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February 26, 2009

My Stimulus to the Economy

My Stimulus to the Economy

by Nancy   Go to fullsize image

Joe the Plumber came on a Sunday morning free of charge to look at our "basement dampness," which should have been my first clue that the economy was going to get a big stimulus.


Joe cheerfully ran his little colonoscopy camera through parts of my elderly house that will remain unmentioned, but trust me, there are more linear feet of house colon than I imagined.  And all of it is crumbling into dust and disgustingness. Which, in a roundabout way, causes the basement wall to leak when there’s rain.  And right now, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s almost spring here in Pennsylvania, when spring means rain, showers, drizzle, sleet, downpours and let’s-build-an-ark deluges.  If mounting problems continue apace, we will soon be calling the fire department to pump out our basement.


An old house waits for no economic stimulus package.


Have I mentioned that my office is in the basement?  Not that I used it much lately, since I’ve spent the winter upstairs in the La-Z-Boy chair with my laptop on my lap to keep me warm because the old windows in the living room leak like crazy. (I have one of those laptops with the overheating battery, and I never figured out how to get it replaced. This winter it was a marvelous source of heat, though, and allowed me to keep the thermostat turned back a couple of degrees.) But now the book is almost finished.  (Almost, dear editor. Really. I only have a few things to tweak, I promise.) Once it’s fini, I will need to get cracking on all the stuff that’s piled up in my In-Box during Deadline Madness.  (If you haven’t heard from me, I’m not ignoring you, honest.  I’m in a psychological place right now, though, where you really wouldn’t want interaction, so count yourself lucky. And if you’re directly related to me, let’s say even one of my children, I promise I’ll call you back in March.) 


Anyway, I must soon spend my days in my basement office.  Presumably with wet feet because the nearby wall is already oozing rusty water and the permafrost hasn't even un-frosted yet.


Joe can fix the leak, he says.  They do this kind of job on old houses like mine all the time.


But it’s going to cost us 20 grand.


Now, I dunno about you, but if I had 20 grand sitting around right now, you know what I’d probably do with it? Buy a new house.  Emphasis on the word, “new.”  Because I’m sick of pouring money into the unmentionable parts of This Old House at the time in my life when I'm supposed to be investing (hahahahahaa!) for my retirement. (Hahahahahahahahah!) Like you, lately I've been keeping my credit card in a drawer, serving pasta 2 nights a week and trying not to get my car out of the garage except to do all my errands at once.  And now I need to spend a fortune on something that's UNDERGROUND?


(Needless to say, I need a fast way to make a fast 20 grand.  My non-writing friends suggest I write another book, which they seem to think I can do in a week and spend the rest of the year eating bon-bons and watching Clive on Home & Garden TV to gather more home improvement ideas.  $20,000?  Easy money, they cry!  Now, mash-ups, I hear, are The New Thing in publishing and a possible source of aforesaid easy money.  Over the weekend, you may have read about the Jane Austen-zombie mash-up, which people say is very promising in the “current publishing climate.” (A euphemism for Brace for impact, Sully!)  So help me, please, come up with a lucrative mash-up idea. Maybe a thriller about a plumber who only works for zombies?  Or Lizzie Bennett takes one look at her plumbing estimate, kills Joe with his own backhoe and he comes back as a vampire and does the work for free?)  


If you want to be even more helpful, tell me how to excavate an entire side of my house, re-lay a French drain and run it (30 feet under my perenniels) to the sewer line (as per city code, believe it or not) and then fix the cracks in our foundation, re-seal the basement wall to make it waterproof, then cover up the whole mess again, replace my flower garden (sob!) and do it all without disturbing our BRAND NEW CONCRETE DRIVEWAY WHICH COST US 20 GRAND LAST YEAR. 


Joe The Plumber, who is really very sweet even while he delivers the bad news, proudly told me that his business is recession-proof, by the way.  No shit. (And I mean that literally.)  No matter what the economy, everybody is willing to pay to keep their toilets running properly. I am thinking of becoming his apprentice so I can have enough dough to retire before I'm 90.


Go to fullsize image Here's my new book, in paperback.  Buy it here, if you haven't read it yet, pretty please. Consider it your patriotic duty to boost the economy. I won't get the royalities for 6 months, but the home equity payments will undoubtedly go on for years.


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I've been looking for your new book in hardback. I thought the paperback was a reissue. Thanks for the heads up.

