We are getting the electrical panels for our solar installation today. The company rang our doorbell about 3 hours ago and told me it would be off for approximately 40 minutes. I had just popped tomatoes into the oven for roasting for soup for tonight. I just pulled them out of the cooling oven and placed them into our rapidly warming fridge. Guess we will be getting take out for dinner.
It’s a little crazy how much our lives have changed in the past 100 years. In 1925, about half of US homes had electricity. Now our entire lives are dominated by it. So consumed are we by our need for it that we are lost when it goes out. I’ve been wandering aimlessly around my house wondering what I can do. Laundry? Nope. Dinner prep? Nope. Make a smoothie? Nope? Vacuum? Nope. A storm is moving in and the house is dark, and I keep absentmindedly hitting light switches that can offer us no light. My husband told me I could use the shower, but then I reminded him I need to use a hair dryer right after that, so that is off the table too. At this point, I have determined I could read a book, do a puzzle, or take a nap, and I could only do the first two things if I found a flashlight. I am actually writing this blog post on the WordPress app on my phone, but will only be able to continue doing so as long as my phone battery holds out. I can always go for a drive to a locale with a functional power outlet, if I can open the heavy-as-sin garage door manually since the opener won’t work.
People lived for millennia without power to their domiciles, but I wouldn’t survive a day without it. I miss it already and it hasn’t even been half a day yet. I can’t decide if we should dial back our reliance on electricity or double our efforts to find ways to keep us powered all the time, even when the grid fails us. All I know for sure is that I would not want to go back in time. I would miss my ovens that require no firewood, my lamps that require no kerosene, and my refrigerator that requires no ice blocks.
If it’s this difficult for a Gen X-er to go a few hours without electricity, it would probably kill my Gen Z sons. I’m not sure how they would survive if they had to write out their homework by hand. At least I know Luke would curl up with a book. I think Joe would be on his phone until the battery ran out and then he would ask me to drive him around so he could chat with his friends while his phone charged.
Technology is a marvelous thing, until it isn’t. And then it leaves me wondering how on earth we would survive if things really went sideways and we had to abandon our modern conveniences. I mean, I try to picture myself pulling rugs out of my house and beating them with a broom while they hung on a clothesline, but I don’t see it. Let’s just hope the power gets turned back on before it comes to that.
Our goal of having our new home ready before our move in day went the way most goals involving home renovation go. It didn’t happen. You know what they say about the road to hell and all that. We’ve been full-time in our new residence since the end of April. There are myriad items left to do. In terms of renovation, the boys’ bathroom still requires a complete overhaul and we have the added work of baseboards and door casings to look forward to on the main level. We hope to be mostly settled, free of moving boxes, and relaxing feet up by the time the weather is cooling down and football season is heating up.
While I’ve been on my writing hiatus, here is what we have been up to (along with selling a home, moving across town, and finishing out the end of the school year).
The previous owner’s living room with its brass-adorned fireplace reminded me too much of my childhood home. We had a vision for this room as soon as we saw it.
Living room…welcome to 2016. This room needs window treatments (the paper blinds, while somewhat helpful, need to go) but otherwise it is mostly complete and totally comfortable. I won’t tell you how much time we spend in here watching television, but I can tell you that I know the weeknight line up on HGTV.
The old dining room, complete with wall-to-wall carpeting, Bonanza-reminiscent light fixture, and pointless half wall was an easy fix.
Our new dining room is a bit more contemporary. We love our walnut dining table and had fun choosing a light fixture to accompany it. The combination of metal and linen on the fixture makes it a standout without being too much for the room. And, with the useful peninsula addition, we added an extra seating option for a quick meal.
The old kitchen had been updated since the 1964 original with high-quality maple cabinetry, but the linoleum floor and formica countertops were not worth saving.
We updated the kitchen by replacing the linoleum with grey floor tile and the formica with quartz countertops. We traded the white appliances for stainless ones and over one weekend installed a contemporary, arabesque-style backsplash to pull the space together.
The home’s “master” bath, which is really more of a closet-sized toilet/shower hold, needed work too. That shell-shaped sink was a joy to rip out. After 13 years cleaning the much larger, doorless, 5-piece en suite master bath in our old home, I decided to appreciate the charm of the tiny bath. It’s a cozy space where I can lock the door and not have to share in another person’s dental hygiene routine. Can I get an Amen?
Our modern take on that cramped space is one of my favorite renovations. To save our budget, we kept the vanilla shower and focused on the floors and fixtures. We created a feature wall using this super fun bubble tile I fell in love with and purchased a modern floating vanity to complement it. We replaced the ugly linoleum floor with neutral tile and added a water-conscious, one-piece toilet. In addition, we are ordering a new showerhead and clear doors to update the existing shower and complete the reno for the time being.
