Cold Rain

July 25, 2017

Today is a second dark day of cold rain. Clouds wrap the mountains and fog hangs low. I wear a wool hat and sweater under my foul weather gear as I move the dripping sheep fence.

Yesterday the landscape reflected my mood: bleak. I was sad and defeated and tired to the marrow. I pushed myself through errands in town.  To their indignation, I kept the geese and chickens in the barn all day. I didn’t have the energy to weedwhack in the rain or to risk any more losses.

DH got up at 4 AM yesterday to go to New York City for a meeting. The light in the bathroom doesn’t yet work so resourcefully he showered and shaved by headlamp. He arrived home at 10:30 PM. He is tired, too. This coming weekend is the quarterly meeting of his board of trustees.

The happiness is knowing that despite setbacks and discouragement, we are in our new home and it is slowly coming together.

Better Now

July 21, 2017

The appraiser did not show up for his scheduled appointment at 2 PM. I kept working feverishly on boxes.

He called at 3:15. “How’s the house? Are your contractors finished?”

To my shock, he had forgotten the appointment, forgotten our circumstances, forgotten the careful timeline worked out with the bank, forgotten the plan for a preliminary report and a later check, forgotten everything. When I politely reminded him, he said that he would drive out within the hour and hung up.

On his arrival he was brusque to the point of rudeness. Everything about the house was a problem. Nick was tiling in the bathroom but came out to listen. As the appraiser complained about the unusual circumstances and the job ahead of him, we widened our eyes at each other in silence.

Nick went back to tiling and I trotted after the appraiser upstairs and down as he used a laser measure on each room and made notes. As we proceeded he bragged that he only worked for a few local banks as the others weren’t worth his time. When, as he was leaving, I asked him what he thought of the house, he told me his professional opinion would be delivered to the bank in a week. A person of his credentials could never venture a guess.

He drove off. The appraisal visit was over.

Though I learned nothing conclusive, I am relieved, immediately feeling as if life will be much easier now without this doom hanging over me. However I know better than to say anything. A few days ago I reassured Lucy, “Things will get better after the appraisal is done.”

She had given me a satirical look. “Mom!”


“Things will get better after I finish my reports,” she quoted me. “Things will get better once we finish moving out of the lake house. Things will get better after I’ve cleaned up from the flood —”

Come to think of it, Damon mocks this habit of mine, too. “It will be easier next week,” he’ll mimic in a falsetto. “It will be easier next year.”

What can I say? I’m obviously a cock-eyed optimist!



July 20, 2017

The appraiser comes this afternoon.

We’ve made progress.

We have cabinet pulls (and a taped luan temporary countertop).

We have second-floor stairs and stair rails (the latter increase my security far more than I would ever have guessed). The blue tape is there to protect the stairs until they can be finished.

The kids’ bathtub is tiled with simple white subway tiles and has a curved rod, as suggested by DH’s aunt, Elaine. Lucy chose the shower curtain, which has bright orange flowers on a white background. Together she and I decided on the thin tile “racing stripe” . . .

… to pick up the black in the old-fashioned black and white hex-tile floor. This bathroom’s toilet has been installed (we’re not stumbling down open stairs in the middle of the night with a headlamp any more, Deo gratias). All the vanities with sinks should be delivered soon.

I cut end braces from the scrap pile, painted them, and then cut and put together pantry shelves. It was very satisfying to this parsimonious part-Scot to be able to reuse office shelving materials I’d purchased in 1999. I haven’t yet put everything away, but now there is a place.

Siding has been almost completed on the west end of the house, and should be completed on the north face today. The big back south side has not been started. (The grey is primer paint on the boards. The house will be white.)

There has been other progress with interior painting and trim. All three bedrooms now have closet doors (not yet any doorknobs) and closet shelves.

However there still remains so much work to be done. Many floors are still covered with paper, cardboard, and tape. Half the light switches do not work. Jon and Amanda’s room is a workshop.

Our moving boxes are still stacked everywhere.

Between stints of mowing and weedwhacking, yesterday I met with two different excavation men to discuss grading around the house to direct water away from the basement. None of this can be started until the siding is up and the scaffolding can be moved. Thus the unfinished house sits in a sea of boulder piles, dirt piles, stacked siding, and materials. The porch is crowded with scaffolding, saws, and more materials.

