Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Singing those "Remodeling Blues" calls for patience, tact, humor

Sander and saw in hand, Bruce Keller, a summer resident, embarks upon an incredible building journey at High Chaparral.


Demolition calls for a strong constitution and the knowledge that the chaos will end.

IF I HAD KNOWN the full extent of the disruption, and the decline of my patience and mental health, would I have embarked upon this remodeling project in the wilds of Montana, miles from stores and materials and dependable help?
Who knows?  Would we do most things that involve complication, unrest and tension?  Would we knowingly toss our routines and securities to the wind?
Keller, Tom Giamanco, Bradford Smith clown at hat party. 
All three hats represent various aspects of the construction project.
The important fact: the new addition will be gorgeous.  I will have helped (a little, at least), and Keller, the maestro of this complicated orchestration, can rest on his laurels for the remainder of our lives. This San Diego native "cowboyed up" to a Montana project as large as the Big Sky he's come to love in eight summers here.
KELLER IS A MASTER builder, familiar with the twists, turns, timing needs and difficulties of fitting all the pieces of the puzzle together.
So he knew there would be glitches, delays, misunderstandings. He was not surprised at mistakes in orders, running short of cedar planks, errors in the course of the new rooms going up.
From left, Brad, Tom and Keller enjoy lunch at High Chap. 
I, foolish Cookie, expected everything to go smoothly. (From Keller's perspective, things did!) But in my business of writing, it's possible to make precise predictions.  If I were consistently late for appointments, as a couple workers have been, or if I made serious mistakes, as have happened a few times, I might lose my job.
But good workers are hard to find, humans do make mistakes -- even the best in the business -- and orders don't always come in on time. Sometimes the wrong products are sent -- or the plumbing part, tool or window doesn't arrive in Absarokee -- 27 miles away, so a 54-mile round trip can be for naught. Billings means more miles and a day-long commitment. There were many trips there.
A rafting adventure gave us a bit of needed R&R.  
KNOWING A FEW things will go wrong, and accepting that fact, then dealing with the situations, is a gift Keller has perfected through 40 years of being a builder and contractor supervisor.  He knows how to line up subs, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together into an intricate jigsaw puzzle.  He maintains good cheer, encourages his colleagues, listens to suggestions. (Except sometimes mine, I contend.)
Working and living in the same house one is remodeling is tough. People are in and out. Things get lost, misplaced, buried. The floor gets tracked with dirt from the digger, dry wall mud and dust.  Small Yorkshire terriers are constantly flinching as nail guns stutter and large tools are dropped or moved.
Tom got to meet actor Gary Burthoff,
"Radar," of M*A*S*H, at a party.
Taking time to "smell the roses" -- a walk to the river, a drive in a Yellowstone Park bus, a silly time at a hat party -- all of these diversions have helped calm us and ease the tension.  We all enjoyed the recent benefit for Stillwater Protective Association at Montana Jack's, and had a fabulous time.  I made a point of fixing pleasant meals -- easy breakfasts and lunches and a tasty supper, and made sure there were cool drinks during the day and beers and wine after a 10 or 12-hour work day.
Tom, painter Jim Slater, and Keller, play with Nick, Nora.  
ONE NIGHT, the boys went to Gena Burghoff's birthday party the day after I sprained my arm, and met her dad, Gary Burghoff, known to millions as the amiable corporal Radar O'Reilly, on "M*A*S*H."
All work and no play makes for a cranky Cookie and she notices the boys get cranky too if they don't have an occasional evening or afternoon off. Keep your spirits up, be nice to the contractor (he's exhausted and is doing a fabulous job!). The boys unwound on short, reviving hikes to the river, and spent time playing with the Yorkies, Nick and Nora.

Big Sky Country's splendors await.  We'll share recent landscapes.

COMING SOON:  We head up the California coast, enjoying some of our favorite waterfront hotels and restaurants, and we study the bird and animal life "home on the range" in our other favorite spot in the world, Big Sky Country, Montana! We try to give our pieces a sense of fun and offbeat adventure.  Remember to explore, learn and live.  Join us Wednesdays and weekends at www.whereiscookie.com


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