Hey, Let’s Do The Limbo Rock!

Lorna’s new-old home is one major construction project after another and both she and Chuck have professional jobs. Will it ever feel homey like her trailer did?

I lived in a New Moon Trailer. Look! It had everything a family could want: windows, walls, carpet, a ceiling. Now that was a home!

The Limbo Rock was a dance popular when I was young. Two people held up a bar or pole and drunken nuts would shimmy under the pole, bending backwards. The winner was the most flexible fool who made it under the pole without falling down or breaking her/his back. I prefer today’s version of pole dancing—much better on the back, at least for most of the moves.

See how much easier it is to have fun when the pole is vertical rather than horizontal?

I wasn’t imbibing, but plenty of beer and other alcohol flowed during the construction phase of our house. I noticed that the bar was raised pretty high in the beginning. Chuck was a great planner and he knew this process: he been through it before when his parents bought and restored their old farmhouse. I was blissfully ignorant. My role was the supportive wife, mother, and wage-earner who had visions of our beautiful historic home. It was easy to shimmy under the pole then.

Chuck devised construction phases, time-lines and specific budget allocations. I believed in trusted in was comforted by his detailed written plans. What did I know? I was raised in a trailer. You go to the trailer store, pick one out, get it delivered, and move in. Simple.

There was nothing simple about what Alex dubbed the “Broken House.” When he was four-years-old, he nearly fell from the second floor because the balcony was missing. I scolded him to never wander around the house without adult supervision (something I never did either) because there were too many things still broken in the house.

I saved you this time, but only because I wandered in here by mistake myself. This place is dangerous. Let's go play in the road where it's a lot safer.

The bar was first lowered when two astronomical preposterous unexpected expenses had to be dealt with: a well that reached to the center of the earth and a massive roof that need to be replaced, not simply resurfaced. The money allocated for minor things like insulating walls with something more than 1870s newspaper or exterior doors that had keys smaller than crow-bars disappeared. But I was still flexible enough to bend under the lowering pole.

When the construction crew left, the bar lowered again. I looked around. To my untrained eye, not much had changed. The exterior of the house was the same, except we had real doors, windows and an entry way that had stairs rather than sloping planks. The interior seemed skeletal: wires poking out from everywhere, framed-in walls (some with insulation, some without) but no sheet-rock on most of the walls or ceilings, and the floors were still exposed pine planks–the kind where splinters were just gunning for your feet. This Limbo Rock dance was getting uncomfortable.

Sheesh! How much lower is this bar going to go? And I'm supposed to go under it doing a back-bend? You can see I'm not the fittest critter in the forest.

We had a modest kitchen without a dishwasher (if you exclude me) and two serviceable bathrooms (if you focused only on the fixtures and not the surroundings). A heating system and electrical wiring made the house habitable for the colder days of autumn and winter.

Chuck picked away at insulating, wiring, and sheet-rocking walls and ceilings after work and on weekends. My job was to keep Alex out of harm’s way and to help when he needed an extra pair of hands. Because I’m not a man and don’t think like a construction worker—traits, you’d think he would’ve appreciated in a female—I frustrated him more than not. He wanted me to anticipate what tool he needed; I asked him to just tell me what tool he wanted. Much of our collaborative work was done in silence.

Let's see if I've got this correct. Chuck, you were sheet-rocking a wall and Lorna didn't have the knife, the level, the chalk line, the screw gun, or the correct number of screws available at the exact time you needed them. Lorna, you say Chuck didn't ask for these things but expected you to know when he needed them. And that is when all communication between you broke down.

Chuck, understandably, burned out. After the place was carpeted and the ceiling and walls primed, worked ceased. I, understandably, got distraught disillusioned frustrated. I was not living in the finished home I envisioned when I jumped on board for this project. His “good enough” trumped my “but it’s not finished.” Thus began the years of living in the “good enough Broken House.” Chuck admonished my attempts to point out the unfinished business. “Focus on all we’ve done. Be more positive.”

What do you see? All the nice wires that will make things work OR the potential death trap and ugly mess?

The bar lowered and still I tried to squeak under it. I hurt from the contortions, but ignored the pain. He was right: I should focus on the positive: Alex, work and completing my dissertation.

Let's see if she can do it all and keep smiling. If she can't, her hair might catch fire.

Is a roof over Lorna’s head good enough to keep her wits about her?

~ by Lorna's Voice on October 4, 2011.

30 Responses to “Hey, Let’s Do The Limbo Rock!”

  1. So many old houses…so many bruises of the body and spirit! 😉

  2. I can relate. We were renovating our house for 16 years before there was a fire and we got a brand new one (house). The steps to the second floor were just planks…one fell out from underneath me…wait…have I already said this? I’m sorry if I have.

    Ummm…If I wouldn’t have been hanging on to the side I would have fallen out of the tree house when part of the floor collapsed beneath me. Lol. So I get working but dangerous, inside and out.

  3. 🙂 That never happens to me! 🙂

  4. Yup … !!!! I know already.
    I must have been crossed eyed when I posted my comment … what kind of grammar did I write. UGH – gy !!!

  5. Yes, he was a master-procrastinator when he didn’t want to do something. Problem was, he had all these ideas and would start them with the enthusiasm of a Golden Retriever puppy; then he would lose interest before any project was finished. It was always off to starting the next new and interesting project…Squirrel! 😉

  6. Bless your heart. At least you worked together, for better or worse. We could only do that for about 15 minutes before I would disappoint him by not reading his mind or doing something wrong. So I would clean up the mess around the work site, tend to Alex, or do something domestic. He didn’t like working on the house while I was working on my dissertation. Or maybe I felt guilty that he was working on the house and I wasn’t pitching in–the memory blurs after 20 years…

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I sure don’t feel so alone in my travails…

  7. Ah, come on. I can see you at a beach party with a few of those colorful umbrella drinks under your belt and that sassy beat starts to play. Who can resist a pole and a challenge in that scenario? 😉

  8. Before I use the gift of 20/20 distance vision, I put on a pair of silly glasses. If I didn’t tell this story with a light heart, I’d be too depressed to write it and readers would find something more uplifting to read. I guess it just the way I “roll.”