The park-like backyard was what sold us on this house, and it needed next to zero help to be fabulous. It is the perfect venue to showcase the patio table Steve made. The colorful metal dining chairs add some whimsy, and the strings of patio lights brighten up the place after dark so we can play cards with the kids or enjoy drinks and conversation with friends. Coffee on the patio in the morning? Check. Dinner on the patio in the evening. Check. So different from the expanse of our old backyard and its open space view, but such a welcome change. This fall it will become my home office as I once again commit myself to writing regularly.
It’s been a crazy nine months full of immense change, expected stress, steep learning curves, and hard work, but we’re home. We love that we can now walk to fetch coffee or groceries, hit the nearby athletic club we joined for a swim or a workout, or head out on the Highline Canal Trail for a bike ride. And with the extra cash we made on the sale of our last home, we are treating ourselves to a hard-earned Hawaiian vacation. Here today. Gone to Maui soon. Stay tuned.
Parenting is sticky business. There are days when I am acutely aware that I may not be cut out for this gig. Those are the days when I blow my parental gasket and slam doors and caterwaul with unbridled enthusiasm at my children over socks left on the floor right next to the laundry bin or half-empty cartons of yogurt stuffed behind a couch cushion. Those are the days when I am the very definition of insanity, once again doing the same thing that has failed before to achieve the desired result. Then there are the days when, through the grace of some unforeseen divine intervention, I pull it together long enough to do something that is nearly the right thing in the right situation. Like, for example, on the day when my fourteen-year-old son came to me fresh off watching a PG-13 comedy video on You Tube where he learned a new word, a word describing a sexual act that makes many grown adults shudder (or tilt their heads not unlike a cocker spaniel after hearing a word unfamiliar to their floppy ears). On that day I managed to swallow my shock long enough to offer a generic explanation of said act hoping to delay for him what would be an eye-opening if not wholly disturbing Google search on the NC-17 subject matter. On the days like that one, when I manage to keep my wits about me, I celebrate the alignment of the stars and enjoy it because I know moments of parenting clarity have, in the past, been few and far between, and my next ill-conceived, epic, parental meltdown could be right around the corner if I get too cocky.
A couple of days ago, my youngest son presented me with an opportunity to rise to the occasion again. After doing some more unboxing and cleaning in the basement family room the boys have designated The Teen Zone, I turned on one of those flameless, scented candle warmers to try to defunkify the place in their absence. (Teenage boys are smelly.) Not long after they had returned from a friend’s house, a panicked cry emanated from their space. Through a pained whimper I managed to make out phrases like “this is bad” and “oh no.” You know those moments when you think your child might be bleeding profusely and there is a fear of what you might find when you come face-to-face with them? That’s where my brain was. My son was about to present me with a mostly severed appendage or a head wound so deep I would be viewing his bony skull. When he made it to me, though, I could see no visible signs of trauma. Simultaneously relieved that he was okay and terrified at what that meant with regard to his cries, I asked him what was going on. The words came through breathless cries…spill, wax, accident, sorry, mistake, carpet, bad.
Now, this house is new to us and we have been working to make it our comfortable home for months. And, to that end, we had the worn basement carpet torn out in mid-January and replaced with fresh, super plush carpeting that is a bit like walking on heaven when your stocking feet touch it. As Luke and I hit the threshold of the family room, I could see why he was panic-stricken. Directly in front of the bookshelf where the candle warmer sat, still glowing innocently and without any sign of guilt or remorse, there was a sizable splattering of eggplant-colored, cinnamon-and-vanilla-scented wax. A flurry of words escaped my mouth, most of which were interrogatives and none of which (surprisingly enough) were screamed, but I never listened for the answers because I knew none of them would help. I knew I needed a minute to get my mind in order before I said or did something I would regret. I turned and walked up the stairs, Luke trailing on my heels. He kept talking and explaining while my mind reeled and I muttered my disappointment quietly. I got to the door of my room.
“You stay out here. I need to be alone for a minute,” I told him as I began to close the bedroom door behind me. “Don’t touch the wax. It will only make it worse,” I added as an afterthought as the door clicked solidly shut.
I paced for a minute trying to get my bearings. I whipped off a quick text to a good friend to get my feelings off my chest silently. Luke just spilled purple candle wax on a big spot of our basement carpet. Huge stain. Heartbroken. I took a deep breath. The one thing I knew for sure was that the mess would set with time, and I didn’t have the luxury of a full-scale devolution into parental disgust. Through the door, I could hear Luke talking to himself under his breath. I knew it was an accident. I knew he was simultaneously horrified, frightened, and wondering if the $100 he had earned at the craft fair would get him very far in his soon-to-be life as a hobo. I stood for a moment registering his feelings. Suddenly, I wasn’t an angry parent freaking out about a stain on recently installed carpeting. I was in Luke’s soul, scared and sad and feeling worthless. How many times had I been in his shoes, wondering what punishment would be meted out after my colossal error in judgment? My heart ached for him. I opened the door.
