There are three significant challenges that invoke fear and trepidation in the souls of human beings.
The first is to scale the heights of Mt. Everest.
The second is crawl through that secret, bug-soaked passage way Indiana Jones had to traverse in The Temple of Doom.
The third is for a married couple to try to build a house together.
Anna and I are not quite ready for the Everest of home building. So, we're taking smaller and smaller steps towards our dream, inching our way towards it. We're starting with smaller peaks, something more in line with a 14,000 footer out in Colorado.
One room at a time. That's been our motto so far, and it's served us okay in this old farmhouse. We've made some improvements, and haven't died in the process. Neither have we strangled one another.
First the kitchen. That was probably five years ago. The guy we call Builder Bob helped us do that remodel. Okay, he pretty much did it all, and I managed to botch the mudding and sanding job. But, it's better. And the roof has only leaked twice when it has rained. But those were really heavy rains!
Sometime last year, we started on the front entryway room to our house, and this time my father-in-law helped me frame up everything. I even did a pretty good job of putting up the drywall and applying the first coat of mud last fall. I even sanded the mud a few times, but - as Joe has told me many times - sanding is a fine art. Too much and you're back to square one. Too little and you've got the imperfections equivalent to bad teenage acne. I have yet to learn the finer stroke required of a true craftsman.
Nonetheless, I really did intend to paint the room - imperfections and all.
Well, winter moved into town, and more pressing things took over: gathering and splitting firewood, swim season, espn.com.
Undeterred, Anna and I were determined to continue on with our home improvement projects. This summer, we had one clear goal: do all that was truly necessary to turn the backroom into a fully functioning bedroom for Wyatt, motivated as we were by the recurring bloody-scratches on my son's arms and wailing pleas of help from my daughter as my son struck back in retaliation. Apparently, the ages of 9 and 7 are the limit for how long a brother and sister can stand being in the same room together.
Are we going to tackle the backroom? Anna and I would ask each other.
Yes, we have to, right? Checking each other to see how long we could dance around fully committing.
But, no, we had to. We just had to. There's just something wrong about putting your first born child in a room that routinely grows frost on the windows in the winter. And that's the good season. I won't tell you what grew in there during the summer.
So I thought we were together ... all up until the point when I was 3/4 of the way into the demolition of the room, and Anna came with her mother to assess the job and to conference about our next steps. It was clear enough to me. We were going to do all the walls, tear the whole place apart and gut the ceiling before putting insulation back in.
But, as I started to explain this to Anna's mom, Anna said, "Are we sure?"
I may have looked at Anna with a furrowed brow, which she must have seen because she went on:
"Well, I'm just saying our track record for getting things done isn't all that great. I mean we still haven't finished the front room."
What was this?! A chink in our collective marital armor? A frayed edge in our loving and tight bond?
Thankfully, fools rush in.
We're getting closer. I won't jinx ourselves by saying that we're done. But, definitely we're closer.
Tonight we bought carpet for his room that will hopefully be delivered and installed sometime next week.
After Anna's moment of probably justified pessimism, we did go on and tear the whole thing back to studs. I put in all of the insulation in the walls and the roof. Drew and Joe helped us hang the drywall from floor to ceiling, and I even managed to at least sure up the outside wall for the time being without making things look too bad. Okay, the cedar trim boards are definitely a bit askew. Shoot, though, who honestly looks at the back of our house.
Plus, we've finally figured out that I'm never going to actually finish a drywall job. I swallowed my ego and called up some other guys to come do it. Lo and behold, they've even got the first coat on everything, and all while not muttering too much about how it's so hard to do a job once some poor sap like me starts it out wrong.
Maybe we can even say that we've managed to make it up the Pike's Peak of home remodels?
That's something, right?
Tell me that's something.