How to Have a House

Living with and understanding a home.


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Now for the Real Cold Weather.

IMG_0865It’s been cold enough this winter, with plenty of snow and ice. But if the forecast hold true, it’s going to get REAL cold. Here’s a few ideas to deal with this upcoming arctic air stream that is supposed to blow into the midwest.

 

  1. Get your pets indoors!  Little guys and short hairs can experience sudden effects of super cold air when stepping out to do their thing.  Keep an eye on them and get them and their bigger buddies back in quickly. If they’ll tolerate it, let them wear a jacket.  Watch for your neighbor’s pets too. If you see a neighbor’s animal out too long in this kind of weather, call the neighbor and remind them.  If your neighbor isn’t the kind of family that cares, call someone who does. They’ll come out, gather the animal up and keep them in a shelter.  Better to take action than watch them freeze to death.
  2. Keep the air filter on your furnace clean.  When it’s cold outside, the furnace needs all the help it can get.  In extreme cold, the furnace will run non stop at times, a clean furnace filter will allow the machine to run at correct temperatures and move lots of air.  
  3. Refrain from moving your thermostat back.  Don’t let your house cool off during the day while your at work, or at night while you sleep.  This weather will be challenging enough for the furnace. You may even find your furnace running almost non-stop.  Keep the house warm so the furnace is not trying to play catch up in extreme weather.
  4. Be ready for colder interior temperatures.  Furnaces are designed to provide only a certain amount of temperature rise above the outdoor temperature.  Usually between 70 and 80 degrees F. That means once the outdoor temperatures dip below 0 degrees F., it is likely the house temperature will dip too.  Bundle up, throw some blankets on the couch and beds. Remember basement family rooms are the last to warm up too.
  5. Keep the exterior intake and exhaust vents clear on your furnace.  High efficiency furnaces are vented through PVC pipes coming out the roof, or most cases the side, exterior wall of the house near the foundation.  Snow and ice build up can clog these vents. It’s not uncommon to find bug, bird or animal nests in these too. Make sure both the intake and exhaust are clear.  And remember the exhaust gasses are poisonous. Keep clear of that gas when working around these vents.
  6. Open the base cabinet doors on sink base cabinets, and washer dryer cabinets that are against an outside wall.  Depending on the direction the house faces, and the level of insulation in the house, pipes near outside walls will be the first to freeze.  If your basement is unfinished you may want to run a safe space heater under the plumbing that gets near the outside rim joist in the basement.  Make sure the area around the heater is clear of anything that can burn.  If you live in an antique home, and the wall insulation is missing or poor, this is important. In worse case scenarios, you may need to let those faucets run, pencil lead thin, streams of water overnight.
  7. If you haven’t done it yet, remove your garden hose from the frost free spigot.  This is normally done in October, but I still see a lot of hoses connected to houses all winter long.  If the frost free spigot has not frozen up to this point in winter, it probably will in the next few days.  And, you won’t know it’s a problem until the next time you turn that hose on and go into the basement to find a split frost free spigot flooding the room.  
  8. Ask a neighbor to check on your house if you are going to be away.  These are extreme temperatures like this region rarely experiences. If you are traveling away from your home, have a neighbor come and check the house for you.  Make sure they know where the main water shut off is in the case of a frozen and split pipe.
  9. And finally but most important, CHECK ON YOUR NEIGHBORS!  Take the time to consider your elderly and less abled neighbors.  Give them a call or knock on their door. Make sure they have your number in the case they need assistance.  This is one of those times when truly being a good neighbor counts.

 

We normally don’t get weather this cold in our region, so it’s easy to forget how damaging it can be to our homes.  Be vigilant and get ahead of things before they get ahead of you. Burn a fire, have some warm snacks, and do what you bought your house to do, stay in it and enjoy the safety and warmth it provides.  


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Winter Damage to Your House.

