The Joys of Home Ownership (or How I Discovered I’m Not Joe Handyman), Pt. 3

August 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Photo credit: Eniko Polgar | Unsplash.com| License: CCO

Photo credit: Eniko Polgar | Unsplash.com| License: CCO

[This is part 3 of a 3-part series. You can read Part 1 HERE, and Part 2 HERE.]

When I was a young homeowner, I fancied myself to be Joe Handyman. However, it didn’t take much to convince me otherwise. Only a two-foot-deep, heated swimming pool under the floorboards of my house.

Actually, it wasn’t the leaking water pipe that convinced me I wasn’t Joe Handyman. And it wasn’t even having to belly crawl about 30 feet through frigid mud around a labyrinth of old water pipes to get to the leak. It was something that happened afterward.

By the time I got to the source of the leak underneath the hot water tank, I spotted the problem immediately. There was a tiny spray of water coming from an even tinier hole in the copper tubing leading from the hot water heater. When we bought the house, one of the conditions was that the sellers run hot and cold water lines to the new laundry room they’d added at the other end of the house. In the process of installing the hot water line, someone had evidently nicked the tubing. Over time, the leak had developed and grown large enough to fill the entire space under our house.

I figured out what I would need to fix the leak. No problem.

And then it hit me.

I didn’t have any tools or supplies. So now I had to turn around (again) and crawl another 30 feet through mud to get back to the scuttle hole.

Then I would have to flip onto my back in the cold mud (again).

Skootch backward on my bottom in the wet, cold, mud (again).

And climb back up through the scuttle hole.

Then I’d have to go to the hardware store (we didn’t have Lowe’s or Home Depot back then), buy what I needed, come back to the house, change back into my wet clothes…

…and belly crawl through the mud, 30 feet around old dead pipes, fix the leak, and crawl back out again.

Somewhere during that process I said, “Never again.”

Joe Handyman Returns

Joe Handyman Returns

I managed to fix the leak, but to this day I can’t remember the details. I believe it’s a case of hysterical amnesia.

By the time I came up through that scuttle hole for the last time, Joe Handyman had retired.

Until last week.

As the late, great Yogi Berra said, “It was deja vu all over again,” when I noticed a trickle of water running down our driveway last week.

The first day I saw it, I thought it was runoff from a recent rainstorm.

The second day, I knew it wasn’t.

We had a leak, this time coming from our water well. Determined to keep Joe Handyman in retirement, I asked Laurel to call our plumber.

He told me it would be a lot cheaper if I found the leak first, and then called him out.

Which meant digging.

In the mud.

Sigh.

Joe Handyman came out of retirement–briefly. But now my work is done.

The plumber will be here first thing tomorrow morning.

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The Joys of Home Ownership (or How I Discovered I’m Not Joe Handyman), Pt. 2

August 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Photo credit: Eniko Polgar | Unsplash.com| License: CCO

Photo credit: Eniko Polgar | Unsplash.com| License: CCO

[This is Part 2 of a 3-part story. You can read part 1 HERE.]

You have to understand something about me before you’ll fully appreciate this story: Not only am I not Joe Handyman. I’m also not Joe Outdoorsman.

I hate camping. If you take me camping, within about 45 minutes of arriving at the campsite, I’ll be thinking, “Just shoot me.”

One of the primary reasons I hate camping is I don’t like feeling unwashed, dirty, grungy, or muddy.

Especially muddy.

I’m a wimp, okay?

Now, keep that in mind as we return to my underground heated swimming pool.

At this point in my life, I had not yet realized that I’m not good at fixing things. Instead, I decided that I would take on this challenge and vanquish it.

Joe Handyman to the rescue!

First task was to drain the water from under the house. I went to the local rental center and rented a sump pump. In short order, I had the water pumping out through our bedroom window and into the street. Piece of cake.

My confidence soaring, it was now time for phase two of the project. I had to find the leak.

