The Roof (or why I’m in search of 20 giant trampolines.)


You know Husband’s building a garage? Yeah? I’ve mentioned that right?

It’s a massive project. For the past month or so, each weekend the men in my life are up there crawling around, nailing things to other things, coming in for a beer, a Diet Coke or a sandwich or something. Every weekend I’ve been making enough soup or casserole to feed them at the end of a long cold day spent way up there, too far from the ground and too close to the sky in my opinion.

And every weekend it’s been kinda shitty weather. You know, because we wait to do these sorts of projects until it is certain to dump snow or ice on us at any moment.

Why would a person build a garage in the summer when the weather is warm and a guy could get a little sun on that white belly? That would be too practical.

No. We wait until winter when it’s kinda chilly and kinda icy and terrifyingly dangerous to be lifting rafters up 22 feet and then dangling from them like damn monkeys.

So every weekend I tell them to be careful. I plead with them to watch their step. I contemplate the cost of fashioning them all with full-body helmets. I wonder how many mattresses I would have to buy to cover the area around the entire circumference of the garage with the thought that if they’re plummeting 22 feet to their immanent death and there’s a nice pillow top waiting for them at the bottom, perhaps they’ll only break a leg and not their necks.

Maybe I should invest in giant trampolines.

Anyway, point is, I hate this project. It’s dangerous and it’s making me crazy.

Now I know life is dangerous, I have terrible depth perception. Just the other day I whacked myself in the lip with the phone in an attempt to answer it. Once, I bent over to pick something up and I nearly knocked myself out on the kitchen table.

Needless to say, I do not go on the roof of that garage.

No, I stay inside and sweep or make cookies or paint or stain something. Sometimes I go outside to pick up nails or boards or things that could get buried in the snow or possibly impale my dearly beloved on his inevitable trip off the roof.

For the past few weekends my sweet mother-in-law has been coming over to to keep me company and to organize the mess that is her carpenter son and his wife who seems to have an aversion to the vacuum cleaner (unless it’s a special occasion).

So on Sunday I worked on putting rock up on a wall in our kitchen, a project that has been in limbo for a good six months or so. And while I was mixing mortar, climbing up and down the little ladder and making up new cuss-word combinations, my mother-in-law was downstairs organizing tools in our basement workshop.

There’s a special place in heaven for this woman, I tell you what. And when this house project is finished, when the damn tiling and painting and sanding is complete and the basement is transformed from a workshop into a livable space, I’m going to pour my mother-in-law a strong margarita and then I’m going to pour one for myself and we are going to drink it while I make an appointment for a manicurist and then another appointment for a therapist.

Because last Sunday when I was upstairs trying to get giant rocks to stick to the damn wall, my mother-in-law was in the basement putting away the paintbrushes when she looked up to see her oldest son, my husband, plummet from the sky, past the window and to the hard, frozen ground.

She dropped her paintbrush, clutched her chest and ran up the stairs past me in a frenzy, saying something about how “the guys came off the roof…I mean, they fell. He fell off the roof,” as she flung open the door and ran outside to assess the situation.

And I followed her in a panic, calculating the amount of damage a fall from 22 feet could inflict in the 3 seconds it took to get my body outside to find my father-in-law, standing up but dazed and bleeding a bit from his eyebrow where his now-missing-glasses dug into his face.

And then there was my husband, slow blinking, covered in snow, but standing upright, thank God, standing upright, moving his eyes from the giant frozen hump of dirt that broke his fall up to the demolished scaffolding ten or twelve feet in the air where they were standing just seconds ago before it gave out, sending them slamming hard and quick into the ground while, T, my brother-in-law, stood helpless below them.

It wasn’t a 22 foot fall. Ok. Just about half of that.

I stood in front of my husband and looked him in the eyes, probably doing the most annoying thing a person can do to someone who just experienced major head-to-ground impact. I repeated, “Are you ok? What happened? Are you ok? Oh my gawd!” about thirty-seven times before his slow blinks got a little faster and he could begin to answer me.

“Guess we didn’t put enough screws in,” he said as his brother brushed the snow off his back and my mother-in-law searched for her husband’s glasses.

