Count the Cost

It seems that every project I undertake turns out to be more than I bargain for. After 18 years of home ownership and the do-it-yourself home repair and maintenance projects that come with owning a home, you’d think I’d know my limitations. Truth be told, I actually do know my limitations. It’s accepting them that I have a hard time with. One of my limitations is that I’m not a builder. I can drive a nail, use a level and saw a straight line, but combining basic carpentry skills to construct even the simplest of projects turns out to be more complex than it should be. Nope, I’m not a builder. I’m a firefighter. Firefighters break stuff. We get to cut holes in roofs and break windows to vent smoke, tear ceilings down to get access to an attic fire, break holes in walls and tear out kitchen cabinets to overhaul a fire looking for smoldering embers. Yep. Breaking stuff is what I do best. Not building it.

You’d think I’d know better by now. Take one walk through my basement and you’ll see the amateur workmanship throughout the playroom and laundry room. It was my first real attempt at carpentry work. It required tearing down two walls, framing in new walls and a door, running electric, drywalling and painting. The demo of the old walls is about the only part of the project that went well. The finished job looks like a blind man did it. At least when the roof needed replaced, I knew better than to try myself. It helped that it was an insurance claim, so they paid to have it done. Even the painting of the interior walls took over a year and wasn’t perfect. Perfect…that’s part of my problem. I’m a perfectionist. I’m not happy unless what I do is done right. I get that from my grandpa and dad. They both taught me that if you’re gonna do something, take the time to do it right…and finish the job.

Which is why I was leery of taking on the task of installing a pool. When our friends from church called to offer it to us, I was excited. Excited about the possibilities having a pool would open up for you kids. Excited about enjoying hot summer days spent cooling off poolside, watching you splash the heat away. I knew the task of installing a pool would be a challenge, yet I reasoned that with some help, we could knock it out in a week or two, tops. What I failed to do was Count the Cost. Don’t get me wrong…even if I’d have known how difficult it was going to be, I think I’d still have said yes and accepted the gift. It just would have saved me the stress to think through the process better up front. The day I started, SD gave me a reminder why I was excited about taking this on in the first place, and the motivation I would need to draw from throughout the two months it took to get it done.

I had told you I was going to put in a pool the day before, and all of you were excited. The following day, I brought home the hand tiller for leveling the ground and laid out the circle, and was not 10 minutes into getting started when SD, you met me out back. With swimsuit on, towel over your shoulder and pool noodle in hand, you were ready. To not let you down…that picture drove my passion to keep going through what proved to be a difficult project. Within a few days of tearing off the top layer of grass and dirt, it rained. And rained. And rained. Once it stopped raining, it rained some more. With the grass gone, the circle of dirt quickly became a circle of mud. Too wet and muddy to get anything done. Standing water prevented any progress. For four weeks, when I was at work, it was sunny and dry. On the days I was off, it rained. It rained right through the month of June. And then the rain stopped.

And did it ever stop. When the sun finally came out from behind the clouds, so did the heat. Three weeks of temperatures in the 100’s with heat indexes over 110. From sun up to sun down, it was unbearable to be outside, let alone do any physical work in the heat. Nonetheless, I persevered. For thirty minutes at a time, I shoveled dirt and set the stones for the foundation walls. I did 10 by hand and learned I’d done it wrong…they weren’t going to line up in a circle when they all were placed. I started over. With 4 set in place…again…I found out it was wrong. Back to the drawing board. With the help of a friend from work, I was on track with the tools and knowledge I needed to get it done. And with every stone finally set…almost two months after starting, I discovered that we had the wrong diameter pool.

I’d been working under the belief it was a 28′ pool, yet the number of support posts didn’t match the number of foundation stones I set. Huh. Seems pretty basic, but you’d think those two numbers should match. Even more basic, you’d think I would have figured that out BEFORE I finished setting twenty foundation stones! Count the Cost. What’s that mean? Well, it means take a measurement of the pool before you dismantle it and start the project. It means, lay out the foundation stones before you start digging and moving dirt. It means do some homework. It means know what you’re doing and what you’re getting into. Count the Cost.

Once I realized the diameter of the pool was different than what I’d laid out foundation stones for, I quite frankly lost my motivation to start over. It had been so long since seeing SD standing in the back yard in her swim suit with pool noodle and towel ready to swim, that I’d forgotten why I was doing it. For two weeks, under an excessive heat warning with temps over 100 degrees, the project sat untouched. It sat so long that grass started growing in the circle again. And then it came.

It was hot…sticky hot. And yet, a wave of motivation swept over me like I hadn’t felt since starting the project. Your mom said something to me that drove a nail in the coffin of my resolve. She was worried about me working too hard in the heat one afternoon. I had been reduced to tears, frustrated in my failure to get this done. Angry that the stones weren’t lining up like they should. Ready to quit altogether. Quite innocently, she suggested putting it away until next spring. We had already been joking that by the time we got the pool up, it’d be time to close it for the winter, so I wasn’t shocked to hear her suggest it. Yet it angered me. It set my mind on finishing the task at hand, and I resolved that even if I died of heat stroke, I’d get this pool up and running by summer’s end.

