Never a Dull Moment

There’s never a dull moment when one owns a house. Actually, that’s not true. There are a lot of dull moments, but the not-so-dull moments quickly remove any complacency that might arise during the dull times when nothing goes wrong.

Today was one of complacency-breaking times. I went down to the basement to change the air filter on my furnace/air conditioner. I’ve done this many times in the past couple of years, so I didn’t expect a problem, but problems are what I got.

When I pulled the handle to remove the old filter, the handle came away and left the filter in place. This has happened before, and all I did was use my fingers to get it out. This time, however, instead of pulling it out, I somehow managed to push it to the side. The more I worked on it to try to get it out, the more recessed it became. Which is silly. Why wasn’t there some sort of framework to hold the filter in place and keep that from happening?

I finally gave up and send a frantic message to my contractor asking him if there was anything he could do. He responded saying that he was sending a man right out. The worker was there almost immediately. He couldn’t dig out the filter, either, so he removed the entire connecting piece between the vertical air duct and the furnace. (The thin black rectangular space between the connecting piece and the furnace on the picture is where the filter goes.)

A little later the worker came to find me and said the furnace had shocked him. He’d taken the panels off the front of the furnace looking for a tool (they had the impression I’d dropped a tool into the space when I tried to get the filter out) and when he put the panels back, the middle panel shocked him and shorted out the furnace. Apparently this had happened to previous owners because there were several black spots on the panel where it had previously made contact with the prongs of some sort of switch. He fixed panel to make sure it couldn’t short out again, but when he reinserted the panel, the air conditioner wouldn’t go on. He checked one of my circuit breaker panels and I checked the other (weird, huh? I have two, one inside and one outside), but none of the circuits had been tripped.

He took the switch to a furnace guy he knew to see if he could get a new one, but the furnace person said the switch was good, that he must have burned out the fuse. The fuse? Apparently, there is a separate fuse, the pre-circuit box kind, inside the furnace.

He replaced the fuse, so now I have a working air conditioner, an extra fuse (they came in a package of two) and a new filter.


People often wonder why I stick with this contractor, and this filter situation is a good example of why I do. He might be slow getting things done around here because he always has way too many jobs to juggle, but in an emergency, he (or one of his guys) is always right here. And if they make a mistake or cause any damage, they go out of their way to fix it.

That, to me, is priceless, and helps me greet any of these not-so-dull moments with an equanimity I might not otherwise be able to summon.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Small Challenges of Homeownership

There have been a few small challenges I’ve faced lately in my new adventure of homeownership. For most people, especially if they are coupled, none of these things would even be considered challenges. The person who knows how to do things simply does them. But when you are alone, you have to hunker down and deal with the situation yourself.

For example, the other night the water went off. If the electricity goes out at night, a quick look out the window lets me know if it is an area outage or if the outage is mine alone. But with water, there’s no way to tell. I did look out the window to see if my neighbor’s lights were on — if so, I could have texted her to see if she was having the same problem. But she seemed to be down for the night. Since I couldn’t call her, couldn’t call the water company, I started to panic. There is nothing that makes a person feel so alone as when there is a problem and there’s no one around you can ask “What do I do now?”

Well, I took a deep breath and realized there was nothing I could do. It wasn’t as if I were in any danger, and I had plenty of water to drink, to brush my teeth and get cleaned up for the night. I even had enough to pour into the toilet tank in case I had a flush emergency. If there was a problem with my plumbing, such as a broken pipe, there wasn’t anything I could do in the middle of the night anyway.

So I went to bed. End of problem. Literally the end. When I got up, the water was back on.

Today, I dealt with another small situation — changing the furnace filter. I suppose I should have done it a couple of months ago, but I am not fond of going down to the basement, though it does seem a bit less dungeon-y than when I first moved here. When the walls and floor are painted, I hope that will be the end of the dungeon feeling, but there will always be those steep stairs to give me pause.

Still, I did what I needed to do. Luckily, I’d already been tutored on how to change the filter, so that wasn’t a problem. It did make me wonder though, what to do if the furnace goes out. Is there a gas shut off valve? Or does the furnace automatically shut off? I’ll have to ask next time the contractor comes (next week, maybe!)

I know what to do when the electricity goes out — mostly just wait until it comes on. (I have flashlights within easy reach, head lamps to make reading easy, and plenty of batteries.) I now know what to do when the water goes off. I know what to do when the smoke alarms start chirping. I even know what to do when they start shrieking for no reason (pull the crazy-making thing out of its socket!) I figured out how to change the battery on the thermostat when it needed changing.

So gradually I am meeting all these small challenges of homeownership, and once met, they are no longer a challenge.

There is always something new to contend with, however, and as long it’s not something dangerous, like the house filling up with gas fumes, I’ll be fine. If something dangerous does happen, well, I’ll do the best I can. Meantime, I am careful. Dryers have been known to start fires, so I never leave the house when the washer or dryer are being used. I am careful about turning off the stove and making sure there is nothing on the surface that can catch fire or melt. Even though it’s electric, it can still cause problems. (I once unthinkingly wiped a drip from the ceramic top, and melted a so-called cotton cloth. Since cotton doesn’t melt, it had obviously been mislabeled.)

I figure such good habits will serve me well in my old age when/if I get more forgetful and less vigilant. But that’s not problem for today, and hopefully, not ever. Supposedly, “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” And the challenges of homeownership are certainly sufficient unto each day without having to worry about things that may never happen.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.