“Shit,” I said.

“Yeah, shit,” he said.

“Come inside now for a minute,” his mother said.

But these boys, they don’t listen. And, with a few house building projects under his belt, this isn’t my father-in-law’s first plummet from a roof.

So they ignored the women’s pleas of “Taking a break. Having a sandwich. Assessing the head-injury situation” and they put up a new piece of scaffolding, this time with a proper amount of screws, and continued on with the damn shingling project, barely skipping a beat while the women in their lives stood with hands on hips trying to catch our breath and slow our palpitating hearts.

And now I’m researching what kind of money I can get for my right kidney. Because I’m going to sell it so I can hire professionals with harnesses and body armor to finish this damn garage.

It’s either that or giant trampolines.

If you need me, I’ll be in my office Googling “Tequila IV”


Project: schedule

Annddd….now we’re building a garage.

A garage that looks like it might be bigger than this house, and, well, we all know the sorts of debacles that went into this place.

Look familiar? That’s the basement wall building party…in the middle of a 20 degree winter day…

Last winter’s three night backsplash marathon that sent Husband up and down a ladder to the basement to get to his saw, because, well, we didn’t have stairs. (Or a basement floor, but who’s keeping track?)

Last summer’s death defying chandelier project two hours before hosting Husband’s 30th Birthday Party

This summer’s railing, saving me from sleep walking to my death…

The bathroom tiling project that nearly ended a thirteen year relationship…

The loft that went from shop to master bedroom one board at a time…

And let us not forget the birthday deck...

So now we’re onto the garage. Oh, it’s only about a year off schedule,  but right in time to be tackled in the monsoon, 24-hour rain that fell the day before Husband got the hammers out.

And so it’s the story of his life, standing ankle deep in a mud puddle holding a power tool with one hand and holding up a giant wall with the other, looking up at the sky wondering which way the clouds are moving and where the time goes while his wife hollers out the door wondering if there’s time for some lunch.

Why must all of our projects span over the year mark? That’s the next question I wanted to ask after the lunch question, but I thought maybe it wasn’t the best time to bring it up.

I mean, wasn’t it last November that we dug the giant hole for the footings for this thing? Did I or did I not walk across a plank over a moat over the slush and snow and ice to get to my house for a good ten months before the weather dried the ground enough to get some blocks and concrete in that thing?

Didn’t I fall in that hole?

More than once?

Didn’t my neighbor nearly slide her way to a broken hip in her innocent attempt to deliver Christmas wreathes?

Didn’t I make my dear husband promise that this building project was going to be easier than the last house project?

That there on the right is a face of hope and trust…

Didn’t he tell me that a garage could go up in a couple weekends?

Didn’t I make him define the number “couple?”

Didn’t I learn anything about believing him?

Didn’t he tell me to order scoria last week while he was away in Texas so that he wouldn’t have to work in a mud hole if it rained?

Did he know it was going to rain?

Didn’t I make that call? I can’t remember…

Didn’t anyone tell me not to marry an ambitious carpenter no matter how cute that carpenter looks in his Carharts?

I mean, I have sawdust in places I didn’t know existed…

But it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t have listened.

Because I have a weakness for capable men.

And turns out we need a garage. Somehow it’s feeling a bit more urgent today…

Heaven help the carpenter’s wife. May we one day reclaim our kitchen tables from the tools that rest there…

Where are the words for this?

You know that saying,  “When it rains it pours?” Or how about the other one, “Bad things happen in threes?” I’ve used these before to describe overwhelming events in people’s lives and in my own. I have said these phrases out loud to declare war on an unpredictable life, to show my exasperation at a world that sometimes just keeps piling on the crap…and then held my breath and watched my back for the next small catastrophe, because that’s life sometimes, you know?

But as I mill around my little home this morning, shuffling through the kitchen in my furry boots and pajama pants, listening to the pug snore and my husband’s breath move in an out as he lay, still sleeping, in the bedroom just a few steps away, in the calm of the morning of what is probably going to go down in my book as one of the bigger, most exciting days of our lives, the day our house gets set on its foundation, I am finding myself overwhelmed…but in the best way possible.

