A Very Large Toolbox

In 1997 we purchased a home…a nice home that needed some work. We were not put off by the orange shag carpet, or the hall chandelier from the Brady bunch era or the endless wallpaper that would all need to be removed. This was our dream home.

All right, before we go any further, this was not our dream home. It was my husband’s dream home. I wanted to wait until we could get a home that wouldn’t need so much remodeling. I remember pointing out to him that the lower level paneling was buckled and I was concerned about water down there. But, it didn’t matter…he insisted…he would not be a renter! So, at this point I was simply agreeing to it because it came with an inground swimming pool in the back yard and a decent kitchen. So, I said ok.

We had both agreed that we would take things slow and not kill ourselves over all the remodeling that we would want to do. I must admit, once the seven-page to-do list landed on the front of the fridge, I knew I was about to lose ten years off of my life!

As you might expect, we chipped away at that large to-do list on nights and on weekends. We would lie in bed at night and we were both in pain, yes, we had overdone it yet again. Each time it seemed, we would promise each other that we needed to stop doing this to ourselves. This house was surely going to kill us! Sure enough, the very next weekend, we were at it again.

I remember a weekend that hubby decided to rip down some old trees in our yard. Yes, that’s what I said. I recall him tying a rope to his truck and tugging it. I also remember the wonderful sense of accomplishment I shared with him when the trees were safely on the ground. Only then did I realize that the mere fact that we could literally not see our green grass through all of the tree branches, trunk pieces and sticks all over our yard was, well, a bad sign. I knew it was bad because it meant that the two of us had days of clean up to do and we were exhausted. We piled it all into manageable piles, enough to keep the neighbors from putting their surrounding homes up for sale. The next morning, we were at it again. It was now clean-up time. We would load up hubby’s pick up truck and we would take turns driving it down to a huge vacant area that the whole neighborhood used to discard of such items. Once there, I realized I had to drag all of the crap (technical term) off of the back of the truck and thrust it over the hill. By the time I got back into the empty truck I wanted to cry. Then I started driving back to our house and something just kept telling me to hit the gas and escape this madness.

I must admit that one of the wonderful qualities and reasons I married my husband was because he was, in fact, handy. Yes, that’s what I said. He was handy and I thought that was wonderful because growing up my father was about as handy as a dead deer on the side of the road. I honestly do not remember him owning a toolbox. Why would he own a toolbox when he wasn’t handy? My poor mom, she was the one with the hammer. She tried her best to fix things because she just knew in her heart that she had married a man without a toolbox. So, I suppose in some strange sort of way, one must now admit….be careful what you wish for…my husband owns a very large toolbox!

Throughout our home remodeling projects, we noticed a neighbor working on a few things on his home. He is a senior citizen. He (or so it seemed) would work for maybe an hour on one of his projects. He would then stop and clean up. We would kid about how we should work like he did and that way we wouldn’t be in bed at night wanting to die from all of our pains. But, it never happened.

I always believed in my heart that the absolute worse day in this money pit nightmare we were in was the day my husband told me that the in-ground swimming pool would have to go. It was our second year here, so we had enjoyed one year with our pool. The spring thaw had occurred and hubby was walking around the property checking things out. That’s when he spotted it….the side of the pool had not made it through the winter, it had caved in. I was heartbroken. I wanted to move. I wanted to sue the prior owners. Anything that would take away my pain. I was being ripped off because that pool was one of only two reasons I had agreed to buying this hellhole. I was mad.

We looked into the pool situation further and realized that the entire pool would need replaced. It was very old and are you ready? It had plywood walls!! So, after a good hefty argument we agreed to fill it in but we would purchase an above ground pool and place it so the children would have more room to play in the yard.
The contractor notified us when he would be here to fill in our pool. In the meantime we had to prepare the area. Again, crazy-man hubby went to work. He ripped out the fence around the pool area. He emptied the pool, ripped plumbing out of the ground like superman, and he couldn’t get the pool heater and equipment to the trash quick enough. It’s like he was on a deadline, hurry up before the wife changes her mind. He had, in fact, won because he always hated the pool. The contractor arrived early in the morning and drove his backhoe up through our front yard and into the pool area. He worked diligently to fill in the huge whole in our yard. It took him two full days to fill in my swimming pool, and then he left. Hubby and me walked out into our new yard and our nightmare was just beginning. We walked onto the center of our expanded play area for the kids and we both looked down at our feet. Instead of feeling nice soft soil like one might expect at this time, we were standing on clay. Yes, that’s correct…nothing but clay throughout the entire yard. My husband immediately grabbed an iron rake and told me that it’s not so bad. He could not get the rake to do anything. We both wanted to cry. This would indeed be another one of those nights.

Little by little we fixed things throughout the house. He got the skylight in the kitchen to stop leaking. He fixed the bad wiring in the attic that was unsafe; he re-did the entire lower level and added a full bathroom, a fireplace and a wonderful family room that our daughters would soon call their own Playstation heaven.

We were overjoyed the day the window company showed up to install all of our new “custom” windows throughout the house. We even had them enlarge two smaller windows in the front of the house to make it look newer and bring more light into two bedrooms. This was one of my favorite days because I went to bed without any pain this night because, for once, someone else was doing all of the work.

Our front door had always been an eyesore. From the moment we moved in, we wanted to change it out. Hubby hunted high and low with his measurements to figure out exactly what we could do with it. You see, it was not your average door size, no…it was custom!! Finally, after many trips to home stores, he felt he had the perfect solution. He whisked me off to Lowes…they held the key to the perfect door for us. He was right; we both loved the door, the two beautiful sidelights and the window that would go above it. He worked on it all weekend with his brother and his friend. I have to admit, it turned out beautiful. The best part for me was…I didn’t have to help!!

