“i am my father’s daughter”: whether we like it or not, our parents’ behaviors are reflected in our own

Today I can officially declare, “I am my father’s daughter.” No matter how much we try to separate ourselves from our parents’ behaviors (the quirky, weird, or negative ones, anyway), sooner or later we start repeating them.

My dad was a blue-collar man who worked hard to keep a roof over the heads of his wife and five kids on a meager salary. My mom worked too, part-time and usually around our schedules, but my dad was the chief breadwinner. To scrimp and save, and because he was a child of the Great Depression, my dad would find ways to make due with what we had, fix it to make it work better, and only when there was no hope, buy something to replace it–and more likely than not, that “something” would come second-hand.

Have a rusted fender on your ’63 Fairlane? Duct tape will do the trick. Need fertilizer for the plants? Pee on them–the high nitrogen levels in human urine can provide the necessary nutrients. Too much forced-air gas-heat escaping down the hallway to the unoccupied rooms? Open the door to the heater and tape thick corrugated cardboard to its edges to concentrate the warm air.

Today I borrowed a page from my dad’s playbook. We are having a series of heavy rainstorms in Southern California that we are never prepared for here. For example, no one bothered to check the grading of the lawns when building our under-insulated tract homes forty- or fifty-odd years ago, so some of us have accumulated rain water sloping toward the houses’ foundations. Remember the homes in Malibu a few years ago that slid off their foundations? Similar thinking. But, hey, “it never rains in California.” It may just be a line from a song, but it’s often the gospel truth. In fact, since we’ve had so little rain to speak of over the past few years, we could get by with those sloping-toward-the-foundation yards and roofs that may have leaked during the last heavy rain six years ago but were forgotten about in the dry drought years. It’s easy to block out unpleasant thoughts.

A case in point, something that my husband and I put off fixing is now a problem for us. We have a door that leads from the garage to the side yard. It appears to me to be an indoor door, not a heavy-duty outdoor door. It’s hollow, for one, and looks as though it was inserted into the frame with a few nails and a couple screws in a hurry when it was time to sell the house years and years ago. It sufficed for a while, but with the door being in the hot sun, the cheap, thin door’s paint has peeled and with it came the top layer of the door. The outer portion is now hanging on for dear life. My husband and I planned to replace it, but, as is often the case, time got away from us, and now the door is not only getting hit by the sun, it’s being pelted by the rain too. A hollow door with an outer portion of thin plywood is not going to keep the elements out.

To the rescue came I. Well, I and my dad in my head. For a quick fix, yesterday, before the rains came, I grabbed three black trash bags and a roll of packing tape and taped the bags to the door. I figured it would do the trick in a pinch until I could find a more permanent solution, shy of getting a new door. Then I came in the house, got online, and tried to find something I could find that would be more sturdy than a Hefty bag. Guess what? There is nothing on earth at any of the big-box stores or even the neighborhood True Value that I could find to use in a pinch. Sure, I could have bought plywood, got it home, cut it, painted it for protection, and screwed it into the door, but I was pretty sure I didn’t have the time or the skill or the tools necessary before the rains hit, which did indeed show up a few hours later.

So I had to think fast and find something flexible that I, personally, could put up over the door and that would arrive asap. Searching Amazon, I found a thick clear-vinyl tablecloth and a four-pack of duct tape that were part of the next-day delivery program. Perfect. (No, I didn’t need four rolls of tape, but I couldn’t find a single roll in the house or garage and that’s why I used packing tape yesterday.)

When the box arrived an hour ago, and the rain had halted for a bit, I got to work draping the thick vinyl over and under the trash-bag-covered door and taped away. The lowest of the three bags had come a bit loose and let some rain hit the door, so I was happy that this tablecloth would now cover all of that and not have separations.

Ta da: 0119171320

All right. So it won’t win any design awards and the prototype needs a little tweaking before I apply for a U.S. patent, but I’ll bet there are a few people who are right now scrambling to post it on their Pinterest boards!

Well, maybe not. The only thing I know for sure is it will make do…oh, and that my dad is likely smiling down on me from the heavens knowing that one of us five inherited his skills.

——————

This week’s three things I’m thankful for:

  1. A brain and two working hands and a healthy body to come up with a plan and implement it no matter how crappy the end result looks.
  2. A break in the rain so I could walk the dog and “fix” the door.
  3. A house with a roof that will probably not leak until at least day 2 of this storm.

 

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it may be time to bite the bullet and buy new cabinets

I’ve been wanting a nice kitchen for some time, but I am practical, thrifty, and don’t want to be like those people on HGTV who tear out working kitchens just so they can replace them with whatever is now in vogue, like a certain grade of wood cupboard or a farm sink.images cabinet

I have a working kitchen. I cook almost every night–I’d say at least 350 days a year–yet I have a kitchen smaller than the size of most modern homes’ bathrooms or walk-in closets. That’s no exaggeration. And because it’s so small and so used, it’s showing signs of wear and tear. Heck, at forty-two years old, it showed signs of wear and tear long before I moved in over twenty years ago.

I’ve Band-Aided the poor thing over the years, gluing the microwave door handle on when it pulled halfway off, inching the extremely heavy trash compactor out the door when it stomped its last load of trash and wouldn’t open back up, making my own ice using trays when the automatic ice-maker broke (it’s still broken). I finally gave in and bought a new stove the third time it shocked the bejesus out of me while stirring spaghetti. And I did end up getting other appliances (on sale and low-end models anyway) when they were on their last legs, but only then.

