practicing hope

Stick with me on this one. It’s going to get a bit spiritual. But no matter your religious beliefs or traditions, I hope you can relate to the theme of this post — hope.

This past weekend marked the first Sunday in Advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means coming. To mark the coming of Christ, we light a candle each week of Advent, with the first week signifying hope. That same day I stumbled on an email recommended by my mother-in-law that talked about the season of Advent and the “Time for Practicing Hope.”

Then it hit me. Beyond the never-ending mess, the constant inconvenience, the stress and the anxiety and the worry, there’s always hope. This project is a constant exercise in hope. Hope that the project will go smoothly. Hope that no one will fall off a ladder and die. Hope that we won’t regret any design choices. Hope that the eventual increase in property taxes won’t suck us dry. Hope that it will all turn out okay and someday our home will be back to normal (and preferably be dust-free).

Hope is a powerful thing. It can get you through times far far more challenging than living in a home during a remodel. In this year of increasing global and local uncertainty, hope is what we cling to when we really want to just crawl under the covers and turn off all media. But what’s great about the holiday season is that we get to practice hope all over again. Kids hope that Santa comes. We hope we get our lists crossed off in time. We hope the last-minute Amazon delivery gets here on time. We hope there are no family feuds on Christmas Eve. We hope that joy will appear and that we will remember we are here to love one another and this planet.

We may be getting extra-credit building up our hope muscles with this project, but in some small way I think it will serve us well in the long run when there are far more serious reasons to call on the power of hope.

Oh, and if you think we hope to finish the house this year…we’ve already lost hope on that pipe dream. But end of January is looking better and better.

And there is a silver lining of not being done by Christmas. We are taking a simple approach to the holidays with only a wreath and a half-lit skinny tree as decorations. But look out 2018 – I’m saving up extra tinsel for you.

Meanwhile, here’s a brief view of the progress. Let me know what you think!

 

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the grateful list

I love Christmas, but Thanksgiving is a close second. It’s the last holiday that hasn’t been overtaken by consumerism. There’s no Thanksgiving themed aisle of candy and decorations at the store. We don’t buy gifts or special sweaters to show we’re celebrating. And how cool is it that this holiday is all about being grateful?

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are the top five things I’m grateful for during this house renovation…

1. A sense of humor

Two Porta-potties?

If you can’t laugh at the dust or the 7:30 am hammering on a Saturday, don’t live in your house while it’s being remodeled. Trust me on this. It’s not for everyone. Sometimes we’re laughing just because it’s a better alternative to crying. And sometimes we’re laughing because there are two porta-potties in our driveway. Not one, but two. Who knew that stucco-guys could be so particular about their johns. Brings new meaning to the phrase BYOB (bring your own bathroom).

2. Tradesman that show up and do good work 

Drywall on stilts

We are officially done with drywall. (Yeah!) This guy was here every day for 10 days straight (weekends and evenings included) to get the job done. Sometimes he had a whole crew of cousins and mariachi music with him, sometimes he was solo. I admit that having drywaller houseguests all weekend for two weeks in a row got a little old, but it’s better than the alternative. We’ve heard horror stories of no one showing up to work on a project for a week or so at a time. Not the case here. They are moving pretty fast – even on stilts. They aren’t so good with clean up, but all the trades have done an excellent job so far. That’s all we could ask for.

3. Windows that remind me to enjoy the view

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Bedroom with a view

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Family room full of light

One thing we love about our house is the corner location and all the light we get from the East, South and West. The new addition (on the West side of the house), is full of windows to maximize the sunshine. The result is open and airy and a constant tease at what’s to come when we get to wake up and look out these windows each morning. It’s easy to focus on the mess and the incredible inconvenience of it all, but when the sun shines just right through these windows, we remember that in just a few months we’ll be enjoying the view from the comfort of a new kitchen or bedroom.

4. A chill dog

Rocky chillest dog around

When we started this project, I was most nervous about how Rocky would handle it all. I thought he might bark at all the workers or go stir crazy being in a confined space. Ironically, we’ve been the ones barking at each other (from time to time) and going crazy living in just a few small rooms.

