Katy McKenna Raymond  
Personal blog of christian writer Katy McKenna Raymond in Kansas City, Missouri

Personal blog of christian
writer & fallible mom
Katy McKenna Raymond
in Kansas City, Missouri

Katy is represented by
Greg Johnson at
WordServe Literary

Read more Katy at

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“Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.”
John Muir

“You could have been electrocuted.”

Our lifelong friend and on-an-as-needed-basis heating/cooling professional, Neal, sat in our living room with a somber look on his face, a cup of coffee in one shivering hand, and a pencil in the frozen clutches of the other.

Of course, I, technically, could NOT have been electrocuted. If my understanding is correct, in order to be electrocuted one must do something at least marginally stupid somewhere in the vicinity of electricity. Like swim or play golf in a lightening storm. Where the odds of electrocution are concerned, I’ve noticed that electricity and water combined raise the stakes considerably.

Still, even using a common kitchen butter knife to pry a frayed toaster cord from the wall plug of an ancient motorlodge kitchenette in Branson, Missouri, in 1964 might do as much as throw you across the room onto the Only-25-Cents-For-A-Magic-Vibrating-Massage bed, not that I would know or anything.

No, not me. I am a virtual paragon of caution. In our home, it’s only Doug who could have been electrocuted.

You probably don’t know this, but my husband’s father was an electrical engineer. Not only that, but the degree program our son Scott first chose upon beginning his studies at the University of Kansas was “Engineering Physics,” whatever that is.

But Doug? Doug is the kind of man for whom a loving wife prays every time she hears his feet plodding down to the basement, even if his only ostensible reason for descending into the miry depths is the annual hauling up of the thankfully-pre-lit Christmas tree. 

Why then, on such occasions, do I beseech the God of all mercy on my husband’s behalf? Because…well, he might touch something.

And also because I just don’t get home systems.

“Home systems,” I’m guessing, is a term that can be used to describe the plumbing system, the electrical system, the heating/cooling system, and many others. Including but not limited to the home entertainment system, the network system, the sprinkler system, and the filing system.

Did I mention the roofing system? Because right now, it’s the system that worries me the most.

Pursuant to a spreading and darkening spot on my kitchen ceiling, I am increasingly aware that a “roofing system” includes not only a roof but everything that might be in contact with anything else that has ever contacted a roof.

In other words, to repair the incorrectly installed flashing on the chimney—which appeared to the roofing-systems specialist to be the ONLY problem—and then to have to subsequently tear out the molded back wall of the house, replacing the insulation, wall board, and wallpaper at significant personal expense, is NOT to guarantee that all systems are go.

Not by a long shot.

The nature of a roofing system is that as soon as the ONLY thing causing the problem is fixed, and as soon as all the resultant disasters are mitigated, another even more insidious element of the conniving system will rear its ugly shingle.

“We stand behind our work with Our Exclusive 100% Satisfaction-Guaranteed Lifetime Transferable Warranty,” the roofing-system specialist will say with an extremely straight face, except for the part of his right cheek which contains the tobacco. And then he’ll spit once into your rose bush before adding, “If ANYthing goes wrong, we’ll make it right. You have our word on it.”

Well, Mr. Roofing-Systems Specialist, something has gone wrong. Very wrong. So wrong, we had to call our Heating/Cooling-Systems Specialist.

“You could have been electrocuted, really,” Neal repeated. “Your furnace can’t go on like this. It’s actually collapsing in on itself. It—and the air-conditioning system, of course—are caput.”

He went on to explain, in language that could only make sense to a Systems Analyst, that the reason it’s approximately 14 degrees fahrenheit in our home is that the furnace has somehow been barely surviving a barrage of repeated and unbelievably strong electrical surges, the likes of which have finally caused the ten-year-old major appliance to heave its final hot breath.

“And, Neal, another thing…the spot on the ceiling is back,” I mumbled. “Every day, as I stand at the sink washing the dishes, I watch it grow. It’s bigger and darker than yesterday. The blue spot of mold on the wallpaper is spreading, too…”

“Now, Katy,” Neal said, and I couldn’t help noticing he’d pulled his cell phone from its holster and his thumbs were hovering over the nine and two ones,  “You know the roof and furnace are not related, don’t you? Besides, I only do heating and cooling…”

I know. And if ANYthing goes wrong, he’ll make it right.

