painted.

In the bathroom, I used the same paint I’d used in the other rooms. For the living room, I wanted something a little more dull and flat, so I bought a different kind. Today was the day. Today I was going to get my new countertops delivered. Today.

I took today off so I could be ready for the installers. I also had to paint the damned ceiling in the living room.

O . . . kay. So the day did not go so well. The installers arrived on time. The plumbers arrived yesterday to disconnect everything. I had spent a couple of hours clearing everything out of the way and removing items from cabinets. Bar stools and chairs were carried out to make room, and I was ready. They showed—two very nice gentlemen with winning smiles and good attitudes. I knew this was going to be great. I was excited. Face it; the old counters are more than 40 years old. They are a hideous wood-grain laminate that is currently disintegrating into horror. My horror. Embarrassing horror. No way I’m cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for the multitudes with this mess.

They pulled all the counters out. There was much noise. There was much grunting; then they began pulling things out. I should also mention that I told them about the nightmare of getting all the cabinets and walls repaired and painted, and I told them the penalty should they mar same. They were very careful.

Then they brought in the first new piece and put it in place. It was gorgeous. I was so pleased. While they were outside wrestling with the really big, main piece, I decided to look inside the now-exposed corner lazy susans. Well, I discovered where the mice had gotten into the kitchen last year during the first freeze. I also discovered where they had nested and grabbed the vacuum. I had it all cleaned up and had returned to my work in the living room by the time they had returned.

They came through the front door with a behemoth of a counter top. I stopped them. That wasn’t the sink I had ordered. It was wrong. I glanced at my naked kitchen with no plumbing. I looked back at them. Their faces fell. They were no longer smiling. They looked at the orders. Yep, the sink was wrong. The massive manufactured, fitted stone counter top had the wrong sink, and I was less than pleased. I tried to remain cool about it, but I didn’t want it. There was a real reason I had ordered the perfect sink. I needed it.

A few phone calls later, the crestfallen men loaded the thing back onto the truck. They decided to bring back that hideous old piece of crap I wanted so badly to be rid of and set it in place—leaving one stretch of cabinets with no cover at all.

Now, I have no plumbing, one missing counter and old, dilapidated crap. Not. Going. To. Tear. Their. Hearts. Out.

Shake it off. Paint the ceiling. Yell at the manager later.

So, back to that different paint I bought. Um . . . Dutch Boy, what the hell were you thinking? You tried to “out-technology” the competitors. You should have just stuck to making paint. Why do you have to make something with “color-changing technology?”

Here’s what happened. I used all the paint—ALL the paint—on just one third of the ceiling. I ran out while I was applying the third coat on one corner. Yes, I said third coat. The paint didn’t cover well at all. When it changed color from the hideous pink to what was supposed to be a flat white, it turned light brown. Well, hell. My old, popcorn-flocked ceilings were brown. That’s why I had gone to all the trouble of scraping them off.

Damn.

Off to the store to find something better. I talked to the paint guru. He recommended a different Dutch Boy. I had used this brand many times and had always been happy, but I was leery. Still, I took it home and got to work. In most places, it only took one coat. I really like that. In most places.

I was almost finished when a large glob of paint dripped and hit me square in the right eye. Let me tell you, people; there is no hell like the ninth ring of paint clinging to your eyeball. There is no known eyewash that can remove same. The horror! The humanity! The cursing . . . I invented words. My eye currently looks like a large cranberry with a brown spot in the center. Grand.

Back to work. I finished at last, or so I thought. The now-dry technological failure kept bleeding through on the first third. No matter how good the rest of it looked, that first third looked dirty.

Sigh.

Damn, again.

Okay, another major disappointment. The sun was down, and I was tired. I called it done for the day. I decided to let it go until Saturday when Mom is to come to help me paint walls. I would just do a quick coat and move on to walls.

I took up tarps. I took a shower. I moved remaining furniture around to make it livable.