Given that the water under the house was hot, I had a pretty good idea that the leak was coming from the hot water heater. (I know. My powers of deduction amaze me at times.)

In a direct line, the distance from the scuttle hole in our bedroom closet to the water heater couldn’t have been more than 10 feet, give or take a foot. All I had to do was go down through the hole and crawl the ten feet to the water heater, figure out where the leak was and what I needed to fix it, and then get the supplies and do the job.

I had this well in hand.

Until I went through the scuttle hole.

First, I’m not a particularly small person, so getting down under the floorboards was…how shall I say this…interesting.

Photo credit: Skeeze | Pixabay.com | License: CCO

Photo credit: Skeeze | Pixabay.com | License: CCO

I put on an old T-shirt and jeans and descended into the blackness. Well actually, I couldn’t descend very easily. I just sat down.

In cold mud.

Then I kind of had to skooch forward on my bottom until I was lying on my back.

In cold mud.

Next I had to figure out how to turn over. I don’t remember how I managed it, but I rolled onto my stomach.

Did I mention that the mud was cold?

So, now I’m soaked to the bone in cold mud, front and back, lying on my stomach and ready to belly crawl just a few feet to the water heater.

One problem.

Underneath the house was a labyrinth of old and new pipes, entirely blocking any direct path to the water heater.

I managed to work my way around until I was pointing the other direction. (Don’t ask how.)

The only way I could possibly get to the water heater and the leak was to belly crawl away from the heater, toward the front of the house, turn right and go the width of our bedroom, turn right again and crawl the length of the bedroom and several feet down the hallway.

On my stomach.

In cold. January. mud.

But the indignities were only beginning.

To be continued…on Friday.

 

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The Joys of Home Ownership, (or How I Discovered I’m Not Joe Handyman), Pt. 1

August 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Photo credit: Eniko Polgar | Unsplash.com| License: CCO

Photo credit: Eniko Polgar | Unsplash.com| License: CCO

There’s nothing like owning your own home.

That’s what everybody told me, at least.

And I have to admit, when Laurel and I bought our first little house on Pecan St., I thought it was perfect.

Older, 1950s-era pier-and-beam. Hardwood floors. Quiet little neighborhood. Pecan tree in the back yard. Burgundy shutters.

I suppose you might even have called it a young couple’s dream house.

But when we moved from our apartment across town into our dream house, I forgot about one thing. When anything broke at our apartment, we had this special word that solved every (or most) problems: maintenance. All we had to do was call the office and someone would be dispatched to fix what wasn’t working. It was like magic.

It wasn’t particularly long after we moved into our dream home that I discovered the brutal reality. Our house didn’t come with a maintenance man. If something broke, I had to fix it (or pay somebody else to do it).  And, given that our house at that time was around 40 years old, the chances were pretty good that I was eventually going to have to fix something.

But I never imagined it would happen so soon.

Or so dramatically.

It was our first winter in the house. We spent Christmas with my parents down in Baytown, Texas, and when we pulled into our driveway I noticed a trickle of water running from the house, down the driveway, and into the street.

That’s interesting, I thought. Doesn’t look like it rained while we were gone.

We unloaded our suitcases and carried them into the house.

When we stepped inside the door, it felt like we’d entered a steam bath. It was not only humid, it was hot.

Laurel and I looked at each other. It was one of those moments in a marriage where words are not necessary.

We walked around the house and couldn’t find any water leaks. And we almost breathed a sigh of relief–until we looked down.

“Why are the floorboards warped?”

Have you ever felt an unnamed dread hang over you like a cloud of doom?

Yeah. That’s how I felt.

Because in that moment I had a good idea of where that little trickle in our driveway was coming from. Our house had a pier and beam foundation, but the outside perimeter was solid concrete. And all of our water pipes ran underneath the floorboards. And if there was a leak, there was nowhere for the water to go.

