Siding With Scott
TOH's editor Scott Omelianuk defends his less-than-perfect home improvement skills
Our April 2009 Letter From This Old House—in which a home builder named William took issue with our editor Scott Omelianuk's far-from-perfect home-improvement skills—got quite a response. Most of you took Scott's side, and here's what some you had to say:
Let me preface this by saying that in 47 years I have never written a company, let alone an editor, about anything. My husband and I love your magazine and especially your letter. Your human side is the best! Poor William was probably having a really bad "measure once, cut twice" kind of day. Keep up the good work; we'll continue to enjoy.
— Barb and Tom Reinard
I'm afraid William needs to climb down off his hobbyhorse and get a grip. For me, I'd much prefer a less-than-perfect editor for a wonderful magazine like This Old House because you look for the kinds of things that we less-than-perfect readers would like to know. In fact, TOH is probably the wonderful world that it is because of your less-than-perfect outlook. In other words, as the TOH editor, you get my vote from this corner of the less-than-perfect peanut gallery.
— Bonnie Ricks
No matter what William said about you, I respect you. And so does my husband.
— Jennifer DeLucia
William is the only person I have heard of who never messed up a DIY project. I like you best, Scott—you're more human. Your letter is the first one I read; it makes me and my husband feel warm and cozy since we both argue over who is going back to the store to get "that thing we need." So don't listen to William; most of us DIY people use your insights as therapy.
You letter about William had me laughing out loud. This happens often. I'm known to reread your letters just for a chuckle. I love that you're a human being like the rest of us. Keep up the honesty. I for one love it. Even if William doesn't. Here's to another trip to the hardware store!
— Jessica Abernathy
I just wanted you to know that I don't agree with the letter from William. While he might expect an editor to provoke professionalism and infallible projects, This Old House provides plenty of expertise with Norm, Tom, Richard, Roger, and Kevin in the pages of the magazine. My husband and I fight over the issue of TOH when it arrives, and your article is our favorite. We love that you are not a home-improvement expert, just like us. We do expect the humor and stories of failed projects, mistakes, and lessons learned, because if we don't keep the humor we would never do any of these projects—or stay married. We almost divorced when we installed crown molding in our last home. Once the project was completed and our hurt feelings mended, my father informed us that the molding was installed upside down! Needless to say, we are still married eight years later. We don't live in that house anymore, and I can only assume the crown molding still hangs upside-down. Keep up the good work, Scott.
— Tracey Bowman
I just finished reading your editorial in the April issue of TOH. I have to say that I totally disagree with William. Starting each issue with your entertaining writing style is what I look forward to most. I am an architect and my husband is an engineer, and we can totally relate to your comical tales of home renovation. We have a circa-1844 Pennsylvania farmhouse that has a long to-do list. Now, since there is an engineer involved with these renovations, this list is typed and prioritized. But we often stray from the list, depending on what fails at what time or my fancy moves us to jump ahead. This said, here are two licensed professionals who will be the first to admit that we change our minds, blunder, muddle through, miscalculate, and have made many a mistake on the journey of transforming our historic house into our home. I'd say, William, get a grip, lighten up, and enjoy the ride! Please know, Scott, that these "respected" people enjoy your perspective. Keep up the great work.
— Danika R. S. Dallam
With reference to your April issue: Susan, it turns out, does appreciate that Scott often uses the editorial page to confess home-improvement mistakes. This entertaining page is one of the main reasons I enjoy This Old House. If I were to read William's desires of "respectable people's" examples of improvements I would more than likely feel that the improvements were too complicated for my feeble and all-too-human attempts. Don't change this page, Scott. I'll betcha got more letters like mine than your regular bills, bills, bills!
— Susan Gray
Where to begin with William? At first I'm screaming at William that you are the editor and want to tell him to find a Merriam-Webster dictionary to look up the words "editor" and "carpenter." Then again, instead of going on the defense, I'd rather exploit your many positive attributes. Your page is always the first I read when my new issue comes. You're my hero, the Tim Taylor of home improvement. I read of your many attempts, trials, and foibles and laugh my head off. But even better, of all of your attempts—that's what you do best—attempt. You have proven to me that I can complete projects—in eight years or less—as well. You are living the dream of the little engine that could—I think I can. I think I can. And isn't that the core of what the magazine is all about? Your real-life scenarios are the stuff that life and memories are made of—how wonderful to have a magazine to record for public view all the mistakes and laughter of life. Yes, your wife has got to be a saint (behind every great man...). Aren't all of us women behind the men who "think they can"? You may not be Norm of the carpentry world, but Norm isn't the Scott of the magazine layout/deadline/editor world either.
