Tag Archives: Home

Home Ownership: The American Dream?

For Hubby, me and our newborn daughter, our rental house proved a sanctuary.

Apartments worked for Hubby and me — until a percussion major moved upstairs. Then, upon expecting our first child, we learned our complex was a drug trafficking center.

We rented a house.

The only upstairs residents were squirrels. They pattered across the roof, but none sold drugs or played xylophones.

We possessed three whole bedrooms and a garage. No more scraping ice off car windows. Hubby and I began to succumb to the American Dream. …

However, the driveway didn’t shovel itself. Our house boasted a real yard — whose grass never stopped growing. Flowers I planted attracted real weeds. We purchased a shovel, mower and garden tools. Lawn chairs. And …

The infinite to-buy list should have warned us about home ownership.

But tired of paying rent, I longed to choose the colors of walls and carpet. Bang nails to hang pictures without asking permission.

Our younger daughter welcomed her new brother to the little ranch we built. Thank goodness the water and sewer system had been connected!

So, we built a little ranch in a new addition … where roads hadn’t been completed. Also, water and sewage hadn’t yet been connected to the town’s system. During that inflationary era, the special 12 percent mortgage seemed cheap, compared to an earlier 21.5 percent prime rate.

We brought two newborns to that ranch. Mysterious stains marred my carefully chosen colors. I spent years watering grass and breastfeeding babies. Neither was ever satisfied. I also discovered I wasn’t handy. If I banged a nail into one wall, a gaping hole appeared in the opposite one.

The American Dream?

Our home for 24 years.
Before we knew it, the toddler had a prom date.

One other house we owned ate water heaters and softeners. Another featured a pillow-soft porch roof, as well as a toilet that randomly ran over and soaked anyone playing Ping-Pong in the basement.

We occasionally considered living in a grass hut in Bongo Bongo.

Still, Hubby and I have called all three houses “home.”

Home, where our babies took first, shaky steps. Where they learned to watch for traffic as they walked to school. Home, where we took prom and graduation pictures. Home, where they and their children now come for holidays.

Home is the only place where Hubby and I can put feet on the furniture. Where we can blow up and make up. Bake brownies, eating them all without anyone judging.

Image by Hans from Pixabay.

Our American Dream is no HGTV superstar, but at this address, we can be us.

At home.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What home-owning adventures have you experienced?

Company’s Coming

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay.

I brush the toilet, close shower curtains to hide the bathtub ring, and shine faucets. A clean hand towel completes the deception.

I stuff dishes into the dishwasher. Gross pots and pans go under the sink. Front edges of the refrigerator shelves are washed, and I swab random spots on the kitchen floor.

Attempting the ancient balancing process known as fling shoey, I toss more shoes into the closet than block the front entrance.

The doors of all bedrooms, offices and extra bathrooms are bolted shut.

Thus, the whited-sepulchre process of cleaning for company is complete.

Why do I stress so?

When children, my siblings and I welcomed visiting kids as reinforcements in the ongoing War Against Grown-ups. Together, we reversed Mom’s earlier cleanup process with relentless efficiency. Once, my brother, our friends and I threw a superior batch of mud pies at our church’s windows.

We didn’t have company for a while.

As Dad was a pastor, our family hosted evangelists and missionaries, often with little advance warning. Watching Mom perfect the God-help-us-they’re-here drill, I learned her technique.

We children celebrated when Brother Alleman visited. Though my sister and I slept on the floor, Brother Alleman’s big smile, his faith-filled stories, and candy bars he brought won our hearts.

As a teenager, though, I wished my parents weren’t quite so hospitable.

One morning, returning after an overnight campout, I encountered a teen boy I’d never seen before, asleep on our sofa. After recovering, I helped Mom fix breakfast for him and 20 other out-of-town church members, strewn throughout our house. They’d mistakenly thought our church held services Friday evenings.

At least, that situation lasted only one night.

One female ex-gang member shared my room for months — but we became good friends. She demonstrated how to throw a knife in less than a second.

When I left home, I declared I’d live a normal life.

Normal? I married a country doctor with a solo medical practice. With my cohost often failing to show and only my children to help(?), I invited few guests. Eventually, I gave up.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay.

Recently, though, with Hubby’s slower-paced job, I dusted off my having-company drill. We’ve rediscovered hospitality.

Mudballs and gang members aside, having company has become a treat again.

Almost as good as Brother Alleman’s candy bars.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does the prospect of company stress or bless you?

At Home with the Temporary

Hubby and I labeled our new home’s difficulties as “temporary.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines that word as “lasting for a limited time.” As in, “This sparkly 1970s wallpaper is temporary.” Or, “This white carpet where kids held pop-spitting parties is temporary.”

