Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

How Natasha found her groove…

We had to keep the bright blue and white reflective highway sign. It was stolen. And it was a house-warming gift.

Some decisions in the Great Garage Plunder of 2012 were easy to make; others, not so much. Over the past 17 years, our garage had become a shrine to the purposeful and the pointless. When we cleaned it out to move it to make way for the Shangri-la that will be our new garage (“Can We Build It? God only knows”), it was obvious that not everything was going to make the “we’re keeping this” cut.

Jay’s numerous tools are in the storage unit awaiting their new digs. My Sponge Bob SquarePants golf ball went to the thrift store with my secondhand golf bag containing a putter, a driver and the broken remains of a couple of irons. The previous owners were sore losers and I’m a half-assed beginner, hence the hand-me-downs.

Yes to lawnmower, shovels, extension cords and assorted cans of spray paint. No to three half-empty bags of potting soil (yes I’m both a pessimist AND forgetful about where I put things), a stack of rubber mats for steel-tip dartboards, and the Easyrider pin-ups who are now in their 50’s. Then we happened on a little item that had us stumped: a pocket guide to speaking Russian.

It clearly wasn’t ours. The only Russian we speak has been gleaned from “The Hunt for Red October” (my hubby’s favorite movie) and it’s spoken with an accent reminiscent of Boris and Natasha from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” Toss, Jay said. Keep, I countered.

While I’ll never be featured on A&E’s “Hoarders”, I tend to accumulate, in small manageable amounts, items of a curious nature. The Russian primer was my second looted treasure in as many months. The first was unearthed during my annual spring pilgrimage to Minnesota to visit my dad. On the agenda during my stay was tackling the remnants of the three households stored in his basement. The majority of it was amassed by my parents during 40 years of marriage; the rest of it was inherited from my deceased grandparents and godparents.

“Happy Birthday, Mary Ka-ay…!”

Hidden within that labyrinth was the complex history of my family. Dad’s airman stripes from his 1960’s service in the Air Force. A tiny Japanese lantern from my mom’s senior prom. Enough Catholic rosaries to outfit a convent of nuns. And the mother lode: a personal greeting record my grandparents gave to my mother in 1950 for her 7th birthday. It plays “Happy Birthday” with her name sung in the chorus. Imagine how excited she must have been to put that 45 on her little record player for the first time.

Piles of clutter bother me not because they’re an eyesore but because I need to know what’s buried in them. I crave the thrill of revelation and the angst of what to do with the recovered. I use what I can. The birthday record has joined my collection of 45’s. And I’m learning Russian. So far, I can tell a customs agent “These are for my personal use”. God, I hope he’s a “Bullwinkle” fan.

What unexpected treasures have you pillaged?

He saw us coming from a mile away. We weren’t the only ones wandering through the home improvement store that morning with hand-scrawled building plans and a valid credit card but when the guy in the blue vest standing behind the counter saw the determination on my husband’s face, he knew he had a live one.

This building project we’re considering is my husband’s vision. My job is to find a way to make it happen. His job is to explain it in such a way that we can get a quote to take to the bank so I can do my job. The home improvement merry-go-round at the Thompson house never stops, and this year the painted pony we’re chasing is a new garage to replace the single stall version we have now.

A garage was the big selling point when we first bought our house. “We can put your car in it in the winter. No more scraping windows!” Hubby said enthusiastically.

I stupidly swallowed the bait. In 16 years, my car has spent less than 60 days in our garage, which has been taken up with motorcycles, snowblower, lawnmower, off-season patio furniture, tool boxes, coolers, a wall-length workbench (which doubles as a doghouse), three cabinets that Hubby is going to “do something with”, a small propane furnace that threatens to suffocate us every time we turn it on, and a rusty refrigerator that a friend brought over after HIS wife told HIM to get it out of THEIR garage. It lived in ours for several years as a beer cooler and liquor cabinet until it developed a suspicious fuzz problem and had to be put down. We need a new garage.

I have yet to meet a married couple who are on the same page when it comes to building projects. Oh, you may think you are but not only are you not on the same page, you’re not even reading the same book. The “vision”, as it was explained to me, was for a simple two-stall garage with a little extra room for a workshop. The “vision”, as it was explained to Mr. Blue Vest, was a little bit different.

“How big are we going here?” he asked. Hubby gave him the dimensions which turned out to be roughly the same size as our house, minus two feet on one end. What? We need three windows and a steel entry door, he continued, and one garage door that’s 10 feet wide and one that’s 9 feet wide. Huh? Sheetrock, electrical for a 220 hook-up, overhead lighting, lumber for a workbench, an air conditioning unit, oh, and a heated floor. Now, wait a minute, I said. Heated floor? That’s a carrot that was dangled in our home improvement discussions before when the basement bathroom was installed. I lost that battle. Our current floor heating system down there is a 50-year-old pyromaniac space heater that habitually toasts bathrobes and carelessly tossed pairs of underwear. But the garage was getting a heated floor?

At that point, I stomped off, and went to the only part of the store with things hanging from the ceiling I could swat at in frustration: the lighting department. If you find yourself stressed in a DIY store and you decide to go this route, swing at the plain white light fixtures. If you accidentally break one, they’re cheaper.

Hubby eventually wandered over, quote in hand. Dodging the swinging pendant lights, he waved the sheaf of papers at me and said, “Holy crap, the garage I want could be kind of expensive.”

I sent a Mission-style chandelier swinging with one poke. “Yep.”

“We probably don’t need some of this stuff, huh?”


He scrutinized the figures, crossed out some options, and did some quick math. Folding the quote in half, Hubby surreptitiously slid the paper across the shelf to me.

“How’s that figure look to you?”

I curled back the corner of the page to see the number circled on the bottom. “I think I can make that work. Let me talk to my people.”

“You folks have a nice day!” The blue-vested minions called as we walked out to the parking lot. My husband waved and said, “See you soon!” I just kept walking.

The visit wasn‘t all stressful. Here’s a little item I found on my trek through the store I thought you might find interesting:

I asked a passing clerk where I could find them just to see if I could get her to say, “Stalkers in aisle 7.” But she wouldn’t play. Poop.