This region is hard on houses.  For those of us living in the midwest, things can be quite varied in the winter.  Unlike the great north, it does not get cold and stay cold here. And unlike the south, we don’t stay above freezing.  We actually get the worst weather of all. Sure, in our area (the Kansas City metroplex), we can have some sunny warm days throughout the winter.  It’s not unusual to reach 50 or 60 degrees in December, and our really cold weather comes around late January and February. We like to grill out on these warmer days, and go for walks in light jackets.  We feel lucky to get some light rain instead of snow. It seems easier than the long days of winter up north where it gets down to freezing in November and stays freezing until March. Unless you’re a house.  Recently our weather has been somewhat warm, in the 40s. We’ve had a lot of fog, rain and cloudy days. No ice on the driveway and leaving for work in the mornings is just easier when the temperature is above freezing. But our houses are getting soaked.  Water is seeping into cracks and soaking under paint. Our gutters may have leaves in them that are now full of water. Then, here’s the mean trick. We get a real freeze like last night. A freeze that makes the puddles on the driveway so clear and hard we don’t even see the black ice.  All that moisture and water soaked into our house is freezing too. With that freeze come expansion. And presto, our houses have just experienced one of the harshest conditions in the country. Here’s what to look for in the spring when things thaw out. Your gutters may have pulled away from the house with the ice load.  If there are no deicing wires on the house, it’s likely the downspouts have been frozen solid and torn up a little. Every place water soaked in under paint, is now under threat of that paint popping off. Caulk, snap-on vinyl window trim, joints in the siding, all these things are subject to the harsh effect of soaking and freezing.  In addition anything ceramic or clay on our patios is freezing and expanding too. Those big clay pots out on our patio loose a little layer of material at the very bottom every year. Freezing and popping. So even though we get to grill out in mid December, we’ll have to do some repairs in April. Put it on the list. Reattach loose gutters and downspouts.  Inspect the roof for loose or missing shingles, especially in the valleys. Touch up paint and caulk where it has popped loose, even the best paint on the market has a hard time standing up to the forces of freezing water. And don’t forget to have the trees cleaned up where limbs broke and fell. It’s all part of living the the great midwest. It’s a sneaky trick, these warm, rainy days, turning into damaging, freezing nights.  

 

house in snow.


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Someone’s moving in this spring.

It’s looking like spring outdoors. I’m getting calls about animals.  Mostly birds and squirrels. They are moving into peoples’ houses.

 

Springtime is busy outside our homes.  It’s nature’s time to nest, to build a safe place to lay eggs or have young.  Houses provide excellent shelter for animals.  They are steady and less prone to wind and storms than bushes or trees. Houses have nice corners and cubbies to build into.  Many houses are missing screen or wire over the attic vents, allowing animals easy access to a relatively warm space.  And with the convenience of simple food sources like bird feeders and pet food left outdoors, the wild animals living in or near our homes have little reason to move away.

 

Yet, they have to go.  Evict them now.  Birds will carry more debris into a gable vent than imaginable.  I have seen nests in gable vents that appear, from the outside to be simple and neat, only to climb in the attic to find almost a hay bale of grass, sticks and trash packed into the gable vent and filling the attic.  A full contractor trash bag of debris holding 2 or 3 little chicks. I don’t throw out baby animals or birds, so I reschedule the work for winter or recommend a humane critter removal.  Animals are even more serious.  Raccoons, squirrels and other four legged critters don’t carry in as much debris, but they rearrange the materials they find in attics.  Storage items, insulation, cardboard boxes, anything that can be shredded and nested in.  Plus the holes these animals make to get into the attic is usually big.  I can climb a ladder and flush out some birds, I just did it last week on my own house.  But flushing out a toothed rodent or raccoon is not a job for the inexperienced.

 

Decide your route.  But act on it now.  Most animals don’t have young yet, but will soon.  Most home owners don’t want to be a part of dispatching live young, even if it is supposed to be “humane”.  Now is the time to evict the birds and animals squatting in your house.    If you remove the nest yourself, wear a respirator and take your work clothes off outside or in the garage.  Bird and animal nests are dirty.  Gather the material in a trash bag and get it out of the house.  Have the holes and access repaired immediately. If you don’t, animals will move right back in.

 

This is an ongoing task.  Most homeowners enjoy having animals around the property.  They are a good sign of life.  An indication that the neighborhood is full of trees, ground cover and water.  It’s a good thing really.  But like a lot of other good things, too much can be a hassle.  Be a good neighbor, kick the animals out and help them find their own place outdoors.  Add some birdhouses to the trees and posts in your yard.  Put a bat house up if you have seen bats at dusk.  Learn to recognize nests high in the branches and trunks of your trees.  Those are likely squirrel nests or birds of prey.  Hold off on tree thinning until winter when the open nests are empty.  All of this requires a little getting in touch with nature.  Understanding the natural inclination for others to attempt to live in our houses.  Having the plan and compassion to evict them with humane timing and care.  It’s a wild world out there.  Enjoy it, but don’t let it in your house. IMG_2214


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No stairs for the holidays.