Then I looked up. I heard a sound faintly reminiscent of dried leaves crackling and looked up. I should never have looked up. The ugly brown bleed-through paint was cracking. It was flaking. It was falling. The only place on the ceiling it was doing it was where that first gallon of crappy “high-technology” paint was bleeding through. Apparently, the only thing the paint doesn’t stick to is ceilings. No, really. It’s true.

It clings to my skin, which I have scrubbed raw, my hair where it has become permanent, the hardwood floor where it was tracked by the husband, and the inside of my right eyelid, where it is still burning. If you put it on your ceiling, it just comes off in big flakes.

I’m going to let Mom deal with it. I also have half a mind to sic her on the counter top people. I’m so done.

I also broke my crock pot.

And I’m out of tequila.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Gardening in the Rain


Mom gave me over a hundred flower bulbs. It was time to replace her tulips, so of course she ordered enough bulbs to populate the Netherlands. My mother is a generous person. She felt I needed about a hundred of them.

Thanks, Mom.

So, there I was with a big crate of every kind of bulb I ever wanted to plant and no time to do it. My plan was to have them in the ground by mid-October. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men . . .

October came and went. As from my former post, you remember what happens when you wait too late in the state of Illinois to do an outdoor project. I still have frostbite on my ass from that one.

The problem was more than time. The summer had been hot and dry, and the ground had been baked to a brick-like consistency. So, I needed to wait for a little rain.

A little rain.

It was too cold the day I cleaned the flue on the roof. It was too cold and icy to do much at all. I needed to wait. Hey, the weather man said it would warm up. He also said it would rain almost non-stop.

Like without stopping.

But Mom had given me a crate of expensive bulbs. Before the bulbs could go in, I had to take out the tomato beds. The wood was rotting. The beds were full of fungus from the wet spring, the kind that infests tomato plants and makes them die. So no tomatoes could be planted there again. So they had to come out.

When I put them in a few years back, I put in a potent mix of well over 2000 lbs of organic materials to grow my lovely veggies. Each year before planting, I mixed in another 250-500 lbs. I figured, after some run-off and whatnot, there was probably still 2500 lbs of soil to move. Removing the rotting wood took little effort. One sharp whack with a hammer and the wood falls away.

Yesterday dawned drearily, but the rain had stopped. It wasn’t a heavy rain all week. It was a drippy, drizzly rain that soaked into the bones, but not the kind that fully saturates the ground. It does, however, soften it enough to actually drive a spade into it without killing oneself.

So, yesterday I started. I knocked down one box, carted the soil away—a wheelbarrow at a time—and worked the area, put in 28 bulbs in the cold wind and quit. It was too chilly, too windy to carry on.

Which meant my extra day off was going to be hell. I needed to cart off another 1500 lbs of dirt, break down the box, put in two more tulip beds and a bed of annis, various hyacinth, daffodils and whatever else was in the crate.

Then get Christmas lights down from the attic, string them up, put up the deer and other display lights. So much for reading that book I have sitting on the table. Sigh.

The wheelbarrow is rickety. It’s only 30 years old. The ground is wet. No, it’s a slog of mud. The grass is wetter. The mud is slick. The shovelfuls are heavy.

I was on my fourth load in the wheelbarrow. I was moving the soil to various low spots—anywhere where I could get rid of it. That’s a lot of dirt to dispose of, but I was determined.

My muscles screamed, still sore from the day before. My back was telling me no more. My boots were soaked through and heavy with thick globs of mud and wet leaves. It was like carrying around 10 lbs of cement on my feet, and my feet were freezing.

The fourth load was especially heavy. For some reason, I failed to remember how rickety the wheelbarrow was. So, I was moving the load, moving fast because it was heavy.

The handle snapped off at the base. It sheered away under a couple hundred pounds of muddy garden mix. The other handle was intact, so the barrel immediately listed sideways, causing me to over-correct, which caused the barrel to drop to the ground at a dead stop.

