The Domino Effect

When I was a kid, from time to time I would gather up all the dominoes I could find, carefully set up them up in a pattern and gently topple the first one. If all went well, it would start a chain reaction, something like this:

I must admit that my constructions were never that elaborate. First, because we did not own anywhere near that many dominoes; second, because I never thought about augmenting with playing cards (which is brilliant, by the way), but primarily because I am not blessed with that kind of time and patience.

Life is full of examples of the “domino effect,” where one simple event leads to another and another and yet another. Like a little cover-up fib that requires a more and more elaborate background story to hold up. Or a fabulous clearance-rack sweater that doesn’t match anything else in your closet but happens to look great with that pair of jeans and those shoes and *oooh!* the earrings over there (too bad they’re not on sale, too).

Homeowners are especially well-acquainted with this phenomenon; the older the home the more pronounced the effect. Our house was built in 1952, with steel windows that were installed between concrete blocks and brick during construction. They were top-of-the-line back then, but sixty years later Phil and I were ready to replace them with more energy efficient and easier to clean vinyl windows. Problem was, the solid construction made the window frames nearly impossible to remove. The only way to avoid astronomical labor fees would be to remove most of the old window, then slide the replacement into the old steel frame, leaving a small steel lip around the new window. We ordered our windows last November, and they were installed right after New Year’s.

New vinyl window to the right of picture window, as compared to old steel window on adjacent wall.

I knew going in that there would be some trim painting involved, both inside and outside. What I did not realize was that the new windows would be a much brighter white than the color we already used on trim all over the house. All righty then, some of the window sills need to be repainted anyway. But the window trim also matches the baseboard and doors. Well, to be honest, the baseboards and doors have also needed attention for the past couple of years, or maybe five.

As I washed the new windows and began the prep work for painting, I removed some ugly trim that was put up in the front room to attach window treatments that we no longer use. Under these same windows there were some less-than-attractive shelves built into either side of the fireplace. I have never liked them so Phil and I decided to rip them out, leaving a few chinks in the plaster. The plaster needs to be repaired, and we’re going to need to repaint so why not pick a new color while we are at it? We’ve put off refinishing the hardwood floors for a while, and just look at the difference where the shelves were . . . you can probably guess where this is heading, and we haven’t even made it out of the living room yet.

Christmas 2002. Note the shelves on either side of the fireplace behind us, as well as the wooden frames supporting the window treatments.
January 2013. Shelves, curtains and window frames are gone.

The dominoes, they are a-tumbling, but the first one toppled long before we bought replacement windows. Just after Christmas 2005, Phil came home and told me that one of his employees had offered to give us a five-month-old black lab puppy. At the time her littermates were being sold, she was being treated for a cut under her eye, so they ended up keeping her. Now they wanted to find her a new home before her mother delivered another litter. Phil and I went to see her, and of course brought her home. Laura named her Daisy.

Daisy, happy to be living in her new home.

Daisy had lived outside for five months and her house training was a bit rough at first. We installed a baby gate to confine her to the family room, but despite diligent attention, she had a few accidents. Once she got the hang of letting us know when she needed outside, it was time for the old carpet to go. Instead of replacing it, we opted to install hardwood floors.

Back room, pre-Daisy.

Then we had to paint, because the walls looked shabby next to the gleaming floors. And speaking of shabby, the aluminum windows were practically falling apart. Wouldn’t top-down bottom-up shades be wonderful with the new ones? The woodburning stove was too hot and too smoky; what about one with a door to see the fire? Wow, look at how much the ceiling tiles were sagging. The lighting was dismal. We wanted more seating. We needed more shelves for DVDs. We didn’t really need a bigger TV but we bought one anyway, and Phil built a media cabinet to measure.

New floors, new paint.
New windows, shades and sectional.
New ceiling tiles, DVD shelves and track lighting.
New woodstove, media center and massive television.

Before you knew it, our free dog was well into four figures. I suppose one could argue that we would have undertaken these projects sooner or later anyway, but I’d just as soon credit the dog. It’s not the worst thing she’s blamed for!

If I knew seven years ago what I know now, her name wouldn’t be Daisy – I’d have called her Domino.

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