Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I blame HGTV.

QUESTION: My mom asked me in an email how I was feeling about the project so far. What did I think about the progress? Was it slower or faster than I thought? What surprised me? When do I think we'll get in. I wrote her a long winded answer, but have been thinking about the question and frankly, it kept me up all night.

ANSWER: I cannot give a simple answer to the question. The more I try to unravel all the strands of that answer, the more hopelessly tangled my thoughts get. I'll try to sort out the major threads here, but if this post goes wildly astray, well, I did warn you.

Strand One: It seems to be bringing Penny and I even closer. We work really well together and genuinely have fun even when we are doing to grossest, hottest, most sweat-inducing jobs. When I'm having an "OMG-what-have-we-done" kind of day, she steps up to the plate and gently directs me to a simple, necessary task that will yield immediate results and calm me down (like washing walls). And when she has days like that I can "talk her down" as well. That's pretty cool.

Strand Two: Overwhelmed. There are days when it simply seems like such a huge and daunting task that we have taken on and I wonder what in the hell we thought we were doing buying this house. We have virtually no renovation-necessary skills (plumbing, carpentry, electrical, framing, woodworking, nothing). We've never done a renovation before. We did a very light (VERY LIGHT) renovation on our old 1950s ranch, but we had lots and lots of help with that too. What made us think we could do such a thing. I blame HGTV, quite honestly. Those wonderful 30 minute programs that show you how effortless it is to renovate and redecorate your house with a few simple tools, some paint, and elbow grease. What the evil producers never show is the army of workers who do the grunt work (like hauling 99 buckets of plaster down stairs and out the the dumpster), sweating like pigs, the weeks and months of this effort, oh no, all that falls on the editing room floor. That doesn't make for good television. Those wonderful 30 minute shows dupe us poor schlubs into thinking that we can tackle that wall demo, no problem! After all, the built an entire house in just two 30 minute episodes.

Strand Three: Time - time is a weird construct. Sometimes, it moves so slowly (like when you're waiting WEEKS for your house to close) you begin fantasizing that the clock is an evil, sadistic enemy bend on making you miserable. Then there are the times when time seems like the telephone poles swooping by you as your speeding down the interstate. If you were like me (and aren't you all?), then you could count them as you went across the country and within mere moments you had reached 100, 500, and 1000 before you lost interest and decided that counting swooping telephone poles was a stupid way to spend time and started to antagonize your brother. We closed just over a month ago and days are flying by like those telephone poles. I can't believe I have to go back to work in less than two weeks. Holy Crappola, Batman! Where did the last month go? Every day is chock full of stuff to do. My day starts by dropping off Penny at work, coming to the house, opening all the windows, tidying up last night's mess. Picking a project for the day. Welcoming any crew that is here to work. Working. At some point, I go walk the dog. I might do an errand or two and get some lunch. Back to the house to work some more. Pick Penny up at 5:30. Some days we work some more. Some days we try and get some other work done like laundry (begging at our friends' door as we do not have laundry facilities either here at the house nor at the rental), grocery shopping, cleaning the rental, taking the dog to the vet, or the other hundred errands that come with being an adult. At some point, we fall into bed, often at the ungodly hour of 8 o'clock. And sleep quickly (unless were up all night fretting about the house), only to start all over again at 5:30 the next morning. I have never been so busy in all my life.

Strand Four: Amazing people in our lives. This project has shown us how incredibly fortunate we are and what super cool people we know. Yesterday, a friend of ours who lives in Arlington, drove down with a truck full of extra tools she had lying around and gave them to us. We are talking a sawzall, a shopvac, three or four hammers, several prybars of different sizes, and even an electric sander. Then, she wired a light in the bathroom for us. She got back into her truck and drove home. She wouldn't even let us take her out for a meal. How fricken' cool is that? Then there is the couple that makes us an amazing and delicious home cooked meal every Tuesday night. They live just a few blocks away and they feed us and provide huge moral support every week. Then there are the friends that are "renting" us their cottage. Our rent consists of mowing the lawn and paying the utilities. Then there's my contractor who is just the coolest man on the planet. He calls me daily simply to touch base and tell me it is all going to be okay. I honestly do not know how we could do this project without the love and support of everyone we know.

Strand Five: Time, again. I don't know if we are moving fast or not. I honestly can't tell. Penny wanted to move in right away. I was thinking maybe September 1 (as a highly hopeful date). We've pushed it back to hoping we can move in before Christmas. We've done most of the demo ourselves, save for the bathroom and the basement ceiling. That means we've taken out walls, learned to remove moldings without breaking them (mostly), and hauled literally a ton of plaster. The major demo is done. It's taken us a month to do that. Is that fast? I don't know. I have no yardstick for comparison. When we first closed, Penny had two weeks of vacation and we worked every day. In the entire month, we took one day off to go to the lake and we took a weekend off to go to a (super cool) wedding in Nags Head. Other than that, we've worked. We generally knock off no later than 4 pm, because we are just wiped out. We usually start around 7 am in the morning. Some days, we've worked until dark. Last night, we laid in bed looking at all the pictures we've taken, from when we first toured the house, to where we are today. We have come a long way in that time. All the carpet is gone. 95% of the paneling is gone (we still need to tackle the sun room), much of the wallpaper has been removed. Walls and closets and bathrooms have been demo'd. Electrical has started. HVAC has started. Both should be finished by the end of next week. Next weekend the roofing guy is coming to fix the gutters. After that, I'm not sure what's next.

Strand Six: Wow, what a freakin' cool place to live. The neighbors are awesome, welcoming us to the 'hood. Inviting us in and showing us what they've done to their houses. One guy even brought us a bottle of wine. There's always a breeze on the terrace and of course a lovely view. We are mere blocks from great restaurants and cool little shops. It takes me less than five minutes to reach Penny's work to pick her up. So many of our friends live near that we're going to actually be able to walk to see friends. We get to walk the dog around the lake and greet neighbors. I want to take some time and make friends with the neighbors. Dogwood Dell, a local outdoor amphitheater is just a beyond the lake and we'll be able to take advantage of that soon, I hope. I am so looking forward to the time when we can just LIVE here and enjoy all the benefits of living in the city. So much great architecture to see and areas to explore. I'm looking forward to walking to restaurants for dinner, frequently the farmer's market, and creating a whole different lifestyle here.

So, that's some of what I'm thinking and it is only the most simplified version of it.


  1. You sure are in a talkative mood this morning. Now stop typing and get back to work!


  2. We're doing the same thing in the Fan! Well, almost the same thing - we've hired a design build firm. Check us out at www.havenonhanover.blogspot.com

    Keep up the good work - I can't wait to see more!