Ranch Redux: A Ranch Done Wright

And The Walls Come Tumbling Down

October 29, 2010
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Well it is finally happening.    After ten months of planning, designing, and packing demolition has begun!   Up until now the remodel project has been surreal.  We thought about the project constantly, wrote big checks to the architect, structural engineer, city, and the school district, but the house remained essentially the same.  Last weekend the surreal and the real had a smack down and reality won.

Friday was the Lancer Day Parade which is a big deal in Carlsbad.  All of the schools have floats in the parade, the police close down the streets, and the kids march through the town.  We went downtown with our friends Leah and Scott and found a window seat at The Pizza Port.  We drank beer and ate beer buddies as the boys ran outside to watch the parade.  We had been waiting impatiently for the Waste Management District to drop off the dumpster all day and this was a little break.  The day before Tim ordered the biggest dumpster Waste Management had.  It finally showed up around 4:30 and barely fit in our yard.  We all were pretty giddy about beginning of our adventure.  Joey named the dumpster Fred.  The neighbors all came over to see Fred and talk about our plans.  The idea was to start taking down the interior walls and kitchen cabinets the next day.  We went to sleep that night snug in our beds while visions of sledgehammers danced in our heads.

Saturday dawned and Joey and I made a couple of last minute storage unit runs while Tim prepared for a big day of demolition.  Tim has a friend named J., a master carpenter, who is helping with much of the project including the demolition.  Tim and J. started by determining which walls were load bearing, and which were curtain walls. They marked the walls that were coming down with a thick black pencil.

Then they began feeding Fred the doors, moldings and soon the living room walls.

The nails screamed as they were being torn from the walls. I asked if it was difficult to tear out the cabinets, but Tim assured me that “anyone with fifteen minutes and a sledge hammer could do it.” I doubt that.

Demolition is fun!  I mean how often can you take a sledgehammer to your walls?  At first the euphoria of starting the project and the sheer joy of wielding a sledgehammer made our Joey very happy.

For a couple of hours he was pulling off drywall and hauling the wheelbarrow with the best of them.   But when Joey and I came back from the Teri Café with lunch for everyone and most of the kitchen was gone Joey began to get really sad.  These walls that protected us during rain, wind, and fire storms were being assaulted.   This is the only house he has ever lived in and we were destroying it.  At first he tried to shrug it off, making  jokes about the termites, but soon the grief overwhelmed him.  He lamented “Things will never be the same.

“That’s true Joey, but they may be better.”  I replied.

“I just want to go home!”

I tried to comfort him, telling him that home is not made up of walls, but a home is the family therein, but he was not having any of that.

I know how Joey feels.  I can remember many times thinking that I wanted to go home even when I was in my own house.  Home is the comfort of stability, a place where you are safe, and here his own parents were threatening that.  Poor little fellow…

Luckily Joey is eleven and eleven year olds are rubber bands when it comes to emotions. We found some old, metal sparklers deep in the cabinet and celebrated our new beginning.  This buoyed his spirits.

By the next day he was getting used to his new surroundings and started finding the silver linings.  The acoustics are much better for practicing the saxophone, no one is nagging him to be careful with the furniture, and he can ride his skateboard in the house.


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An Exercise in Patience

October 13, 2010
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A couple of weeks ago we got a reality check about the cost of our remodel.  We were living in denial, deluded by the dream that we could afford to hand our project over to Dave Funkhouser, move out of the house, and let him have at it.   Dave presented us with a bid that was out of our price range thus catapulting Tim into the roles of builder-owner, plumber,  electrician, and general laborer.  People think we are crazy go this route  and most tell us we are going to get a divorce before it is all over, but I know that Tim can fix anything so I’m not worried.

I didn’t understand Tim’s talent for building and fixing things until a few of years into our marriage.  Before that, Tim solved a couple of car problems, but I never thought he was doing it right.  Growing up I saw my dad repair many cars and he knew you had to show them who was boss.  He had full command over the automobile, cussing up a storm.   “Damnit all to hell!” or my favorite “Jesus Katie Christ!”  (I thought Jesus’ middle name was Katie for the longest time.)  After a little while dad would ask one of us to try and start the car and it would roar to life.  Tim, on the other hand, seemed a little too quiet to be competent and even though the car would work at the end of his machinations, I always thought it was just a fluke.

It wasn’t until one very frigid winter that I realized Tim’s mastery of mechanics.  We were experiencing a severe cold snap and our furnace went out.  I know my friends and family on the east coast are now snickering because really, how cold does it get in Southern California?  But considering our houses here are really just glorified tents, without insulation, it was really, really cold.  Corrina was just a toddler and I started worrying about her getting sick.  We called our landlords (my mom and dad) and they said, of course, call a furnace repair company and get it fixed or replaced immediately.  We did just that, but it seemed like all of the furnaces in Orange County broke at the same time because we couldn’t get anyone to come out to the house for two weeks.  That made me very unhappy.

I woke up the next morning feeling chilly and fussy and dragged myself to work.  I waited tables on Sunday mornings at Coco’s to supplement my substitute teacher income.  On Sundays, Coco’s had three distinct groups of customers.  First there were the regulars who would come in early and order the same thing every single day.  There was Mr. #4, over easy with dry, wheat toast, and Ms. #5, bacon extra crispy, among others.  When I saw them pull into the parking lot I would put in their orders.  I thought that some day they would surprise me and order something different, but it never happened.  The second wave of customers came in around 9:30, after church services.  They were mostly comprised of families with hungry children who were antsy from being “good” all morning.  I learned to bring toast immediately.  No matter what they ordered, it came with toast if they sat in my section.  The last group came in around 11:00, bleary-eyed and slightly hung-over.  They drank prodigious amounts of coffee and ate very little.

On most Sundays Tim would bring Corrina in for breakfast in the lull between the church-goers and the party-goers.  This Sunday my little family did not show up.  I figured they were at one of our parents’ nice warm houses so I didn’t give it much thought until I arrived home.  Upon entering the house I saw Tim leaning over the dining room table scrutinizing our disemboweled furnace.   Corrina was on the floor dressed in all of her warm clothes, looking a little like an Eskimo, playing with her red, blue, and yellow wooden blocks.  Tim looked up smiling, held up a piece of metal, and said “I think I know what the problem is!”  I thought I knew what the problem was too, our furnace was in about a hundred pieces on the dining room table!  I kept my snarky comment to myself, faked a smile, and went to shower the smell of hash browns off of me.  Tim disappeared into his workshop where he carved a replica of the defunct metal piece out of ebony. He then proceeded to put the furnace back together.  Miraculously the furnace started up and began to blow hot air into our house!  Years later  we moved out of the house and forgot about the repaired furnace, but it continued to work for more than a decade.

I know a few things about this adventure we are embarking on.  I know that Tim is competent to do anything home related.  I know the cat will always find a comfortable place to sleep no matter what the chaos is.

I know that the project will take a lot longer than if we had a general contractor doing the work. I know that I will get irritated by the subcontractors and their glacial pace when it comes to bidding.  I know that every stage of the project will take much longer than I would like.  (It already has!)  I know it is going to be hell living here during the remodel.   I know I will be swallowing many snarky comments, faking smiles, and exercising my patience daily.

The demolition begins….

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We are embarking on an adventure turning a boring little ranch house into a modern style remodel.