My Rosie the Riveter enthusiasms waned after five labor-filled years. An expanding circle of friends competed with my to-do list, and I developed a reputation for throwing 24-hour BBQs, parties of up to 40 guests invited with less than a day's notice. I cooked in my kitchen, sat in my yard, and I discovered the sunniest corners of the house in which to curl up with the Sunday paper.

What was happening? You could say I had achieved a degree of functionality with the house that obviated the need to spend so much time on maintenance. Or you could say I burned out. Both may be true.

Casual observers would most likely point to the seeming deus ex machina blind date of July 2001, when I met an architect who's good with his hands. We fell in love, then married—both of which took up time I could have spent stripping woodwork. But when he moved in, did he assume responsibility for upkeep? Oh, no. He's far too busy at work; moreover, his standards are far too high.

"There's no point in doing it unless you're going to do it right," is his position. In many cases, we don't earn enough to afford "right," or, in his mind, "right" has yet to be invented. The very idea of jury-rigging makes his lip curl. Consequently, his presence in the home maintenance calculus strikes me as both profit and loss: I have been liberated from the full burden of cost and responsibility but also from the freedom to steer my own course, to be as careful or as impetuous as each problem demands.

And problems do demand. The chimney remains a "don't ask, don't tell" situation, and our cellar walls still crumble under a hard look. I've triumphed in some areas (the living room looks great) and made peace with others (no one goes in the basement, no one). After all these years, I suppose what's really happened is that I've settled in: I'd rather spend time sitting on the couch (with or without the handy architect) than reupholstering it. I moved to Philadelphia for many reasons, and the best one is to live where I live, not just repair it.


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