— Jennifer Jarrett
I just received my latest issue of TOH and wanted to let you know that the very first thing I do with every new issue is read your letter, Scott. I so enjoy your stories that share your human side. It's refreshing to read each month of your latest adventure, even if there is a screw-up. That, to me, is helping your readers not make the same mistake that you so willingly share. I felt bad knowing a subscriber, William, wrote you such a negative, unnecessary letter. You know the old saying: "If you have nothing nice to say, keep your mouth shut!" Well, need I say more! He prompted this note, which is the very first time I've ever sent a letter to the editor. I think you do a fantastic job. We love the magazine. My husband and I live in a 100-plus-year-old home that once was a funeral home (no, it's not haunted) and when we moved here, it had a huge garage long enough to hold a horse-drawn hearse. We tore down the garage a few years ago, and we continue to remodel the inside of this grand place. (There is a drywaller working in one of the bedrooms as I write this). Many of your ideas and articles have helped us throughout the past couple of years, and I thank you for that. Because we try to do all of our remodeling ourselves, your magazine fits perfectly with our life. I look forward to every issue, and I pray this bad economy has no effect on your wonderful publication. Keep up the good work.
— Jodi Smith, a many-a-time-frustrated homeowner you have helped
A brief history: I am 50 years old, grew up helping my grandfather on his rental houses, and remodeling and building for many people in the area. "Paw-Paw" taught me a lot. When I bought my home, it needed a lot of fixing up. Most of it I knew but a lot I learned along the way (my wife says I'm no plumber). To the point, I read your editor letter from William. Well, I subscribe to a half-dozen magazines, buy another half-dozen at the bookstore, get a few more from the train store. I read the editor's letter in just one of all these: yours. I've watched This Old House from the start. I was a subscriber to the magazine from the first issue and have kept every one. I remember reading your first letter and thinking, This man's different! I enjoyed it. It was good to find out someone was human and made mistakes. Now I read your letter first. Not because it's in the front, but because I enjoy it, look forward to the humor.
— Steve Keeney
P.S. Your 401K sounds like mine.
I recently read you letter titled "The Man Has a Point". I was somewhat disturbed that someone could have so much negativity aimed toward your articles. Personally, I look forward to your articles every month. In fact, your article is second only to Save This Old House on my list of what I read first, second, and so on. I usually end up following my wife around reading your article to her wile she prepares dinner the evening the magazine arrives. I have been a subscriber for almost 10 years and still have many of those issues stashed away in the basement. The reason I enjoy your articles is that you bring the everyday man into the equation. The two trips to the hardware store, a ladder collapsing underfoot—these events sound all too familiar. I just wanted to let you know that some of your readers are just common everyday DIY kind of people and enjoy your articles and look forward to hearing your next adventure in home renovation. By the way, my all-time favorite was the acrobatic tumble off the ladder with the rosette in hand. I had a similar stunt, but instead of a rosette I had a running chainsaw in hand. Luckily, I somehow turned my graceful tumble into a forward roll, planting the saw on the ground and pushing off from it like an Olympic gymnast. For a 210-pound guy, I'm sure it was a real sight. With a quick look around to see if anyone saw, I gathered myself and my saw, and back to work I went. Keep up the good work.
— Richard Blomberg
Take heart that not all of us are critical of your abilities. We appreciate your candor, which afflicts us all!
— Darryl and Sue Harrington
Each year my grandchildren coerce me into subscribing to magazines to fund their school projects. I chose This Old House as one of them. TOH is the only magazine that survives the recycling bin, and I am on my fourth renewal. The main reason is, I look forward to reading your letter. Your response to William in the April issue was accurate and to the point and, I think, a bit too generous. His pretense at literary skill belongs in the trash, which is where I would have filed his letter. Keep up the good work.
— Vince Addamo
Your inbox is going to be lopsided with opinions about William wishing for your retirement. I can't imagine many agreeing with him. You are one of us. There are so many who have been there, done that when you underestimate, overspent, etc. Please don't change. Keep telling it like it is.
