Chaos…fortunately temporary

We didn’t just invite chaos into our lives for a brief visit, we also gave him the keys to the house and provided him a seat at the table!



Having lived in the same home for 42 years we’ve experienced many “home improvement” seasons. Some last longer than others, but maintenance of any home is at times overwhelming.

When you put some things off for, oh say, 42 years? Some projects require heavy reinforcement.


We quickly found out that a new driveway, beyond the obvious demolition and importing of new materials, also involves re-routing irrigation systems, removing all the shrubbery and “green material” along the landscape boundaries–and a lot of dirt!

Currently it is one giant mess–feel free to click on the images if you’d like to see a more expansive view of said mess!


Triple-digit heat, clouds of dirt, lots of noise and a large white dog without her usual freedom–chaos.

But when it starts to get to me and I think I might not be able to cope, I just picture the finished project! Won’t it be wonderful to walk without falling into small sinkholes?

And when that isn’t quite enough, I turn my thoughts to remembering our wonderful trip to Kauai. We enjoyed a “summer” vacation in late January.


Our son and daughter-in-law included us in their wedding plans on Hanalei Bay, and seven months later I can still feel those wonderful breezes and remember the joy of the occasion.


Visualization is a wonderful tool!

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It also helps to remind me that we signed up for this mess! Yep! We invited in this chaos.

I’m taking lots of deep breaths…and doing what I can to breathe lighter.

The project is supposed to take another three weeks.

I may need some back-up visualizations.




57 thoughts on “Chaos…fortunately temporary

  1. That looks like a big project and such things are always worse when it’s very hot! Put the kettle on, get a good book and settle down with a nice cuppa 😉 I hope the work completes on time and peace descends once more on your home.

    1. Your words describe what I hope to do soon, Martin. I am committed to creating peaceful moments even in the chaos. It will be very nice–when the fine, hardworking construction crew are all done with their artistry! And we shouldn’t need another driveway for at last another 35 years or so. LOL! I suspect in 35 years cars and driveways won’t much be on my mind. 🙂

  2. I feel your chaos Debra ~ literally! Our old neighbour passed away last year and, 12 months on, his family are renovating the property to rent it out. In the course of the upgrade they discovered a longstanding leak in our shared water main, for which we are 50% responsible, even though it’s mostly on their land. The whole system has to be replaced! So the concrete in our secret courtyard has been broken up, trenches have been dug and they’ve discovered that our section of the 120 year~old pipe is also leaking. This was NOT part of our planned maintenance!!! You are right, visualisation of the finished project and meditation are the best ways to keep a sense of balance. And, if all else fails, I can always take the poor confused dog for a walk along the beach! 🙂

    1. Oh Jacqueline! What you’re describing really is a mess! It’s one thing when we entered into a project with a plan towards improvement. What you’re describing came at you completely out of the blue. And it’s those unplanned repairs that always send me into a tailspin. Some of those have been the reason we have such an ancient driveway in the first place. Other “emergency” plans always interfered with the ones we hoped we’d eventually get around to completing. Now that we’re seeing progress and the dirt is a little better maintained I’m just waiting for the completed project. I totally commiserate with walking your confused dog! Poor Zena is one dirty, very confused dog as well. I do hope your neighbor finishes the projects soon and doesn’t find anything more that will inconvenience (and cost) you! You need a break! ox

    1. Thank you for the walk, Frank! It was wonderful! And I never thought about checking into Youtube to see so many different tours and parts of the island we either didn’t get a chance to see at all, or only minimally spent time. I could have quite a feeding frenzy on Youtbe! Thank you for that…all the better for my visualization experiment! 🙂

    1. You can see why I keep returning to those pictures form Kauai, can’t you, Amy? I try to transport myself there as often as I can…even if it just means staring at those photos and remembering what a good time we had. Our big project ail be behind us soon..I’m counting on it! 🙂

  3. I feel your pain. We went through that next. Beware the, “Well, while we’ve got that dug up you should also do…” or “Umm, we have to show you something.” Both are expensive conversations to have with contractors.

