"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When the Cat's Away (the Mice Will Get Some Work Done)

Okay, bear with me, y'all: there's a lot of back-story here.

I am running the home place all by myself for a week or two. Yesterday evening, Homero flew off to Oaxaca to pick up our car from his mother's house and drive it home - a journey of some 4,000 miles. Our car is in Oaxaca because last summer, he drove the car down, left it at his mother's house, and flew home. He felt that we needed a car of our own on our two week vacation, and that this would be a wise action to take. Renting a car was apparently not an option. Don't ask. Symmetry. This trip is the mirror image of that trip, and hopefully once it is over we will once again have our lovely TDI Jetta and will never again have to argue bitterly about cars and Mexico. Which is something we have done a lot.

Those of you who know us personally are already all too familiar with the ongoing saga of Mexico and cars, and those who aren't - believe me, you don't want to know. All you need to know is that my husband left me for an undetermined amount of time - not less than seven days - with absolutely no notice ("Amor, I bought the plane ticket. I gotta go in three hours." Not kidding.). Oh also, you should know that these twin trips have cost a collective total of three thousand dollars (not counting lost wages); money which I felt was wholly wasted for no good reason at all. To be fair, Homero felt the money was spent in a good cause. He just couldn't articulate that cause to me in a way that made any sense.

Another long-running theme in our marriage (which you need to know about in order to understand my soon-to-be-related actions) is the issue of my husband's handiness - or lack thereof. A good synopsis can be found here: A Handy Man is Good to Find...? It's also pretty funny ... in hindsight. As a matter of fact, Homero IS unusually handy. He has a wide spectrum of skills and over the years, those skills have saved us a great deal of money. Yes, I'm sure the amount of money his skills have saved us is greater than the three thousand dollars wasted on his weird obsession with driving cars to Mexico. That's not the point. The point is - Homero is handy enough that he feels that any and all home repairs should be done by himself and himself alone. There seems to be an element of machismo here - apparently the idea of another man working in his home is about as welcome as the idea of another man ... well, you get the idea.

I wouldn't mind Homero insisting on performing all of his own handy-work IF

1) he were a little more realistic about what he can and can't do; and
2) there were actually enough hours in the day or days in the year or years in his lifetime for him to do what needs doing.

As a matter of fact, strike rule number 1. I wouldn't mind his trying to do things he has never attempted before - in essence, experimenting on our home - if he would just attempt them in a timely manner. In reality, he is one busy hardworking son-of-a-gun and does not actually have time to do diddley-squat. He doesn't have time to snake the bathtub drain, which got plugged up when my daughter used the tub to wash alpaca fleece. He sure doesn't have time for the kind of projects that I have in mind.

Just for example - and so you don't think I'm being trivial - there is a large patch of ugly black mold growing in a back closet. I mean a big ole patch. This patch of mold is at least five by ten feet square and three dimensional. It looks like it's ready to raise a flag and go off in search of new lands to conquer. Lands like, oh, say, our children's bedroom. In short, this is not a problem which can be ignored. Yet, Homero has been successfully ignoring it for several months now. I showed him the mold. I told him that mold can be toxic. I said that I considered this to be one hell of a big deal problem. Three months went by. The mold grew fangs and began mumbling audibly. I think I may have heard my name.

Okay, so now he's out of town. All of six hours have gone by since he left. Ring, ring... Hello, contractor? Can you come out here and give me an estimate today? Why the rush? Well, let me see if I can explain.....

Then there's the carpet situation. Oh my God. I do not think I can adequately express to anyone who has not been in my house just exactly how disgusting the carpets are. Maybe if you also live on a farm in a part of the world that experiences 60+ inches of rainfall a year, AND if your husband is also a car mechanic, AND you have several large extremely hairy dogs AND an incontinent cat... no, even then, you just can't imagine. Sorry. My carpets are a biohazard. And also probably a large part of the reason I haven't made any good friends here yet. People come over once and then never again. I hope to God it's the carpets, because I don't want to think about what it could be if it's not. Ahem. Curtain of denial falling in three... two.... one...

So anyway. My feminine logic dictated that I have three thousand dollars owed to me to spend as I see fit. Regarding the car thing, my husband simply said to me "I know you don't understand or agree, but I'm going to do it anyway." I realized you can't die on every hill and said "do what you need to do, baby."

But here's what I need to do: solid oak hardwood. Yeah, that's what I said. Remove the "carpet of shame" and replace with gorgeous gleaming pre-finished oak planks. Floors which can be swept and mopped instead of vacuumed. Did I mention we have gone through three vacuum cleaners in the four years we have lived here? The vacuum has not been invented which can stand up to our lifestyle. Vacuums last about six months around here, and then they lay down and give up the ghost, Homero's small-motor repair skills notwithstanding.

I went out of town last weekend. I was gone for three days - a great girls-only birthday trip for my best friend. We had a wonderful time. I can't go into detail due to a non-disclosure clause we all signed at the weekend's start, but that's not relevant anyway. The salient fact here is that when I came home, I walked into my house and immediately broke out into an allergic rash. Within five minutes I was red, bumpy, sneezy, and itchy. That's like, four of the seven dwarves right there.

There are health related reasons for both the carpet-removal and the closet situation, and I will invoke them if necessary. Then there are the basic maintenance arguments - we have to try to maintain the resale value of the house. But to be perfectly honest, neither of those arguments are the flat-out truth. The truth is, I want hardwood floors. More than that, even, I want the basic authority to identify problems and implement solutions. I am a grownup, and I have my own money. I have certain desires, and those desires are both practical and ethical. I am not doing anything arbitrary, contrary to my family's well-being, or wasteful. On the contrary, I believe I am making a sound investment and a decision which is well within my rights to make.

So why do I have to wait until my husband is out of town to spend my own money to make home improvements which will benefit us all? Damn.

Any questions?


Garden Lily said...

I'd support the hardwood floor decision. We have a 4700 sq ft house with only hardwood, laminate, and tile. No carpet. It is wonderful.

Melinda Cool said...

Do it. All of it.

...but maybe realize that with living on a farm, a mechanic husband, hairy dogs, several kids...your floors won't be of the kind you see in House Beautiful for long. But, then again, they'll be a hell of a lot better than the carpets, I'll bet.

Grandpa said...

The hardwood floor is a good idea. The algae got to go, pronto, as it can harbour all kinds of stuff that can make you sick

Kim C. said...

Can I just tell you -- I love to read your stuff. I hope in the midst of all this insanity of The Mold Monster you are thinking of crafting this all into a book! Good luck and I say DO IT. Funny thing is: at least at my house, I make big changes (i.e. move the furniture) and the husband doesn't really even notice. :)

Aimee said...

It's nice to hear from you! Long time no see. Thanks for the support, I'm glad somebody is getting a chuckle out of this! How's the new school year going?

Rowan said...

Mom, why do you think I always go to friend's houses instead of inviting them here? Now I'm not saying it's because of our house in general, it's probably mostly because of my room, which is mortifying. But with the exception of Melinda, who's house is far worse than ours, my friends usually feel uncomfortable here. Especially Abby and Annie, rich little things that they are with their maids and their OCD parents. It's not you. Don't lower the denial curtains. It's US and it's THE MESS that bother people.