We have no access to our backyard, so Rocky has to go out front to do his business. Every morning at 6:30 we just open the door, he goes pee on the front lawn and comes running back. Except for chasing the mail lady in the rain that one night (what is it about mailmen and dogs?), he is very obedient and comes back in the house like a good boy. He especially loves checking out the workers and the new space and rolling in the dust.

5. Reviving game night

We had to get out of the house last weekend. There was drywalling all day, combined with dust and noise, and it to top it off, it was cold and rainy.  Trifecta of unpleasantness. Lincoln was especially bored, so Dan decided to go get a new game that they could play at Starbucks on Sunday afternoon. Colby and I went along for the ride and to do homework and work-work while the other two played games. The new game of choice? Exploding Kittens.

If you haven’t played Exploding Kittens, it’s now more popular at 602 William than TV. It’s fun. It’s vindictive. It has kittens. The perfect combo. And any time you can play games with your kids that don’t require batteries, you do it. Be grateful they want to spend time with you, it may be short-lived.

Giving thanks this year

Wherever you may be this Thanksgiving, we hope you look around and can see bright spots in your life. The turkeys in power may bring us down, but we still have much to be grateful for. We have a roof over our heads and love in our hearts, and for that we are incredibly thankful.

 

end of the first trimester

Home construction is a lot like a pregnancy. It takes a lot of planning, can cost a lot of money, and causes a lot of pain. But when it’s over, we forget the trauma and are consumed with our beautiful new baby.

It’s been three months since we broke ground, so in pregnancy terms we’ve made it through the first trimester. And while we pray this doesn’t go a full term of nine months, there are probably three solid months to go.

Those aren’t the only similarities. The home remodel small talk we hear at every party or walk around the neighborhood sounds vaguely familiar, too.

When you’re pregnant people say: “You look great. I can hardly tell you’re pregnant. When are you due?”

What you’re thinking: “People lie. And they’re blind. Will this ever be over?”

And when you’re remodeling people say: “It looks great. It’s really coming along. When will you be finished?”

What you’re thinking: “People lie. And they’re blind. Will this ever be over?”

My pregnancies were never difficult. No real morning sickness or serious problems. But I hated not feeling like myself. That’s kind of where I am now. The remodel is not difficult, there are no major problems, but we’re not living like we normally do.

There’s a constant layer of dirt on every surface. There’s no real meal planning and much smaller loads of groceries. We eat yogurt and ice cream out of the cartons to save us from washing another dish. Licking a knife now makes it clean. There’s a microwave and hot plate in the office. There’s a coffee maker and tabletop convection oven in our bathroom. A refrigerator and toaster in our living room. And a mix of clean and dirty dishes in our bathtub.  And did I mention the dirt?

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But just like when you’re a first time parent, the kindness of friends makes all the difference. We’ve had so many lovely dinners at friends’ houses, where we savor real home cooked meals, clean floors and, of course, the best company. We’ve borrowed a kitchen to satisfy a baking itch. And there are offers of doggie play dates and borrowing houses during vacation. Every offer is so appreciated and helps dilute the little frustrations that come with living in a construction zone.

We’ve also embraced the little surprises along the way. From discovering pretty wood detail on the stairs hidden behind drywall and opening up the entryway (our contractor’s brillian idea), to spending more family “together time” (since we’re always sharing the same 300 square foot space). And I love the bursts of creativity when we’re planning where outlets and lighting go, and start imagining how it will all come together. I can see how this might become addicting.

Demo Dan taking down the door

Pretty woodwork hidden behind drywall

So, what will the next few months (or trimester)bring? Things like stucco, installation, and drywall, and then the long process of finishing (floors, tile, lights, cabinets, etc.). That means trying to stay upbeat, overlooking the hassles, and keeping our eyes on the prize. A few holiday distractions will help, too. Then, before we know it, all the pains will be a distant memory and we’ll be enjoying our fresh new old home.

But that’s where the pregnancy comparison ends. Since unlike a new baby, we’ll be when this is through, we’ll be sleeping through the night in our new master suite.

 

 

decisions. decisions. decisions.