This has been a common conversation lately.  Stairs.  I have plenty of aging customers, which is a subtle way of saying, old enough to start worrying about getting around the house.  Most of them are single and living alone.  Alone except for the input of their grown kids.

I get in these conversations the easy way, by listening.  It only takes a few minutes of reviewing some job I’m doing when an elderly person starts talking about the stairs.  They are terrified of stairs.  For a good reason.  Stairs are hard to climb and easy to fall down.  In most houses the stair challenge goes like this.  Most bedrooms are “upstairs”.  In older homes, most washer and dryers are “downstairs”.  The aging home dweller doesn’t just want to age in their house, they hope to go on to their next life, shortly after leaving the one they have in their long time home.  They want to stay in the house. Period.

Then the aging parent mentions their grown kids.  This might be you.  If not, this may be you in the future, so think about this.  The elderly do great in their long time homes.  Food preparation, doing laundry, bathing and keeping pets.  But they are simply not as strong as they used to be.  They may throw laundry down the stairs to the basement, but still have to carry it out clean. They start sleeping on the recliner or sofa, because they are scared of the stairs to the second floor.  Grown kids come around and start telling the aging adult how to do things differently. After all, dad was a steel worker, why won’t he go to bed upstairs?  These conversations take place, or not, right up until the aging parent has a fall.  Maybe they are bruised and shaken.  Maybe a broken bone.  Hips are popular among the falling elderly.  Maybe they lay on the floor for a day or two until someone finds them.  Then the kids kick into full force.  The grown kids have a life and feel they have to act quickly.  A nursing home or aging care facility comes into the conversation.  It’s literally the last place anyone wants to be.  The aging parent goes silent, fearing the nursing home more than the stairs.  It hurts my feelings to watch.

Act now.  Move the washer and dryer to the main floor. If your handyman has excuses to not do it, get a second opinion.   Ask your aging parent how they feel about moving their bedroom to the main floor, like a 5 year old, and a sofa cushion fort.  They’ve already dreamed of this.  They know it is good.  Get a good bathing solution on the main floor.  Add a simple IMG_1675shower somewhere.  Skip the excuses.  “Resale value” is the most overrated term I hear, used to stop progress.  The house will sell.  Your parent wants to stay in the house.  At least almost all of them.  They will live longer and be happier.  Especially if they have a few visitors a week.  Get them a call lanyard.  The kind with a push button, so if they fall they can get help.  Many seniors don’t know beans about cell phones and don’t carry them around.  Get the call button.  Install grab bars in bathrooms and around task areas.  None of this is going to ruin the sale of the house.  And it could make someone you love very, very happy.

You could be thinking, “what business is it of a handyman to tell me about my parents?”. It’s the business of the truth.  When I work in houses where old people live, they feed me coffee and ask me to eat lunch at their table. All.the. time.  They share their life stories.  Right up to the very day I arrive.  I know what they want and they want to stay in their homes.

We’re coming up on the holiday seasons.  What a great time to reverse the approach.  Instead of asking mom or dad when they will be ready to move out, starting acting on getting them on one main floor.  Join them in their love for the home.  The home where they raised you and your siblings and friends.  The home where they and their spouse loved each other.  The home they have always dreamed to spending their waining years in.  Eventually they will leave that home.  They’ll take that last pass out the front door, standing or not, knowing they lived a long full life in the most beautiful place they ever had.


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How does the fall season make you feel?

I know it’s a funny question, but I have to ask. How does fall make you feel? I ask this as a craftsman, who works on houses, for a number of reasons. One, for those of us who drive work trucks and own tools, fall includes a bunch of preparation not normally thought of in the summer.

