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The gift of a home for the holidays --EMDASH-- safe, dry and warm

I have been a homeowner for 40 years and a do-it-yourself remodeler since long before that. I learned how to wield a hammer and a pry bar at my mother's knee. She never lived in a house she didn't want to reconstruct in some way.

Most times my mother's projects, and eventually my own, were relatively simple and quickly done over a weekend, like replacing creaky, old front porch steps or installing vinyl tile on a small bathroom floor.

But there have also been massive undertakings stretching out over weeks or months. In one instance, the project took years from start to finish, completed in stages as the money was available. In retrospect, it would have been easier to build a completely new house from the ground up.

It's the larger projects that try the heart and spirit of handy men and women and, when in the middle, past the point of giving up and yet too far to see an end in sight, make you wish you'd never had the brilliant idea to begin with.

Sometimes, it wasn't a brilliant idea so much as a necessity. Like adding on to make room for a growing family, installing new windows to replace the 20, 30 or 50-year-old, rotting wood-framed portals that let in about as much wind and cold air as an open door. Or replacing a leaking roof.

The hubs and I live in an unusual house. It's round in front, one story, brick. The flat roof gave us some pause when we were house hunting, but everything else about it was perfect, exactly what we were looking for. And, after all, what's a new roof if needed? Not like both he and I hadn't been to that rodeo before. We were certain putting a new, pitched roof on top of our little cottage was entirely doable.

That was 16 years ago, when we were much younger, much healthier do-it-yourself veterans. Who'd have thought that a rubberized drum roof would last as long as it did? Yes, I know what you're thinking; we should have been proactive and replaced it before it needed replacing. In a perfect world, maybe.

On Labor Day this year, with the help of some good friends (and I mean outstanding) we covered our roof with two gigantic blue tarps and did our best to secure them against wind and rain; and pour and blow it did. For two weeks, I lived with a blue bonnet precariously tied onto my little half-round abode while we waited for a break in the skies and lumber to arrive.

As soon as the materials were delivered, the helping hands arrived. It was like a barn raising here for several days, hoisting 20-foot lengths of beam and sheets of pressboard up to the flat, rubber deck that was our roof, cutting, bracing, nailing ... Too many times the volunteer crew worked late into the night, while inside in the kitchen, our "chief engineer's" wife, and a good friend to me, helped me cook and keep everyone fed.

Calculating and constructing a framework of roof trusses in a radius for the front of the house turned out to be no simple project. Now that it's done I can't stop admiring the little, peaked cone I imagined the first day I set eyes on this house, and I'm grateful for the friends who ensured we are dry and warm, snug under our brand new roof as the first snow of winter covers it.

Shelter, a roof over head, is a basic necessity of life. Having friends who make it happen are a gift and a blessing. They have renewed my belief that this world is not such a bad place when we reach out our hands in good will and charity. They remind me how much better it can be when we all remember that it is our privilege to do so.

I've been calling my newly-roofed home my Hobbit House, but I may have to change it to Munchkin Manor because I'm thinking what it really needs now is a circular, yellow brick driveway.

Just remember, if you come to call, pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain.