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I’ve never been a great one for making plans or following schedules. It’s not that I mind following the directions, it’s more a matter of making up my mind how I want to set the rules in the first place.

For instance, we are embarking on a construction project. It’s been in our minds for, oh…about twenty years. But in the last few weeks we’ve come to the realization that our fortune (insert large laugh here) is wasting away in bank accounts that pay .000000127 percent interest. I’m sad to say that it’s also hit us that we aren’t growing any younger, so we might as well enjoy whatever benefits we can garner now.

“We’re accepting bids.” This is what we said to four gentlemen in different construction firms, all of whom would be delighted to come out and give us an estimate/quote. We were eager to hear what all these estimates might be, because it’s been a long time since we’ve done any work on our daughter’s home (which we own) and we needed to find a starting point for our budget.

I should say here and now we’ve realized from the beginning that any two-story, five-bedroom castles are out of our range. We are retired, after all, with no nice negotiated pensions promising to augment our funds monthly. What we need to know is whether we can add a bath and enlarge the kitchen a tad, or if she’ll have to simply content herself with hanging lovely kitchen towels to cover the broken tiles and choosing tub baths until we find someone whose hobby is fixing people’s shower plumbing.

Also, of course, we’d like to eat along the way and manage the co-pay on our many prescriptions.

My expectations were, I thought, modest. If I factored in just average cost appliances, and ready-made cabinets instead of what I’d really like to choose, I figured a budget of $50,000 would give us a walk-in, turnkey job in just a few weeks. I can still hear the laughter from the first contractor we talked to.  I walked away from the meeting with the distinct impression that our $50,000 would get us a new, small bathroom and a little tiny remodel on the kitchen, but only if we were willing to do our part: paint, flooring, cabinet installation, all appliances…I stopped listening after a while, so I’m not really sure what was included and what was not.

The other quotes were not as good.

So, we sat down with a couple of copies of our existing floor plans, a sharp pencil and a whole lot of white-out tape and started making our own revisions. After a couple of weeks of eating in the living room (because the dining room table was now a drawing board), we’ve found what might be a workable sketch. No, we can’t add a bedroom; yes, we can manage a walk-in pantry. If we use really, really pretty tiles, we can keep the tiny bathroom’s footprint and call it a powder room. It’s all in how you look at it.

Today we’ll call a contractor–maybe the first one, if I can face him–and ask for a quote using the new criteria. I figure somewhere between $50,000 and $300,000 will do it. Of course, we don’t have $300,000 but if I have it in my mind I won’t be so shocked when the actual number comes out.

With any luck, this will put us on the path to several months of dust, strange people in and around my daughter’s house, and a speedy diminishment of our savings. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound all that great. But we’ll hope that the final outcome will be a place that makes her happy and comfortable.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.