In remodeling timelines, “temporary” resembles a blank, signed check.

We should have known better, having delayed remodeling our former house until we’d lived there 23 years. Then spent big bucks making it irresistible … so we could sell it.

Now, 11 years later, “temporary” has caught up with us again.

We’ve made some improvements: new siding, roof, and landscaping. Hubby painted the ugly, “temporary” black front door.

He says it’s orange.

I say it’s terra cotta.

Which illustrates two reasons we procrastinate in updating our home:

  1. Hubby is male.
  2. I am female.

This complicates the simplest project, yet we’ve made progress. After only 45 years of marriage, we not only like our terra cotta/orange door, we arrange decorative pillows on our bed without debate. Hubby keeps the plain one on his side. The fancy one goes on mine.

Surely, we can now agree whether to paint kitchen cabinets Blue Sand or Eggshell Ecstasy.

Hubby’s eyes narrow. “Have you ever seen blue sand? Anywhere?”

Image by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay.

I haven’t experienced ecstasy boiling eggs, either. However, I don’t want to extend a discussion about color misrepresentation to blank-check proportions. Then the cabinets will go unpainted another decade.

But a decade is temporary. Not forever.

It just seems like it.

Hubby, a reasonably skilled handyman, could shorten makeover timespans if he were married to a better assistant.

We attempted wallpapering together. Once.

Everything I touched turned to trapezoids.

No matter how carefully I measured. No matter how many tutorial videos I watched.

I should create one for homeowners like myself. I would condense “Seven Simple Steps to Your House’s Total Makeover” to “Two Simple Steps”:

  1. Light a match.
  2. Burn the place down.

But then, I’d have to move again, probably to jail. Even wallpapering with Hubby seems preferable. Though he might feel differently …

I suggest another option, in which we could forego painting the kitchen and cabinets and installing new counters and —

“New counters?” Hubby’s eyes narrow again. “Since when?”

Surely, I say, if we paint the kitchen, we should replace ancient, discolored counters. The flooring’s nicked, too.

“If remodeling seems overwhelming,” I say brightly, “we can move to a different house.”

After we sink a ton of money and work into our present home to sell it.

Before moving to another house with temporary sparkly wallpaper. Temporary stained kitchen counters. And temporary carpet somebody showered with Blue Sand …

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you at home with the temporary?

Hotel Versus Home

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

Everyone knows the opening words to “Home! Sweet Home,” penned by John Howard Payne in 1823. Few know that Payne, an American whose family opposed his theatrical career, wandered Europe most of his life, dying in Tunisia.

What did he know about “home”? Payne rarely stayed around long enough to pay for trash pickup and roof leaks.

No doubt, his home-sweet-home fantasy was fed by the reality of 1820s lodgings, in which guests often shared rooms with scary strangers. If Payne were traveling today, he’d discover modern hotels present their own unique challenges.

For example, the more expensive a room, the harder it is to operate its coffee maker. Ditto for the clock — at least, I assume it’s a clock. Both devices appear to have been designed by NASA.

Likewise, nice hotel rooms feature remarkably complex TV remotes … whose batteries are always on the blink.

Given all this advanced technology, one would expect more than two clothes hangers in the closet, right?

I do appreciate hotel rooms’ multiple electrical outlets, as our 1960s home features one extra, originally intended for summer’s single oscillating fan. In most hotel rooms today, I’m not surprised to find outlets in the ice bucket.

But where the heck are the light switches?

John Payne probably took baths in a horse trough. Unlike us, he never faced crucial questions: will turning the faucet to red guarantee tepid or scalding water? Even worse (gaaaaahhh!), was the installer color-blind?

Payne surely couldn’t have imagined hotel grooming aids labeled “Clean Sand Spa.” Racier names almost prevent me from taking them home, for fear grandchildren will discover them in a bathroom drawer: “Grandma, what’s a French Fruity Massage?”

The French factor in today’s hotels does seem overdone. Who uses a duvet at home? Why do we need more French stuff in this country? Aren’t fries and toast sufficient?

I do, however, laud hotel king-size beds, loving those 26 pillows.

Did Payne pay extra for breakfast? Probably. Past, present, or future, nothing’s free. However, some modern “free” breakfasts are worth the hidden cost. Others feature orange water and cereal resembling kitty litter.

A less familiar verse of Payne’s song reveals his mind felt at ease at home. Is this true in my case? Not always, especially as I’m eating while sneaky ants pursue “free” breakfasts.

They picked the wrong ant hotel.

For me, though, it’s home. I can make coffee here, find light switches, and sleep well, even without French influence and with only one pillow.