I failed to stop. I failed to stop when my pelvic bone came into contact with the lip of the barrel. I failed to stop when I went down into the mud in the bowl. Ah, I just love the flavor of organic, composted shit in the morning.

So, wiped the mud from my face, spit out a mouthful of sphagnum and manure laced with vermiculite, and crippled the barrel over to my next dump spot.

Time for a break.

I hate my neighbor. He said, “Hey, why didn’t you come get me? I would have used my in-loader to move all that for you.

Yeah, I hate him and his kind offer. I guess my deer-in-the-headlights look with black mud streaking my face and hair, not to mention the copious amounts coating my clothes and boots, must have been comical. He launched into a belly laugh that would make Merry Ol’ St. Nick envious.

“Too late?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

I was done moving dirt, so it was time to plant. Bulb diggers are fabulous tools. I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to plant bulbs. You plunge them into the soil, twist, pull, and you have a perfect hole.

I recommend you spend more than a two dollars like I did. On my second row of bulbs, the digger split down the middle, flew apart and sent me face first into the freshly turned mud.

Yummy.

This time, it went up my nose. Not to worry. I always carry tissues when digging in the mud on cold, rainy days.

Yes, it started raining again. Lovely. Four tissues later, I pieced the cheap POS back together and went back to planting. The dog was howling. She hates rain. She wanted in the house, her little body shivering while her cute button eyes looked at me with an expression pure hatred. On my feet again, over to the door, let the dog in.

I noticed every time I knelt and climbed back up; it was becoming more difficult. Each movement elicited old lady grunts from my throat; each reach, a groan.

I sneezed out another load of mud.

When the large tulip bed was finally finished, the neighbor yelled over to ask if I wanted him to send over his boys to help. These are great boys. They are everything true boys should be, but I couldn’t stand the thought of mud balls decorating my siding, so I declined.

On to the next flower bed. It was on the south side of the house, so I figured I would catch less of the breeze. I was soaked to the skin, my hair clinging to my muddy face and neck. It kept getting into my eyes, so I brushed it back with muddy gloves.

Oh, hell. Who cares at this point?

The drizzle stopped. For like a minute. Then it rained. It really rained. Like a downpour. I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Nothing was going to stop me from planting all those daffodils, tulips, annis, crocuses and hyacinths. I shall be victorious!

The neighbor on the south side pulled in. Upon seeing the broken wheelbarrow lying on its side like a beached whale, he offered me his. His response was my turning my mud-covered face in his general direction and offering him a sneer.

I can still hear him laughing. He started laughing as he walked away. He laughed as he entered his garage and closed the door. He was still laughing so loudly when he entered his house that I could hear him in my yard. He’s still chuckling. I hear it now.

Finally, with all the daffodils, hyacinth and crocuses in, it was time to move to the big garden in the front yard. I’d dumped a lot of dirt there. So, off I trudged with my crate of bulbs, my mud-caked cell phone, and equally muddy mini-speaker, and headed that way. On the wet, muddy oak leaves scattered over the wet, muddy grass. I’m not sure I even managed to find all the bulbs that flew through the air with the greatest of ease when my feet took wing and escaped from gravity. The back of my head landed in the freshly turned mud, causing four bulbs to squeeze out of the ground like toothpaste from a tube.

Come to think of it, that might be why the neighbor is still laughing.

Anyway, I hauled my wet, muddy ass up, picked up the crate, hurled into the driveway with all my failing strength, threw the spade like a javelin, embedding it in the ground more than 40 feet away, kicked the crippled wheelbarrow, possibly broke a toe and set a new record in colorful curses that ranged in the realm of multilingual. My Cherokee grandmother would be so mortified.

With renewed hatred for the task I had taken on, like a woman possessed, I dug what I could find of the numerous bulbs from the wet grass and leaves, marched to the last of the flowerbeds, dug so hard mud was slung into the street and shoved those accursed bulbs into place. I was done.

