no complaints

In the last two weeks, we’ve seen the devastating impact of not one, but two, category 5 hurricanes with Harvey and Irma, we’ve watched more political and social division and human tragedy with news of DACA and the earthquake in Mexico, we’ve marked another 9/11 anniversary, the northwest is on fire, and then (then) there’s North Korea.

So when someone asks me how the house project is going, I think – no complaints. Because really, how can I?

Here are some of my non-complaints over the past few weeks. There might be a whole post dedicated to complaints in the future. But not now. Not yet.

As our architect Debra McQueen said, “the house is emerging.” In a week we went from dirt floor to first floor framing. (Hover over each image for a description.)

After another week we now have a full cement basement complete with outdoor stairs, a fully framed first floor with second floor trusses, and a new structural beam to ensure our house doesn’t fall down. We’ve also lost our kitchen, our basement stairs and our foyer floor. Trade offs.

Side note: the small cracks I’d seen growing in my office over the past three years weren’t just the house settling. Apparently an existing beam in the kitchen ceiling wasn’t really doing its job anymore. After 100+ years, it was time to retire it and bring in a modern beam (in blue) that also can be pushed up higher and give us more ceiling height. See, even surprises (and more expense) can’t be complaints. More ceiling height = 🙂

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There are inconveniences. Temporary annoyances. Hassles. Anyone who has been by our house can see that things are not normal. That’s putting it mildly.

But we have a house. We have water. We have electricity (sometimes…and only when the refrigerator and microwave aren’t running at the same time). We have food before us and love between us. So, no complaints here.

And soon, we will have more house to fill with family, friends and love. Something the world needs more of.

letting go

It’s been a milestone week for our family. Not really because of the house project, but because we sent our first born to his first day of high school. And it struck me how the house project and our life are triggering parallel emotions. The ongoing process of letting go.

Just five minutes after seeing my freshman ride down the street to new experiences, new friends, and new challenges, the crew came to tear off the back of our house. When the truck drives up and the sledgehammers come out, you have no choice but to let go. Same as when your 5’10” baby puts on the backpack and doesn’t look back.

We prepared for the week by packing up our kitchen, office, closets, basement and all that stuff that we forgot we had. We tried to think through what we’d need over the next 4 or 5 or 6 months, but then we’d get tired and just dump stuff in boxes willy-nilly. We packed it in every nook and cranny we could find, leaving us Jenga towers of boxes in random places. It’s like the few weeks before moving day, except that a few weeks will be half a year.

IMG_0776The hardest part was to say goodbye (for now) to all the cookbooks, platters, plates and tools we use to cook and share meals with friends and family. A bigger, better place to cook and entertain is a major reason for the remodel, but this will be the longest I’ve ever gone without planning and hosting a dinner party or casual dinner for friends. I feel serious withdrawal coming on. As Summer and Fall turn into the holiday season, I’ll need another way to satisfy the craving to make memories around a table and a meal. And I may need to find a kitchen to rent for my multi-day Christmas cookie bake-a-thon.

So, letting go (not Frozen’s “Let it Go”) is becoming my internal mantra. Sometimes I’m pretty impressed with my ability to look beyond the makeshift kitchen, messy rooms and dusty counters. So much so that Colby was shocked I didn’t have any comment about the clothes on his bedroom floor. I had not been abducted by aliens, but suddenly the clothes on the floor were the least of our challenges. Other times, well, let’s just say that it’s a mantra for a reason — because I need reminding. And when power was out in most of the house for two days, the mantra did me no good. It also didn’t stop me from lecturing the kids to stop their whining and complaining and appreciate all that we have, even without TV or Wifi for a day or so.

Privilege is alive and well at 602 – and so is not always practicing what I preach. I hope this project will have a nice side benefit of building resilience, patience, and gratitude for all of us. You can never have enough of those three.

We did let go of a lot of our house this week. The white office door now opens to nothing. The basement was jackhammered for a full day on Saturday (yes – working on a weekend!) The basement and kitchen walls are plywood. But we still haven’t lost the working part of our kitchen yet — even though it was all packed away in preparation for the demo. The weather continues to cooperate, for which we are extremely thankful.

This coming week will see more transformation as basement floor gets poured and they prepare to frame. And I’ll be anxiously awaiting what we need to prepare to let go of next.

But it won’t be this guy…since Lincoln also started a new school year this week. Grade 4 and his last year of elementary school.

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first impressions

Week one. This isn’t so bad. Workers are friendly and prompt. Demo day(s) are noisy, but bearable (think dentist drill without the drool). We even got a first floor bathroom on day one.

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New first floor bathroom

Things are moving. Fast. So fast that we had a half-day notice to move out of our breakfast room.

It was my first panic-stricken moment of the project. That night we needed to pack for vacation and our niece (+ one) was arriving to stay for a few days at our house during Lollapalooza. We hadn’t even figured out where the table, chairs, sideboard, pictures, dishes, etc. would be going for the next 6 months. But Dan and Colby were quick to get it mostly cleared out before I even got home from work. Luckily they know – “if mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Construction crisis #1 averted.  Continue reading →

calm before the storm

This is our house. Doesn’t it look lovely? Calm. Quiet. Peaceful.

In full disclosure, this photo is six months old. Back when our dreams were somewhere between pencil scrawls on scratch paper and blueprints from our architect. When the sky was the limit and anything was possible. Before permits and construction loans. And of course, the impending purgatory of no kitchen or backyard for more months than I can come to grips with.

It’s a very very fine house. Prime location. Roomy. Corner lot with fabulous light. When we bought it three years ago I was smitten with the screened-in porch, and the promise of cocktails and the ability to freeze time there. (The Lundak Lounge had a lot of good days.)

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We knew we’d want to update the kitchen and needed a first floor powder room (“Yes, there’s no bathroom on the first floor, you have to go up the stairs and use ours.”) But one thing led to another, and if we were going to add a bath and improve the kitchen, why not add a family room, a master bedroom, a basement room. You get the idea.

Over the next 5 or 6 months (ok, I know I’m kidding myself…it will be spring break by the time we’re done with this project), we’ll be ripping off, building up, moving around and making this 108 year old house a modern family home. Feels like we are stepping off the ledge into the unknown, except that we know enough people who’ve done big remodels that we are fully sober, eyes wide open. And we’re still going for it.

But, it’s all new to us. So, why not document it?

So, here’s to the 602 before the chaos starts. (Cue deep breathing.)