“Be it ever so humble,” there’s no other place I’d rather be —

If only a housekeeper would show up.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite hotel amenity?

College Christmas Break

Once upon a time, colleges didn’t evict students from dormitories three minutes after final exams. Back in the Dark Ages, Hubby and I stayed until the following Monday.

Eventually, some grinch discovered that supplying extra days’ heat for 30,000 students spoiled the university’s merry Christmas. College officials also realized that multitudes of sleep-deprived, de-brained students + 24-hour blocks of free time equaled … excitement.

In the early ’70s, though, they assumed we couldn’t wait to go home.

Right.

Sure, we’d missed our dogs.

If we’d hacked with colds, cough syrup and aspirin were blocks away instead of steps. We anticipated parents smearing us with love and Vicks® VapoRub®.

We’d languished without Mom’s cooking. Meals with fewer than 500 people might be nice. Plus, a refrigerator of free food would be at our disposal.

Free laundry, too! Mom might reintroduce us to clean clothes, as opposed to those sanctified by optimum time at the bottom of the hamper.

Add Christmas magic, and most students wanted to share the holidays with family.

Just not quite yet.

Having been chained to books, typewriters and labs, we needed to celebrate. Even our nondrinking Bible study required a two-day party.

We snarfed Christmas cookies by the bucket and played Monopoly all night. Only one guy owned a car, but 13 of us jammed into it, rolled down windows, and sang Christmas carols at the top of our flattened lungs. At stoplights, we emptied the car with Chinese fire drills.

Who needed sleep?

Besides, we comrades in the trenches of academia soon would part. For couples, December and January stretched like a forever, empty tundra.

Hubby’s long-haired college days, before the Christmas Break haircut.

During that long-hair era, guys dreaded welcome-home haircuts. We girls combed bangs out of our eyes to please our moms.

We loved our parents. But they would expect us to talk to them. To hundreds of relatives. We’d repeat our majors and future plans a gazillion times. If we didn’t have any, we’d have to make them up, quick.

Worse, our families went to bed early. At the crack of dawn, they took showers and slammed doors so a normal person couldn’t get proper rest.

Parents would expect help with the dishes. Why not summon the fairies who had done that all semester?

Ditto for putting gas in the car. Whatever happened to “free”?

Sigh. How had we lived at home so long?

After a 48-hour party, though, a 10 o’clock bedtime didn’t sound so bad. Eating a nutrient or two might be nice.

With the arrival of a station wagon loaded with delighted smiles and hugs found nowhere else on earth — well, Christmas break might be worth the sacrifice, after all.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How did (do) you celebrate Christmas break?

Recovering Neatnik

Those who know me best — especially my husband — do not believe I battled neatnik neurosis during my childhood. Sharing a bedroom with my sister, who suffered from chronic clutteritis, I developed OC tendencies in self-defense. My dolls stayed in their bed — cute, clean and quiet — until I wanted to play. Stuffed animals lined up in military order on the bed. I liked clean, shiny, bare surfaces, including floors, bureaus, and walls. As a teen, I kept my organized closet full of freshly-ironed clothes.

Life in an Indiana University dormitory cured me. Forever.

Perhaps my newfound maturity added to my messy success. Perfect order seemed less essential when I had to choose between going out Friday nights and cleaning my room or doing laundry and ironing. Besides, nobody at college had ever heard of an iron. Some had never heard of laundry.

I also credit much of my lifetime recovery to my three children. Gifts from God, they drove my neatnik tendencies away forever. No clean, shiny, bare surfaces appeared in our house for a couple of decades.

True, a period of danger ensued when they left home. Without their loving, anarchic presence, I might have succumbed once again to this terrible affliction. But they loved their old mom and, out of pure concern, left behind sufficient junk to defeat my tidy demons.

Now my grandchildren have joined their parents in concern for my well-being. The spare rooms bulge with toys I gave away 15 years ago, then re-bought at garage sales. An inflated monkey I purchased for fun days at the beach then hid to keep my grandchildren from fighting over it. Stacks of free cereal box books. A fuzzy Frosty the Snowman and Petey the Penguin, still in their 70-percent off package, bought to wiggle, jiggle and delight my grandchildren this coming Christmas. Or maybe they were supposed to thrill the kids five Christmases ago?

Even more touching, my in-laws joined in the fight to end my obsessive-compulsiveness forever. Not long ago they visited us, bringing my husband’s childhood scrapbooks and his favorite deer farm drinking glass, preserved from those exotic vacations in Hayward, Wisconsin.

With all this family support, I won’t see clean, shiny bare surfaces until heaven.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you a neatnik or a clutter queen (king)?