Monday, December 19, 2016

Homebound by reality TV

 My guilty pleasure is watching HGTV shows about home renovations. “Love it or List it.” “Flip or  Flop.” “Property Brothers.” “Fixer Upper.” “Tiny House Hunters.” Even my husband now watches, remarking on the strange and sometimes silly choices made, both by homeowners and renovators.

At this point, I’ve seen enough shows and refurbished homes that they’re all starting to look alike. I can predict with certainty that interior walls will come down, large islands will dominate new kitchens, hardwood floors will supplant carpeting, and subway tile will be the go-to choice for bathrooms and kitchens.

I could play house-hunting Bingo with phrases likely to be muttered by potential homeowners viewing properties:
  • “This kitchen is sooooo dated.”
  • “Ew, I don’t like the brick fireplace.”
  • “There’s no ‘wow’ factor in the foyer.”
  • “I don’t think having one sink in the bathroom will work for us.”
  • “White walls, how boring,” or “I don’t like the wall color; it all needs to be white.”
I get a lot of exercise rolling my eyes. Maybe it’s because decades of homeownership, and four houses later, I’ve learned that every single one needs work to make it your own. I’ve stripped my share of wallpaper, painted and repainted walls, changed out old carpeting for hardwood and new carpets, remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, and replaced windows, doors, and siding.

Still, I can imagine an HGTV host walking in the door and pronouncing my house dated. Corian instead of quartz countertops? A kitchen peninsula instead of an island? No shiplap or backsplash? A laundry area in the kitchen? How quaint and 1980s. They would definitely recommend ripping everything out and starting fresh.

“Have at it,” I’ll tell the next buyers, but I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. Rather than dated, I consider these timeless design elements. My house is functional, if not trendy. I did have subway tile in my first house, but after years of riding subways, I now associate them with the pungent smell of urine. So, no thanks, I won’t be choosing subway tile anytime soon.

The more I watch home shows, the less enamored I become of the result. Most look like showplaces or upscale hotels instead of cozy homes. Or they are the nth version of redesigns featured in previous weeks. Some even look just like the home section of retail stores. Maybe I would want a trendier look if I were buying my first house, but these days I’m content with tried and true.

My only comfort is knowing that today’s trends quickly turn into tomorrow’s outdated designs, which in time become vintage. All I have to do is wait.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Near misses and dodged bullets

'Tis the time of year when stuff happens – and not the kind of stuff anyone looks forward to. Most people have stories of an ailing parent or family member. Car accidents seem less accidental and more destined, especially with mobile-device-using drivers on the road. And there's always the unknowable and unexpected. If you’re lucky, the outcome is nothing terminal, chronic, or expensive to fix.

For me, last week seemed the perfect storm of potentially bad stuff happening. Respiratory symptoms recurred that should have been long gone. Friends reported strange ailments. Elderly moms (mine and others’) required immediate medical interventions. And our sports car took off on its own.

After a few worrying days, most things returned to near normal. Medical consultations occurred. Conditions  stabilized. And our car was successfully extracted from the neighbor’s backyard.

Oh, I guess that last one needs some explanation. It helps to know that my husband has lusted after this particular model sports car since age 14. Finally, in 2012, we bought a gently used 2005 Porsche 911. My one stipulation was that it be his everyday car. On Thursday he drove it to the store. Upon returning he asked: “Do you want the good news or the bad?” That’s never a good opener, and I opted for the good news. “No one got hurt.” The bad news? He had to show me.

I followed him into the garage, and I kept following him down the driveway, through the yard between two neighbors, down the terraced backyard of one neighbor, and to the creek bordering the local farm market. There it was. The Porsche. Looking perfect, but perfectly stuck in a ditch.

Funny thing about emergency brakes; when they fail, they cause their own emergencies. My husband had parked the car in the garage, set the brake, got out, and backed away. The car also backed away, slowly, on cat’s feet. My husband saw what was happening, but – luckily – didn’t make matters worse by attempting to stop a moving car.

He ran alongside until the car outpaced him. Then he watched it hop a curb, scamper down the neighbor's sloping lawn, and settle in the creek bed. It took 24 hours, three tow trucks and their operators, a winch, and the kindness of neighbors to get it unstuck. The professionals parked it safely on the flatbed and towed to the shop where the claims adjuster could have a look-see. Our insurance company, State Farm, couldn’t have been more responsive and even nice about the whole thing. And the neighbors were appropriately astounded and amused at our predicament.

We were lucky. Things could easily have gone sideways. Or, as the Brits say, pear-shaped. The car could have hit someone or something. It could have flipped or landed in the neighbor’s living room. Instead, it just went for a wander.

I consider last week one of near misses and dodged bullets. Things could have been a whole lot worse in a number of different ways. But they weren’t. And for that, I am truly grateful