And so on a Tuesday afternoon, I rallied the troops. I had all the foundation stones finally set. I bought the foam for the base and sprayed the ground with vegetarian killer. At 4:00 in the afternoon three friends showed up, and we started out to getting the wall set up. By 5:00, a few more friends showed up, and we learned we needed additional supplies. We made some last minute supply runs and at 8:30 p.m., in the dark, we started setting the wall up. That’s not easy to do by the way…setting a pool wall in its track…in the dark. But we did it, and at 12:15 in the morning, we had the liner in place and water flowing. We stayed up until after 2:00 a.m. to get the wrinkles out of the liner. A long night, but we were on our way. I want to take a moment here to offer some much-deserved credit to one particular family who really went above and beyond to help get this pool open. He was up with me until after 2:00 a.m. and did all the hard work in this phase, in addition to running to pick up supplies before dark and much more. I haven’t asked for their permission to use their names here yet, so I’ll just say if you ever need work done on your vehicle, go to United Car Care in O’Fallon…south outer road just east of Bryan Rd.

It took one more week to do the final touches…replacing pump parts, adding the top tails, prepping an entry/exit area, cleaning the steps, adding chemicals, etc. Two and a half months from start to finish…enough time to enjoy it for a few weeks before it gets too cold and we have to close it for the winter. I can honestly say I’m glad it’s behind us. The hard part is over, and now it’s time to step back and take stock.

I again was taught the importance of the message Count the Cost. Although the gift was “free”, it came with a cost. Never be naive enough to think anything in life is free. What was a “free” pool cost me a couple hundred dollars in foundation stones and leveling gravel, sand and foam base for under the liner, replacement hardware and parts, and the chemicals needed to keep the water clean and swimmable. And that’s not including the man hours it took over the course of two and a half months to install it. Although I thought I had counted the cost, I underestimated the true cost. Let that be the lesson you take from this…know what you’re getting into when you do something or make a commitment. God warns us to Count the Cost in Luke 14:28. In the context of the message in the surrounding verses, He is talking about knowing what we’re getting into when we choose to follow Him, but the truth is still just that…Count the Cost…in all that we do we should know what we’re getting into…we should Count the Cost…so that we are prepared to pay what it will cost. Whether we are starting a home improvement project, making a promise to a friend, or choosing to follow Christ, we should Count the Cost and know what our decision will require of us.

Yep, the hard part is over, and now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor…to enjoy swimming with you and watching you swim with your friends. As I finish writing this, we just spent the last 6 hours swimming. Mom and SD went out for a supply run and some pizza for dinner, bubba is playing at my feet…red from a day in the sun…and NE passed out in the big chair, exhausted from a full day of fun in the sun. NE, it only took you 15 minutes to get past your anxiety enough to jump in a floating ring and paddle to the other side (you previously never wanted to leave the steps, even at a friend’s pool). Within another 10 minutes, you did me proud when you asked me to help you jump out of the ring so you could “get underwater.” With your arm floats on, going underwater ain’t gonna happen, but you proceeded to kick and swim your way around the pool, asking me to let go so you could “do it by myself.” Your breathing intensified to a near-pant as you worked so hard. Dude, I just about cried watching you then, and I’m about to cry now as I write. You make me so darn proud boy! Not for what you do, just for being you! You are more brave than you know, and I’m overjoyed to watch you overcome your anxiety with the pool and tackle your fears head on. Bubba, you are still working through your anxiety, and I’ll be here for as long as it takes. You’re only 2 years old, and I can imagine in the eyes of a 2 year old, that pool looks like he ocean. Toward the last 30 minutes, you really started coming out of your shell, venturing into a floatie on your own and releasing your death grip on me. Hang I’m there buddy. We’ll get there together. SD made it home from school and as I expected, you loved it. When I watch you swimming, I think you were born for the pool. I love watching you smile and laugh, being yourself without a care in the world. Watching you have so much fun makes this summer’s hard work well worth it.

I pray we get many, many summers of enjoyment and entertainment from the pool. I’m forever grateful to the friends who had a part in giving this gift to us, be it through giving us the pool, purchasing equipment for it, helping to install it, or any of the above. Looking back on the past two and a half months it has taken to get it up and running, I wouldn’t change a thing. Nothing that is worthy of doing is ever easy, and it’s in our difficulties that we learn and grow. I have grown closer to God, and I’ve been blessed with some amazing friendships through this project. God has placed some truly amazing friends in our life that were willing to share their blessings and talents with us for His glory, and it’s my prayer they are blessed a hundred times in return.

Well, momma and SD just got home with pizza. Time to eat…before an evening swim. 🙂

Love,

Dad

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