— Alice Wagner
Sorry that William does not appreciate your monthly article, but I thought I'd let you know that your page and Save This Old House are the first pages I read in the magazine. I can relate to your challenges and appreciate your sense of humor. I know when I watch Norm, Tom, Roger, Kevin, and the other TOH experts making things look easy and perfect that the producers are showing the ideal situations. The ideal is rare! As far as I'm concerned, you get my vote of confidence, and if you ever get to visit my old house, I'll have cold beer and a fine cigar ready for you in your honor. Keep up the good work!
— Jim Waldon
I just received the April issue of TOH magazine. Don't mind William. He has plenty of things to keep him busy. Please keep writing your editorial as it keeps me amused every month. I work full-time, have two teenage boys, and my husband doesn't really know where our property starts or ends. All home improvements are on me or a contractor, so I basically complete one "weekend" project a year. I love your magazine, because it gives me so much hope for my home.
— Diane Blaum
I recently read in the magazine of a fella who gave you a low job-approval rating. So, I decided to write you a letter to encourage you and to say you are doing a good job. My wife and I own a coffeehouse, and I also work a full-time job. This Old House magazine is a place I can go to to dream of what I would like to do to our house. I really enjoy reading the tips and hints and all the rest all the way to the back cover—just to see what house is selling for a dollar this time. The very first thing I go to though is Letter From the Editor. When I'm fixing things, my wife says it takes me two to three times to get it right, and it's nice to know I am not alone. Keep up the good work; you're appreciated. Thanks for sharing parts of your life with us and adding that personal touch.
— Adam and Eve Judy (yes, our real names)
I just read your opening in the most recent TOH magazine and wanted to present a dissenting voice to William. In my opinion, we fans of TOH get hundreds of pages and many hours each year of expert advice on home improvement. It's refreshing to read your opening editorials each month, hitting us with a little dose of reality (in that self-deprecating style we appreciate so much). So even though it seems retirement is not in the cards for you anyway, I for one would be extremely disappointed to see the reins of the magazine handed over any time in the near future. I'm loving the new setup of the magazine, and TOH is the one magazine subscription that I have kept. So keep up the good work, and be encouraged that William is not the voice of all of your readers!
I just received my latest issue (April) of TOH magazine in the mail. I've been a TOH fan for years, ever since its early days on PBS with Bob Vila. I enjoy your monthly personal article featured in the magazine. Like most of us who watch the TV program and read the magazine, you are like us and not all our projects run smoothly. The letter from William sounds like he is a frustrated contractor. I understand that some contractors are now having a hard time finding full-time work. They feel that DIY homeowners are hurting their prospects of getting jobs. While shopping at my local home-improvement stores, I sometimes get funny looks from some of these types of guys. They forget we all have a harder time now. Please keep writing about your weekend projects in your Hoboken brownstone. The new magazine format is great.
— TOH groupie, Sue
I just found time to sit down with TOH and read the comments from William. I thought he was a little hard on you. I think you and your staff do a great job presenting how-tos and how to avoid bad situations. By the way, I have come to the conclusion just to include three to five trips to the hardware store with each project. Keeps me from getting to angry with myself. Anyway, thought I would drop you a line and tell you how much I enjoy your magazine.
I just read your letter in the April issue telling us about the letter you received from William, the unhappy builder. Your letter is the first page I read when TOH arrives in the mail. I enjoy your stories and tales of home improvements gone awry.
— Bob Fisher
I appreciate your monthly editorials. We're all trying our best, even the big guys.
You should know that yours is the only editor's column that I ever read in magazines. I enjoy your writing, laugh and identify with your misadventures, and wish we lived closer so you and your wife could hang out with me and my husband and maybe go bowling or something. Mr. William Grumpy-Puss, Dove-Joint-Wedgie-Tuckus, Full-Fledged Curmudgeon is, well, all of the above. If you ever come to Houston, drop me a line and we'll treat for Chuy's Tex-Mex.
Keep stripping screws,
— Ce Ottenweller
I just want to write in to let you know that when I get a new This Old House magazine, the first page I read is yours. I admit I read it for entertainment, but I also sympathize. I am a Union Carpenter working in the Chicago area. I also love old homes with all their warmth, character, and problems, sucking all the money out of my pockets. Sometimes when I am trying to fix one thing I end up creating two or more problems. Keep on writing your pages, and never mind Mr. William.
— Dan Ormond