Archive for March, 2012


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I was only pretending to be awake when the electrician called back yesterday morning.  He would have been mortified to know I was in bed in my underwear talking to him about estimates.  Lucky for him, I can fake consciousness well.  The fact is I wasn’t conscious, though, so after I sent Kris on her merry way to work while I waited for a 10am rendezvous with Thomas Volz (I’m not kidding.  His name is pronounced Volts.) I started to doubt the accuracy of my appointment making skills.  Did I actually say 10am this morning or tomorrow morning?  My anxiety grew as the clock passed 10am.  Then I obsessed over whether or not to call to ask if we indeed had an appointment.

Would the electrician take me seriously if I called at 10:05 asking where he was?  Would I come off as a high maintenance idiot DIYer that they later make fun of?  Did he have a car wreck?  What if I sent him to his death by calling about my precious kitchen project?  Did I even really talk to someone this morning? [side note: yes, I did actually talk to someone.  My cell phone, unlike me, was conscious and had saved the number in the recently received phone calls.]  Did we say 10?  Is it normal for people to be late?  I mean the tree people haven’t called back and it’s been two weeks.

10:10  Yep, he’s late.  I SO remember saying 10am.  Should I call with feigned indifference?  Should I be pissed?  What if I call and come off pissed and they give me a crappy estimate because they don’t like me?

10:15.  I’ll do what I always do when I have to interact with people – I’ll call Kris first.  Kris assures me that I should call and if he doesn’t show up by 11 I should call back and say I have to go to work.  Finally, specific etiquette instructions.  I’ll call.

I got the answering machine.  They’re too busy to answer the phone.  Is my job too small for them?  What if they only work on big projects?  No, their ad says residential.  I’ll just leave an angry message.  [side note: I suck at angry messages.  In fact, I can be enraged and no one will know I even perceived a slight.  My message winds up sounding something like this: “Oh, hi. Yeah, this is Jarek Steele.  I was under the impression we had an appointment for an estimate, but I could have misunderstood, or maybe you’re just running late.  So, give me a call back here if you get a chance.”]

10:23, I’m in the kitchen duct taping bare wires to the cabinet above the stove  (I might have gotten impatient and removed the hood) when Thomas – I’ll call him Tom- shows up.  He makes no mention of being late, so I assume he hasn’t gotten my message and while he’s introducing himself I silently ponder whether or not one can recall a phone message.  No.  Probably not.

I shake his hand with the firm grip I’ve learned to use to mask the fact that I’m a giant puddle of anxiety at all times and we get to work.

The upshot:

Our stove has been plugged into an EXTENSION CORD the entire 10 years we’ve been here.  It stretches through a hole in our floor and plugs in somewhere down in our basement.  I couldn’t exactly see where, because the lights in our basement suck.

He can move some outlets, rewire the one where we want a refrigerator and put an actual outlet by our stove, no problem.  He talks me through how he can go through the weird soffit that runs into the back door with the wiring for new lights.  By the time he’s talking me through the procedure for mounting our over the range microwave (that we don’t actually have yet) I’m crossing my arms and nodding in that, “Well, we’re gonna hafta rip ‘er out & shoot ‘er on in there” kind of way that suggests I know what he’s talking about.  He pretends he doesn’t see my eyes glazing over.  He says he’ll give me an estimate by Saturday.

I’m already worrying about the message I’ll have to leave when I don’t have an email by Saturday afternoon.


For our next trick (our first being last year’s painting of our entire house), Kris and I will attempt a gut rehab of our kitchen.

The goal?  To transform our kitchen into a workable area that doubles as Kris’ happy place.

The Plan: We figure we’ll do most of the work ourselves (until we flood or burn down the house), reuse many of our old cabinets, buy a few more and build some other stuff.

The Timeline: Finish before Thanksgiving

Those of you not familiar with our beloved kitchen, we sent in a video begging HGTV to help us.   Unfortunately for us (perhaps fortunately for HGTV viewers) they did not deem us worthy, so I will now subject you to our attempts at finishing the job.

First The Pictures:

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Day 1 (3/25/2012 – Kris’ Birthday)

Kris thinks we’re going to do this gradually.  Obviously she has underestimated my obsessive compulsive streak.

On our first weekend, we cleaned out the garage and arranged my fancy schmancy new workshop with tools I borrowed from Kim The Tool Fairy.   I took out all of our floor cabinets, tore down the painted aluminum tile on the walls and ripped up the butt ugly, dog stained and scratched linoleum.  Kris cleaned, organized and cursed the basement, then cleaned, cursed and organized our dining room, which is now our kitchen/dining room.

I tried to take the mountain of adhesive off the plaster walls with a chisel attachment to the reciprocating saw like the guy at the True Value on Hampton said to do.  He showed me both a manual chisel and asked me if I had a “Saws All.”  I refused to admit I didn’t know what the hell that was, and when I saw a picture, I realized I had already borrowed one from Kim the Tool Fairy.  I know it as a reciprocating saw.  Silly me.

[Side Note: I have learned over the past nine years as a dude that guys don’t admit when they don’t know something.  Therefore, I told a white lie – sorry mom – and said I had a friend who had one even though I had already borrowed it and had it sitting in my fancy dancy workshop.  Ten years ago, I would have just said, “Oohhh that thing, yeah I have one of those.”]

The wall would have none of that nonsense, though, and even though I assured Kris I could knock down the plaster and drywall over it, she assured me that we would be covering it up with bead board or wainscoting.

Our floor is an odyssey of its own.  Kris wants to take up the floor and refinish the hard wood floor that is hopefully underneath.  Under the linoleum, we found more linoleum.  This layer was glued to the sub floor with zeal, so I tore up part of the sub floor to find – you guessed it, another floor.  This layer was asbestos tile affixed with even more zeal to the floor beneath it with what looks like a tar pit.

Plan B – We’ll leave the sub floor and tile over it.  Sunday I went to one of the inner most circles of hell (gigantic box hardware store) and bought cheap tiles and new sub floor to patch up my hole.

Total cost of the floor: $190.00

Day 3

Kris is still under the impression that we are going to do this gradually.  We went to work as usual and I might have looked at Craig’s list for cabinets while waiting for QuickBooks to load, saw an ad for free cabinets, and rushed out only to find that someone beat me to it.

[Side note: I got to the place and two guys who looked like they worked there and probably knew more about cabinets than me were loitering around the cabinets they had left.  They looked Republican and semi-intimidating, so I didn’t ask if they had anymore.  I just got into my truck (which has National Rifle Association bumper stickers on it for irony) and left.  Another lesson I’ve learned over the past nine years is not to open my mouth around guys like that unless I’m barking something like, “How’s it going?” in my deepest voice while frowning menacingly because otherwise I betray myself as the flaming queer transman I am.]

Day 4

Our events coordinator, Danielle’s, dad sells and installs cabinets for a living.  Bonus!  Kris and I drove to his store and drooled over his selection.  We left with a full pricing list and a catalog that will keep Kris busy into her 70’s.  Then we went home so I could knock down the weeds in our abandoned front yard.

More later as we continue down this uncertain road.