Monday, July 20, 2009

Drop by drop, draining

Not one, but two faucets leak now. The first started in the bathroom sink about a year ago. Now there's one in the kitchen sink. The reason they're still leaking explains how I approach home improvement.

Stage 1: Confidence rules. Ah, I've seen how these get fixed; you turn off the water (that I never mess up) then slowly deconstruct the faucet, checking each piece to make sure it's not cracked. Then I reassemble it, tightening nuts and whatnots.

Drip, drip, drip.

Stage 2: Vulcan-like logic sets in. I'm at Lowe's, and I see a replacement kit. Voila! The next day, I'm carefully taking apart the faucet. I pop it in my purse, and, the next time I'm at Lowe's, I find one that matches and bring it home. It's all good, until I'm buttoning up the last cap.

Drip, drip, drip.

Stage 3: Regroup. Maybe there's something else. I check under the sink. Can't get under there to tighten anything. I try replacing the aforementioned part again. Aha, I discover a new step. I've conquered it, finally!

Drip, drip, drip.

Stage 4: I give up. I'll wait until I'm remodeling my bathroom to get it fixed. Until then, I've turned off the hot water. No drip, drip, drip.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Green needs green

When will environmentally friendly products be friendly on the pocketbook?

I was editing a fine story about "green" products, including solar panels, sustainable building materials, etc. But even federal and state tax credits make it very hard for anyone to afford. Like electric cars, demand will lower prices, but there's not enough demand because no one can afford them.

And there's a little hypocrisy in touting green renovations. A truly green one does as little renovating as possible. Dumping your kitchen cabinets in a landfill for ones with bamboo fronts is hardly green.

That said, I would looooove a recycled glass tiled bathroom.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

House Hunters International did Buenos Aires, then Uruguay -- a reminder of luv guv's travels?

Plan A vs. Plan B

My air conditioner sucked away $1,200 from my bathroom renovation fund last week. Sucked away in replacing a blower, a fan and a compressor. I'm not convinced the initial visit by the A/C guy didn't cause the problems that led to the second visit, but I'll deal with that soon.

What I'm most distressed about is that another Plan A in my life is becoming more elusive. Plan A involved a budget to rearrange the sink, toilet and bathtub so the space would be used better. To replace a creaky, rotted wood window with glass blocks, to have a small vanity made to fit the space and maximize storage. To add a heated tile floor and a fan.

I'm $1,200 further from that goal now. And I just learned I have to take a week of furlough, another chunk of change sucked away. And I took a pay cut in the spring.

"Why can't you just do something different?" counseled my friend last week.

"No, that's Plan B," I said. "I want a Plan A in my life."

I have lived my life settling for Plan Bs, and just once, I want to do a Plan A. I've never been married (no big wedding, and even so, my family was too poor to even finance anything). I waited until I was 45 to buy a house, and spent three years saving the money for a down payment. I've settled for used furniture, stuff off the street and IKEA (the novelty wears off quick). Nor do I have a dress that cost more than $45.

If my job goes away -- I'm in the newspaper business -- I'll be dead broke again. My retirement is looking more and more like another Plan B.

Usually, I do not respond to a financial setback like a plucky Briton in World War II. I get mad, and try to do something -- buy something -- that might make me feel like a Plan A person again. And that just defeats the purpose of it all.

So I'm trying to hang on. Forget that my friends, my family, live in nice houses with sidewalks and mature plantings and insulated walls and garages. Remember that I'm in one of the most challenging times of my industry, my economy.

And thinking of a way to salvage Plan A.