I'm sorry your plumbing repair work is going to cost so much money. Yikes! The amount of work it's going to take to solve the problem sounds phenomenal. Who knew? We usually try to plan the really big jobs (the ones we can't do ourselves) every 5 years and take care of the smaller jobs in between. Last year was a big job--new roofs on the house, the barn, and the garage--as well as new windows and siding. It hurt. This year it's new tile floor in the kitchen--I'll never do hardwood in a kitchen again--and bathroom and new carpeting in the master bedroom. By then we'll be all caught up. I hope.

I'm sorry I don't have any ideas to make a fast $20K, other than trying to convince the plumber that Monopoly money is now backed by the federal government.

Good luck!

I too live in an old house/money pit. I feel your pain. We've had a leak in our basement for about 20 years or so. The dear young man next door painted the area where it leaked with something I wish I could remember the name of for you--our leak is mostly gone, except for some minor seepage when we get the PA lets-build-an-ark weather.

I'll see you in May at PW. Maybe by then, if not sooner, I'll have the name of the product for you.

A $20g estimate is worth a second opinion. Except for our air conditioning, we've never had an estimate that high--and we got at least four estimates for the AC, but went for the highest one, which was the only reasonable solution. (Oh, the stories....)

The joys of owning your own home... they leave all THIS stuff out when selling the American Dream....

I keep telling kids who talk about law school to forget it and be an electrician or a plumber. The hours are better, people pay up front, and even though you have to deal with a lot of crap, when you're done, you go home.

Maybe we should all start playing the lottery. Someone has to win, right?

Kathy, I have friends in both professions, and this is definitely a "grass is always greener on the other side" situation. The hours are long, the work is backbreaking, a lot of the people you have to deal with are total assholes, and no, people don't always pay up front. Judging from the number of collections actions and materialmen's liens I have to file, some of them have trouble wrapping their minds around the concept of payment at all.

Here, it's leaky windows, probably caused by our dog beating at them with his paws when angered by squirrels on the lawn. And the ice dams of course. Nevertheless, I provided a stimulus to the economy by buying your first Blackbird Sisters mystery along with the latest Booth pb of Cooper and Fry and the pb of Many Bloody Returns, all from the indie mystery bookstore you linked to. And free shipping by media mail! I like that!

Janis, I do not want to hear about roof replacement. Got it? I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE ROOF! I wish the every-5-year project plan worked, but it seems to me we plan for the big disasters, and then the HUGE disasters strike.

Peg, this weekend, we're going to tear off the basement walls to see if there's something we can waterproof paint. But judging the the amount of water, I think we've got more than seepage, but big cracks.

Josh--2nd opinions? You bet! And a 3rd, a 4th....

You should get a second (and third) opinion. $20,000 sounds high. But then, I'm not a plumber, so what do I know?

Oh, Nancy, I feel your pain. We have an old house we love . . . except for when we don't because "it's settled" or something "has rotted away" or "that size is special-order". Just yesterday it was pointed out to us that the fence posts are "rotted" which is why it's leaning like a drunk sailor. I don't even want to try to diagnose our basement issues.

For a mash-up, be sure you include paranormal urban fantasy elements. And then let me know what that means, okay?

Nancy, I feel your pain. Our house is 70 years old, and we have similar challenges. Luckily, over the 23 years we've lived here, we've mostly fixed all those big issues, but we still have a mystifying leak in the basement, too, despite taking out an enormous tulip tree that was 10 FEET from the house (no wonder the basement wall bulged there), moving the basement steps to another location, and regrading the entire back yard. We had a raised hardwood floor down there, which we had taken out last year. Then we realized the leak was NOT in the back, as we had assumed; the water is actually coming in from the front. Oy. On the plus side, the basement no longer smells like mold all the time.

It took us a lot longer to figure this out because of two years of drought, by the way. When it rarely rains it's more difficult to see where water is coming in.

I wish you well, and second (third?) the idea for the second and third opinion. Estimates seem to vary wildly.

Or you could just learn to live with the damp (and move your office). In our last Old House, during rainy seasons the basement use to fill with a foot of water. I kept a pair of rubber boots by the basement door. The water heater and washer/dryer lived on cinder blocks. The only time I got really worried was when the water level reached the fan on the furnace.

But the house had survived over a hundred years, and was still standing when we left. Our only fix was a sump pump, which shook the whole house when it spewed water halfway across the lawn (my husband thought the the bigger pump motor the better).

Yes, Sheila, we considered abandoning the basement, but it's a lot of usable space for us. I have a friend who finally installed a "wine cellar" in their leaky basement. Apparently, mold is good for corks. Who knew?

Wine Cellar - great idea

How about an indoor pool? Make use of that damp area. Then when you sell, everyone thinks the pool is the reason for the dampness. PLUS, you could actually use a pool.

