Yes, People Really Do Change

But The Trick is Being Okay With the Same

It used to be that my husband never finished any home improvement project, and this habit of his came to be the source of many jokes. For instance, when he installed tile flooring in our old house, he never quite got around to nailing one of the baseboards to the wall. He just sort of propped it there. Every other day or so, as I walked from the kitchen to the living room, my foot would accidentally catch on it, causing the board to fly across the room with a loud clatter.

It probably only takes a few minutes to pull out a hammer and four or so nails, but it was four minutes he never seemed to have.

I could tell you about 17 or so other projects just like that, but I won’t because I promised myself that this would be my shortest post ever and I’m trying to stick to my promise.

At any rate, when my husband started renovating the kitchen in our new house four years ago, I suspected that he might never finish the project. That’s why I was neither surprised nor disappointed when, after ripping the wood paneling from the walls, he never got around to installing the tiles.


Our daughter was only about three years old back then, and the ugly kitchen walls seemed quite scary to her. The first time she saw them, she cried. I, on the other hand, found the half finished kitchen somewhat charming. It was a great conversation starter, and it was also somewhat artistic. It *almost* looked as if we’d left it that way on purpose.

I said almost, okay?

Over the years, I got so used to the half finished kitchen that I barely noticed it. Oh sure, when the CBS Early Show came to our house and our half finished kitchen ended up on national TV, it occurred to me that perhaps I should nag him about it. The thought also crossed my mind when I hosted Thanksgiving this year.

But really, for the most part, I didn’t care. The kitchen could have stayed that way for 20 more years and it wouldn’t have become a source of marital discord.

But then a few weeks ago, I began trying to refinance our house. This required an appraisal. I needed the house to appraise for a certain value in order for the refinance to go through.

That’s when I mentioned to my husband that it would be nice if he finished the kitchen.

“If we can refinance, we’ll have $300 more every single month,” I said. “That’s enough for you to go on a nice ski trip every single year.”

It spurred him into action.

I never assumed that he would completely finish the job. I figured he’d leave the caulking until retirement. Or perhaps the switch covers would never get screwed on. I didn’t know what it would be, but something would never get done. After all, that was his M.O. He was the guy who never completely finished a home improvement project.

All I wanted was for the kitchen to *look* finished to a home appraiser. That was all.

But he surprised me.




16 comments… add one

  • Kathy February 27, 2012, 4:37 pm

    That looks very nice.

    How do you like the single sink instead of a two-sided sink??? I’d like a new sink and have been debating this point. Thanks!

  • Susan February 27, 2012, 9:58 pm

    Based on your book and your other posts, I don’t think your husband did a complete 180. I think you found a very smart way to tap into what he wants and tie that to what you want so you didn’t have to nag him about it. It’s brilliant, actually, because he gets a ski trip and you get a more polished kitchen so you hopefully qualify for a refi. I applaud your patience and ability to live with the half-finished kitchen, as it would drive me bonkers! But this post has me thinking about how I could adapt your strategy for other scenarios.

  • David Stevens February 27, 2012, 11:24 pm

    Hi Alisa,
    Great story. Your husband is one ahead of me…at least he gets started…
    be good to yourself
    David Stevens´s last blog post ..Living Life Today – Getting through the ‘dark’ days

  • Toni February 28, 2012, 9:11 am

    You forgot to tell how you “are ok with the same”. What if he hadn’t finished how do you keep yourself calm and not get aggravated each time your foot catches and the board clatters?

    • Alisa February 28, 2012, 9:27 am

      Hi Toni–That’s a good question. I think it’s because I see it as a part of him. I know I’ve decided to love him, all of him. So when I see the unfinished things here and there, it now makes me smile because I think, “That’s so him” but in a positive way vs a negative one. The only advice I can give for transforming that type of anger into love is: 1) Realize you have a choice. For instance, I could renovate my kitchen or bang the board to the wall MYSELF. I could hire someone. I choose not to do either. So, in reality, if I am suffering, it’s suffering I’ve created for myself. 2) Rather than fixate on what isn’t done, notice what IS done. It’s similar to focusing on the glass half full v half empty. Like David commented, at least he STARTS the projects. So instead of seeing the unfinished parts as a little dig against me, I can look at every part that he did finish as a gift from him to me. I know. Easier said than done…

  • Toni February 28, 2012, 9:52 am

    Does he say negative things about your body?
    Toni´s last blog post ..Corn Safe to Eat for those with Gluten Sensitivity?

    • Alisa February 28, 2012, 10:36 am

      Hi Toni–I think those are different issues than what this particular post addresses. You’ve inspired me to tackle this topic later on. For now I will say that no one makes you feel bad or makes you cry. You make you feel bad. Think of the Elenore Roosevelt quote: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. It’s a subtle mind shift, but once you see it, it can revolutionize your life. I’m not saying to not be assertive and address him being critical. It’s more that if your self esteem were healthy, the comments wouldn’t sting as much.

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures February 28, 2012, 10:56 am

    Haha I love this post! Your kitchen looks awesome and no your hubby gets to go skiing every year.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures´s last blog post ..My Wedding & Honeymoon: Day 13

  • Toni February 28, 2012, 11:15 am

    Can I have your actual email address? I tried to email you but there is no address and my computer is not configured to work by the email “button”.
    Toni´s last blog post ..Corn Safe to Eat for those with Gluten Sensitivity?

    • Sarah February 28, 2012, 11:59 am

      Toni, Her email address is listed under the Contact header at the top of the page.

      • Alisa February 28, 2012, 2:13 pm

        Thanks Sarah!

  • Rose Byrd February 28, 2012, 11:17 am

    Oh, Alissa, this is just WAY too funny! It is also very encouraging in reminding us so charmingly that we should not give up on people! First being okay with the same is essential, of course, for peace of mind and proper perspective on what’s really important in life. I cannot believe this view of your unfinished kitchen was on national TV! Too, too funny!
    Rose Byrd´s last blog post ..“…..and I used to be so angry with you guys!”

  • Mandy February 28, 2012, 2:49 pm

    Your kitchen looks great! I have always known that my husband is not really handy around the house. To me, do-it-yourself is fun and economical. To him it is torture. To his credit, he will help me with projects if I ask him to, and sometimes even offers to lend a hand. I generally ask him only if it’s something I really need help with (like it requires a lot of heavy lifting). A kitchen renovation, however, is not within my skill set. For that I would hire someone. So I applaud your husband for it, even though it took him a long time.

  • Sandra / Always Well Within February 28, 2012, 3:43 pm

    I smiled all the way through this post! Yes, there are a few baseboards kicking around my house. :) Your equanimity is impressive.
    Sandra / Always Well Within´s last blog post ..The Joy of a Meaning-Less Life

  • Bern March 5, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Excellent comment about seeing the positives in the other person not the negatives! It really is a choice for us to make, and our lives (and everyone else’s) are much better if we make it.


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