Thursday, October 20, 2011

Murphy's Law

Many times I wait for that other shoe to drop, generally on my foot.  I wait for the bad news, because life surely can't go on being pretty good.  So, I worry when the stock market drops, when gasoline skyrockets, and when another health issue erupts.  Some would say its the inevitable course of aging, to worry.  Well crap, another myth shattered when I finally get there.  When I was young I worried, different things, whether I would get picked to sing in the Christmas choir, (couldn't carry a tune in a bucket), but I loved music, so I always hoped.  I worried about school and tests.  I worried if I would get asked out to the big dance, later proms, (and I mostly didn't).  I worried about choosing a college, and leaving home for the first time.  I worried all through college about passing, virtually each and every course I took.  I worried about finding a teaching job at a time when we were flush with tenured teachers.  I worried about substitute teaching, and would that be enough of a profession for me.

After marrying came a whole new set of worries with children.  Name me a mother, and her name will be "WORRY".  Making ends meet while raising the kids was MY job.  I kept the accounts and I was responsible for seeing that home and hearth were kept together.  Some days I just felt like it was going to blow up around me.  Times of unworried happiness were fleeting and I always seemed to worry about what might happen more than what did.  Somehow, we managed to keep home, remodeled and functional through the years.  The kids grew up and went out on their own with only minimal damage to their psyche's, (depending on the day you inquired), and didn't write any "Mommy Dearest" books about me, (I think). 

Of course, now when I see retirement at the end of that long tunnel, my house decides it needs a complete maintennance overhaul.  Its a sad fact of our modern life, that nothing is built to last.  If you get a car that runs for 10 years on just the oil change and grease up, you'd better hang onto it, because you'll never find a car that good again.  If your washing machine is going on 18 years and has never really needed repair, don't throw it out for the newest in front loaders which will offter headaches every other week as soon as the service contract expires.  You will find yourself settling for more time spent doing laundry, just to baby the machine along and save yourself a call to a repairman.  Everything in the world of appliances is run by computer chips now, and when they fail, there is simply no way to work around them.  If the appliance goes while under warranty (or service contract), and they seldom do, most likely they will just replace the faulty appliance rather than fix it.  Through all of this I look at much of my home with the jaded, cynical eye of one who knows, I am living on borrowed time because this shoe will fall right on my head.

And so it was that we found early this spring our twenty year old, plus, french door set was rotting in the wood frame.  I had an estimate on the door, a year ago last autumn when it became apparent it was letting lots of cold air in and the door would not stay latched without locking it.  I weather stripped around the door as replacement was kind of a hefty price tag at a time I didn't really need to have that kind of expense.  The weather stripping worked fine and I thought perhaps would get me a couple more years out of the door.  But then last spring I found the pile of what I thought was sand just inside the door on the floor.  Ants were the culprit and they do this kind of thing every spring in areas that are sandy.  But when I kept sweeping up the piles and they kept returning, I realized slowly that it wasn't sand at all but sawdust piles.  That prompted me to open the door and check for rot.  I found a hole at the bottom of the wood frame and when I pushed against it, I found hollowness up quite a way in the frame.  The wood had rotted due to snow and rain being trapped between door and frame.  That kind of settled getting the door replaced.  I considered this Kurt's pervue, and Kurt being the great procrastinator he is let it go for the summer.  But by mid August I started pressing my point that it would have to be replaced. 

Korey suggested calling my nephew, Shawn who works for Pella.  Slapped my forehead, never thought of him.  So Shawn and I began an online email dialogue about french door systems.  He sent me 4 designs varying in price.  I had hoped that we could get a door system that fit the old door's specs exactly and perhaps with some carpentry help, pop out the old door and install the new one on a weekend.  Unfortunately, and here comes into play that Murphy's Law thing, the old door had been customized and was more narrow and shorter than standard doors.  The customized Pella doors Shawn quoted were twice as much as we wanted to pay.  That blew the idea of being our own installers out the door, so to speak.  We ended up going with a better standard door for the money, but having to hire our "guys", the two young men who have done most of our remodel work the last 5 years to install it. 

The new door was to be delivered on a Tuesday morning, and Scott, one of the twosome, of Scott and Ben, of Hometown Builders, said he would be here to help unload the new door.  He was and the new door arrived 5 minutes ahead of its hour leeway times.  They unloaded the door and since Ben was with Scott, and the day was to be perhaps our last good day of weather before a week of forecast rain arrived, they decided to install the new door that morning.  I scrambled to remove everything from that room that might be shook from shelves or covered with dust. 

They began the process of taking out the old door.  They removed vinyl siding from the outside of the house to get at the old door.  They had been working an hour or more when Scott called me outside to inform me, "my house was falling down" .  They had removed the house siding about 3 feet further to an inside corner of the house.  Scott peeled back the 1/2 inch vapor backing because as he said, something didn't look quite right.  Sure enough, the plywood sheathing from the 22 year old remodel had completely rotted.  Water from the gutter that ran away from that corner had backed up due to debris and ice floes over the years and gotten behind the vinyl siding and dripped down the plywood walls.  Not only was the sheathing completely rotted, the studs behind it were rotted to half their size, and the floor plate showed rot as well as the rim skirt for our bedroom above.  When I asked if it could be fixed I was told yes, but they would have to get some OSB board and new stud two by fours at their place.  Repairing all of the damage and resheathing and water proofing took the rest of the morning and much of the afternoon.  About an hour before they left for the day, they got the new door in place.  Scott said they would come back the next day and trim out the door and replace the vinyl siding on the outside. 

