Home Improvement

In a counterintuitive move made primarily in defense of my dogs, a year ago I bought a lakefront property.  Okay, it’s not really a lake, it’s a river.  It’s a very small, muddy river.  As a writer, a little creative license is sometimes required to heighten the sense of the dramatic.

What I didn’t know when I bought the house a year ago that I’m only beginning to understand now is that owning a home changes you as much as owning a dog. 

Owning a dog will teach you about unconditional love and loyalty,  the importance of play and a good walk, and sniffing out excellent opportunities and suspicious individuals. 

Owning a home – especially one near water – will teach you to let go and let flow, to listen to the wisdom whispered amongst weeping willows, the importance of not putting your recycle items out on a windy day, and the unexpected benefits of loving your neighbors as yourself.

Born under a Taurus sun, my earthy nature ruled by Venus absolutely insists on beauty and comfort.   Maquoketa may not be the first place that comes to mind when I mention this, but I have found a little slice of paradise right here in river city, with my prayer flags flying high, signaling to the eagles and Canadian geese that this is a safe place to land.

It was not in my plans to buy a home in Iowa.  Not that I ever really had a plan, mind you, but whatever plans I did have, didn’t include home ownership.  In Iowa.

For many years I was a house sitter specializing in dog sitting, mainly in the Southwest. That meant I made my temporary home in the spectacular homes of others whose houses, pets, and plants I tended to while they were away on very important business or pleasure. My dog dossier consisted of such impressive clients as Yogi, Zipper, Turbo, Brownie, Pele, Peggy, Jackson, Charlie, and Froto, to name of few.  They all had distinctive personalities, particular preferences, and favorite treats and games.  It was my job to know every one of them.

Feeling confident that my dog whispering skills could actually transfer to students, I moved back to the Midwest and became a college administrator.  My gypsy days were officially over as I settled in to the task of advising students and coaching them into appropriate career paths given their distinctive personalities, particular preferences, and favorite treats and games.

Becoming a student whisperer/employee whisperer/faculty whisperer takes longer than one might imagine.  Four years into the three year plan I surrendered to the fact that it was, indeed, going to take awhile.  Consequently, it was time to get comfortable.

So, on the advice of a friend who told me about this sweet little house on the Maquoketa river, I jumped in (not the river but the home ownership thing).  Having never made a public commitment to anything but New Hampshire’s motto “Live Free or Die“, I threw caution to the wind and committed myself to a 30 year mortgage.

The initial round of home improvements that followed the move in required some financial recovery before embarking once again upon an ambitious series of small projects. Just as I’ve learned to not to post something I’ve stayed up until 2am writing until I’ve slept on it, some decisions about a house should not be made until sufficient time has been spent living in it. 

The most valuable player in the home improvement game is the person who  possesses and knows how to use power tools.  While you may be all about doing it yourself, I’m all about getting it myself but having someone else install it.  This is where the power tools come in.

This is also where it’s prudent to add neighbor whispering to your reportoire, because really, who’s more invested in making sure your property value goes up than your neighbors?  And who knows as much about your house as people whose homes were built by the same contractor?  Having been there and done that can save you lots of time and money.

In an unexpected twist that accompanied the new world order brought about by a relation shift and the urgency of turning a certain age, my home is now filled with friends on Friday nights, family at major holidays, and new fixtures or fabulous furnishings in almost every room. 

Who knew home improvement could be so much fun?  It even prompted a poem, like the one that earned me a poetry prize in 7th grade, not like the other poetry you’ll find on my new website that would be banned from the 7th grade. 

(Home improvement extends to my virtual homes as well…www.loveslaborslost.com  – raw poetry for rough times and www.pennyplautz.com – a place to catch up on my latest works and projects.)

Now, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I, too, am compelled to declare, “There’s no place like home.”

What improvements – home or otherwise – are you up to these days?  I’d love to hear about them!