    1. So it isn’t just our contractors, huh? You made me laugh Andrew. Yes indeed. The project has already grown in just the way you describe. You can’t possibly leave an old broken patio slab that close to the new pavers! The project exploded a couple of days ago. LOL!

  4. Hang in there Debra. Chaos invited or not certainly requires some deep breathing and visualization. Fortunately you seem well-equipped for both; and you definitely have a ton of beautiful photos in your archives to revisit as needed too. 🙂 I hope the project runs smoothly. It will be worth it. Thinking of you!

    1. Thank you, Kristy. I’m confident that when the project is complete we’ll be very glad we went through all this aggravation. I’m missing our yearly summer beach vacation, and on the noisiest and dirtiest days I’ve really missed Newport Beach…but that’s where visualizing Kauai has helped. We really did have our vacation, it was just very early in the year. Thanks for the encouragement, my friend. I foresee September as much more manageable. 🙂

  5. We just had AC installed. In Portland, OR! The outside cosmetics aren’t completely buttoned up yet, but the inside is cool. Ah, homeownership. The never-ending adventure.

    1. Never-ending adventure indeed!I definitely think you prioritized correctly! Air conditioning first, whenever possible. 🙂 All the exterior projects can be so time consuming, but when you’ve had enough you can just do inside and close the door. Some of my visualization exercises probably involve looking the other way. 🙂

  6. I have a lot of deferred maintenance that I need to get to on my house. I re-sided half of it a few years ago and I still need to re-do a few damaged sections of the other half. The constant hammering from the re-siding job just about drove me nuts.
    But there’s more awful stuff to come. I think the foundation may be settling on the back side. And of course the whole thing really could stand a fresh coat of paint… all three stories of it. The work that needs to be done seems endless, and I’m sorely tempted to just ignore it all, but of course I can’t do that. One step at a time.

    1. It must be very hard to focus on the kind of projects you’re describing, Lori, when you’re so active and dedicated to your training schedules–and races! 🙂 These are the very things that take you away from home. And some of the work you describe may be sensitive to weather conditions, I’m thinking. From our experience, you are so correct about deferred maintenance, however. You can only kick some projects down the road for so long. In the case of our driveway, it had started to literally crumble. Even then I tried to justify tackling this in a couple of years. LOL! I lost that argument by a more sensible husband. I hope the foundation work you describe isn’t too burdensome. Our old house had a bathroom that we later learned was on concrete piers and NO foundation. When we noticed the house settling we called in the experts and that’s how we learned that in 1923 when our house was built, apparently a foundation wasn’t deemed all that necessary. LOL!

      1. Debra, you’re right, these are the sort of projects I shouldn’t procrastinate about… but there are so many other fun things I’d rather do! I sometimes think that in some ways, I have never grown up. I suppose I ought to do that one of these days. 🙂

        1. I don’t know Lori…there’s a lot of good to come from playing as much as possible. You’ve learned that through some life circumstances that I think very profoundly influence priorities. Deal with problems when you absolutely must, and I totally endorse all the fun you can grab. ox

    1. My “good attitude” is augmented by the fact that I’m at work most days! LOL! Poor Jay is left behind to deal with most of the actual chaos. The dirt is my area. I’m not a clean freak, but grit is everywhere. I’ll be so glad when I can clean and not see it look just as dirty the very next day! I’ll keep visualizing the finished project, Nancy! That seems to work for me. 🙂

  7. Oh, dear Debra, we have lived through the chaos of a new driveway. I know the mess, the extra dust, the overall disruption – like where to put all the family cars. 😦 Hang in there and keep on with the light breathing. We have quite a few projects that need such attention. Maybe next year as our dishwasher decided to give up the ghost, right in the middle of the week with family visitors. Actually, washing dishes by hand in the summer is good for getting the ground in dirt from under the nails. 🙂

    1. Mentioning your dishwasher reminded me of a couple of years ago when the refrigerator and dishwasher both “died” on us the day before Thanksgiving! We were at Sears buying a refrigerator and I think we just did all the dishes by hand that year. It’s really always something, isn’t it? This summer we’ve had so many projects that could no longer be put off and the best part of the completion is that we can stop talking about how we “should” take them on! I do understand why people decide to downsize and move! It has come to my mind a lot lately. I think your attitude about hand-washing dishes is very resourceful, Penny. Do you remember the old Palmolive dishwashing commercials with “Madge” giving her customers manicures with the dishwasher soap? LOL! Surely that gem was a national commercial/ad campaign! Thanks for the smile! I need to keep smiling, don’t I? 🙂