I am very anxious. My anxiety does not seem to be shared by any of the builders, all of whom are very kind, friendly, and talented but rarely put in an eight-hour day. I hear about other projects they are working on and try not to react.

I wonder what will be the result of the appraiser’s visit.


Another Mishap

July 13, 2017

Yesterday’s plan was to install the finished stairs leading to the second floor. Nick spent hours disassembling the construction stairs and preparing for the move.  With an offset front door, there were no obvious way to bring the oak staircase into the house. It would have to be carried in on edge and there was no space large enough to lay the fourteen-foot run of stairs flat before pulling them into position. I suggested the basement, and this was what was decided. We would lift the stairs through the stairwell.

Here is the crew — Nick, his partner Amy, his father Mike, and his uncle Jerry — carrying the staircase down the bumpy slope to the basement. Knowing the oak was extremely heavy, Nick had thought ahead and designed resting spots along the way, where the stairs could be safely put down on 2x12s padded with cardboard.

And here is Nick about to climb the ladder he had fastened to the basement doorway, to gain the heights of the second floor and pull the staircase up into place through the stairwell, while the rest of us pushed from below.

It was at this point, looking down, that Nick realized the stairs would not fit through the stairwell. The bottom four feet had a four-inch return that was wider than the opening, to wrap around the wall at the foot.

The house company had apparently made a mistake. There was no way to bring the staircase into the house. Both Nick and I began calling the company, trying to reach either the owner or the architect. Our calls went straight to voicemail.

I sent emails marked URGENT! STAIRS WON’T FIT IN HOUSE! There was no response.

We broke for lunch. I was in a numb state.

At last I had a text from the owner. He was out of the office but would have the architect call Nick. Twenty minutes later Nick was talking to the architect.

Indeed, the architect was very sorry, but the stairs would not fit in the house. They would have to send materials and have Nick and Mike build a new staircase. The materials would arrive in two weeks.

Two weeks? My mortgage application would definitely be gone. Moreover DH was on his way home and for the next fortnight we would be climbing a ladder to the second floor. I continued to feel numb.

But Nick and Mike had a different idea. Nick asked my permission to try it. Of course I agreed. What was there to lose?

Using a hand-held plunge cutter, Nick carefully cut apart the stairs.

Then, with straps and a homemade brace, the top 2/3 of the staircase was lifted into position.

Even 2/3 of an oak staircase is very heavy, and now it would not sit on the first floor but must be suspended in mid-air. Luckily young Nick had arrived after summer school to help.

While all of this was going on, the lumber yard manager and kitchen designer arrived to inspect my strange cabinet and talk about a replacement. Nick’s partner Amy, a kitchen designer herself, was painting on the second floor. With no stairs, Amy climbed out a window and down the scaffolding to come help me envision alternatives.

The activity on the stairs felt very dangerous. We were all aware Nick’s strength might fail and the staircase drop to seriously injure the men and boy below. Amy — young Nick’s mother — could not watch, but between glances at cabinet drawings I would nip back and take quick shots with my phone. (My camera was mislaid in the move.)

As everyone pulled and pushed the upper stairs into position, Mike secured them with lags.

Then the same was done with the lower section. Here is Mike, bracing the two sections of the staircase together while standing on a bendy 2×8 above the basement stairs.

At last it was done.

Nick stayed at the house making adjustments to the stairs until 8 PM. He will make final tweaks tomorrow. He says that with fill and trim, I will not see the cuts (he sawed them apart just below the lip of a stair).

It was a long, upsetting day but thanks to the ingenuity and skill of Nick and Mike, we have stairs.

Maybe we won’t lose our mortgage application.


July 12, 2017

Yesterday was DH’s 65th birthday. He was working in Colorado. He flies east tonight and should get home (after a 2.5 hour drive from the airport) at around 9 PM.

I had bright dreams of having the house mostly set up on his return. Unfortunately, with the flood it’s still looking a lot like the deck of the Carpathia on April 16, 1912.

Moreover I believe today the builders are going to rip out and replace the second-floor stairs.

Still, I like a challenge. I’ve made my list. We’ll see what I can get done.

