My House Hates Me

home_improvement_hell_steinIf you want to have your heart broken all you need to do is buy a home that’s a fixer upper. It’s like falling in love with that boy in high school and telling yourself he would be “just perfect” if only he would get a haircut and use some prescription strength acne cream. The problem is the acne is just a visual distraction (kind of like a house with popcorn ceilings) that diverts your eye from an abundance of other, more egregious, problems lurking just below the surface.

You know you’re head over heels in trouble when your steamy home romance has you making excuses for all the telltale signs of upcoming disaster by deceiving yourself with the phrase, “but the house has such good bones.” As soon as you utter this you’re on your way to a messy, expensive beyond your wildest dreams, tear laden, love affair.

Not that being passionate about your home is a bad thing. Oh, trust me, you’ll need the ardor to fuel your delusional fantasy that the remodeling will come in on budget, be completed in a timely fashion, and not almost wreck your marriage. If you choose to attempt to do some of the “fixing upping” yourself, well, all I have to say is, “my thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of need.”

Just remember when things go horribly wrong, it’s not your fault for thinking you can handle a “gut job” on your master bathroom. Nope, that blame is placed squarely on the load bearing support beams of any design show on HGTV.

Talk about being seduced. Is there anything that arouses your DIY lust like watching a home renovation program? They all start off with the most titillating of promises. The home they’re working on goes from sad to fab in less than 60 minutes. Then there’s the foreplay of a renovation team devoting there undying due diligence, tile cutting prowess and gentle painting caresses to its transformation. The pinnacle of your DIY desire hits its peak with the reveal. After riding out that crest of home remodeling euphoria you’re all in to recreate the experience in your own neck of the cul-de-sac.

Sadly, it’s never the same in real life. Take the previously mentioned popcorn ceiling. Scrapping that gunk off looks easy enough. If you are to believe everything you see on TV all you apparently need is what looks like a spatula Sasquatch would use for flipping pancakes, a few squirts of a mixture of water and fabric softener, some limited arm movement and like magic the feta cheese sized stucco pieces gracefully disengage with all the artistry of the Sugar Plum fairy doing a pirouette from your ceiling leaving only smooth, sleek, drywall behind.

In reality, you’re perched on a ladder that’s seen better days, gripping the stucco spatula and using brute force strength, while cursing as you choke back tears, when the popcorn either won’t come off or you’ve pressed so hard you’re now going to have to get new drywall. When the stucco finally does release it’s death grip it invariably either gets in your eyes and if you’re really having a bad day your mouth. Stucco, it’s what’s for dinner (at least it was for me).

A popcorn ceiling is nothing when compared to what seems like the easiest of all DIY tasks – wallpaper removal. In theory wallpaper is supposed to come off like it went on – in floor to ceiling sheets. But no, that is not the way it happens. I’m telling you something weird went on in tin the 1980’s. I’ve done extensive research on this (and by that I mean complained to many) and I’ve yet to find a home built in that decade where anyone sized their wallpaper. Did a swarm of anti wallpaper sizing zombies invade the region? Or was it some sort of conspiracy by the federation of  Wallpaper Hangers to ensure their handiwork was an eternal monument to their craft?

For those of you blessed to not know what sizing wallpaper means let me explain. Sizing is a primer application designed to create the necessary base so that adhesives can stick AND, more importantly to anyone buying your home in the future, so that wallpaper can be removed with ease. Gather in my friends and let me tell you a horror story about what happens when you don’t size your wallpaper. It doesn’t want to come off – ever!

In the tradition of grand romances the wallpaper has mated with the drywall for life. It clings with a tenacity heretofore reserved only for grumpy toddlers not wanting to let go of their mothers when they’re dropped off at preschool. When you finally do liberate the wallpaper from the drywall it rips off in almost microscopic pieces about the size of an eyelash.

I’m not too proud to admit that one day last year, my husband came home from work to find me sitting in the middle of our laundry room floor, surrounded by mounds of wallpaper bits, sobbing. I’m talking the ugly cry. I was in the midst of a wallpaper removal nervous breakdown because I was reduced to using TWEEZERS to get the wallpaper down!

But wait, there’s more, my saga continues. In other parts of my house not only is the wallpaper not sized, but somewhere in my home’s lineage a former owner painted over the wallpaper. It’s a home decorating screw you because it’s means it’s never, ever coming down. Your one and only choice is something along the lines of new drywall. Cha and ching.

