In the past few weeks a couple of neighbors have mentioned meeting my father-in-law while he was in town. “Such a nice guy!” they say. Then they add, almost an afterthought: “He was lying down on the sidewalk when I met him.”

My father-in-law met his Waterloo pounding up the old concrete foundation of a room that had been torn down (see: The Hardest Day Ever). Me? It was two weeks sitting on my haunches outside of our house, staring at a small hole in our foundation wall, waiting to haul a bucket of dirt up from the basement so that I could add it to our pile in the back. Occasionally Kyle or Joe would toss a bone they had unearthed from the basement floor up at me. You know, because it’s fun and not at all creepy and/or disgusting to throw bones at people. Here is just a sampling of the collection:

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And I had it easy. Here is how Kyle and Joe were spending their time in the basement:

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Lying on their bellies in a four foot crawl space digging holes. Sometimes we didn’t call it a day till close to midnight, and they worked with headlamps and lanterns, and watching them work through the gap in the foundation all I could think was: worst. job. ever. I felt really bad about it.

I mean, not bad enough that I was actually going to go down there myself to do it. But still, pretty bad.

The work was necessary, though, because guess what we discovered after our house was awarded a “structurally sound” label by both a general inspector and a structural engineer? The house was falling apart. The first tip-off that something wasn’t quite right came when Kyle saw our house first time (again, Rules of Real Estate). “Hmm,” he said. “It probably shouldn’t be leaning to the right.”

Correct. It probably should have had a masonry wall with the limestone still in place and beams that weren’t rotted through. And a sill beam (aka the beams that the whole house rests on, right between the structure and the foundation) shouldn’t have been whittled down to a measly twig by a bunch of termites. And probably plumbers and HVAC men of old should have gone around major structural support beams, rather than through.

Godiva is concerned about the state of our sill beam. And/or wondering where the termites went.

Godiva is concerned about the state of our sill beam. And/or afraid the termites are gonna get her.

Should of could of would of. So that’s what led to the Basement Weeks. The project felt interminable. There were 20 holes to dig, one for each new foundation footing, and it seemed like no matter how long we’d been down there there were still 20 left to be dug. “We’ll never be done,” I said. More than once. There may be a correlation between the number of times I said this and the number of bones thrown at me. And those guys just kept on digging. And I kept hauling buckets. And we ended up with this:

Lots of Dirt

And something else you can’t see, which is a floor that doesn’t actually quake beneath your feet. This is pretty delightful in and of itself, given that floors are made to be walked on. But it’s the pile of dirt that amazes me. Sometimes I stand in the yard and stare at it. It’s a good reminder that you don’t need to want to do a project, or even believe you can do a project, even though both are good things. You just need to keep doing it. One bucketful at a time.*

*And have a Kyle and a Joe. They are kind of my heroes.

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