I also managed to get one lighted decoration from the attic when I discovered I could no longer climb the ladder or pull any heavy boxes down. It was all I had to give. I was so far past done.

Now there’s a trail of mud—and a little blood—blazed through the house, and the water heater is out of hot water, I feel like I was trampled by a herd of moose. It’s not an ache, exactly. It’s more like a burning, blazing fire through every fiber of muscles in my body. My joints won’t bend properly, and there’s a distinct possibly I may have cracked my coccyx.

Those blessed flowers had better be worth it, and spring had better bring plenty of colors.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

In Today’s Episode of the Joys of Home Ownership . . .




The writing partner chose this time to go away on a much-needed vacation. My husband cringed.

Why cringe, you ask? Because when I’m not spending my weekends writing, editing and working on publishing projects, I have The List. And because I spend so many weekends on my writing projects, The List grows long.

Partner JJ, the husband is gunning for you.

This weekend’s list was grueling, but since Saturday brought snow and ice, the chores outside had to wait. The day was spent pursuing a level of cleanliness this home has not experienced during the very busy summer months. When I hit the ground running, the family had better hop-to, because Mama ain’t kiddin’.

So, each member of the household was assigned chores. Mama said, “No grumbling, or life as you know it is over.” The grumbling went on, of course, but by the time the dust had settled, I was almost satisfied with the shininess.

Almost.

Hey, I’m a woman. Nothing is ever clean enough—but we were close, and we were tired. I called a halt. You’d think the husband had been released on early furlough. Never mind that in the middle of the cleaning frenzy, he suddenly decided it was time to take a gallon of loose change to the bank to find out how much cash he could get. The kid acted like she’d been worked to death, never mind that while she spent much of her time cleaning her room; somehow the rest of the house was magically finished without her. Mama was done for the day.

That brings us to Sunday—and back to The List. Now, there are few things that frighten a husband more (at least in this household) than roof work. Yes, that’s right. Work needed to be done on the roof. Being a self-sufficient DIY-type gal, I feel small projects do not require a phone call to some handy-dandy repair dude that’s going to charge a hunny just to look at something.

No, this type of work could be handled by us—and by us, I mean me. This involves the man standing at ground level, holding the ladder, cringing constantly, spouting needless words of caution, running for tools I don’t have in hand, sighing constantly at having his Sunday disrupted, whining on occasion about how cold it is standing under the shelter of the house’s eaves, and generally driving me to the point of distraction. I have to point out that I’m on top of the roof, which is wet and slick, and the more he distracts me, the more danger I’m in.

He grumbles more, which makes me wonder if he wants me to fall and break my neck. It’s possible. After all, if I’m in the hospital or the bone yard, he wouldn’t be out in the cold watching me working on the roof.

Nah, he wouldn’t do that. That’s more my M.O.

Anyway, the work on the roof included clearing autumn from the gutter caps and cleaning the chimney. Ditch your romantic images of a Dickens chimney sweep. There’s nothing nostalgic or even competent about my abilities as a chimney sweep. It’s just something that has to be done and I fumble my way through it.

The flue cap has to be loosened and removed, the long chimney brush must be inserted and the flue scrubbed until I feel as if my arms will come off. Think really big butter churn that must be pumped about a hundred times while one is perched precariously on the apex of steep roof.

So, up the ladder I went. “Be careful,” he said before my foot was on the second rung. The long steel brush in my hand almost fell on his head while I thought, Actually, I was thinking of doing a swan dive when I get to the top. Do you think you can catch me?

I didn’t say the words—or the oh-so-vicious other things that came to mind—but it boiled down to: well, duh. Once at the top, I laid the brush on the shingles and pulled myself over the edge.

“Don’t kneel on the gutters,” he said.

Seriously? How stupid does this guy think I am? Of course, I asked him as much. Of course, he reminded me that I had married him. Point taken.