      1. Keep smiling, Debra. 🙂 Yes, I remember Madge. Hmmmm . . . maybe I’ll go buy some Palmolive.
        I can imagine washing and drying all those dishes – at Thanksgiving. There were a lot of dishes to do when all the family was here, but, I have to say, Tom and I along rack up a lot just by ourselves. I think I need the dishwasher as much for storing as for washing. hehehe It IS always something. Stay cool and I’ll see about sending you some of our rain.

        1. Rain? You’re having rain? LOL! I just have to laugh! There is good evidence we’ll have a wet winter, though, so I’ll be patient. Rain right now would be a problem with all the dirt. Ha!

    1. You are right on the money (pun intended!) time and budget! The two things that have kept us from taking on this project for a very long time! It will be nice in the end, and our old driveway and patio area had become a liability. I wasn’t exaggerating about sink holes. LOL!

  8. A fellow feeling makes us wond’rous kind (unless the fellow’s feeling in your skirt, behind)!
    We empathise 100% being in the same predicament. One clears up one area of mess only to have another created, until the entire garden is in a state of devastation and the rebuilding still remains miles from completion. Ten months of it so far, for us!

    1. Ten months, Col! You must vacillate between impatience with the unfinished aspects and growing accustomed to being in a state of rebuilding. I do look forward to sitting back and enjoying the results of our labor, but I think once the work crew vacates the premises we might be working for a long time making things beautiful. Between heat, drought and dirt my once beautiful garden looks very stressed. I appreciate you “fellow feeling” and no one conveys that sentiment better than you! LOL!

  9. I feel your pain, Debra! We moved into a ‘fixer-upper’ several months ago. I will be in reno mode for a long, long while. Good luck with yours! Hope the visualization helps!

    1. Older homes are a mixed bag. They have character, but that also translates into a lot of work. The good thing with your “fixer-upper,” is that there is something very special that occurs when you put so much of yourself into a home. I am struggling with the dirt and keeping the pets from harm, but other than that, I’m choosing to focus on being happy with the progress. 🙂

    1. When the ground begins to shift under your feet and you are not in an earthquake, it’s time to do something about it, and that’s what we’ve done. Very old crumbling concrete and asphalt is being replaced by something much more permeable–I’m being very optimistic and and preparing for rain! We’ll get through this and it will be very much appreciated. 🙂

  10. Goodness! We love our little home, but we are quickly beginning to understand how much TLC a place needs to keep it homey. We are looking at refinishing our basement floors and putting some new paint on the walls…it’s definitely a much easier job than repaving a driveway; however, just thinking about the process and mess it will create makes the OCD part of me cringe a little! 🙂

    1. Stacey, I think you’ll do really well with home improvements because you are so organized and strategic. You will have to put up with mess, and frankly, that’s hard unless you keep your eyes on the prize. Because this is your first home I’m suspecting that you both will really see it as a labor of love and that makes all the difference. Have I told you lately that I miss you? I’d love to see some photos of your home as you go through the process of making it homey. You’ve been gone so much this summer it must feel really good to think about just settling in for a while! So nice to hear from you. ox

      1. Debra! I miss you, too! There were several moments throughout our travels this past summer where I thought, “Oh my goodness…Debra would love this!” We went on some fun tours, excursions, and museum hunts and it was loads of fun (also very meaningful to see the rich heritage we come from and experience it with our families). Anyway, hope you are well and that you’re keeping your eyes on the prize for that driveway of yours! Sending you love from the Midwest! 🙂

  11. Oh dear, that is quite a job. And I can just imagine how difficult it must be with the heat. My sister has been telling me how hot it is in LA at the moment. I do hope the work is finished soon and that you’re really happy with the outcome. Love the photos of Hawaii. My husband is going to Hawaii in November but just to Waikiki. I’d love to be heading there with him but unfortunately it’s a boys weekend! xx