“Oh, yeah…you’re the heating/cooling systems specialist. How much will this set us back?” I asked, right before I started whimpering.

I may not know much about home systems. But I’ve lived long enough to know that while everything may not be CLOSELY related, everything IS related.

I’ll bet you that if we replace the heating/cooling system, and then throw a few more thousand at the roofing system while vainly imagining that our systems problems are completely and forever UNRELATED, it won’t be six months before the roof springs a new and mighty leak, causing the furnace to have a surge of electricity so violent it collapses upon itself—again.

Yeah. That’s what I’ll bet.

Posted by Katy on 12/14/04 at 09:01 AM
Fallible Comments...
  1. Hey, the spot on your ceiling can match the growing spot on the ceiling in our basement family room. I can only think it came from the problems in the sink that Jim "fixed" over a year ago, or maybe the problems with the now-broken dishwasher that he also "repaired". At least you have the money to hire those specialists...I have to rely on Jim's expertise...and you see where that's gotten me. I'm doing dishes twice a day and have a leaky, moldy ceiling. YUK.
    Posted by Bridget  on  12/14/04  at  07:15 PM
  2. Bridgie,
    Yeah, I've got the money. But I always vainly hope to only spend it ONCE per needed repair. So, we could look at it the other way. Jim may not be successful in fixing stuff, but he comes nice and cheap! (And handsome, too.)

    I won't even tell you how much we're out on the roof/ceiling/wall/wallpaper repairs we've already done once, and now have to completely re-do. More than the cost of a semester at CMSU, I'm thinking--and still counting!
    Posted by Katy Raymond  on  12/14/04  at  07:59 PM
  3. This is waaay too familiar. I'm married to "Tim Allen" and I KNOW that the "leg bone is connected to the ankle bone."
    Posted by Anne  on  12/14/04  at  11:30 PM
  4. Hey, is this Anne Krause? I've got my heating/cooling guy sitting here eating garlic bread right now. He's Neal Gibbs! He knows and loves you! But, alas, we are still very cold...
    Posted by Katy Raymond  on  12/15/04  at  12:14 AM
  5. Yeah, that's me. I told Dennis you had Neal there. Tell him "hi" for us! It's been a REALLY long time since we've seen him. I guess Neal's probably not there right now, still. But, I'm assuming you'll be seeing more of him in the near future. Unless he was wildly successful with some furnace magic this evening? :) So sorry you're cold. Do you have a fireplace or woodstove to sit right up next to and camp out on the floor by?
    Posted by Anne  on  12/15/04  at  05:30 AM
  6. Hey! I know (and love!) Anne Krause, too! (She's my sister - heh.) I'm awaaaay up here in Northeast Ohio with MY OWN "growing spot" on my dining room ceiling and an "odor" in the offending leaking bathroom that makes me suspect it's probably really a huge hidden shittake farm and my "Tim Allen" (that would be Dennis Krause) is waaaaay away in Kansas. sigh. This is our first house (been here 6 months) and am I EVER discovering the interrelatedness of all the systems -- did you forget to mention the "environmental system" (non-domesticated critters living in attics and basements) Yikes! Too bad the critters can't seem to find their way to the 'shrooms and polish them off for me . . . aahhh, symbiotic house systems.
    Love your site, Katy (and Dougs, too!)
    Posted by Susan  on  12/16/04  at  05:32 AM
  7. Anne--It's Thursday now. Been furnaceless since Saturday, but Neal has a day job--he's doing this for us in the evenings. We have one electric space heater that we move around and one nice propane heater (big tank in the backyard for our frequent power outages) in our bedroom which warms several rooms. So it's all good!

    Susan--Welcome! Hey, we were at a family party at one of my sister's some years back. Somebody looked behind the couch for something they'd lost and guess what they found? Mushrooms growing up through the carpet!!! (Bridgie, do you remember this at Lizzie's?) Ever since, I've been freaked out when mold sets in...I DON'T want to be a mushroom farmer, at least not inside my house!
    Posted by Katy Raymond  on  12/16/04  at  01:48 PM
  8. I can see that you are putting a lot of time and effort into your blog and detailed articles! I am deeply in love with every single piece of information you post here. Will be back often to read more updates!
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    Posted by Mark Ewans  on  01/31/10  at  12:54 AM
  9. if youre not good at diy better to get a contractor in, it'll save money and a big headache in the long run.
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    Posted by david  on  05/21/11  at  09:07 AM
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