Well, on Wednesday, a damp morning erupted into full blown wind and rain.  Scott and Ben dropped off the trim stuff, but said it was too wet to work and they would try on Thursday.   The wind picked up and the rain was driven all afternoon.  Luckily, if you can call any of this, lucky, the wind was out of the NE and the house blocked the wind and rain from the wall repair for the most part. 

I decided to keep busy on this rainy, blustery, big hint of winter day, when I really wanted to curl up with a big blanket, a pot of coffee and a new book.   I thought I was being sensible when I got out the steam cleaner for the carpet and decided to do a couple of small areas in our bedroom that were showing signs of dirt.  Hauled it upstairs, filled it and positioned it.  Clicked it on.  A terrible noise, smoke belching out, and black pieces spitting out from bottom.  A distinct smell of charred rubber before I could get it shut off.  This can't be good.  Ryan was the last to use it, borrowing it a month ago to clean carpets at his home.  No mention made of my cleaner suddenly turning into hazzardous waste material.  Somehow, this seemed pre ordained as just one of those days.   So I got out the hand held mini steam cleaner and went at the most noticeable spots.  Heard something rattling in that.  Pulled it apart and a screw and plastic pieces rattled out.  Finally found where they went.  While no major big deal to actually using it, the thing is only two years old and not used every day.  Life with plastic means something will always break off that can't be fixed....Arrrgghhh.

All of this was kind of my sign to just sit down for an hour and have a big pity party.  I would be making a trip to Chicky vacuum repair and see if it would cost more to repair my 10 year old Hoover steam cleaner than buy new.  I'm hoping its just a belt of some kind, but not especially confident it will be that simple.  Something else major would have to give as its just the way life is going.  After an hour of pity, it was time to start dinner.  I was trying out a new recipe and as always it made a large mess simply for going straight by the book, and many pans and jars and spoons all over.  Got the casserole in the oven, Kurt arrived home and took the dogs outside.  Fifteen minutes later the lights flickered then stayed off.  Yup, this had to happen.  The wind was doing 30 mph now and the rain was really coming down or across as it were.  When the power failed to reappear after 45 minutes, we called into Hemlock and found a pizza place open and ordered a large with everything on it.  We decided to drive around before picking up the pizza to see where power was and wasn't.  Miles of Hemlock Road had power, alternate miles didn't.  Mom was out of power, but the mile to her east wasn't.  Most of the town of Hemlock had power, but MacDonalds, the Marathon gas station and Rick Ford were down.  We saw flashing lights on a side street, and Consumers Energy trucks and a tree service were around a downed maple tree.  As we drove home we thought at least we knew where and what had caused the outtage and that since they were there it would be an hour before it was back.  A pizza later, and still no power.  We drove around some more and found that the pattern of black farms and houses was strange indeed.  The power crews were still at the site of the downed tree but the tree service trucks were gone.  We came home and lit candles and ran flashlights and were generally in a sour mood.  Nothing can make independent people, (at least people who always think they could be pioneers), crankier than losing their satellite tv's, running water, heat and internet service.  I called the hotline for the power company to see if they had any idea of time we might get our power back.  I was told 4 p.m. tomorrow.  WHAAAAAT?  That was almost 24 hours we would be without.  Well crap and double crap and alot of words I can't write here.

We settled into chairs in the living room.  Kurt in his recliner and I surrounded by blankets and candles to, at least read a book.  Kurt fell asleep and I read by candlelight and tried to reconcile that Abraham Lincoln studied by firelight, and he didn't do too badly, but the rest of me wasn't having any of it.  At 10 p.m. I had just about decided to call it a chilly night and blow out the candles when the lamp next to me suddenly popped back on.   HALLELUJAH!!!!  

I woke Kurt and did a happy dance.  I got to watch "Psych" in almost it entirety, and was extremely grateful to whatever of the power crews had worked to get us up and running.  I cleaned up kitchen until almost midnight, but was happy to know I could clean up the mess.  We whiny humans need to be shook up in our comfortable lives in which needless worry overtakes us all too often.  For the rest of today and I hope for a good time after, I will be grateful I have lights, I have heat, and I have hot and cold running water.  I can blog this into my laptop, and I can watch Sports Center if I so desire today, (I don't). 

If I hadn't had to have my french door replaced they would not have found the rotted wood and repairs down the road would have likely been much more costly.  Though its still raining and the siding and trim still aren't back up and though I'm not sure how much additional it will cost to get my steam cleaner fixed, its truly, only annoyances in life.  Not worth the time or the fretting. 

Murphy's Law seems to hit us all at some time or another, no matter how well intentioned or good we be.  But its a good lesson and one I really needed this year, and there may be something after all to this wisdom in maturity thing.  That and a healthy dose of Murphy....

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