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Today the last of the construction equipment departed and the last of the plumbing was installed. We still have things to do but the house is so much closer than it has been. I know when the floors are finished it will feel very different. My remaining DIY to-do is long but I feel confident in getting the work done. Even with my long DIY to-do list it feels like our home.

Our dishwasher is one of those things that will need more work after the floor is done. I need to put cabinet front on it. More importantly, I need to figure out how to make one that will be strong enough to get the dishwasher door open, and compact enough to allow the drawer at 90 degrees to slide by the handle. We solved the problem of the clanking of the dishwasher door into the microwave drawer. We have more than a half inch clearance now. Accidental meeting of the two is unlikely since it is not possible for the microwave drawer to be open just a little, it is either open or shut because of the way the hinges work. An earthquake could accomplish it but a mere human bumping into a dishwasher that is screwed down between the kitchen sink base and a two by four filler frame is not likely to provide enough force to cause it to move the half inch.

white shell zero grout line tile in shower niche with light

My shower niche has a light in it to illuminate the shell tile. When I said I wanted a light to set off the tile no one knew how to do it safely or without rewiring my bathroom. I spent time studying lighting in fountains and came up with a very inexpensive, safe way that did not require rewiring. The light has a remote control and optional chromotherapy.

I have several other kitchen tasks, one of which is perfectly hideous but one I have been working on for a month so it is a hideousness that I know.I am still trying to finish the granite counter tops. I have finished all the bathrooms and the main kitchen counters. I only have a small section of the island left. It was being so recalcitrant that I grabbed some diamond hand sanding blocks and went at it. A couple of hours later I was sweaty and dusty and the counter was rock, not a polished stone. By taking it down to the rock I am able to reshape the counter top sections to match each other. I now have build it back up to a polished stone. I wore my biceps out with all the stone grinding for the couple of weeks before we went to see Mom in Huston last week. I could hardly pick things up my arms were so tired. They are better now and the stone awaits. I have a hunch it is going to be a process.There are 7 to 8 sanding steps. I have done 1 and 2 and they are the fastest. I have learned to be bold with the stone but also gentle. It is far more fragile than I could have understood before I learned how to do this work.

It has been interesting working on the house. I have learned a lot about things I knew a little about before we started. I think the most important thing I notice is that I am more confident than I was even a couple of months back. Yesterday I gabbed a very rough piece of stand paper and worked on the floors. Even a few weeks ago I would have quaked in my boots with worry about making a mistake. At this point I am confident that I will get things right or get it wrong. Going into the project I usually can tell if there are going to be problems what they will be. If I can do that I am often able to decide on methods to minimize the risks and maximize the possible ways to dig out of the hole. I have learned a lot simply by being onsite which has given me the chance to watch another person do the same or similar work. Most of the time watching translates into understanding and if I am not required to go fast I usually can get it worked out. When we started building the house I told our contractor that I could do about anything and some of it really well but I was as slow as Christmas. When I want to be sure of the outcome of something I take time to make samples. The joke that you would never want to pay me by the hour.

Today our contractor came upstairs and found me on my knees still working on floor patches and spot sanding. I rocked back off my tired knees and said, “It is  good thing we did not get a professional to bid on this job. They would have underestimated it 100 percent and then they would have been really mad at us. This is my floor and I am not a professional and some of these spots are as good as they are going to get. It is my floor and I have decided.” It was an interesting thought. I was working on it with my choice as the goal, not some ethereal standard or my expectation of what a professional would do. I am not unhappy to have decided to do the floors myself. While difficult, finishing them will give me a sense of accomplishment and pride in my work.

Along the way I have not taken that moment to enjoy the sense of accomplishment. The work yet to do has been substantial and I just did not want to take the step into focusing too much on accomplishments along the way or I would have run out of gas. This does not mean I have missed the moments of true pleasure when work has gone well. I love my tile in the utility room. I go by it and just gaze at it because it is pretty and because it is good work and that makes me feel glad to have done it. Still, the big picture pride in accomplishment is nascent.

In the coming weeks we will be able to step back and start taking those moments of pride in our accomplishment. This has been a hard house to build. It is very detailed and the challenges specific to the unique techniques or materials we have worked with. Having to mull over and create options is no stranger to us. The time spent pondering how to build the house fits with the time spent pondering how one recovers from losing a house to wildfire. This replacement house is more than a replacement of our burned house. It is a new house of its own. Even without having yet slept in it proper, we are confident we belong here.