As I said, it had snowed the day before. As with most early snows in this part of Illinois, it was gone by the time I decided to embark on the miserable project. It didn’t mean the roof was dry, or that the wind wasn’t cold. It just meant no snow and ice on the roof. It was still slick. It was still wet. It was still freezing cold.

Now, normally, I do this chore a month earlier, but time had gotten away from me. I wanted to light a fire, but didn’t dare. The child whined for a cozy fire, so there I was, in the chilling wind, staring at a flue cap that was higher than my waist. With a morbid sigh, I looked the situation over.

There are layers of skirts that are held with tension over the top of the chimney. Think large Christmas tree with a table-like flat top. I’ve often thought it would be a good place for a picnic, but . . .

The tension comes in the form of two sets of brackets held together with screws, washers and nuts. The bottom skirt has to be loosened and lowered. The next layer has to loosened and the assembly can be lifted away.

As luck would have it, the bottom piece fell away easily. On to the next. The next was not such a sure thing. Now, don’t tell the husband this part, but while I was working on it, my foot slipped on the wet shingles and—just for the briefest of moments—I almost saw the ground coming up to meet me. Believe me, friends, this is not something anyone wants to experience. I righted myself, wiped my suddenly sweaty brow in the freezing wind, and took a deep, steadying breath.

There was nothing for it but to sit on the cold, wet surface so I could better see what I was doing and approach from an improved angle. My butt will never be warm again—even with a fire in the fireplace. Seriously, you could freeze ice on my ass.

So, now sitting beyond my husband’s view as he stepped backwards to look, he thought I’d fallen and yelled. Of course this freaked me out, so I dropped my screwdriver and it rolled off the opposite side of the roof. At that moment, I kind of wished it had dropped the other way and landed on his head.

Oh, come on. You all know I have a vindictive side.

So, there was a fair amount of cursing under my breath and a responding yell that I was fine. And not to worry, being my daddy’s daughter, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the spare screwdriver, muttered a few things about how I hoped he’d keep his mouth shut and went back to work. The screw wouldn’t budge. The nut was frozen tight. I reached for the wrench in my other pocket, but realized I’d left it on the work bench in the garage.

On my feet again, I climbed over the peak and down toward the waiting man. I told him what I needed. He answered by telling me to be careful and went to get the tool. He came back, handed it up to me and told me to be careful.

Back up over the top of the roof and back to work. But it didn’t work. I struggled, cursed, struggled some more. Back to the edge of the roof. “I need the W-D.”

He went for the spray lube and told me to be careful. When he brought it back, and I stood to go back up, he told me to be careful. I almost dropped the can on his head, and smiled at him.

I sprayed and worked, sprayed and fought. I hit the nut with the wrench a few times, sprayed it again and tried once more. (Hey, smacking it around works on the threads of pickle jar, so I thought it couldn’t hurt.) The head of the screw wallowed out to the point there was no way it was going anywhere.

He asked what was wrong. When I told him, he told me to be careful. Peeling my frozen posterior from the shingles, I made my way back to the ladder. He told me to be careful. I told him to shut up and hold the ladder.

So, it was off to the hardware store for new screws, nuts and washers, then to Harbor Freight to see what tools they had which might cut through the mess.   

Now, my husband likes tools. It’s a guy thing, I suppose. He has a nice, small array of tools. He’s proud of them and likes to show them off from time to time, but I’m the one who uses them most. The husband is brilliant at his job, is much-respected by those in the printing industry because he’s a true artist and craftsman.

What he’s not is handy around the house. Most repair work is done by his wife who isn’t afraid of it and has no qualms about possibly screwing it up. I do minor plumbing and electrical work, can drive a nail straight, operate power tools with a fair amount of proficiency and truly enjoy working with my hands. That’s my thing.