A pool with a side wine cellar. Very chic.

But, as a thought, I noticed a pole dancing contest in Melbourne, FL that pays $2000 to the winner. Have you considered that?

I can't help noticing that not one person has suggested a stimulus package for old houses. Where's our share??

The basement in my dad's house became an indoor pool one day. While it was just me living there (he bought it as his 'retirement' home while he was still in TX). He spent a year doing back-breaking work to create an extensive drainage system in the back yard and around the house.

The flooding stopped when he had the inground pool redone. LOL!

This year, the big project planned was to remodel the kitchen, but that is now on hold (don't worry, I can still bake brownies). He got mad at the bank for a bunch of stuff so paid of his mortgage...21 years early. (I pay all the utilities, so it was easy for him to make double payments).


Have my own money pit! Let's see,we've replace the roof (leaky), the windows (broken), the plumbing lines throughout the house from laundry room to bath (no drainage), the sewer line (need I say more?), the furnace and air condition (again broken), replaced the kitchen wall and floor after replacing plumbing line (improper installation). We've lived here for 20 years and I swear we could have built a new house for what we've put into this one, and I don't even like the house!!

Get another estimate, 20 grand is way to much!

Happy House Repair! (Isn't home ownership a joy!)

Okay, Dot, your money pit may be worse than my money pit!

Debby, just so those brownies keep coming . . .

Oh, Dot, tell me about it. We've replaced the roof, furnace, water heater, the driveway (300' long, so that is significant, and it's getting ready to need it again, ugh), built a garage, drywalled the basement, redid two bathrooms and took one out entirely (there were five), added an air conditioning system, and now need to replace the A/C since it's 22 years old. Add to that the complete kitchen remodel we did 10 years ago, which involved knocking an outside wall out and adding 600 square feet to the footprint of the house (but totally worth it).

The one good thing is that we love this house, and foresee staying here for a long time.

Nancy, some wag here in Ohio sent a stimulus plan idea to the governor that involved two different plans. One was to replace the chimney on his "historic" home for $10,000, creating what he said was two jobs. The other was to completely tear the house down and rebuild it, creating five more jobs.

Somehow I suspect he's against the stimulus program. You?

I like the basement pool idea. the house in Minneapolis that was used for the exterior shots for the MTM show has a pool made from the old coal bin. You've already proven that you can write your wonderful books elsewhere, so give yourself a pool! (You might not want to copy the leopard-print wallpaper they used, though).
Hmmm, brownies sound good, too . . .
BTW, I just bought a zero-gravity chair, to elevate the incredible swelling foot more comfortably. It's great for reading and might be a good writing environment, too. http://sitincomfort.com/larech.html

21st-century Elizabeth Bennett has to replace the plumbing at Pemberly--come on, a place that big must have nightmare mid-nineteenth century plumbing, put in when it first became fashionable. It's impossible to tell what Mr. Darcy thinks since he always looks like there's a bad smell. Lady Catherine informs everyone that plumbing problems are inexcusably bourgeois. Clive and Lisa and their minions invade to show Elizabeth how to fix it for $2000 (or 2000 pounds, I guess). Wackiness--and bestsellerdom--ensues.

Thank you everyone, I now feel much happier about being a renter!

First, a second or third opinion is a must. But let's take a look at some additional options: Is Joe single? Or interested.......I mean come on, I am sure you have the ability to obtain a mjor discount. Now I know you all are thinking one of two things: 1. What is WRONG with Lynn or 2. Why didn't I think of that? Either way there has to be a book in there somewhere.....think of the exciting things that may be discovered when digging up the foundation? Bones, jewels, etc etc.

And Gaylin, I too am currently THRILLED to be a renter as well. I sold my condo before all this economic nonsense began and when my toilet breaks a really good looking guy comes to fix it........

Soooo....Nancy poor Nancy. My heart goes out to you.
We don't have basements in Miami Springs. Or in most of Florida for that matter. Dig a hole and it fills up with water. Well it has been a bit dry lately but there is still water in my backyard Perch Lake which is spring fed. (Miami SPRINGS, ya know?)Just ask the geese who wake me up every morning or the green parrots that fly overhead squawking. I feel like I'm making the sequel to Enchanted!
Now if I could get the roaches to clean the bath tub! EWWWWWWW!
Okay...mash-up idea. A rewrite of Toy Story where Mr. Potato Head gets...well...mashed by the Zombie toys. And then there's this big food fight scene where they scrape him together and he becomes The Blob gushing out of movie theater projection booths to kill everyone. Make him radioactive too so they'll have to use gieger counters to find him in the sewers with MORE zombies who were just the late night guest of David Letterman. Or maybe the rejected American Idol contestants who are secretly plotting to slime Simon so Paula can take over the judging. Paula Rules!!!!!!!
Sorry...got carried away there.
I recommend Febreze with antimicrobial spray for your mold for the moment.
Just saying.