I went to one of the two scuttle holes that gave us access to the area under the floor. When I lifted the hatch I discovered that we now had a two-foot-deep, swimming pool underneath our house.

I checked the scuttle hole in our bedroom closet, which was near the water heater.

You could see the steam rising up from the floor.

We not only had a two-foot-deep swimming pool under our house.

We had a two-foot-deep heated swimming pool under our house.

But that’s okay. I was a homeowner now, and I would show the world that I was up to the task. I was going to meet this challenge.

One problem.

I am not remotely handy.

Problem is, I didn’t know that yet.

As a matter of fact, I considered myself to be Joe Handyman.

TO BE CONTINUED… (on Wednesday)

 

 

 

 

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Is It Possible to Stop Grieving Too Soon?

July 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Image Credit: Jim Jackson | License: CC-O | Used by  permission

Image Credit: Jim Jackson | License: CC-O | Used by permission

Most of us have encountered people who we thought were stuck in grief, who needed to “get over it.” [Read my thoughts on that HERE.] But what about people we think haven’t grieved enough?

Do you know someone who went through a tragic loss, but who seemed to handle it too well?

There have been times in my life and ministry when I have encountered people who worried me because they didn’t fit my expectation of what grief should look like. I concluded that they were either in denial, or suppressing their emotions, and I was worried for them.

Although it is possible for people to suppress grief, and this can cause real problems, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind before you come to that conclusion.

If a friend or family member seems “too happy” after a loss, remember:

  • If you are not seeing that person 24 hours a day, you don’t have the whole picture.
  • Some people prefer to keep their grief private.
  • Some people do not like to make others uncomfortable, and so they hide their feelings when they are with you.
  • Everybody responds differently to loss. Just because a person isn’t grieving the way you think they should, doesn’t mean they are not dealing with their loss.

When I see someone who is not grieving the way I think they should, I remind myself that I have not walked the road they’re walking, and it’s not my place to judge. My place is to love, support, and encourage.

Often the best way to do that is to go beside them and hold their hand as they walk the road of sorrow.

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The Impostor (Fiction Improvisation)

July 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Photo credit: Brigitte Thom | Unsplash.com | License: CCO

Photo credit: Brigitte Thom | Unsplash.com | License: CCO

Fiction Improvisation by James Pence
Title: The Impostor
Keywords: Anthony, Kelly, governor, arthritic, pander, salubrious, begonia, ancestry,
Situation: Man mistakenly wins a Newbery award.

NOTE: This improvisation was fun. I did make some changes to the situation, however. Instead of the man winning a Newbery Medal, I created a fictional award. Don’t want the Newbery people getting mad at me. I hope you enjoy it.

    *      *     *

It was a mistake. It had to be.

But the check Anthony S. Newell held in his hands looked plenty real.

Granted, he’d never heard of the Society for Quality Young Adult Literature (SQYAL), but they’d evidently heard of him.

Anthony’s hands trembled as he examined the check for what seemed like the fiftieth time. Maybe it was a scam or some kind of sales pitch. He’d gotten them before. They send you what looks like a real check, but when you read the fine print you realize the check is about as real as a dollar bill with Donald Duck’s picture on it. It’s just a hook to get you to read their sales copy.

But there was no fine print with this check.

And no sales copy.

Just a letter.

On very expensive stationary.

Dear Mr. Newell,

Congratulations! The SQYAL Board of Governors is pleased to inform you that your self-published novel Teenage Werewolves from Jupiter has won first prize in our Best New Science Fiction category. Enclosed is your award check in the amount of $5,000. We hope you will be able to attend our awards ceremony in New York City on August 5th and personally receive your SQYAL Award. You may RSVP to the following e-mail address: awards@sqyal.com.

Anthony looked at the check one more time, turning it over in his hands.

“Do you want me to get you a microscope so you can look closer?”

Anthony turned and frowned at his wife. “Not necessary. It’s real.”

“You aren’t planning on keeping that, are you?” asked Kelly Newell.