Fall is mixed emotions for me. While I love the smell of the leaves turning, it means my walnut trees, all 13 of them, are dropping a ton of nuts in the yard to deal with. This year I’m going to learn to harvest some. I like the weather cooling off, but dressing for a day of work is tricky. It’s a little cold in the mornings, but long pants could mean a hot workday in the afternoon. Fall reminds me that I have several containers of glue, paint, caulk and other sundries on the truck that I have to prepare for freezing weather. It’s not quite cold enough to make me do these things, but it’s got me thinking. This is the lovely way of nature. We really can’t say we got caught off guard, because nature gives us warning. A subtle hint you might say. A hint like two tons of leaves falling into the yard over several weeks. Hints like mice and bugs moving into the house suddenly, or, the sun moving into a different place in the sky. Fall, year after year, through decades of our lives, allows us to prepare without haste.

Around here my list of fall preparation might go something like this. Clean the gutters, which is a snap on a low slung, one story house like mine. I use an attachment on my leaf blower. Blow the leaves off sidewalks and away from the house. Then mulch them into the lawn with the mower. Some people overseed their lawns. I’ll sort out the firewood pile and get it ready. I’ll blow the water out of the irrigation in the garden, and because I’m lucky enough to have an outdoor shower, I’ll blow it out too. But only after I take that last warm shower, in the cool weather, my own personal dare. The garden hoses must be disconnected from the frost free spigots, or what is known as a freeze problem will occur. I’ll pick up all the silly things on the drive way and patio that could damage the snow blower. The chair cushions will all go in bags and into the garden shed. I could go on and on but you get the idea. You’ll be going on and on at your house.

But most of all, I’ll relax a little. The daylight is going away, which means my time doing chores outdoors after work will shorten. The grass won’t be growing and weeds will take a rest. Fall signals relief.

What does fall bring to your mind? Where does your heart and mind find itself in the waining days of summer? What is your checklist of fall chores around your house?

Oh, here’s one more. What’s that special book you’ll be reading on those cool weekend mornings, knowing how great it feels to sit in a warm house on a cool fall morning? I’ve made a commitment to include more of these this year.

Have fun celebrating this season. Winter is just around the corner.

 

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Everyone has a skill.

How do you shake out your trash bag? Do you open it and shake it to fill it with air, so it fits in the kitchen trash can just right? Do you snap it with one hand, holding the can with the other? How do you do this? It seems like a weird question, because who cares? Who cares how a person does something as mundane as putting a trash bag into a trash can? I do. I noticed the other day that after 16 years of putting contractor trash bags, into my collapsable trash can, that I make about 7 motions in one fluid sweep. It’s almost beautiful to watch.

These are the moments we come to know as experience. Craftsmen like me, and homeowners like you, do something so many times, the finished piece is almost perfect. Your trash bags and my trash bags go into the can exactly the same every time. Neat and tidy, in it’s place and ready to perform without fail. For those of us working on your houses, these motions apply to almost every tool on our truck. Way beyond the trash bags. Several years ago I had a personal injury right in the middle of some improvements I was making on a small garage. My brother was in town so I hired him and another worker I know to Install the facia trim, pressure wash the gutters and finish painting the whole thing. Both of these guys are experienced craftsmen in their own fields. The guy running the pressure washer was as if a machine. Repeated angles of approach, every inch and every corner, perfectly pressure washed. You could tell this guy had done this before. My brother, the same way. Doing compound miter cuts on my saw, the same model saw he uses on his jobs. Every cut was preceded by 10 or 12 hand movements that placed the board, set the board firm against the saw fence, shifted just enough to get a perfect cut on the mark, set the board again, hold down tight, fingers and hands clear from the cutting path, and one smooth cut, exactly where it is supposed to be. Experience. Experience gained through time and repetition. Not just any repetition, but repeating the job with a passion that includes a balance of speed and care to not remove one’s own finger. Repetition including the belief that each step is important to a finely finished job. Sure, I could put trim up faster if I didn’t sand the cut a little every time, but the job would not be as pretty when I’m done, and the paint or stain would take more time. I could skip gluing the joints, but in less than two years they would show. A lot of the skilled labor jobs we do aren’t 7 steps of motion like a trash bag, it’s more like 20 steps, or more. Steps that include machines and materials all composed into a dance that can go south at any moment. Going too fast, or overestimating ones own experience will reveal needed practice. Some guys end up with a finger laying on the saw, neatly dismembered by a modern carbide blade. Others go to the emergency room with a nail imbedded in a body part. I won’t even begin to explain why I wear eye protection every minute of my work day.

