I still tithed generously to skilled tradesmen, but increasingly, I took on the upkeep of my home as a sport, a hobby. Which jobs could I do? How hard could this or that project really be?
In sweatpants and close-toed shoes, I apprenticed myself to the painter, so that I could do her scraping and spackling. Under her Jacqueline-of-all-trades supervision, I also replaced the O-ring on my kitchen's leaky faucet, which, even 12 years later, fills me with pride when I think of it. I spread 11 tons of gravel in the yard so that actual masons could come in and lay a salvaged-bluestone patio, and after inhaling clouds of lint, I managed to replace the belt on the dryer.
On my own, I redid the floor of my guest bath, covering a decrepit wood floor with one-foot square sheets of hexagonal white tiles that I laid and grouted. The renovation gods must have been in a generous mood that day, because even though I overlooked a little step called "leveling the floor," the surface has held up for years, none of the tiles cracking under the weight of foot traffic.