Upside Down & Inside Out -or- How My House Tried (Is Trying) To Kill Me

See: (v) perceive with the eyes; discern visually. —Oxford languages

“It took something as life altering as the pandemic to learn that I wasn’t seeing. Rather, I let my expectations dictate my understanding.” 

While I wish we had never experienced the pandemic and I mourn for all the losses and suffering it has brought, it has turned our beliefs upside down and inside out.

That’s not all bad. 

Being shaken from complacency can offer a clearer understanding; an opportunity to see things as they are, rather than our preconceived ideas of how we expect things to be or how we believe they should be. 

In my previous post What’s In A Number, I mused about age and how imperfect chronological age is as a marker for getting to know someone. I felt affirmed by a line in today’s NYTimes Modern Love column by Maggie Shipstead, “his life was so adventurous that, in my mind, the concept of age didn’t really apply.”

Why, I wonder, do we ever let it apply?

Preconceived ideas beat us up. They mislead us.

A case in point: In an effort to limit our exposure to others, my family has taken it on ourselves to fix things when they break around the house. To give you an idea of how radical a change this was for me, pre-pandemic, I noticed a leak in our upstairs bathroom. My solution? Put a container under it to catch the water until a plumber could come. Unfortunately, the pandemic arrived before the plumber. 

The pan stayed. For the past nine months, the pan caught the drip under our tub. As the drip worsened, I increased the size of the pan. 

Concurrently, other things broke around our house and, gradually, I learned to resolve these problems through the many generous souls who post how-to and fix-it videos on YouTube (thank you!!), trial and error, and the help of my younger son. We make a good team!

And still the pan caught the drips under the tub.

It was only when a 13”x 9” container was filling to the brim after each shower and my son pointed to the worsening water stain on our kitchen ceiling that I was forced to revisit my stance.

The fix? Turns out it was super easy. Yet nine months ago it hadn’t even occurred to me to trace back and identify the source of the problem and trouble shoot it. 

My internal narrative is that I am not a handy person. I’m working to update that. Also wondering what other narratives I hold that could stand a second look. 

Hopefully, it won’t take something this destructive to keep me on the path of truly seeing what’s before me. 


Here’s a list of the things we’ve learned how to fix in the past nine months.

  • How to remove and reinstall a kitchen cabinet door. Door fell apart and needed to be gorilla glued back together. I used an oversized rubber band to hold the pieces together while the glue was bonding.
  • That the “fin” in my dryer is called a baffle and how to take apart the dryer so I can reach and tighten the screws on the exterior of the drum/interior of the dryer
  • How to unfreeze a frozen water shutoff
  • How to replace the “cartridges” inside my sink faucets
  • How to replace the “scud” (weird name) that connects the toilet tank to the base
  • How to replace two toilet seats (We had to get someone to saw off the old screws as they didn’t respond to any of our loosening tricks.)
  • How to replace the screws that connect the toilet tank to the base
  • How to replace the flapper inside the tank and the handle on the outside
  • What to use to help two pipes make a water tight seal (plumber’s dope or tape, but the tape needs to be wrapped in the correct direction, so I went with the more forgiving dope)
  • How to unclog the tub: baking soda/vinegar (didn’t work), snake (didn’t work), it was the plunger(!) that ultimately did the trick
  • How to unclog the sink: baking soda/vinegar (sometimes), snake (sometimes)
  • What to do about the burning smell in the dishwasher (remove food particles stuck under the heating element)

5 thoughts on “Upside Down & Inside Out -or- How My House Tried (Is Trying) To Kill Me

  1. Thanks! It was/is a great feeling to have the leak resolved. It was pretty startling to discover what an easy fix it was compared to some of the other projects we’ve tackled. Yet, back at the beginning of 2020, it hadn’t even occurred to me to try to fix it myself! Thanks for commenting!


  2. You are absolutely awesome!  And your philosophical observations are quite insightful. Unfortunately   your mother still doesn’t know how to respond to your blog so you get a “like”  .! go to “contact” and put in my name and email but can’t get anything to print in the message area.  I tried googling responding to a blog but  the responses were all about setting up a blog.  I’ll have to ask the help line to walk me through. Love, Mom 

    PS  Is it correct to assume the tub is fixed?      And, can I paste your accomplishments into an email I’ll send to my brother?


  3. Wow! I am SO impressed! These are not easy things; they have a high degree of difficulty. I think you probably could fix our toilet. I cracked up that it took until a 9 X 13 was filling after each shower. That’s a lot of water!!!


    1. Yes, it happened gradually. But it was pretty striking how big of a leak it was before I decided to try to address it. Hope your plumber feels comfortable coming into your house to do the work soon!


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