The latest project for our home and what will now be know as “the last time I help around here” was the insulation project. My dear, sweet husband spent many hours researching what would be the perfect way to do the insulation for our home. You see I forgot to mention about how cold our house always is and how high our heat bills had become. Hubby figured…how hard could this be? After all, remember, he has a very large toolbox!!

He decided we would buy the insulation at the home improvement store and they loan you the machine to blow it in with….how easy? He spent Saturday picking up the machine and loading his truck and his brother’s truck with all of the bags of insulation we would need for the job. I came home from work that day and saw it all stacked in the garage…and it started to hit me what a big job this may turn out to be. All I could think of was how I would soon be lying in bed at night, in severe pain…worn out yet again.

Sunday morning he lined the three youngest daughters up that still lived at home and told them what we were going to be doing. They did not look thrilled…one of them asked if they could spend the day at Grandma’s. The answer was clearly a “no.”

We quickly got started and worked hard at trying to find the best way to do all of this…we would need to learn any shortcuts on our own. Hubby was now ready to hold the hose end to fill our walls with insulation. We would be insulating all outside walls and the attic. He instructed me on how to dump the insulation into the machine. The first few bags of insulation seemed to go ok. It was around 33 degrees outside and that was with the sun on my back. I kept busy loading the machine with bags and bags of the insulation. When I originally signed on for this duty, I thought the insulation would just fall into the machine and be the consistency of fine mulch. Wrong!! It was compacted so tightly that I was forced to stand next to that stupid machine for a good ten hours (remember, in the cold) and break up the bags of insulation otherwise the machine would jam. After a few hours, I began hating it. By late afternoon, I was wishing I had married better…maybe a man at this point without a tool box would be best. By nightfall, I had figured out that I could fit my husband into this machine and insulate the house with him!! I was admittedly now angry. It was official. I had been suckered into yet another stupid home repair job that would surely end with me lying in bed that night in pain. Finally, hubby said he would load the machine and I would come inside. We switched places and I was just starting to feel my fingers again as I was getting warm. I could also now breath properly. You see…as you are loading the stupid machine…the insulation is breaking up and going inside your mouth and nose. One might say…why didn’t you have a mask on? I had asked hubby about a mask and he insisted we didn’t need one. For you regular folk…that means he forgot to buy them. So, I had tied a handkerchief over my nose and mouth only to have it blow up over my eyes from the machine running beneath me!

I was now inside and thinking life will finally get better. I went to move the ladder and the huge hose to my next area. I began climbing up the ladder and it shifted and I fell backwards onto the floor. It was official…I was now pissed. I repositioned the ladder and climbed up it again. That is when I started to cry. It just seemed like the right time to cry. Within a few minutes we were now done with the interior walls.

Hubby switched places with me…it is now dark outside.. and he headed for the attic. His plan was to fill the attic with any leftover bags. I was thrilled because I could now see the light at the end of the tunnel. But no, I looked behind me and there were nine more bags of insulation left to do! The sun was gone. After about three of them, he came down from the attic and he actually showed his heart. He asked if I wanted to just quit. I told him that we had come this far and we might as well finish all of the bags. I could not get those last bags in there quick enough…and finally…finally.. we were done!

I remember the machine shutting down and I was inside the house. It was warm. You could not see my face…only dusty insulation all over it and my hair and all of my clothes. I went straight to the shower. I could feel the water and now I start coughing. I’m guessing the steam is actually helping me to breath properly. My legs are bright red from the cold..but the warm water is helping.

The kids are now in bed…my entire house looks like a bomb went off. I sit on the sofa and I had to force myself to even look at hubby. Remember, he would fit in that machine!! I finally said it….”I am the madest at you that I have ever been!!” There…I said it…it was out there. He honestly looked concerned. He was a smart man at this point because he only said two words…”I’m sorry.” I guess he knew to stop there or I would be ripping the roof off of this house right then and there and he would end up inside that machine.

We went to sleep…yes, I was in severe pain. Here we go again. The next day was my day off but he had work. I got up and looked around at all the mess…and yes, I cried. I had some breakfast and immediately got to work. I just wanted to get it behind me. It was around 12:30 and I was thinking how nice it would be to take a break and my doorbell rang. It was a flower truck. I was getting flowers. The man looked at me…I was filthy from scrubbing (almost as if to say…who would send this lady flowers) and handed me a dozen red roses. I set them up on the middle of my dining room table. Then I sat down and just stared at them. I read the card and it said “I’m sorry..thank you for all that you do.” Hmm…..roses. He must be thinking I am going to contact a divorce lawyer so sending roses would be much cheaper for him. I am now recalling how when we looked at this house to buy how I had said that I would rather wait and get a house fully finished as I am getting older. I did not want to spend all of my time working on a money pit. I remember him saying that HE would do the work…that I didn’t have to worry. I was now wishing he had been out there all day in the cold with the machine and how much I would have enjoyed sending him flowers today instead. By around 3pm (working straight thru) I was done. The house looked great.

The next day I was not feeling so great. It felt like I was still trying to get that insulation out of my lungs. Two days later and I am feeling ill. I’m mad again. I know why I am ill…so do you. I call off work and go to the doctors. My chest hurts, my throat and I am getting cranky. I am in the room waiting for the doctor to come in and all I can think of is how I can’t tell him what really happened to my sinuses and my lungs because surely they will arrest my husband for stupidity. So, I go with…I think I have a sinus infection. He checks me…asks me if I smoke..no I say. He says “really??” I say…I have never smoked in my life. He said that I have a respiratory infection and will need antibiotics three times a day for ten days. He also said that I need to rest! I didn’t tell him that I couldn’t possibly rest because you see Dr….my husband has a really big toolbox!

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