Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Renovation Time

One side effect of the approaching holiday season is that many of us decide to begin household projects. Whether families are expecting company during Christmas or entertaining for New Years, most people have at least a few undone chores.

The call is heard: get the projects done. Cool weather is always more conducive to indoor projects. In addition, the end of the calendar year gives us a deadline to finish tasks.

Since moving into my house a number of years ago, there was one, looming task remaining: redoing the kitchen. Why was this task delayed? Mostly because I could not decide what to do. Each time a new trend would emerge, I would cut pictures from magazines trying to analyze options. What style to try? What colors would look best?

The kitchen was finished a few weeks ago and the result is great. But the interruption to daily life far worse than anticipated. The work only took a couple of weeks, but workers were here daily and access to the kitchen nonexistent. Still, it looks great now and I didn't have to do much of the actual work.

A couple of recent events brought remodeling efforts to mind.

First, I was watching an HGTV program about people who purchased unusual buildings and remade them into fabulous homes. The buildings had all been abandoned and decrepit, including a classic old New York bank, a Spanish-style California school and a 19th century church. In each case, the buyers and subsequent homeowners had the vision to recognize the architectural beauty of the building and its potential. Each renovation was massive and no doubt frequently overwhelming. But the end results were spectacular.

What motivates someone mid-project to continue to the finish? There are probably countless untold stories of abandoned renovations where the task became too difficult or large to complete. Perhaps the buyer experienced some type of set back -- financial, personal, medical -- and was unable to complete the work. Perhaps the buyer had a spouse/partner who said, "Enough already."

Several years ago I worked with a woman whose husband was a contractor. He had begun remodeling their own kitchen many years earlier. "It's still not done," she would remark, shaking her head. "He works on other people's remodels all day long and by the time he gets home, the last thing he wants to do is more of the same."

I have to give kudos to those renovators who can stick with an overwhelming project until it is done.

The other event prompting thoughts of home repairs was the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy. Seeing the devastation suffered by folks on the East Coast is heartbreaking. I know what it is to encounter mold and water damage and cannot imagine how anyone can begin the process of clean up. Not only did they have to endure the storm, the frightening winds and rain, but they had to immediately turn their attention to rebuilding/repairing with no time for personal recovery.

Each time the news features stories of communities that have suffered flooding, tornado damage or wildfires, I cringe for the residents. They are dealing with loss on so many levels at once. They have lost everything, perhaps even loved ones. Many have become separated from their pets. They are without comforts, personal items, documents they might need. How can they begin to "fix" something forever gone?

Volunteer efforts appear to be strong, providing food, clothing and shelter within a short period. Volunteer agencies also step forward to help in the long run with clean up and rebuilding.

But as of today, some homeowners are still without power nearly two weeks after the storm hit. I cannot imagine what it takes to continue bravely under such conditions. People who keep their nose to the grindstone and forge on toward the future are truly to be admired.

Knowing that people have lost everything is a sobering thought. It makes the rest of our rather trivial concerns irrelevant by comparison.

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