“And why shouldn’t I?”

“Well, for starters, they probably thought they were giving it to the real Anthony S. Newell.”

Anthony’s face flushed. “I am the real Anthony S. Newell.”

Kelly shook her head and walked into the kitchenette. “Whatever.”

Anthony stormed behind her. “Don’t question my ancestry. My legal name is Anthony Seymour Newell.”

Kelly poured a cup of coffee from a carafe that looked as if it hadn’t been washed in years. She shooed flies away from a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich on the countertop. “And you just happen to share that name with a bestselling author, except that his middle name is Samuel.”

“So?”

Kelly waved away more flies and took a bite of the peanut butter sandwich. “And you deliberately design your book covers to look exactly like his. You even use the same font for your name.”

“There’s no law against that.”

“And you write the same genre he does. You even copy his subject matter.”

Anthony went back into the living room. He grabbed the check and waved it at her. “None of that matters. This is real.”

Kelly replied, taking a sip of coffee. “You’re impersonating one of the biggest, richest authors of our time, and it’s all just a big coincidence.”

“I didn’t say that. But I know that this check is real and I’m going to New York to pick up my award in person.”

Kelly shrugged. “Just sayin’. If that check is real, you’d better plunk it into savings. One of these days you’re going to get a cease and desist letter from the real Anthony Newell. And that letter could cost you a lot of money.”

*   *   *

Anthony contacted SQYAL by e-mail to let them know he was planning to attend the August 5th awards ceremony. They were delighted and even offered to make his travel arrangements. First class, roundtrip airfare to New York City. Two nights in the Ritz-Carlton. Limo service from the airport. Gourmet dining.

And his room! He had a deluxe park view suite, with a fully stocked bar. King-sized bed. Jacuzzi. 60-inch curved screen ultra HD TV. And even a vase filled with begonias, his favorite flower.

They were thorough. Must have checked out my website bio.

This was the life.

The only strange thing was that in almost two days, he hadn’t seen any other award winners around the hotel. And no advertising for the award ceremony, either.

No matter. He’d gotten an email, inviting him to Suite 2102 at 7 p.m. that evening.

When the time came, he dressed in a tux he’d bought specially for the occasion and headed up to Suite 2102.

As he stood before the door, he straightened his tie and brushed dandruff from his shoulders. This was his big moment.

Anthony took a deep breath and knocked.

The huge man who opened the door looked more like a bouncer than a literary executive.

Anthony stepped inside and heard the door close behind him. Then he heard the click of the deadbolt.

There were no other award winners there. Just one man, looking out the window toward Central Park, his hands clasped behind his back.

Anthony felt the bouncer behind him. Gentle but firm pressure on his back moved him forward. His mouth went dry.

When the man turned around, Anthony felt like throwing up. He knew the man’s face. He was standing before the real Anthony S. Newell.

“Anthony Seymour Newell,” said the man, not smiling. He motioned toward a table. “Sit down. We have a lot to talk about.”

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How Long Should Grief Last?

July 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Image Credit: Jim Jackson | License: CC-O | Used by permission

Have you ever thought or said this about a friend or relative who is “taking too long,” to grieve a loss: “It’s been a long time and she’s still grieving. Shouldn’t she be over it by now?”

Anyone who has experienced a traumatic loss will tell you that there is no set time for getting over grief.

Truth be told, you never get over it. You learn to live with it, to adjust, to function, and hopefully even to enjoy life again.

But you never get over it.

Grief changes you. It makes you into a different person than you were before your loss. That’s neither good nor bad; it just is. The grieving person must adapt to a new life he did not want or anticipate.

Sometimes it takes years to adapt.

And that’s okay.

People grieve at their own pace.

So, if you have a friend or relative who is still grieving after a long time, give them a break–even if you feel it’s been “too long.”

Pray for them; encourage them; love them.

But don’t ask, “Shouldn’t you be over this by now?”

 

 

 

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