zipsy zippicun: Love & Money - WSJ.com

zipsy zippicun: Love & Money - WSJ.com

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Love & Money - WSJ.com

Love & Money - WSJ.com

Update: Soccer, a Shower and a Dog
September 9, 2007

Time again to update readers on how various issues have played out.

This week, I'll revisit previous columns on a bathroom-remodeling project; an injury I sustained playing soccer; and how much I was willing to spend on my dog's medical care.

* * *

Earlier this year1 , my wife, Amy, and I decided to remodel our master bathroom. The tub had broken in 2004, and wasn't reparable. But instead of replacing the tub, we replaced the entire bathroom, which we never liked to begin with.

In this week's "Love and Money" edition, Jeff and Amy Opdyke update readers on their bathroom renovation. Was the cost worth the end result? See for yourself.

Out went the stark look with lots of brass and white faux marble; in came the warm Asian theme with lots of slate and bamboo and mood lighting. It's a style, I originally wrote, not very common in my home state of Louisiana, and I wondered whether personal tastes should be tempered in a remodeling since it might affect resale at some point.

I won't know the answer to that question for a long time, since our house isn't up for sale. However, another question has emerged: Was the cost worth the end result?

Now, let me say that we love our new bath. It turned out even better than I envisioned when I designed it. I love my new shower with the trio of body jets. When the glassworker came to install the shower doors, he walked into the bathroom and within seconds said, "This might be the coolest bath I've ever been in."

But...we overspent our budget by about 75%. A large part of that came in the fine print of our contract: the two sentences noting that "all material necessary for electrical, plumbing, tile and flooring" were excluded from the quote, and that the "total price may change due to the time and labor required for specific material." I read that originally and had no worries. I was buying all the material myself.

[See the video podcast] 2
Love & Money is now in video podcast format.

However, I wasn't thinking about supplies needed for the internal plumbing, or for laying a ton of slate. And I didn't recognize the effort involved in laying so much tile in certain patterns, or the plumbing required for body jets and temperature-controlled faucets.

I was stunned by the final cost.

Amy thought that while the "end result is gorgeous, the cost was too high. Did we really need all those jets in the shower? And I would have gone with a simpler faucet system. There are ways to cut costs, but we made the decision to spend on what we did."

By "we" she means me. I took control of this project, and Amy said little because I was so forceful in my vision. "I just went along with it," she says. "If I had to do it all over again, though, I would not spend this much money."

Neither would I, actually. So I see this experience as a lesson learned: When it comes to remodeling -- and our kitchen is next -- never equate your spouse's silence with acceptance. Your passion about a project may overwhelm your partner into submission.

* * *

In early July, I was injured in a soccer game and nearly had to have emergency surgery on my leg. Fortunately, I ended up in an immobilizing leg brace for a while, and then had to endure a month of physical therapy.

Love & Money columnist Jeff Opdyke has provoked the ire of his wife Amy by committing to play soccer after a bad injury. (Aug. 19)

As I wrote in a column6 , Amy wanted me to hang up my goalie gloves for good because of her concerns that since I play with the abandon of a 20-year-old, a future injury -- particularly a blow to my head or hands -- could damage my career as a writer and my ability to support my family.

I asked in that column what say spouses have over hobbies that potentially affect the family's livelihood.

For readers who saw the weekly Love & Money video that Amy and I posted online a few weeks ago (viewable at WSJ.com/loveandmoney7 ), you'll already know how I answered that question: I am returning to the soccer field. I've stepped down in class, skipping Division 1 in my over-30 men's league, for a spot on a new team in Division 3.

That concession, however, means nothing to Amy -- as was also clear to anybody who watched the video, and saw how annoyed she was with me. As she told me, "It's not what division you play in, it's how you play the game. You only know how to play one way, and that's all out. I don't want you coming to me and complaining the next time you get hurt." As I said, she isn't happy.

At the risk of sounding callous, it isn't her happiness that's in question. It's mine. As I noted in the original column, soccer has been my passion since about sixth grade. I'm as eager today to get out on the field every week as I was as a kid. I see no reason to walk away from the only athletic activity I pursue while I am still physically capable of playing. My doctor said the exercise and enjoyment I get is a clear benefit to my health -- despite the occasional dings.

Amy and I didn't necessarily discuss my return, as we would typically do with other issues. I knew her stance; she knew mine. And there was no common ground. Either I quit or I didn't.

I didn't.

* * *

Finally, a note about my Siberian husky, Misha. She has died.

Several years ago, I asked in a column8 if, because of rising medical costs, there comes a point at which a family pet is just another animal -- and you stop writing checks. At that time, Misha, then 10 years old, was having health issues related to a couple of tumors.

Over the ensuing years, Amy and I shelled out thousands of dollars to have tumors removed in Misha's eye, leg and abdomen. That's money that we could have applied to college costs or retirement savings or any of a number of other financial priorities.

But, at the end of the day, Misha was my buddy, and I never gave a second thought to costs of her care. When she fell ill again, our vet told us it was OK not to pursue further treatment. Misha was approaching 14 at that point.

So, one painful night for her, she collapsed, unable to move. I lay next to her and tried to comfort her while she howled and whined. We fell asleep together, and I awoke early in the morning to find that she had died lying on my arm.

Her ashes sit in a wooden box on my desk.

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