Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - October 16, 2020

It makes me nervous!

I've been nervous a lot lately ... and it has nothing to do with the pandemic.

It's my husband!

Recently, we added several electrical outlets to our Northwoods cottage. Art, being an electrical engineer, has no qualms about doing this. But when he says it's OK to leave the breaker on for part of the job, well, it makes me uneasy.

Another project was to remove a gas-fired wall stove and replace it with an electric unit. Near the end he said, "OK, let's close the breaker and see if flames shoot out!" Another pang of anxiety.

Our biggest project was a massive set of shelves for the extra bedroom. After deciding where we wanted them, he designed the unit. Then it was off to the lumber/hardware store 20 miles away. Our hauling vehicle was his mother's 1983 beat-up Pontiac. He drove it with me following in my car. I kept wondering how this would work, while concerned about the clouds on the horizon.

We bought four 2-foot-by-8-foot pieces of 3/4-inch plywood and wheeled them outside. A single cloud had appeared and we were greeted with a shower. We waited under the store overhang until it passed.

We placed an old piece of deck carpeting on the roof the Pontiac, hoisted the boards on top and fastened them with five 12-foot yellow straps wound around them and through the inside of the car.

I would be following in my car. "Watch to make sure this strap stays in the middle," Art said, pointing to one that was wrapped around the back of the boards. "If it moves, everything could slide off."

More anxiety.

Then we were off, creeping through the city streets and down a couple of rural highways at 25 miles per hour with our hazard lights turned on. Art said they were "just to keep someone from ramming into the back of us."

Ah, another image I really didn't need!

My eyes were glued to that yellow strap while trying not to be distracted by the vehicles zipping past us. We stopped twice so Art could check the straps, but all was well and we made it back without incident.

Over the next several days, we measured, sawed, assembled, stained and covered the pieces with a protective sealant. By the time we finished, the completed shelving unit looked like a battleship.

But there was more "fun" to come! We still had to raise it to the proper height and anchor it to the wall. The previous work was completed on a six-foot-long folding table, so we began by lifting the 120-pound behemoth onto two dressers we had placed against the wall. Art instructed me to do exactly as he said because "we don't need anyone hurt here!"

More nerves!

The unit had to be raised an additional 10 inches. Art pondered what to use to get the job done. Two one-gallon paint cans topped with two National Geographic magazines were used on one end. Lacking more gallon cans, two quart-sized ones, various pieces of wood and two more magazines raised the other. He explained that, once fastened, the slick magazines could be pulled out easily.

Again, success, but I was uneasy during the process, worried the "USS Gloria and Art" would slide from its perch. But six anchor bolts directly into studs and we were done! I could now relax and spend the next couple of days organizing this new space for Art's tools and plumbing, carpentry and electrical supplies as well as a bunch of other items the shelves had been built to hold.

In retrospect, it's not as if we haven't tackled nerve-wracking projects before. One was painting the entryway of our split-level home in fall 2002 using scaffolding that barely fit in the house. I described it in my column, Just a simple weekend project. Another was in 2004. Remodeling fun? involved removing a cast-iron tub from daughter Mariya's second-floor apartment by launching it down the steps.

And it isn't just Art. My late husband Jerome had his share of anxiety-producing home-improvement projects too, including shingling our roof during one of the hottest weeks of August 1983. Another involved his brother Kenny helping us replace a floor furnace. Kenny recently recalled the incident:

Sometime after Jerry and Gloria bought their home, which was a fixer-upper with great bones, they decided to replace the old-style floor furnace with a central HVAC system. Removing the old furnace from the middle of the room was a three-man job so I was there one morning to help. Jerry was in the basement to help hold up the furnace while Gloria and I were on top to hold it.

As I was carefully pushing in the edges from around the floor opening loosening that tiny-looking heater, it began to drop and it quickly became obvious that monster was going down, no matter what. I knew I couldn't hold on without going through the hole with it, Jerry knew he damned sure couldn't hold it and stepped out of the way just as it fell through ... with a HUGE crash. I wasn't worried since I saw Jerry wasn't injured just as he grinned and started yelling "OH! OH! OH!" Gloria ... ran down the stairs to the basement yelling for Jerry the whole time.

The best part was Jerry and me laughing when Gloria saw that he was pulling her leg! We were still laughing while she literally chewed our butts off ... Gloria finally gave in and kind of smiled about it.

It's a great memory and one I think about every now and then when I need a good laugh.

All of these projects were successful. Still, I was nervous - and I know who to blame!

Clockwise from upper-left: The middle bedroom as our catch-all storage area; Art tightening the straps holding the lumber on the way home; Art checking the progress; Our cat Minnie inspecting the completed unit; Shelves on two dressers. Note level on top making certain it is plumb; Using paint cans and other items to raise to the final height; Anchored to the walls; Ah, organization!

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