Sequential puzzles

I was probably four years old – we were living with my grandparents – and it was Christmas. My parents constructed this cardboard fireplace and mantle for Santa’s sake. And there in my stocking was this little puzzle. It had nine slots for eight sliding blocks in order to make a picture. (I have a vague memory of it being an elephant? Perhaps?) I eagerly scrambled the picture. But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to unscramble it. I probably asked my dad to fix it for me 20 times that Christmas. I was amazed at his ability to see this magical solution completely opaque to me. Grownups are so magical.

To this day I have never successfully completed one of those puzzles, although in fairness to me I probably haven’t tried in (cough) thirty years. In the deep depths of my mind I suspect my belief that I’m not particularly good at spatial reasoning puzzles goes back to that sliding, scrambled elephant.

But lately, I’ve felt like I’m in a mega version of that puzzle. We all remember the triumph of the attic renovation. It was the great effort of the past year. But as our new space was finally finished and ordered, it set in motion of a series of cascading effects that are still eating up my weekends.

The laundry room was the biggest one of these. While the attic was the bulk of our project, we also got this idea to convert a second floor linen closet into a laundry room. We carefully measured width & of depth we had plenty. It was certainly tall enough, although not excessively so. We tiled it, plumbed it and put in a gas fixture so we could stack our existing washer and dryer into the space. We hired movers to move it and a plumber to connect the gas. They got the washer in, but couldn’t stack the dryer.

It could not be done. See, there was room for the washer and dryer. But there was no room for a human being to connect said washer and dryer plumbing-wise, and emerge again. The stack couldn’t be pushed back intact because it has a floor drain. You can’t crawl over it, regardless of size. We contemplated opening walls, using flexible hoses, creating ladders to climb out – but finally realized that based on the location of the drain and connections an adult would still be unable to connect everything. We thought of sending Thane in, but the sobering realization the plumbing inspector would need to be able to see the gas line connection to sign off on it was the death knell. There was, alas, no way that we could move our existing stack in. I researched new washers and dryers to see what might possibly fit. There were none. Trust me, we thought through every possible angle.

It seems like it should be possible to stack. It isn’t. This is my all-in-one.

Well, ok. There was one. If we went with a European-style ventless washer-and-dryer all in one combo, it might work. That meant that the venting, the gas line, the high powered electric line (yes, we put in both) were absolutely useless. Plus, it was expensive. We were terribly afraid that it wouldn’t actually dry. The first one we ordered the installers told us that it was impossible to remove the washer without terrible damage. But it didn’t matter anyway since the washer/dryer on the truck was badly damaged. We got a second one, and I made a call to the installation HQ begging them to send me the *good* team. They did (the team not only had no problem with the installation or move, they were incredibly fast – I tipped them well). And wonder of wonders, it works amazingly. It’s hell on the electric bill (between that and the electric car and heated floors in the attic we went from “more efficient than your neighbors” to “holy handgrenades, what are you doing in there?”). But now it’s SO MUCH EASIER to drop in a load of laundry on my way to work and by the time I get home it’s dry. I’ve even started making the kids do their own laundry.

But see, we had plans for the old laundry room. We were going to put a treadmill down there so we had a good exercise option for the winters – and a thing to tell the kids to go do when they needed some exercise in bad weather. We got the tv installed. After careful consideration, we figured if we moved the freezer next to the washer and dryer and got rid of the horrific particle-board cabinet, we would have plenty of space for the treadmill (if it’s not too tall – finger’s crossed).

Linen closet

But to get rid of the cabinet, we needed to move the linens from the downstairs shelves to their eventual destination in our new linen closet. And that required the building of the linen closet. During the holidays, Adam and I dragged the kids to a hardware store and bought gigantic sheets of plywood that we desperately tied to the top of the car in bitter cold. (OK, ADAM tied. I stayed in the car.) Over the next weekend or two, they were carefully measured, cut, and placed into the closet – all by my handy husband. Once the paint had dried, the remaining work fell to me. I cleaned out the closet in what had been our bedroom (now the study) and the basement linens – so we could proceed with the basement.

After several hours of labor

But that brings me to the study. It needed old furniture removed (and I wanted to get it to someone who would use it, not just trash it). Lots of junk needed to be cleaned out. And new furniture (a new standing desk, new chair and new couch) acquired and assembled. I posted free stuff on Facebook and dealt with no-shows. I carefully disassembled old Ikea furniture with Thane’s most excellent help and carried it to the porch.

He’s amazing

Finally, yesterday, I finished completing all the dependencies for the study. The old stuff was cleared out. The new ordered and assembled. I’m thoroughly enjoying writing from the new sleeper sofa.

Our study

You’d think we’re almost done. All we have to do is get the treadmill in the basement and we’re done, right? WRONG! Next up is a hardwood floor in the second and first floors. Once that’s done, we’ll need to repaint the hallway, and then build built in bookcases to replace the particle-board ones we inherited when we were first married and then….

Right. If only I could get my dad to finish this puzzle for me, I swear I’d stop rescrambling it! And if you believe that….

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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