Part of our new house waits to be put on the foundation...

And do you know what’s even better? Just thirty miles away in my hometown, I imagine my big sister is having the same sort of feelings (or at least she will be when she wakes up this morning). Because today she and her husband and Little Man are going to be meeting their brand new home too…and moving in!

And just a little further east, oh, about 370 miles, my little sister is having her own moment as she prepares to welcome friends and family to her neck of the woods to celebrate four and a half years of hard work and studying and how it has paid off. Yup, she’s graduating from COLLEGE tomorrow! And I can’t wait to give her a big hug of congratulations and toast her efforts.

We have much to toast about.

But oh, it’s been a crazy week here of preparing and running and signing paperwork and getting everything in order and calling in the neighbors and family and friends to help us hammer and nail and prepare the foundation in the middle of a frozen winter and on into the night.

Husband has been dangling off of ladders busting out his “on a mission” face.

And down the road my big sister has been packing up all of Little Man’s toys and cups and putting her shoe collection in boxes, eager to finally have a larger countertop and a few more cupboards and floor space for Little Man to crawl around on.

In Fargo, Little Sister has been planning the rest of her life while planning her party and eagerly calling the ranch to check in on her mother who, in the middle of all of this, is armpit-deep in her first Christmas rush as a new retail store owner, and she’s doing great.

And Pops? Well, as a married father of three girls he’s had some practice with matters like these.  When the women in his life are reaching as far as they can reach, he makes sure he’s there too, to help give them a boost and let them step on his knee if they need to.

Yes, in the days leading up to a holiday that will find my big sister settled into her new home, my little sister a career woman, my mother with a glass of wine to toast the end of the rush and my pops leaned back in his easy chair, outside a quiet frost has been hanging over the ranch for days. It has been coating the fences and buildings and oak trees in a white sparkle, as if it is setting the stage, painting the landscape for a perfect photograph of a Christmas gift delivered to us today…

And in all of the hustle and bustle it is all I can do to not stop and lay down in its sparkle, to shake the branches and watch the frost fly, to take a quiet walk through the hills to really appreciate this mid-December weather that has held on for us to get the last-minute details done.

So as the sun is making its way up the horizon line, husband is awake now and working his way out the door, bundling up and loading tools in his pickup for a trip over the hill. Little Man is probably waking Big Sister with a giggle, Little Sister is brewing the coffee and Momma and Pops are loading up the car to go see her and celebrate. I will be on the road soon to do the same.

But right now today is the day.

Today is the day.

Because yes, life has a way of piling it on indeed, but sometimes it does so in a the best way possible.

And what do we say when that happens? Where are the words written for when dreams are coming true? Where is the phrase we use to declare our overwhelming excitement and happiness?

Where are the words for that?

The last of the old automobiles…

Well happy September to you. It sure came in with a chill around here as a storm turned the air from hot and muggy to crisp and dry overnight with a powerful storm that knocked out the power right as I was finishing my last freezy pop and the end of a chick flick.

Let me know how “Easy A” ends will ya?

Anyway, enough with the weather because I tell you, the dog days of summer are moving on out and shit is happening around here.

See I am not what you call a patient woman. Not at all. When I get an idea in my head this girl wants to see its pretty little face…like NOW! Which is the very reason I find myself in situations where I am waist deep in rhubarb jelly with not one canning jar in sight. It seems I am not much of a fan of the preparation phase. Idea phase? I’ve got plenty experience in that. Planning phase? Oh, I have plans. Finished product? Yes please.

Preparation? Well, I guess that’s why I married this guy. I mean, he looks like he can handle it.

Anyway, I know this about myself because I’ve had practice. And as our new plans are coming to fruition, I was reminded that it was at this time last year that we were finishing up a major remodeling project in order to get the first house we’ve ever owned out on the market. I was also reminded that we haven’t been leaving much space between major life decisions in the past five years of our marriage.

“Oh well!” says the impatient maiden to her noble and ever so patient husband.

“Onward!” (I envision the maiden with a whip).

