Mr. Fix-it throws a wrench into the home maintenance plan

Over the years, the husband and I have developed a three-step approach to home repair.

Step one is to note the problem.

Step two is to wait and see if the problem takes care of itself.

Step three is to talk about how professionals attacked the problem on one of those home and garden television shows.

Of course, they always have large work crews, no clean-up and accomplish in 10 minutes what may take the rest of us three months, so then we get discouraged and revert to step two, which is wait and see if the problem takes care of itself.

For the record, a home repair project has never taken care of itself yet, but that doesn’t mean we’ve given up hope.

The system worked well for more than three decades and we were happy. And then our youngest daughter married a fellow who does not abide by the three-step plan.

He does not note a problem, talk about a problem, or consult with media gurus; he simply attacks the problem head-on and fixes it as fast as he can.

We should probably call him Flash.

His wife once mentioned that the tile in their kitchen was looking dated and 90 minutes later they were at a big box store and she was picking out tile. He had the old tile off and the surface prepped for new tile by sundown.

It’s like watching a time-lapse video.

When their youngest outgrew her crib and needed a toddler bed, he built one. In a weekend.

We appreciate that the man has talent, but he sure makes the rest of us look bad.

He was at our home for dinner one evening and noticed that the refrigerator door made a ka-lunk sound as you closed it. He asked if it bothered me. I said yes, but I was still on step two, waiting to see if the ka-lunk sound would take care of itself.

The meal was about over when I detected motion in my peripheral vision accompanied by a beeping sound – the alarm signaling the refrigerator door was open. I looked over my shoulder and there was Flash with the door completely off the refrigerator.

“I found the problem,” he said. “It’s this small plastic clip. I can fix it.”

“Great,” I said. “I can get dessert.”

We all have our strengths, right? Mine is chocolate.

He had the refrigerator door fixed by the time I cut the brownies.

We appreciate it all. We really do – the screen repair on the back door, the towel bar that no longer pulls out of the wall, the new door stop, the electrical help, the plumbing help, the yard help and the loan of the fancy nail gun with the air compressor. We know electrical work is often tough to get your head around so if you or someone in your family doesn’t have the know-how, looking for services from the likes of ROS Electric is probably the way to go.

But now that he’s raised the bar, life will never be the same. It’s time for us to up our game.
And so we are. We’re adding step four to our three-step approach to home repair-call the son-in-law. For some of our repairs in the future I’ll stick with professional companies so it doesn’t seem we rely on him to tackle every repair for us, our doors are getting a little old, it will only be a matter of time before he offers to completely take them off and tries to make them new again, before that happens it’s time to look into a company like Graceland Windows and Doors so they can install new doors for us.

This time needs to be the last time

Since our accountant joined a bigger firm, we can no longer just say hello to the ladies at the front desk and breeze into his office. We check in at a counter with sliding glass windows and are then buzzed in through a locked door.

The firm has security precautions because they house valuable personal and financial data.

We went to a concert at the beautiful, historic Chicago Theater not long ago.  We passed through two rounds of security before we were admitted. The theater is committed to protecting the performers, the audience and the venue.

We can’t go to a professional football, baseball or basketball game without going through security. Sports arenas have security to protect players, fans and the athletic complexes.

We allow a good 30 minutes to pass through security when we fly somewhere. Security measures are in place to protect passengers, pilots, crew, staff and the aircrafts.

We can’t report for jury duty or fill out an absentee ballot without going through security. Government buildings have scanners and armed officers to protect judges, jurors, employees and the inner-workings of local, state and federal government.

The husband and I attended several campaign rallies during the last presidential election. We both started our careers as photojournalists. Between the two of us, we have photographed every president since Nixon and wanted to keep the collection current. Every rally had security. Some of the security measures rivaled those of airports.

After the bank where we do business was robbed several years ago, they installed two sets of locked doors and scanners you must pass through to enter the bank. They’re wisely insuring there’s not a repeat of what happened before.

We have tight security for celebrities, entertainers and audiences, professional athletes and their fans, judges, jurors, government workers, corporate office buildings, pilots, planes, passengers, presidential candidates, our money and our tax records.

We have security in schools, too. It varies from school to school and, in many cases, it’s not particularly daunting.

Some schools have an armed officer, some don’t. Every school requires you sign-in at the front desk. Some buzz you in, some require picture ID, some have a camera that prints out a fuzzy picture of your face on a nametag that you slap on your chest.

But school shooters don’t check in at the front desk.

Our children are priceless—every bit worthy of the security we provide pilots, planes, airline passengers, professional athletes, celebrities, entertainers, our courts, our banks and our tax records.

We need immediate implementation of strengthened and uniform security measures at every school, just like we have implemented tightened and uniform security measures at every airport and government building.