Whatever the opposite of a conspicuous consumer is, I’m that. I put off buying until it’s absolutely necessary. I came from a thrifty family on a low income whose patriarch fixed everything whether he was an expert at it or not. My mom put up with battered furniture (as I do) and old, nonfunctioning appliances until they were no longer reparable. And that’s what I do too.

Our fence was falling over this spring, so we contacted our neighbor, who called on his contractor, and had it replaced. It was double what I had thought it would cost, but we were able to afford it after moving money around and scrimping for a while longer. Same thing with our floors last summer. We had a leak in the wall and, well, not right away but five months later, I was on my hands and knees laying down vinyl plank in the dining room, ripping out more sections of carpet, and laying down more planks. It’s not the best-quality flooring, but it looks OK, and, best of all, I was able to lay it myself. A plus too is that when I decide to change out the rest of the carpet, I’ll at least have done half the work.

Next I thought I’d tackle a longtime problem: painting the cabinets in the kitchen. Painting would cost a fraction of having the cabinets replaced, and I’d get the color I want and not have to have workmen in my house. I knew it was a lot of work–I even heard that from a licensed painter who told me he didn’t want to paint them because of what a big job it is. Still, last summer I spent a couple days meticulously painting the backside of the cabinets, the side that faces the family room. I liked how it turned out and thought I’d tackle the big job of all the fronts of the cabinets this summer. But just as I was about to start the project, I found myself waffling, something I do when I fear making the wrong decision with long-term consequences. I waffled about the color (should I stick with the linen, which looks a bit drab, or change it to antique white, a more popular shade?), and I waffled about whether I should keep them unpainted and just apply a deeper color of stain. That’s an easier job, especially if I use gel stain, but I like the cottagy look of painted cabinets much more.

Now I’m questioning the appearance of the painting I did last summer and whether it even looks that good. I’m looking closely at the polyurethane I used, noticing it’s turning yellow. I had thought it looked great last summer but am thinking it may make the cabinets look old and dingy and is that the look I’m going for if it’s going to take so much effort?

Then when my husband asked me last night why one of the cabinets sticks out near the hinges and doesn’t close properly, I realized that the doors and drawers are nowhere near in good enough shape to simply paint. Painting would be yet another Band-Aid effect, like putting lipstick on a pig, and the cabinets might look a bit better but still wouldn’t function so great.  The real solution is new cabinets. I’m guessing nine out of ten people would agree, if not all ten.

I have company coming in another month and before that we are taking a family vacation that even after I use my airline miles will cost a couple thousand dollars. I’d love to get a new kitchen by mid-August so my best friend of forty years doesn’t doubt why she’s friends with such a schmuck as me, but spending that money now on new cabinets is not going to be easy.  Still, for the first time my mind has concluded that the cabinets must go.

Or so I currently am rationalizing. Give me a couple more days with little or no freelance work and I might pick up my paint brush and begin transforming the cupboards and drawers as best I can on my own. Time will only tell whether I stick with my plan to buy new (which adds even more complications like should we bother putting the cabinets where they are or opening up the entire kitchen) or whether I paint. Yes, time will tell.

 

 

rosie the riveter

There was a big, gaping hole in our wall (holes, actually) after a plumbing leak. The pipe was replaced so there was just one thing left to do. Call the drywall guy, you say? Hire a contractor? No, of course not. I just tackled this one myself. A couple weeks later, the patchwork of holes has been filled with a couple 2 foot-by-2 foot sheets of drywall cut to size, some joint compound, and a little ingenuity (and a lot of YouTube videos, I might add).

I guess you’d call me a handymom. And I learned it from my dad. I grew up in a family who never once saw a contractor, a plumber, an electrician, or any other skilled tradesman enter our house. With five kids and a blue-collar lifestyle, money was always an issue. My dad’s do-it-yourself attitude stemmed from that and the fact that he was quite handy–or he became that way because he always gave it a shot. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t attempt. He could build a home addition and change a carburetor on our station wagon, to boot.

My dad was born during World War I and was a teen during the Depression, a time when there was no such thing as credit cards. You either had the money to hire someone or you did it yourself. No putting it on the Visa card and paying it off down the road. The only time I saw anyone other than my dad doing any kind of work in our house or yard was when our town had everyone hook up to the new sewer system, and even then the worker stayed in the yard.

Working with one’s hands was a necessity in generations past. It’s a lost art today. But it’s not always people’s fault. With cars becoming evermore computerized, for instance, no one can work on their own cars for fear of messing with the brain of the vehicle. That lack of effort or fear of trying may have flowed into home-repair projects as well, despite what you see on HGTV. Although Home Depot and Lowe’s are doing a bang-up business, it seems that most people (the ones I know anyway) hire out for jobs. Those must be the contractors and the handymen loading up on supplies at the home-improvement stores. Or they’re homeowners who buy there and hire out the work. Rarely does the fiftysomething female buying the sheets of drywall, screws, and mud hang it herself.

Not only did I get the desire to do the work (and save the money) from my dad but I also got his slapdash way of working and a less-than-amazing finished product. I have to admit, my completed projects are more Walmart than West Elm, but I can at least say I did the work myself, saved the money, and have a sense of accomplishment from doing it.

Some of my friends will say, “Oh, but you’re good at doing stuff like that. We aren’t handy.” To that I say, “You just have never tried.” I’m no handier than anyone else. I just put in the effort and give it a go.

The next time you’re thinking of calling the plumber or the drywall guy or the electrician, if it’s not too difficult a task (and it’s often not if you watch online videos and have the proper tools), you may surprise yourself that you’re handier than you had thought. We can do it! 0828151150