So we ordered our new house last week. And I know we are technically just a little under schedule, but this maiden is jumping around in her stretchy pants singing some sort of rock version of a song she made up titled “Finally!”

Big. Sigh. Of. Relief.

followed by.

One. Thousand. Calls. To:  insurance lady, bank lady, electric lady, propane guy, dirt guy, basement guy, road guy,

and junk removal guy…

Yup. He’s one of our guys.

Because you know how on every farm or ranch there is an old car graveyard? You didn’t? Oh, well on every farm or ranch there is a place where old cars, pickups, tractors, augers and lawnmowers go to their semi-final resting place.

And I say semi-final because eventually, even if it is nearly sixty years later, some naive relative of the home place will want to build a house in that grave yard…and then, if they don’t want old car lawn ornaments, it is their responsibility to find them a forever home.

So in between frolicking, chasing cows, thinking about flooring, working, eating freezy pops and watching bad chick flicks, a made a few calls…

Turns out it’s not so easy finding someone to drive to the middle of nowhere to pick up old stuff you don’t want anymore. But I found someone. He’s coming on Monday.

And in the meantime we had to clear way for the road.

So out came the old red tractor, that, by some miracle has avoided the junk pile yet another year…and out came the nostalgia.

Goodbye old brown Dodge Ram. I remember when pops brought you home. I remember when you were our fancy pickup. I remember how I used to scream in frustration at your sticky gears as pops walked away from our red faced stick-shift driving lesson. I hated you then.

But loved you so when you took me to my first high school rodeo, the one where I rode pops’ ranch horse through the barrel pattern and then tied her up to the trailer only to find she got loose and was running down the highway. I remember when pops retired you to bale-loader pickup when he purchased his fancy blue and white Ford with the tiny back seat. I remember when he took the box off you, geared you up with a winch and took you off road to feed calves and go fencing. I left for college and you were running like a champ.

I came back and you were here.

Rest easy brother.

Goodbye replacement Dodge. In my life you never really did run very well. I remember watching as pops’ head popped up over the hill, walking home after you stranded him in the field. He was determined to get you running, but somehow the only way was to keep you revved, floored, and never stop.

Pops would get your motor started again by some act of God and take off over the bumps and clay buttes whooping and hollering with the windows rolled down, only to find that you failed to start the next morning. You brought him to such lows and such highs, but I see it didn’t end well for you. You will be taking your last trip up the hill tonight.

And you. The old International. You are from a different time.

I never heard your gears grind or your engine rev. I never saw the way  you could dump a load with a switch from inside the cab. I only knew you as a relic, a symbol of my great grandfather’s presence on this place, a load of wood waiting in your box, as if someone was sure to come back for you, to finish their work for the day and put you back in the shop. I find it hard to part with you, in fact, I haven’t quite decided if I will. It seems you’ve earned your place here. Maybe one day I’ll find someone to fix you up. Maybe one day you could run again?


Oh, and I guess I could talk here about pop’s first riding lawnmower and how he was so excited about it that he tried to mow the entire coulee in front of his house. I could tell you how funny he looked sitting on that thing in his cowboy hat among the grass that reached up over his head. No wonder that little machine died before its time. That will be leaving us too. Along with the old augers my cousins and I used to pretend were dinosaurs, the combines that acted as ships on a sea of clover, the car with wings…

But what really struck me that night as we hauled the last of the old automobiles, my grandparent’s old town car, up to the top of the hill to await their destiny was this:

Here we are taking little pieces of this place, the history and stories, up from the coulee where they might have sat until they rusted away and got lost in the grass and mangle of brush, up and out over the hill. Here we are making changes, making new roads, making decisions and promises to ourselves…making  room for our forever home…

I am not worried. I am not wondering what we are going to do next, where we’re going to be, how long this is going to last. I’m making plans, yes. But plans to stay, like those old cars, through blinding winters and scorching summers and clover and burdock that reach up to my ears. We will stay. Through rusty gears and chipped paint and plans that fail I will plan to stay.

Because it’s my semi-final resting place too.

I just hope I weather time as well as these old beasts…