We can’t wait for a next time. This needs to be the last time.

Fear undoubtedly a certain part of parenting

Before Orville and Wilbur Wright spread their wings, they ran a small bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They were cutting edge, both the Wright brothers and bicycles. Bicycles were the next big thing of the day. But not everyone was on board. There were voices of concern from parents. Why? Because a child who could not go far from home by walking could now be a mile away—in only 15 minutes.

We chuckle at that now. The bicycle has been eclipsed by a myriad of vehicles and technological innovations. Today a child can be a virtual continent away in a mere click.

Every generation of parents has faced the fear of the unknown, but if you believed all the press releases filling my inbox, you’d think this generation is the first.

I receive a daily barrage of warnings, cautions, advisories, alarms and alerts regarding household dangers, tech dangers, environmental dangers, social media dangers, drug dependencies, behavior abnormalities, and diseases and disorders of all sorts, which lie in wait for our children.

The warnings are not without credibility and fear can serve a useful purpose; a red flag warning of imminent danger. But the constant drum of fear is debilitating, exhausting and weakens us all.

Before you know it, every small cut needs a tourniquet, every child who says no is psychotic and every kid who won’t eat peas is nurturing an eating disorder.

Parents begin living in the shadow of fear. Those blasted bicycles simply move too fast.

If parents live in fear, how will the children live? The need for safe spaces on college campuses didn’t materialize out of thin air.

Parents must be prudent, savvy and sensible, but parents must also live boldly. And parents must teach children how to live boldly.

How? The best way parents have always taught – by example.

If we cower, our children will cower.

I recently encountered a young mother from an affluent neighborhood who said she doesn’t allow her child to play in the backyard for fear neighbors will call the police and report her for child neglect.

She doesn’t fear for her child’s safety as much as she fears her neighbors’ fears.

Fear is highly contagious. But so is courage.

Karson Vega, a 13-year-old middle school student in Texas, recently took charge of a school bus when the driver suffered a medical emergency. Vega safely brought the bus to a stop on a bridge over the Colorado River. He learned to act decisively somewhere. Chances are he learned it at home.

Parenting has never been for the fearful. Embrace it all, the good, the rotten and the in-between, and teach your kids that life is a mix. It always has been.

You get one shot at this parenting thing. There are no do-overs.

Your first shot is your best shot and your only shot.

Leave fear in the dust and give it all you’ve got.



She ‘nose’ something is adrift

My nose is no longer reliable.

Oh sure, I can still stick it into other people’s business where it doesn’t belong, but as for tracking scents, it’s no longer dependable. Some days it works; some days it doesn’t.

I used to be able to smell garlic in a parking lot surrounded by five restaurants and identify which restaurant it was coming from and what dish they were making.

I used to be able to identify women’s perfumes by a mere whiff. I startled more than a few women in elevators and theater seats by shouting out, “Estee Lauder” or “Chanel.”

It was like I was on a game show with no competitors and no prizes, which is too bad, because I could have won a new car and trip to the Caribbean.

Fortunately, I have passed my once very keen sense of scent on to one of the grands.

The child will walk into the house and say, “I smell basil.” She’ll be 100 percent correct.

Last week she opened the pantry cupboard and said, “I smell coconut.” Bingo!

Sometimes I use her as my taster when I cook. She’s excellent with guacamole.

“How’s this?” I ask.

“Needs more salt.”


“Needs a little more lemon juice.”

There are days when my sense of scent rallies and I can still smell with laser precision. A few months ago, I was outside and smelled the scent they put in natural gas.

I called the gas company and they sent a service rep. I led him around the yard with his detector wand until we found just the right spot and he located the leak.

He punched five holes in the gas line by the street and said I’d be smelling it even more until it was fixed.

I didn’t smell a thing.

Last week, I was operating on nothing but coffee when I went to the ‘fridge and got a slice of cheese. As I closed the refrigerator door, I smelled smoke in the kitchen. I didn’t see smoke, but I definitely smelled it. I checked all the outlets and the light switches and nothing felt warm.

I returned to the computer with my snack. I still smelled smoke. I checked the surge suppressor and began sniffing high and low to see if my nose would lead me to the source of the scent.


I walked through every room in the house. I could still detect smoke, but for the life of me I couldn’t tell where it was coming from.

I walked through every room a second time and still smelled smoke.

I was about to call the husband inside to help find where the smoke smell was coming from when I finished off the last bit of cheese.

Even my hand smelled smoky.

This is crazy, I thought. I wondered if my clothes smelled smoky, too.

Then I remembered—the sliced cheese I’d bought at the store, and was now eating, was smoky cheddar.

Some days I miss my sense of scent. Other days I miss my mind.