In fact, I think there should be some sort of residential remodeling court of criminal law that prosecutes “crimes against the home.” Not sizing wallpaper should result in being sent to a work camp where you’re sentenced to a week of hard labor doing, you guessed it, removing wallpaper equipped with only a bottle of water and your fingernails. And for those domestic decorating terrorist who dare to paint over wallpaper I don’t think it’s too harsh to go for the death penalty. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but at the very least they should be banned from ever entering a Home Depot or Lowe’s and put on some sort of home remodeler watch list.

I’d love to be able to tell you that all the pain, suffering, and heartbreak of owning a fixer upper is worth it. But, alas I can’t. I’m still remodeling. Although, I see signs that someday, in the distant future, of being madly in love with my house. First though, I have to get all the blasted wallpaper down. Yeah, I’m still peeling it off bit by tiny bit.


*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂



Mr. Fix It

'Your husband started without me, didn't he?'It’s a phrase I dread hearing. When it happens I get all shaky and I feel like I can’t breath. Who would have thought eight words could throw me into such a panic but when one of my children informs me that, “Dad’s watching a home improvement video on YouTube,” I think my heart stops.

The repercussions of this simple act are so far reaching and potentially life threatening that I’ve conducted drills with my children so they know exactly what to do when seeing their father receive repair tips via the internet.

Last Saturday, my son delivered the unsettling news that my husband was glued to his computer screen watching a dishwasher “fix it” video. I was running errands and away from home when I got the call. I quickly responded by shouting into my cell, “C’mon this is what we’ve trained for. You know what to do. It’s go time. Remember the three D’s – distract, delay, divert.”

“Okay, okay, I distract him by asking about the University of Texas Rose Bowl game, right?”

“Yes, it’s the 2006 Rose Bowl. Just say Rose Bowl and Vince Young and then let him start yammering. If it sounds like he’s wrapping up the play-by-play ask him about total yardage.”

“Got it. Rose Bowl, Vince Young, yardage. When are you going to be home? I don’t know how long I can do this.”

“Stall him for 15 minutes max. I’m heading your way right now and for the love of God do not let him go to Home Depot. Hide his keys if you have too.”

My husband is talented at a great many things home repairs just isn’t one of them. I’m all good with that but for some reason he feels compelled to attempt to fix things before calling in what usually requires a team of professionals. Yes, I know it’s a guy thing. I’m pretty sure at those Low T (Testosterone) centers, you hear advertised all the time on the radio, one of the first tests they give a man is something to repair. If they’re not interested, in say snaking a clogged drain, then it’s proof their testosterone is about a quart low.

I have nothing against my husband trying to do repairs around the house what I’m concerned with is the added cost of paying someone to fix his repairs and of course, even though he’s heavily insured, I don’t want to see him meet his demise from electrocution or falling off a roof. In fact, the roof or any kind of gutter work has become off limits. The day I say, “Oh sure, go ahead and climb up on that rickety ladder and clean out the gutters” is the day he’ll know I no longer love him and have big plans for that life insurance payout.

When I got home my son had totally let me down. I walked into my kitchen and found both of them watching the YouTube video. My husband had already tried his favorite home repair go to – Drano (followed closely by duct tape and Gorilla Glue) and was now moving on to some sort of dismantling of the dishwasher’s innards. Using a voice I save for dealing with the mentally fragile I gently suggest that they both back away from the dishwasher and hand over the screwdriver.

All that got me was a whole lot of male blustering about how they’ve “got this.” I had no choice but to leave the kitchen and hope for the best. And by that I mean going upstairs to my computer and looking at new dishwashers online. I was thinking the stainless steel Kitchen Aid with the “ProWash Whisper Cycle” would be really nice.

As luck would have it just as I’m getting excited about my new dishwasher I’m summoned back to the kitchen to behold their work. Apparently, the father son duo had “fixed” the dishwasher. They were both beaming. I birthed two children and I don’t think I was that proud of creating life. I had to listen to them explain the intricate problem solving and repair work that they had undertaken and then was given what amounted to a theatrical production of the dishwasher’s rinse cycle operating at maximum “clog free” capacity. Seriously, it would have made decent dinner theatre.

I cooed the appropriate comments and lavished praise on their handyman abilities. Then I went back upstairs and bookmarked the Kitchen Aid dishwasher. I’d probably be ordering it sooner than later.

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good. Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival. If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you.

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