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Our life's a whirl - of sawdust

My husband's talking destruction again.

Once upon a time, I scoffed at the rumor that men originate from one planet and women from another. Then we bought a fixer-upper. I don't know which world Craig hails from, but one thing's for certain: It's being remodeled.

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I've learned a few useful remodeling equations: Six multiplied by the estimated time for a remodel project equals half the time it will take to actually complete. True cost of a renovation equals every penny in savings plus the entire surplus from the refinancing loan plus squirreled-away vacation-trip money plus the change jar plus X. The size of our house multiplied by its age and divided by our financial status equals "to do" list eternity, which circles back upon itself: By the time we reach the end of the list, we'll have to start all over again on the first project.

This never-ending cycle fills my husband with glee and me with despair. Deep despair, that begins with watching Craig rub his hands together while the words "demolish" and "gut" (regarding an incidental room like the kitchen) float from below his smiling mustache.

While he's snapping rolls and rolls of film ("Good 'before' shots!"), penciling in his vacation time to coincide with the contractor's schedule, and pricing materials, I'm squawking, "Can't we just throw some paint on that?" and "Surely we don't have to get so drastic!"

"Just wait," he promises. "You're going to love it."

But I don't. I don't love tight-rope-walking across a floorless room on a two-foot-wide plank that gives with my every step. I don't love rainwater falling through the roofless dining room all over our new-to-us antique table. I don't love having the toilet in the kitchen for months. ("It's covered," Craig says in a what-are-you-griping -about voice. "It's away from the food-preparation area. Besides, it's what decorators call the room's 'focal point.' ")

Craig says, "This is an adventure!" as we sleep on the living-room floor. As we do without a kitchen sink, stove, shower, bed, water, and/or refrigerator. As we fumble with flashlights and candles in the dark. As we bathe in the kitchen sink. I find I'm not so keen on adventures.

Toward the end of a remodel, I swear that I will always, eternally, be grateful for the small, everyday luxuries I normally take for granted. Blessings like water gushing from a faucet at the simple turn of a handle, a sink to wash dishes in, electric lights flicked on by a switch, and being able to get to the kitchen without putting on rain gear and going outside first.

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We play a fine game of remodeling dominoes, otherwise known as "The House That Craig Remodeled." This game comes in three versions:

1. A simple window replacement uncovers rot in the wall. As the rotten wall is torn out, a major electrical problem is found. To fix the wiring, the wall in the next room is deplastered, where it's found that there's a problem with the floor....

2. The minute after the kitchen is gutted, the skylight in the den decides it's really a colander while the upstairs toilet begins functioning as a room sprinkler, the heat pump hammers a loud ominous percussion, and - suddenly - three hours in the clothes dryer doesn't get the laundry much beyond sodden.

3. Because of the rain, the cabinetmaker can't deliver our cabinets, which means the countertop guy can't come out to measure, which means the sink/plumbing has to wait....

CRAIG relishes every step of the renovation process. As for me, the planning stresses me out, demolition scares me, scheduling workers frustrates me, living in a mess anguishes me. But there is one remodeling stage at which I excel. It is the admiring-the-finished-product step. I stand there, hands on hips, and coo, "Wow! What a change! I can't believe we lived with the old kitchen so long!"

How to explain what happens next? My tongue must be loosened by rapture, fueled by the joy of completion, or momentarily lapsed from consciousness. Because I add words I can only live to regret. "Oh no!" I say. "Look at the dining room! It looks like a slum next to our new kitchen!"

Before I can gulp my foolish phrases back, Craig raps the dining-room windows and scowls. He jumps up and down and mutters about floor joists. And then he rubs his hands together and grins.

Oh no! My husband's talking destruction again.

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