Experienced craftsmen. We are in the middle, taking just enough time to do the job really well. Installers are the fastest. They count on certain things being in place before they start. 90 degree inside corners, plumb walls and door frames, level floors. Installers walk in with the smallest number of tools and go to town. They are so neat and tidy they could be mistaken for salesmen. Artists are at the other end of the spectrum. I know this since I have a fine arts degree. An artist takes great time and effort, sometimes employing personal quirks and habits that add to the value of their pieces. Craftsmen like me lie in the middle. Since I specialize in antique houses, I feel lucky if I work on a door or window that is actually square. Because of the age of the house, I have to strip 90 years of paint off lock sets before I make the repair. You can’t even repair a modern lockset, you call an installer. As a craftsman, I employ creativity to work through challenges. I don’t do pen and ink cartoon illustrations anymore, but I use the same motor skills to fit a coped joint in crown moulding, in a 105 year old room.

Experience is gained through repetition and practice. We start out with jobs we can manage and work our way into projects we never imagined we would master. We go home ever week thankful for the customers who employ us. Tonight when you shake that trash bag out and put it in the can, under the kitchen sink, imagine the steps in your simple task. Imagine the experience you have at work or at home.

What is the experience you have? What is your best skill? Knowing this and claiming it makes you a craftsman (craftswoman) in your own right. Stand on this confidence, know your value.

 

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Long Drives.

How far do you drive for work? I drive about 1-7 miles one way most of the time. I drive to the urban core of a large city near my house, to the suburbs around me, maybe to the outskirts of the city. I don’t like driving my truck a long way to work, and I’m surprised when I do. I laugh at myself, knowing other guys, who drive the length of our metroplex back and forth 5 or 6 times a day in some cases. I feel spoiled when I realize how easy my commutes are.
Several years ago a customer hired me to work on their house at a lake about 45 minutes away. I know garage door installers who drive 45 minutes a hundred times a month, but for me it was like a planned trip. After I talked to the customer a little bit we agreed I’d come out and work on the house un-seen in person. I was pretty sure I’d be able to do the work she showed me pictures of. It was a dare job on a drawer modification and wood finish. After I set the date on the calendar the customer said, hey, why don’t you just spend the night and hang out on the dock.
I was as stumped as you. I don’t know where this stuff comes from. Who offers a room to a worker, plus a beer and a chair on the dock? Well these people did, and because I love a dare, I packed clothes and drove further than I ever thought I’d go in a 27 year old truck, worked all day, and sure enough spent the night in a brand new customer’s house. It was a lake house, and the guest room was basically in the lower level, it had it’s own entrance, kitchen and bathroom. So I was not even in their space. And we did hang on the dock and drink a couple beers. The next day they fed me breakfast, and I finished the work on the house just like a normal day, and headed home. My little monkey brain kept counting those 90 minutes of driving I saved by staying at the lake house, but mostly I just laughed at the fun of it all.
This summer a couple in a town about 32 minutes away hired me to work on their house. Again, about four time longer than I’d drive to go to work around here. The house is nice, pretty new and out on a big lot with a private gravel road. This group of houses really choose to manage their own space. I go out to do a mile of trim. The customer who lives at the house meets me at the end of the driveway with a trailer and his SUV to help me haul my shop around the house. It was wet and he buried his car and the trailer in the yard the first drive in. He was real calm, and we hauled the gear from the sunken car to the house in a soft rain. The customer was cool as a cucumber, and obviously just saved me about 700 pounds of hauling on my own. Again, this gesture of kindness and service. After we got all the gear in the house and I was setting up my shop I asked the customer, “what’s with hiring a guy to do fairly simple trim from 32 minutes away?”. He said he had a hard time getting good help in his own area, and was glad to have me out. When I finished the job that week he helped me haul the gear back out to my truck. This time across the seemingly 20 mile front yard in some serious summer heat. We were glad to have the gear out of the house after 20 minutes of this. The woman who lived in this house was the same way. She brought a cup of coffee to me every morning and never complained when I spent a minute playing with the dogs in the front yard a couple times. Regular work. Exceptional customers.
In the last several years I’ve seen plenty of friends loose jobs. I’ve never hoped for them to get another job. Instead, I’ve always encouraged them to seek self-employment. It’s a longer drive than you wish sometimes. It is full of nights and days of un-sureness and trial. But to me, it’s the most rewarding job of all. The work is great enough. If you have half a heart, you’re always hoping and trying to do your best at the craft chosen. But real reward comes in levels of freedom, and the truly human experiences. The customers. People, who out of thin air, extend an unexpected hand of compliment and support.
Guys with job like mine go home happy at night. We spend months behind on paperwork and bookkeeping. We lay under trucks in lousy weather fixing things. We laugh with our families about the funny dogs and cats we wrestle, and we acknowledge our days of service, and the customers we have. And when something as simple as driving further than we are used to adds to the experience, we feel even more texture and depth than ever before.
I have to admit. Those 32 minute drives home were kind of nice. My truck is so noisy I wear a head set and listen to the radio. I know it’s agains the law and all that, but who cares. I just drove 32 minutes to play with dogs all day while a put a little trim up.