A second or even third opinion/estimate is a must. However, have you considered another avenue? Is Joe single....is he attractive....could he BE attractive enough....I mean $20K is a lot of money and times are tough. I know you are all thinking one of two things: 1) Lynn is crazy or 2) Why didn't I think of that? LOL!!!

Either way, I think this is an opportunity for a great book. Just think what mysteries lie beneath the foundation of an old home? Bones? Buried jewels? etc etc.

Right now I have to agree with Gaylin....I feel kinda smug about being an apartment dweller. I was able to sell my condo before the economy fell apart...oh, and Nancy's foundation......

Before I got to Mystery Lovers to get Nancy's and Michele's books, are there any more Tart books coming out soon? I'd like to save Mary Alice the annoyance of writing up and sending one book (or two) at a time. And there is nothing more comforting than having a nice big stack of TBRs nearby.

Nancy, you have walls in you basement? Wow! Mine still has the 100+ yr old rock foundation with no wall covering, open beams on the (is it really a) ceiling, and a perfectly grave sized patch of dirt floor remaining that I threaten to bury DH in when he gets annoying.

We've replaced a 2nd floor flat roof 10 times in 35 years and I hope we NEVER have to touch the upper slate roof. Water heater: replaced 3 times. Wiring: completely redone except in two areas--that's coming soon. Kitchen: replaced counters, cabinets, installed new stove, oven, and hood after ice dam flood. Kitchen still needs to be dry walled--replacing awful paneling. One bedroom needs dry wall--has the same hideous paneling. Back and front porch roofs: we replaced. Bathroom needs a complete overhaul. Yes, we only have one.
Another thing, closets! I have two tiny ones in one bedroom and no others in the entire house. I'd love to have closets!!!

Nancy.....thanks for the link and to the two of you who ordered books!!!

My homeowning days were "get three estimates, stay in bed one day reading and eating chocolate and then on day three decide." That's how I got my plumber with the unlisted number.....hey, he was there in his tennis whites one day fresh from the country club when I had a Labor Day crisis and company coming. Then there was the landscaper/snow removal guy on retainer who talked to me proudly about his daughter's bow at the Cinderella Ball. That was the day I called three realators. Now if I could only get this @#$% condo Board to turn off/down the damn hallway lighting after 2AM!!

Karen, I think Harley's new paperback is due out in early April. Just saying.

Condo . . . The word is beginning to sound really good to me!

Nancy, what's a French Drain? It sounds so . . . ooh la la! Let's sit out in the driveway when I come visit and admire it.

My heart bleeds for you. I need duct work done. And probably 2 new furnaces. The furnaces I understand, but duct work? Must I really spend THOUSANDS of dollars on something completely invisible? How will I know the duct work is done, rather than something that someone just made up to fool me?

It turns out that I already own Murder Melts in Your Mouth. By April I'll be ready to order more books, are you kidding me? LOL

Harley, a French drain is sadly unexciting. My husband dug one at our old house. It's a pit next to the house with gravel in the bottom, then one of those black perforated drain tubes laid in the bottom, and filled in over top, so the water is drained away from the foundation. See, boring.

Harley - aren't you in California??? Why do you need 2 furnaces?

I like my landlord a lot now, I phone Sam, stuff gets fixed, I don't pay and I don't have to be there. He even shows up on a Saturday when the main sewer drain backed up - making me very glad I live on the 3rd floor.

I tried the condo thing but Strata Councils, OMG way too much of a pain. I had the Strata president give me a lecture one day, apparently I was throwing my garbage out wrong. HUH. I sold the place and boosted my retirement fund.

Sorry I'm late to the parade, Nancy, and I'm also sorry to admit I have no good advice about plumbers. Our plumber has a permanent tan and takes fab vacations, so obviously we conceded defeat a long time ago.

I do have thoughts on a couple of related topics. First, about the "real" Joe the Plumber. . . Can you believe the conservative movement is so pathetic that he's one of the headliners at their convention? Him and Ann Coulter!

Second: CLIVE is on HGTV? Hand me the clicker!

Uh, Michele? Not that Clive. But I suspect you won't be checking back here, so . . . well, I guess you'll discover the--uhm--charms of HGTV Clive all on your own.

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