But his tools did not yield anything with the capacity to cut through a stubborn screw. At Harbor Freight we found a lovely oscillating multifunction power tool. I bought the cutting attachment and back to the house we went.
In the scant hour we were gone, the temperature must have dropped ten degrees. The wind had a real bite to it and I was not looking forward to getting back on the roof. The sun was lower, the breeze higher, and somehow, the shingles looked wetter. Bummer.

After assembling the tool and finding a bucket to put all the tools in I’d left on the roof, I started in on the squirming mass of extension cords kept so precariously piled in a corner of the garage. I think there were five of them tangled up together. This is where knowing how to curse properly really comes in handy. I cursed, I snarled, I slapped the husband’s hand when he reached in to help.

Poor guy.

Once done, I climbed back up, pulled up the cord and the bucket with my new power tool nestled in it. He told me to be careful and I whipped the cord out just hard enough to strike the side of his head. With a smiling apology, I walked up over the top of the slick roof and realized it was starting to ice over. Fabulous.

I sat my already-wet butt down and it froze to the ice on the shingles. Now, this new tool is a jim-dandy. When I turned it on, it sounded as if it would cut through a diamond. With a grin, I went to work, but the grin soon fell away. No matter how hard the thing oscillated, it wouldn’t cut through the screw.

He must have heard me drop the mother of all curses because he yelled up, demanded to know what was up. When I told him, he said he’d hire someone in the morning to come do it. Oh, hell, no. There was no way this thing was going to beat me—and no way I’m paying someone to do something I can do.

With a savage and barbarous battle cry, I went after the rusted nut. I drove the tool into it over and over until it disintegrated and dissolved away.

He heard my cry of victory and told me to be careful. I muttered something under my breath about where he could bite me and lifted the cap away. By this time, I was worn out. Fighting cold wind and frozen hands, I retrieved the heavy brush and started scrubbing the flue. He yelled at me to be careful. I almost kicked the bucket of heavy tools over to drop on his head.

He disappeared, but before he left, told me to be careful. When he came back out, he told me he didn’t see any soot falling into the fireplace. The glass doors over the hearth had been sealed with masking tape, so the soot wouldn’t leak out. I knew he wouldn’t be able to see it. Soot is blacker than midnight under a skillet, to quote a friend of mine from Texas, so falling into a blackened hearth would be nearly invisible. I knew the thing was getting clean, from the copious amounts of sooty dust flying out in the wind.

He told me to be careful.

I finished scrubbing, laid the brush aside and reassembled the cap. I had yet to do the gutters. There is only one area where the gutters have an issue. It’s a corner of the roof right over the door. When it clogs up, rain pours down over the stoop. It was next of my hit list.

After unplugging the multi-tool, I let go of the extension cord and let it slide down over the roof. Apparently, the husband thought it was me falling, whipped his head around and stared up at the top of the roof. I smiled down and told him, “Heads up.”

He was not amused. He told me to be careful.

As I handed the brush down to him, he told me to be careful. I let it fall and it almost landed on his head. He accused me of doing it on purpose. I smiled innocently.

He held the ladder, but I didn’t climb down. I went to work on the gutters. He told me to be careful. I growled at him as I sat down. My butt stuck to the frozen shingles as I worked. A large glob of sludge hit his glasses.

“Oops, sorry, honey.”

“Don’t step on the gutter,” he said. “You’ll break it. Be careful.”

Another glob landed on his head. Then the chore was done. I lowered a foot to the ladder and he stared at me. I put my foot on the ladder and gave it a shake. He stared at me.

“Are you going to hold the ladder?” I asked.

“Nope.” He grinned at me while picking the last of rotting leaves from his hair.

I cocked a brow at him and reached for the ladder. When he saw I meant to climb down without his help, he jumped at the ladder and held it steady. I handed him the bucket of tools and down I went.

Now, sitting in front of the fire, wrapped in a blanket with a heating pad under my frost-bitten ass, I’m wondering which of us will cook dinner. You know it’s going to be me. Sigh.

I need tequila.