Notes from Colleen’s Desk: This Old House, Finding Peace with Imperfection

Many know that I currently live in my childhood home, which was built in 1954. It’s really not all that old… but it is certainly making me age quickly!

I feel like the many projects that have come with this house over the last two months could make me a contender for a blooper episode of “This Old House”. I am now on first name basis with the electrician, the appliance repairman, the plumber, and a few really good friends at Grover Electric and Plumbing.

I’ve written a haiku to capture the sentiment:

I have an old house.

It has deferred maintenance.

It makes me ponder.

Someone has said that “things happen in three’s”. That is a lie. It really is 9, or maybe 12.

I am losing count, but let me just recap a few items:

  • Wrestled a hot water heater out of the utility room and down two steps to the patio and then rolled it to the back lawn, thanks to extreme calcification from well water. (Math problem: 50 gallons x 8 pounds/gallon = 400 pounds). Yikes. Gratefully, I had help (pictured)!
  • Hired electrician to explore and correct source of electrical shocks occurring in precarious places – like the shower and at the irrigation pump. Double yikes. On the second visit the electricians put in two grounding rods – apparently not required when the house was built.
  • Called on the HVAC folks twice (different issues) to repair air conditioning during, of course, 100 degree plus temps.
  • Summoned in very short order a plumber to snake the septic system. I will save you the details other than to simply say it was like something from a horror flick with black ooze gurgling into the bathtub.

The black ooze episode and at least two other breakdowns occurred the day before I left on my annual backpacking vacation.

After a 10-hour road trip, we started our early evening hike into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. It was eventually dark; it was bear territory and now we sported headlamps. It was no surprise then to wake up the next morning and discover my tent was quite askew and on a definitive slant halfway in the middle of the trail (pictured).

No amount of shimmying all my clothing, gear, boots and more was going to help me that night; I was literally between a rock and a hard place. And then came the helicopter hovering overhead, which we later learned was a rescue operation for a lost/injured hiker.  Not a great night’s sleep. I was uncomfortable.

As I have been tackling my deferred maintenance projects, I’ve been pondering the merits of building something completely new, so that I actually have a shut off valve on the ice maker’s water line to the refrigerator that was installed in 1987! While I consider myself a flexible person, I drew the line at crawling under the house to find a shut off valve that might exist.

So, water for the entire house was shut off instead. Back to Grover I went for that nifty little copper tube cutting gizmo and the hardware I needed to cap the line. Upside: I learned a plumbing skill and avoided electrocution! Downside: I no longer have an operational ice maker and I am in the market for ice cube trays.

I am finding peace with imperfection but am keenly aware that deferred maintenance can be quite costly. It may be your house, your health, or a relationship that needs immediate attention.

This personal adventure with a host of fix-it-now projects has led me to have an acute appreciation for the skilled trades – whether its an HVAC technician, plumber, contractor, electrician or otherwise. We need to promote the trades, provide adequate training for these lucrative careers, and support efforts to streamline their licensing and certification processes. Especially now.

Moreover, I am pondering what I might do differently if I could start afresh and build from the ground up, especially now, in the aftermath of devastating fires, extreme disruption for so many Rogue Valley citizens, and severe economic injury to hundreds of businesses.

The opportunity to re-envision our homes, our neighborhoods, and even the entire south valley greenway corridor from Medford to Ashland is front and center. Many community leaders, elected officials, business service providers, and citizens are coming together now to develop extraordinary partnerships and take extraordinary measures.

Unfortunately, the rebuild will not be a short-term effort. It will take an abundance of patience, time, and most of all – good listening skills.  It will be a rocky path that is uncomfortable for all. There will be many great ideas presented and considerable disagreement.

Crafting plans for temporary housing – which is one of our most pressing needs – is already underway. Community non-profits, citizens, and faith-based partners have stepped up in remarkably compassionate and meaningful ways to meet the daily needs of displaced residents.

Our region is certainly not the first to experience the devastation of wildfire.

SOREDI gives a hearty shout-out of gratitude to our counterpart agency in Redding – Superior California Economic Development (SCED) – to say thanks for reaching out to us immediately.  SCED has offered condolences and tips for navigating the recovery and rebuilding process after having experienced the same economic injury just two years ago with the Car and Camp Fires.

SOREDI is on point to gather resources that will help businesses bridge gaps in their recovery. We are working on laser focused, unduplicated opportunities right now. The Rogue Valley is incredibly resilient, and we will grow out of this hard, rocky place in a remarkable way. We wish you incredible peace, amid a lot of imperfect processes, in this time.

If you are a business suffering from economic injury– whether it is related to the pandemic or the fires – we want to hear from you. SOREDI is administering a few grant programs currently and you may be eligible to apply. We look forward to hearing from you – we are here to help.



Colleen Padilla, Executive Director

© 1987-2022 SOREDI 1311 East Barnett Road, Suite 301, Medford 97504 • Phone: (541) 773-8946 • Fax: (541) 779-0953