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My husband may have saved my life last week.

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

As you know, I’m renovating my house. And in the midst of what we call a “budget,” I’m finding it difficult to make the house unique. It’s got its own sixties-era, ranch-style charm, but along with that came a lot of crap I had to remove so I wouldn’t die in an electrical fire or squirrel infestation. And when you basically gut a house down to the studs, you’ve got to start from scratch.

All the artists in the room be like, “A blank canvas! Yay!”

What are you? Millionaires?

Redoing everything in a house ain’t cheap. The way you save money is by basically living at Lowes and The Home Depot. The guys there know me by name now. I mean, Tim in plumbing? He’s hilarious!

Still, I’ve got this creative bug inside me that wants my house to have character. You know, the kind of character you can’t really get from stock items at big box stores.

I’ve always wanted an old, wood burning fireplace. And now I’ve got one! But it needs a brick facade and a mantel. I’ve learned that fireplace installers basically have no creativity when it comes to these things. Their catalogs are Boring with a capital B. So I set out on an adventure to find myself a rustic barn beam to use as my fireplace mantel.

The search ended pretty quickly when I realized I wasn’t a millionaire. Tough pill to swallow! Seriously though, they are old beams from a falling-apart barn. You can’t charge me a thousand bucks, you crooks. You should actually pay me for taking them off your hands!

Then my good friend Lenny* found an ad on Craigslist for some reclaimed wood, so I reached out to this guy named Luis. I texted Lenny after the call.

Text1 Luis called me back. I guess he’s real after all. I set up a time to meet him and look at his old barn beams. I was driving home from DC and would be passing his house on the PA-NJ border. Perfect. Gotta thank Lenny for the lead.

Text 2

Per usual, traffic hit and it got darker and darker. Did you know the sun sets at like 2:30 now? I pulled into Luis’s “driveway,” if you can call it that. It was a gravel road leading into a black hole. This couldn’t be good.


Luis told me to drive up to the gate and call him, and then he’d come open it.

Current thoughts:

  • What kind of house needs a gate?
  • What is this guy up to? Illegal drugs? Trafficking?
  • Where the heck is this gate?

I kept driving.

And driving.

And driving.

Current thoughts:

  • This probably isn’t a good idea.
  • It’s really dark out here.
  • I think I just saw the New Jersey Devil.
  • But I really want a rustic barn beam mantel!
  • It would be really hard to turn around on this one-lane gravel road.
  • How loud is my car horn?
  • Where is this gate?!!

Finally, after about a mile of crawling on this dark, unfamiliar road, I came up to a gate. It was really hard to see, but behind the gate were piles and piles of stuff: metal scraps, lumber, machinery. You know, the kinds of things used in violent crimes of all sorts.

I called Luis and he cheerfully said he was on his way in a Spanish accent.

Oh, did I mention it was raining?!

As I waited for Luis, I looked outside into the total darkness. My headlights were the only source of light, but it wasn’t enough. I heard noises in the woods. The rain sounded like footsteps coming toward my car. My mind raced. This was one of those situations where a beautiful young girl (that’s me) gets murdered and no one ever finds her body because it’s been buried by the Craigslist murderer under a 10-foot-high pile of scrap metal. Well, I will not go down like that. Not even for a rustic barn beam mantel.

Lenny was the only person who knew where I was.

Text 3

Luis showed up at the gate and said “hola.” Based on quick visual calculations of his height and weight, I knew I could take him. Still, I didn’t let my guard down. He led me into a back building where he kept all the beams. You’d think 389 episodes of Law & Order: SVU would have prepared me for this exact situation.

Current thoughts:

  • What would Olivia Benson do?
  • Whatever happened to Elliott?
  • I like the new Nick Amaro guy, though.
  • Ruth. Concentrate. Find barn beam. Get out.

“So, you drive from DC?”

“It’s very dark in here.”

“Yes, I find light.”

“This place is creepy.”


“I told my husband if I don’t call him in 15 minutes that he should come find me.”

Bingo! Clearly, just by looking at me, Luis knows I have a strong, tall husband. A strong, tall, handsome husband. A strong, tall, handsome, protective husband. What a perfect response! Ain’t nobody gonna mess with Ruth now. Just give me a barn beam and slowly back away, Luis.

In the end, Luis turned out to be a really nice guy who makes some pretty fabulous furniture. He walked me into his “showroom”–the creepiest, old horse stable filled with everything from rusty sinks and bath tubs to piles and piles of little screws and bolts. In the back, though… jackpot! So many beautiful, old, rustic barn beams. Renovation paradise.

I ended up somehow squeezing a nine-foot beam into my car. Of course, if I hit a pothole, I might get decapitated. By this point, I was feeling invincible.

I called Lenny as soon as I drove out. I should point out that it had definitely been over 15 minutes since my urgent text. What the heck? Lenny’s got a wife and three kids. Get your act together!

I haven’t even met my husband yet and he’s already protecting me. What a great guy. And after a couple hours of work with my dad, we were able to put up my new, filled-with-character, rustic-barn-beam mantel up.


Now if only I had walls…


*Named changed for my friend’s protection, because remember that time he didn’t call me within 15 minutes?