  9. I appreciate your empathy, save your hair! Whether I felt it at the time or not, I always had a choice. I chose to let events unfold as they did. I don’t regret a thing. Everything led me to here…and “here” is a great place. But keep a bucket of water handy, because there’s a lot more to come between “there” and “here.” 😉

  10. It’s true that I’m confrontation-adverse. In the rare times I’ve stood up against anyone, I’ve done it for someone else or for a larger principle. With age, it’s getting a bit easier to feel empowered enough to speak my mind (before I lose it completely)! 😉 Thanks for being so supportive, Peter.

  11. I do’t think I would ever consider you to be a doormat. Maybe you just don’t like confrontation. If thats true yo’re like me and many others

  12. My hair’s starting to smolder and all I’m doing is just reading this! Holy smokes–no pun intended!

  13. How is it you can so perfectly capture what the rest of us go through? Hurricane house is what I dubbed ours a few times. Thank God those days are all behind me… or are they LOL

  14. After reading your story about the broken house, I have decided to NOT do the limbo. Ever. Again. Ever. Thanks for realigning my expectations about redoing a house.

  15. Ah, construction and house modifications. My ex-partner and I bought a 3 bedroom house with an “ill-finished” basement. The house needed a lot of cleaning, painting and minor repairs, which we did ourselves. Up until that time, we never argued. However, before the ink was dry on the mortgage documents, we started bickering. THEN we decided to completely re-do the basement into a nice den, including re-rocking the fake rock fireplace into a real rock fireplace. Big Big aspirations and Small Small experience. Our bickering turned to arguments and silent treatments. By the time all was said and done, we had learned (and screwed up) to cut sheet rock, learned a real rock version of Tetris, fitting rock pieces together for the fireplace, and learned not to ever approach another remodeling task again. We learned a lot. The new den was amazing, though. You couldn’t even see all the boo boos.

  16. Well, you know my motto: “never put off til tomorrow what you can get out of doing altogether.” Chuck was obviously a subscriber.

  17. Oh, Peter, I’m leaving out SO many details! 😉 Actually, I tried my best to be patient and understanding (it’s my nature to be that way), but sometimes I lost it and…and wrote in my journal. I was never one to confront him or anyone else. Doormat? Pacifist? Maybe a bit of both…

  18. I would have to agree. I paid my dues, though, and found a guy who is meticulous about finishing what he starts. And he cleans up after himself, too!

  19. I’ve got a guy now who is a “not until it’s finished” guy. Ah, the bliss! 🙂

  20. To say I feel you pain is an understatement. As this story evolves, you may want your favorite sedative nearby, just to minimize flash-backs. Your story sounds way too similar to mine. 😉

  21. My family and his family were the troopers in the earliest phases of the disaster project. Then he befriended a guy who you’ll read about later. This guy helped him on some projects. But mostly it was us, his dad, and my older sister and her husband who helped once the construction crew left.

  22. I think I was shell-shocked for a few months and just dug in to try to get the place habitable. They, when it dawned on me that partially done was as good as it was getting, I got pretty disheartened. When you long for a single-wide trailer as your home, you know things are bad! 😉

  23. “Falls into place”–good pun! You’ll see, won’t you… 😉

  24. Construction is such a nightmare. We add a mother-in-law apartment added to our home and thought nervous breakdown was knocking at my door every night. I never opened the door. Too scared …!!!
    Hope it all falls into place.

  25. Oh boy does this strike a chord. I like the term ‘broken house’, and although this must have been hell your take on it is a great read 🙂

  26. I would say I told you so but for the fact that I didn’t tell you so, because, well, I didn’t know you at the time. But if I did, I sure would have told you so!

    I wonder, did you have any friends, or maybe I should ask any friends left, once they knew you that the two of you needed extraordinary amounts of a little help with the house???

  27. Oh goodness, can I ever relate to this one! My ex-hubby (who is a wonderful guy and good at many, many things, crossing the finish line on home improvement projects just wasn’t one of them) started many projects in our house along the way. When we separated, I ended up living alone in a house that was 2/3rds unfinished rooms (as in, the walls were nothing but drywall) with no handyman knowledge of my own and no expendable income to pay for help. A LOT has changed since then, but thinking back on a rough period of about 2 years there is making me tweak a little : ) …

  28. My husband is one of those ‘good enough’ kind of guys. My sympathies.

  29. A couple of my women friends and I just had a discussion about this phenomenon whereby men seem to feel the job is finished when everything WORKS. How it LOOKS is…well, way less significant. It works, doesn’t it? 😀

    One of my male friends raised two rounds of children in a house he built – waterfront and well-constructed. He was in his 68th year when he finally started to put the trim on all the windows. He was only doing it because he was going to sell the property and retire to smaller quarters. He died of cancer before he could get it finished. His daughter inherited the house, moved back in and finished the trim!

    Anyway, we decided many men were not given that “aesthetics approved” gene. 🙂

  30. Your not the first person I have come across whose ended up living in an unfinished projest because someone bit off a bit more than they can chew. For a mother with a young child and a job to manage that must have been both difficult and hard on the patience you have often portrayed in your Blog

Silence can be just what the doctor ordered. You know I'm a doctor, right?

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