Hick’s law is the time it takes for a person to make a decision based on the number of possible choices you have. Increasing the number of choices will increase the decision time. It’s also why busy leaders like Steve Jobs and Barack Obama chose to wear the same outfit every day. Why waste brainpower on choosing an outfit each morning? Save the decision-making for which features to have on the next iPhone or how to get healthcare reform passed.

It’s not the same as being a major world leader, but when you’re building or remodeling a house, decision fatigue is real. A new set of decisions come at you each day. Some major and some that seem like minutia. How far apart do you want the kitchen light pendants? Which lights should be on each switch? Do you want oil rub bronzed or chrome hinges? It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

But it’s also exhilarating when each decision is made. When you’ve found the perfect _______________ (light, tile, wallpaper). Seeing it all come together is like planning a great dinner menu or putting on a killer outfit. Just slightly more permanent (and expensive and stomach churning).

We’re now at the point when most of the big design decisions have been made. Tile is picked and ordered. Bath fixtures are waiting to be shipped. Boxes of lights are stacking up in the garage. Kitchen cabinets are being built.

Since I can’t wait to see it all in place, I might as well give you a preview. So, here are just a few of my favorite picks so far.

Powder Room Sink 

Antique Style High Back Farm Sink Cast Iron Porcelain Wall Sink, Navy, 24"
Powder Room Wallpaper (Amy Wilder’s prints are fabulous)
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Master Bath Floor (Cement!)
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Master Bedroom Light
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Kitchen Backsplash (and the first item I picked for the house over a year ago)f6dfa4ac94819605e69fb3fe98165816

Kitchen Island Lights (I’m in love with Schoolhouse Electric)
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It’s a great feeling to have all the major decisions checked off the list. Like finishing your Christmas shopping before December 1. Now it’s time to turn the creative juices off for awhile, while we summon all the patience we can muster. 


raze the roof

In 10th grade I was really looking forward to geometry. It seemed more useful and practical than 9th grade algebra. Want to design a building? You need geometry. Decorating a new house? You need geometry. Need to get the Apollo crew back from space? You need geometry (and physics and the help of Katherine Johnson) .

Our big geometry project was assigned in the spring semester. We had to design and build a model house. I had been drawing floor plans on graph paper since I was in single-digits. I loved to create different layouts, add in furniture, and dream of building a house worthy of Architectural Digest. This was my time to shine.

Naively, I chose to build my house out of photo mat board. Each cut was a struggle to keep a straight line while getting the Exacto knife through the thick board. But the slate blue walls and chocolate brown roof were sure to wow the teacher, along with the modern design and innovative floor plan. It was a labor of love. And I was proud of my first architectural masterpiece.

But the roof wouldn’t hold up to rain, and the pitch wouldn’t drain well.  I got a C (or maybe a D…I’ve tried to block it out). My architectural dreams were dashed. Not to mention it killed my GPA that year, along with any future interest in math.

So, when we started to talk roof lines at the house, I glazed over. I just nodded, like a foreigner who doesn’t know the language.

It was a last minute request to fix the roof and ceiling in the stairway leading to the 3rd floor attic bedroom. It’s a great room – the whole width of the house – but to get there you have to stoop all the way over or be under 4 foot 2 inches. It’s wonky. If you’ve been up there, you know. You might even have a scar or a lump as evidence.

With the new addition and roof, we “overbuilt” the old roof. That means there was space between the old roof and new roof that would just be wasted. Or, we could remove the old roof and add a foot of headspace to make a bumpless entry into the attic bedroom. This was the request. It wasn’t on the plan, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to raze and raise the roof.

A quick huddle with the architect, contractor and carpenter and they threw out geometry and engineering. All I cared about was how much will it cost and how long will it take.

The answer? Not much and not long. Although Colby would beg to differ.

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We took the plunge. There were a few days of no roof, no wall and just plastic sheeting separating his bed from the outside. It really was like camping – but with a comfy bed. We are just lucky that the weather has been a dream this whole past month. So, the roof is now raised, but getting walls are a whole other story. In fact, I’ve stopped lying to Colby and now just say that I don’t know when he will get walls again.

I still have a mental block when it comes to geometry and how to make sure the angle of a roof work right. But ironically Colby does geometry daily right now. He just knows better than to ask me for help.