    1. What a fun boys weekend for Drew, Charlie! Isn’t it funny that those of us who live near the ocean still tend to vacation near the ocean! I think of your adventures on Bali and previously on Vanuatu. And we do the same, although Kauai was about as exotic as we’ve ever been. We aren’t very well-seasoned travelers! And yes, the heat was atrocious, but calmed down today. I’ve had to be careful not to complain too much! The ones who should be complaining are the hardworking crew. Very tough work when it’s 100 degrees and climbing. 🙂

  12. Kauai is my most favorite place in the world. We have a time share in Poipu and go every winter. It’s magical. And yes, memories from our visits help during the rest of the chaotic year! When we moved from SF bay area (Marin county) to the Boston area, we bought a townhome with maintenance fees so we don’t have to do what you’re doing. Good luck. It will be worth it in the end! 🙂

  13. I saw it at the very beginning, Debra. Like you, I could visualize how lovely your private retreat would be by the end. I can’t wait to come back and see how it all turned out. Life has a way of constantly pushing us through things that make our lives better, but the getting there is sometimes the worst part.

  14. Dear Debra, I am so ashamed to say that I do not remember if I ever thanked you for your card. I was beautiful and meant so much to me. I am also glad to learn that you and Dee have become friends. She told me. I love her, she is a very special lady. My mind has been fretting this summer, which means nothing was getting done the way it should have been, but I will catch up with everyone.

    That said, having been married to a general contractor, who always tore up our houses and rebuilt them, which left me living in a construction chaos for most of our time together, I know what you are going through. But the end result will be fabulous, of that I’m sure and well worth the chaos and frustrations. Take care, my friend.

    1. Inger, please don’t give it a thought that you try to respond to anything extra at all! It is just too soon for you to even think about others nearly as much as you need to take care of yourself. I’m sorry that your mind has been fretting, but your grief is much too fresh for it to be otherwise, don’t you think? One day at a time is really an important phrase to repeat over and over. ox Yes, Dee is such a lovely person, and she thinks the same as you. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the two of you could meet in person. I hope that might happen someday.

      I didn’t know that your husband was a general contractor! Yes you do know all about the chaos of “home improvement” projects. LOL! I’ll bet you have some stories to tell. Just continue to take care of yourself in every way possible, Inger. And don’t be hard on yourself when you can’t resume all the connecting and communication. That will return, but for now, you need your energy and any reserves for the day to day. Bless you! ox

  15. I well remember your son’s wedding there. Not a bad memory for an old fart, huh? 🙂
    Debra, you really cut off a big piece of pie here… but fortunately, that’s just a bigger bite you’ll have at the end! All the enjoyment of being in a renewed home. Zena must be going nuts as is Darwin! But the 100+F heat is only surpassed by our gas prices.

  16. Hi there! I was thinking of you the other day when reading an article about california and water shortages….
    However I can join in on the chorus of oh no, lots of mess and workmen in the house! We are having ours painted……. and I’m breathing deeply, but sometimes that isn’t enough and I just have to get out!

    1. It’s interesting to me that you have had such “news” of our severe drought, Claire. It has completely crippled my ability to plant a vegetable garden this summer. We are on water rationing restricting us to twice a week and with very high temperatures gardens, and their owners, are stressed! Meteorologists are predicting we may have a wet winter, though, so we’re trying to get things in order with some anticipation.

      Won’t it be nice to have a newly painted house! I do understand just getting out of the house, though. I think it’s very hard to have workers around all the time. Most of us do better with our routines. I hope you’re doing your own visualization program and let your mind take you away to someplace lovely. 🙂

  17. Oh wow Debra…how mighty daring of you but the nest needs love and attention just like we do. Visualization is wonderful to get you through it all…I can’t wait to hear about the completion.

    1. We’re making good headway, Cristina. It turned into a much larger project than we’d anticipated, but we are very pleased with the result so far. We’ve had broken and uneven concrete for a very long time. I’m still walking on the new surface like I used to, watching for places where I could trip. It will take a while to accept that the space is level. 🙂

  18. Pingback: I prefer my sand at the beach, thank you! | breathelighter

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