Building department

The greatest challenge about being in a committed relationship is the fine art of compromise.

Scratch that: resolution is key.  While compromise is important, it is not always possible. A solid relationship requires the ability to pick one’s battles and resign one’s self to the outcome. Like any good battle there is a winner and a loser. If you’d like to stay with your partner, you best decide how to balance the win-some, lose-some score sheet, because I assure you, one of you is keeping score.

Long weekends tend to be the official start of the score sheet at our house. That is when the reality sinks in that we have three months to get as much done as possible to the exterior of our house before the weather flips back to cold again. Out comes the yellow pad of paper to write down the need-to’s and the want-to’s. We tally this up and cross-reference it with the budget of possibility  Our eyes meet in a knowing glance. Acceptance and defeat in one silent exchange. Collective sigh.

There are always two obstacles in our plans: finances and time. Sound familiar? But in our house, there is a third: talent. Yes, you see a writer can dream up grand schemes for the new front deck, but this writer is not skilled in any way that contributes to the completion of such a task. I am not allowed to use tools. I have no clue what goes into the projects that I dream up, nor do I have the financial backing to support them. The Carpenter knows this all too well.

So when I suggest a new deck, to replace the rotted one out front of our home, I get the look. Do you know the look? Stern, narrowed eyes and a straight-line mouth express discontent. Awkward temporary silence follows. And then the Carpenter tells me all the reasons my concept won’t work, prattles on about costs and materials, structural foundations (yadda, yadda, white noise).

He throws in some words about municipal bylaws and building permits to scare me. He will say anything to win. A simple “no” would suffice (not really, but it would make the argument way more fun).

My resolution comes in the reality that he, who holds the tools, makes the rules. Cough. You’d think after 23 years together, I’d learn not to push the boundaries, die on a different mountain perhaps, but why start now? I soldier on with my suggestions. I think I’m pretty clever. There is merit to my ideas.

The Carpenter’s look shifts to a patronizing one of, “it’s sweet of you try.” Encouraged, I suggest a total strip down of the wood deck and a rebuild with full landscaping stones, wide steps and a sprawling sitting area. His face turns to a sudden deadpan expression that reads loud and clear “it ain’t happening.”

The building department has spoken. Kelly’s concepts do not get the stamp of approval. Bam.

I could argue, but the beauty of our relationship is that I refuse to nag and he refuses to respond to manipulation (so he thinks). There is our balance. I will lose this battle with grace, because I know our budget makes the dream near impossible.

But, I am not finished. I want a backyard vegetable garden. Totally do-able. Flag raised. New battle. Let the negotiations begin. Solider on.



Kelly Waterhouse