The Tipping Point

July 11, 2017

Yesterday I hit bottom with this move. Despite many setbacks I haven’t cried, but yesterday I broke down and wept. What was my tipping point?

A kitchen cabinet. Yes, really.

Months ago I worked with a lumberyard’s kitchen designer to create my cabinetry plan. Yesterday morning I was unloading the dishwasher and went to put a pan away in the pots-and-pans lower cabinet. I have had a lazy susan corner cabinet for pots and pans in every home I have lived in for the last 30 years. I believed I had ordered another for this kitchen — just as I’d purchased one for the rental apartment in 2010.

The pan would not fit.

The opening to the cabinet is 6 inches wide. The lazy susan shelves are 6 inches deep. The top shelf is two feet tall. What would one store in such a space? Spaghetti standing on end? The containers would tip over. This expensive cabinet is a completely useless waste of space.

This felt like a last straw. Once again I’d paid a professional and been snookered as a fool. I burst into sobs and cried and cried. I think Lucy was deeply alarmed. (I know kitchen cabinets are a first world problem. I am aware of how privileged I am. But I am tired.)

I think that was my low point. After barn chores I changed my clothes, drove the dogs to the vet, and stopped to buy a 9V battery to build pantry shelves.

Moving Forward

July 10, 2017

I mowed for five hours yesterday. The “lawn” and fields have looked pathetic with long, scraggly grass and weeds. They are covered with hay mulch now and don’t look much better. However it was relaxing to mow (how wonderful to accomplish something big without having to make a decision!) and I am pleased — in years past I paid for hay to enrich my poor soil — and feel satisfied to have put a first stake in the ground to move us toward tidiness. Outdoor tidiness, at least.

Indoors continues to look like the aftermath of a shipwreck. There is not a single room that reflects order or normalcy. In the basement, dehumidifier, fans, and heaters are roaring. Upstairs, leaning stacks of opened, disheveled moving boxes are everywhere, plus construction materials. Books are piled across the living room between rolled rugs. A mountain of clothes are dumped on our bed. Furniture stands away from the walls until trim can be installed. The floors are covered with brown paper and cardboard, now dirty and ripped. The open construction stairs are gritty with sheetrock dust. All of this is what I should have worked on yesterday. However I had no heart for it. Looking at the sea of mess it is difficult to know where to begin.

I thought I would start by building the pantry so I could put food and appliances away in the kitchen. There is not a working light in that walk-in closet, but I dug out a headlamp. I removed a dozen boxes stacked against the walls. I found my drill and my shelf brackets. I’d bought a new stud finder (my old one is buried somewhere in the garage) and had my shelf boards ready to cut to length.

Oops, the stud finder requires a 9V battery. In yesterday’s exhaustion, that setback was enough to end my effort.

I did figure out what was wrong with the dishwasher. The water valve had never been opened. (I prayed I had not burned up the new unit by operating it without water, but so far it seems OK.) Unfortunately now I have to unload it, which means making decisions about where everything will be put away. To complicate matters, during the flood Lucy and Amy unpacked wet items into the cabinets, which means before I can unload the dishwasher I must first unpack the cabinets of this random stuff (earthenware bowls for forcing bulbs, anyone?). To unpack the cabinets I will have to clear at least a section of the jumbled, stacked counters. To clear the stacked counters it would be helpful to have pantry shelves.

Every task seems to require multiple steps to accomplish. So much easier, yesterday, to mow!

However, today I must face it.

It is going to be humiliating to have the workmen walking through all my spaces when everything is such a hopeless, messy, vulnerable disaster. Just the thought makes me shrivel.

Buckle up, buttercup! I tell myself sternly. You don’t have time for useless emotion. Besides, at a certain level all of this is their fault. The house was supposed to be finished June 30.

On that note, today I have to call my mortgage officer. It is evident to me that there is no way we can meet even the extended deadline for an appraisal (July 15). I don’t know what this will mean and I am too tired to speculate. But I assume it will not be good news.

Sufficient unto the day are the worries thereof. Apart from dealing with the bank and the insurance company, today I am going to try to focus my energy on the kitchen. I’ll start by buying a 9V battery when I take the dogs to be safe at the vet.