Merideth Decking Hurricane Harvey Construction Workers

A Study In Building Your Own House

(Love takes hold, then leaves. Will it ever come back again? )

New love intoxicates.

The rush to meet each day. Every nuance thrills. Secrets shared. A true common bond. You want everyone to know how happy you are. You can’t stop looking. This is really IT.

I had such a scintillating experience with the house I’m building. It was a thrilling relationship at one time. I was on a Pinterest high. An adrenaline party.

Gary and I conspired with an architect. We met every Saturday for a year. I’d bring books filled with pictures of my dream house, like a bride sharing photos of her dream wedding with a best friend.

Michael introduced us to a great bagel shop and had them hot on hand with a jalapeno cream spread. We’d talk about our love (of good design and architecture). Fantasies ran wild.

Those creative rendezvous were the gateway to a better life – a new start. A shedding of worn out skin, parched by years of abandonment. The old house reflected decades gone by in my own life. My failed plans. My too-small dreams. My misplaced sacrifices.

And now a willing partner with a sense of adventure was looking at architectural plans with me! Two story bookcases? Hell yeah! Pivot doors? Sounds cool! A second story bridge? Why not?! A “room of my own”? Girl, you deserve it!

Building our own house = building our new life. The prospect kept me and Gary coming back to Michael to fine tune ideas. The love drug was doing her thing. “It’s the closest I’ve ever come to therapy, it's so freeing”, Gary confessed. He and I were in love and in love with this grand plan – building our own home with our own hands. We’d mold it into who we were and who we wanted to be together.

It would be a monumental testament to us powering through past bullshit and forging with bravura our future.

But after two years the bagels, dreams and designs wilted like decaying petals off an exotic flower. My dream house started sowing the seeds of mutiny.

The road paved with optimism leading to her front door detoured.

It stopped at the sunken shower filled with muddy water that I must bale every week. That goes for the sunken bathtub, too.

It was blocked by a long ditch forcing me to haul wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt to fill.

It was damaged by dozens of potholes made by the demolition equipment that I now had to pack and level.

It sprouted an unruly, weedy lawn that must be mowed and wacked on a weekly basis, especially since a (unidentified) neighbor reported it messy and the city came out and gave us a warning.

I spent weeks picking up cement blocks, concrete, nails, wood, foundation frames, rusted pipes and all manners of debris and throwing them up and into a 30-yard roll off bin.

Twenty-one months after paying off the architect, seventeen months after the demolition and thirteen months after taking up the hammer ourselves, our engaging, exciting "sessions" with our architect gave way to the reality of what it takes to build a house: permits, port-a-pottys and buckets of cash flying out the window (if only there were a window to fly out of).

Thinking back thirteen months ago when Gary and I started building on the poured foundation, I still remember the rush when the first big wood delivery arrived and seeing that first structure (with the help of some friends and family) go up. I was busting with love. Getting back to her (the site) couldn't happen quick enough.

Working every weekend and holiday for over a year, Gary and I managed to frame the first floor of the house (with help of a friend every now and then) Sometimes it was just measuring and cutting and nailing big frames. We’d return the next weekend to put them up and only then saw some progress. The challenge of how to actually build a contemporary structure with nary a wall occupied most of our time. “This is not a Framing 101 house,” Gary would say as he struggled with keeping a wall upright, taking care not to damage the concerete floors, since the plan was to leave them bare.

Setting lines with blue chalk, cutting, nailing, constructing, measuring, leveling, cleaning and maintaining the site turned this home love affair into a nagging and boring relationship.

Somewhere between putting up 70+ floor trusses (with a hand crank lift) and 14 hours to clear out a year’s worth of wood and debris (this time using a 40 yard roll off), my new love lost her sheen.

Love’s dreaming of “What if?” gave way to “How long?”

When you’re at this point in a relationship you know it’s time to put on your boots, it’s getting deep. And so the real work of keeping the love – the dream alive, begins. You put the pedal to the metal. You move upward and onward or you don’t. You are in all the way or you’re not. You reach in really, really deep and you find that seed – the one you planted together - and give it a long cool drink to bring it back to life.

Yeah, I can resent my dreamboat house because she is selfish and needy. I don’t always want to spend time with her. I’d rather be at the beach. I’m tired of spending money on her - I want new shoes or to fix my shattered iPhone. Hell, I’d love for someone to cook me a nice dinner, then do all the dishes as the valet drives up to put me in a car that doesn’t look like my battered and bruised 13 year old Prius.

I’m pissed when weekends are spent sweating below her deck putting up heavy joists. And now that Gary quit his job to move the project forward quicker, I spend much more time shooting the documentary about "Building My Own House" and delivering gallons of water and Gatorade along with meals to the site when I should be building my business; or enjoying a day with Tucker during his summer break.

Sometimes I get a nostalgic whiff of the heady days behind us. My love affair started when I met that modern girl – a swing hanging from her second story bridge, the rooftop garden that one day will give off the scent of fresh herbs, a treetop bedroom, her sixty foot covered deck looking out onto the backyard pool.

At the end of a long day working in the rain or cold or heat or humidity, Gary and I sit down, turn up the tunes and reflect on the day’s accomplishments. Sometimes they’re big and make a difference. Sometimes they’re small and you wouldn’t even know they’ve been made.

But it is progress. And we are moving forward. When Gary recently said, “I am starting to see the end in sight,” I know the end must be in sight.

A three-year relationship isn’t long enough to let boredom set in. But measured in house years, that’s almost 300 Saturdays and Sundays (not including holidays and vacation days). And years of nailing, lifting, measuring and weeding aren’t exactly my idea of a sexy time (although there is a lot of screwing that goes on at the site).

Gary and I are still in love with our grand plan – building our own home with our own hands. The work to be done changes, but the dream remains unchanged.