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The Way It Is - Bob Michels (8/01)

Construction. Some use the word like a swear word, others use it like a sacred mantra. Me? It cuts both ways, and that is true for most of us who live in the North.

Construction. Some use the word like a swear word, others use it like a sacred mantra. Me? It cuts both ways, and that is true for most of us who live in the North. Construction means highway rebuilds, detours, long traffic tie-ups, dust, noise, potholes and cracked windshields. On the other hand, construction generates much-needed work for road builders, heavy equipment operators, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, cement workers, brick and block layers and many other occupations. In the North these occupations are almost seasonal in nature since the weather dictates that most construction must occur during the summer months. And these occupations still provide much of the work that many northern residents rely on to make a living.

So, hurray for construction! We love to complain about the "problems" caused by highway construction because we desperately need better roads. Summer is the time we get things done!

For me, the word "construction" has a particularly personal meaning this year because this is the Year of the Cottage Addition.

Originally built back in the 1950s, our cottage was, to put it mildly, modest. Only 475 square feet, designed mainly for day use and warm weather, its primary charm was, and is, a spectacular view of Lake Superior with its many and varied moods.

But, time extracts a toll. Using an outhouse or carrying water up 30 feet once represented an invigorating challenge.

When 30 feet began to feel like 300 feet, a well soon compensated for the effect of arthritic knees. As the need for nighttime relief increased and night vision decreased, an indoor toilet seemed sensible. Electric baseboard heaters and some insulation stopped being a luxury for "softies" and suddenly became a necessity.

But that was OK because the cottage kept its charm. It remained just a one-bedroom cottage with a bathroom and a hot water tank squeezed in. It was a true 'get-away' from the hustle and bustle of daily life. And the view of Lake Superior is forever. Thank God!

Then came grandchildren. Three in one year! Two boys, one girl - every grandparent's dream. We were truly blessed and still feel that way today.

But, along with the grandchildren came the question, "Where will they stay when they come to visit?" And we want them to all come to the cottage, all at the same time, with their parents (most important!). The answer? Construction!

So, now the addition and the renovations are complete. The "old" cottage is now three bedrooms and a bathroom, and the addition includes a new kitchen, dining area and living room. Everything is fully winterized.

And, like all construction projects, we wrestled mightily with opposing design preferences, getting contractors to perform on time within specifications and cost overruns.

But, in hindsight, it has all been worth it. Our children and grandchildren all came to visit, all at the same time. The weather was great and all had a truly grand time. We are looking forward to next year.

And here I sit, laptop dominated by the lapping waves, watching the sun rise in promise of a glorious day, listening to the birds waken, watching the dog watch the chipmunk, sipping my coffee, feeling that all is right with the world, not at all tempted to think of my next business trip to Toronto.

And the view of the lake? It is as timeless and spectacular as ever. Enjoy your summer.

Bob Michels is an author and consultant living in Atikokan