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Making a List, Checking It Twice May Work During Christmas, But...

July 08, 1989|JOSEPH N. BELL

There are two types of people in this world: those who make lists and those who don't. I make lists. Two kinds. One for income-producing work, the other for things that need to be done around the house. I try to keep both lists current, but when I notice that several items have been on my list for a very long time, I write a new list. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment without really doing anything.

I'm vaguely aware that several items have been on my household list for at least a year, maybe more. I'm thinking now of a new system that would allow me to prioritize my list. Maybe I'll use different colors of ink for things that have been on my list for three, six or nine months. I like to be efficient.

I always check my household list just before the start of a weekend, which is when I do my best work around the house. Last Friday, my list read like this:

PAINT FRONT WALK--This is the oldest item on my list. When we had our house painted two years ago, the contractor also painted our front walk. What I didn't understand--and he didn't explain--is that unless some abrasive is added to the paint, painted concrete is comparable to a sheet of ice when it is wet.

We've strained relationships with several couples who slipped and fell while visiting our house on a rainy night, and one of our neighbors told me with some acerbity that he'd "have my house" if it ever happened to him. I put an asterisk beside this item on my list after that. Then several months ago, I stepped out on our porch to get the morning paper and flew off the steps, landing on my back. When I was able to walk again, I put some abrasive strips at intervals along the walk. They look like hell. The project on my list--as most recently revised--calls for me to repaint the walk with sanded paint, and I've been thinking about it a lot lately.

FIX SCOOTER-- A year ago last Christmas, we got the 11-year-old kid (who was then 10) one of those fancy scooters with hand brakes and rubber tires. About six months later, one of the tires went flat. I've been working on this in three stages. It took me three months to get the wheel off the scooter. Three months after that, I took the tube out of the tire. The tube is now on my work bench, waiting to be repaired.

The kid has been very patient about this, never once mentioning the electric train that is now stored on a shelf in the garage because it refused to function properly and I finally needed the space where it had been spread out awaiting repair. It will be touch-and-go whether he outgrows the scooter before I get the tire repaired. This both fills me with guilt and encourages further procrastination.

SOD THE YARD-- A year ago last spring, we hired a gardener to upgrade our back yard. In the process, we planted clumps of St. Augustine grass (when I was growing up in the Midwest, we called it crabgrass) in the numerous bald spots throughout the yard. The theory, as explained to me, was that the clumps--if watered and nurtured--would spread out and finally cover the bald spots. Maybe that's what they should have done, but in my yard they didn't. They just sat there and turned brown and finally died. So I have all these empty spots in the back yard.

I've given up on the clump theory and figure I'll have to put in strips of sod, which is not as simple as it sounds. Mostly people who sell sod want to sell it in quantities that would cover Irvine Park. The few places that sell it in small quantities seem perpetually out of stock. I really got up for this job a few weeks ago and was told that there wouldn't be any new sod until late June. Since I would be away on a trip then, I'll have to wait for the next crop to come. God knows when that will be. Meanwhile, I'm arranging lawn furniture over the bald spots.

FINISH DOG HOUSE--When we got our dachshund puppy last Christmas, I announced that I would build her a dog house so she would have shelter during the cold and wet winter months. I quickly discovered that this is not a project to be taken lightly. It requires intricate planning, the purchase of multiple supplies, and high-tech construction. By early spring, I wasn't yet out of the first phase.

Then we went to a swap meet where I saw doghouses for sale. They were more appropriate for a St. Bernard than a dachshund, but they did have removable roofs--which had been one of my technical sticking points. So I bought one, and in a frenzy of building activity that very weekend, I cut it down to Coco's size. I haven't gotten back to it since. It still requires caulking, carpeting (yes, carpeting) and painting. Clearly the dog doesn't need it now since the weather is fine.

So it sits, rather forlornly, in our garage where Coco chews on it intermittently. She has created some rather unsightly furrows in the roof overhang and two of the corners--but nothing a little plastic wood won't fix (make that a lot of plastic wood). I figure I still have at least five months before the bad weather sets in. Or Coco eats the house. Whichever come first.

There are a number of other items on my list, but they are mostly of such recent vintage that they haven't yet come up for serious consideration. I'm thinking of revising my list this summer using the color coding. It's clearly too hot to do any actual work for a few months, at least.

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