 

 

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Life is a mosh pit.

It happened again.  It happens all the time.  So often, I got used to it years ago.  My friends and professional buddies are always amazed that this kind of thing goes on at my job sights.  Some people call it unprofessional and risky.  They say they would never take the risk and steer clear from these moments all together.  These things strike fear and anxiety in a lot of peoples hearts.
My customer asked me who I’m voting for this year.
That’s not  a question that comes and goes quickly. Especially in this year’s America.  Sitting on a flight of stairs, painting a handrail I had put up the day before, my customer was at the table feeding one of her kids.  The conversation broke out on her accord.  I almost always wear head phones and listen to the news while I work.  All the news.  The liberal news, the conservative news, news from every direction I can find.  This customer was sort of asking questions and just chatting.  To be polite I put the news away and answered.
I don’t know how she swung the chat around to the Presidential campaign, but she did.  We talked about the issues, candidates and the state of our nation.  Like my private friends, half my customers are surprised to find out how liberal I am, while the other half is surprised to figure out I’m quite conservative.  It’s why I love the system so much, I can see both sides, all sides really, because there are a bunch.  I’m not interested in being labeled.  So don’t do it.  I am interested in being considered.  I’m interested in many things being taken into consideration, which is why I don’t pick sides.  Issues propelling America into the future are more than us versus them.  I’d rather mosh in a pit and get action from every direction, than to line dance and stay in step.  It keeps things exciting.   After several minutes of talking I had rounded the corner and headed up the stair hall, my customer moved her chair to keep talking.  Again,  these things happen pretty often.  By the time we both shared our ideas and told our truths, it became clear, she was definitely way more conservative than me, but we both agreed our nation needs help.  We agreed it’s our job as voters, no matter how different our friends, habits and lives may be, to speak up and lead our nation in our homes, neighborhoods and communities.  Some of you reading this would never imagine a conversation like this with your handyman. That may be because your handyman doesn’t have the capacity to have a civil discord.  It may be because you don’t.  I can assure you, if I reacted in these conversations to things I hear the way I see other Americans react, this woman would have turned around and fed her kid again.  But that’s not my style.  My joy is finding the place where two opposites blend into a united cause.  A place where a conservative and liberal can agree to bring our intellectual tools to the “let’s be in charge of our nation” job.  As if this kind of thing isn’t amazing enough, the next question came,  “where do you go to church?”.
Some of you think I’m making this up now.  I’m not.  It happens all the time.
At this point a lot of people in this situation would unite and relax.  But I don’t go to church.  So this created a friction for my customer.  When someone who is involved in their church finds out you don’t go to church, curiosity gets the best of them.  They keep asking the questions.  I answer.   I went to church for years, decades really.  I just don’t find myself in that place in the last several years.  The conversation continued.  We talked about our faith, where god is and how we love others.  Funny enough, as a secular kind of guy, I usually come out with the broadest brush in this area.  As the woman continued to chat it up, I had to tell the truth.  I live quite fully without fear.  While I fear acts of terror, I care for the terrorist, and know where they have come from.  While I do not fully understand the complexities of human sexuality, I support and care for the right to happiness for the LGBT community.  While I fear the gun on the woman’s hip at our local restaurant, I feel compassion for a woman who is so scared she can’t leave the house without it.  This is the dance I love.  The mosh pit.  Throwing myself into an arena of human experience knowing full well I could be hurt, but unwilling to pass up the opportunity to feel the energy, the truth and the life.  If you ask a guy where he goes to church, be ready to hear almost anything.  The mosh pit has very few rules.
After I finished the repairs on my customer’s house, I typed up a ticket and collected my check.  The customer booked more time.  Even after she learned I probably won’t be voting the same as her.  Even after having to consider employing a guy who would rather sit at home and write on Sunday morning than go to church, she hired me for more work.  This is true love.  This is when courage wins over fear and anger.  This is grass roots commitment to move our nation forward when the rest of the nation is calling names and throwing people out of each other’s rallies.   This is when people shake hands and agree to do a great job on the house again on the next visit.
I share this with you to remind you how valuable your are when you hire someone to work in your home.  Your opinions, your beliefs and your interest in who we are.  To remind you that when I sit and have lunch with my hardscaper, plumbers, electricians, roofers, painters and other home service pros, we are talking about you.  We talk about the experiences we have in customer’s homes. Your home.  We talk about the things you say to us and how you treat us.  We talk about the stupid, clumsy things we do and how we hope you’ll hire us back.  We talk about what we learn about you and what you learn about us.  And when the talking is all said and done, the food is gobbled up and the bill is paid, we can’t wait to come back for more. To come to your house and take the dares. As Kidd Rock says, to “get in the pit and love someone!”.  See you in the pits.  IMG_5065


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Fall changes moods.

Houses look pretty now.  It’s that time of the year in this region.  Blooms of color, the size of trees, right in our front yards.  Last year the color was a warm yellow with spots of orange and crimson.  This year a full burnt orange.  Same tree, different weather, water and exposure.  Kind of like us.
The houses we live in and the houses we view are reintroduced year after year thanks to fall.  Trees are organic creatures, slipping into winter dormancy, letting the colors appear as illustration of the year preceding.  And there’s the house. A little less covered than summer and not yet left standing stark in winter wind. Houses love this season.  Surrounded by the fall colors and flattered by holidays, houses provide shelter, utility and security.  When these things are lasting, legacy sets in.
In America, almost anywhere you live, between September and February, there’s a bunch of holidays.  I like this part of the year.  Customers are surprisingly busy during these months.  It seems homeowners think nothing of renovating a room right in the middle of it all.  I’ve been lucky to stay busy through a lot of holidays working on homes.  And alongside the customer I watch these houses in different seasons.  Doing a bathroom in a south facing bathroom one winter, I felt the full effects of the sun passing the sky during my work days.  It felt cold, even in a perfectly warm house.  Summer time is the season that basements and window wells call.  And now fall.  The third act of spring’s renaissance. For me fall is the season of cool, dark evenings full of festivities and food.  It’s not dead cold yet and it feels good to get out of the heat.  Customers live in these things.
The march of the homeowners is steady and diligent.  Some use riding mowers to vacuum up leaves.  Other homeowners use services to pick up bags of leaves they’ve collected.  As if, smartly dressed ants in a forest.  In tiny urban yards a rake seems to work.  The greenies like me mulch the leaves in or blow them into wild areas around the yard. All in changing light, cooling temperatures and the wind picking up.  It feels good to feel fall.
Here’s a list of things you might check around your house this fall.  Disconnect all your garden hoses from the spigots.  This prevents freeze damage to the frost free spigot.  If you’re really energetic pull the hoses out long and downhill to drain. Roll them back up with way less freeze damage in the spring.  Make sure all the gutters are clear.  Leaves and dirt collect ice.  If anything grows over the house the gutters need to be cleaned pretty often. Keep leaves blown off steps, porches, decks, patios and walks. Leaves get slimy and slick when wet.  Watch your underground drainage grates and drains for leaf clogs. Money spent on underground drainage can loose it value if they fill with sediment.  At the end of fall clean the window wells.  Keep them dry and empty during the winter.
Having a house often occupies years of time.  That’s a lot of seasons.   Next time you come home this week. Look at your house.  Enjoy the season the house sits in.  The colors, the tilt of light changing and leaves settling into their fate on the ground.   It’s nice to know the colors we enjoy this year will be a little different next.  Something to look forward to.
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