“Come on, Luke. Let’s see what we can do.”
A text came through from Heather. Try ironing it out? Put a rag or old t-shirt down and then iron over that. Medium heat. Then try rubbing alcohol to get the color out.
It sounded like a plausible solution. A quick Google search yielded the same advice. Luke, desperate to make amends, asked how he could help. I had him fetch items for me while I labored to free the new carpet of its unwelcome waxy coating. As I worked, I talked to Luke and reminded him that we all do things like this. Accidents happen. Most of them matter very little. I could see him begin to relax, his hobo life fading into the background for the time being. Little by little, after some icing, scraping, ironing, and blotting, the wax seemed to be coming out. I began to exhale too. This might be fixable after all. After about thirty minutes of triage, the carpet looked only slightly stained. I was hoping that some form of chemical solution could ameliorate that condition. Sure enough. An hour after the tragic incident, the carpet looked nearly uniform or at least good enough that someone might not even notice if they weren’t directed to search for a stain in that area. The carpet, Luke, and I had all survived, only slightly worse for the wear.
In the past, I’ve been too quick to anger in situations that warranted no anger at all. I’ve cried over spilled milk. I’ve fussed over holes in new jeans. And I’ve had full-fledged tantrums over doors left open while the heat was on inside. But as time with my sons living under our roof dwindles, I’ve become more aware of how big my “little” meltdowns can feel to my sons and how little even the “big” things in life are in the grand scheme. If our carpet had been permanently stained, would that have sucked? Absolutely. But I’ve been thinking about how much worse things would be in my life if I had created a situation in which my son no longer felt comfortable coming to me when things went wrong. I know I was that kid…the one who was afraid to be honest about accidents and mistakes. The one who would rather hide things and lie to escape censure. The one who spent far too long avoiding challenges, afraid to make a move lest it make me appear foolish or, heaven forbid, human. As an adult, I continue to work to overcome these fears and embrace my humanity. I’m not sure what grace intervened Sunday when Luke came to me, but all week long I have been hearing the phrase “wax on, wax off” from The Karate Kid in my head. Mr. Miyagi has been speaking to me, reminding me that patience, presence of mind, and repetition are the keys to success. My ability to go more slowly, tread more lightly, and think more carefully in difficult situations with our sons is improving. I have hope that these skills will someday transfer to other situations in my life as well. I’m not quite skillful or patient enough to catch a fly with chopsticks yet, but I’m feeling a bit more Miyagish with each small parental success.
I am taking a break today. I am sitting in one of the newly purchased library chairs we got for a steal at West Elm, relaxing near the fireplace while two men install carpeting in the basement. It’s the first real bit of respite I have had in about a month. Steve and I have been going at breakneck speed since December, renovating one house and cleaning out another while somehow managing to squeeze in the holidays, the boys’ ski lessons, and the actual and inescapable burdens of life as grown ass adults (like paying bills and buying groceries). Some days I pause briefly to remind myself to breathe and I wonder how I ever got old enough to be here. Seems like just yesterday I was worrying if my student loan check would arrive in time to pay my undergrad tuition without incurring a late fee. Life was so much simpler when my worldly possessions fit into a four-door sedan. I’m not saying I’d like to be living back in my minuscule dorm room with a midterm paper due in American Lit, but it might be fun to visit there for a few hours. Mental vacations are the only trips I can afford this year.
Anyhoo, since I last posted a renovation update here 53 days ago, a lot has changed in this old house. Many friends have been clamoring for updates, and today seems like as good a day as any to share. Where shall I start? Let’s start in the kitchen.
I know many people choose their house based on the kitchen. It’s safe to say we bought this house in spite of the kitchen. It is an odd duck. Because of an ill-placed window and a superfluous door, the kitchen lacks in counter space and cupboards and has a less than ideal layout. That said, any attempt to redo the layout into something more ideally functional would have resulted in changes to the exterior brick. We had no desire to mess with the structure of the house and, moreover, doing so would have blown our renovation budget. So we decided to keep the original layout, but update the flooring (goodbye, linoleum), countertops, and appliances. We tore out a small wall to add some peninsula cabinets and additional counterspace. The New Carrara Quartz is being cut and should be installed sometime in the next few weeks. The tile floor is in and is a huge improvement. We have wood floors in the kitchen of our current home and decided fairly early on that tile would be a better choice for us here. Between two boys, a dog, and constant traffic into the house from the garage and through the kitchen, tile will look better for much longer. And it cost a bunch less. Score!
In late December and early January we pulled out all the carpet, baseboards, and old doors on the main floor to have the original hardwoods stripped, patched, sanded, and coated with a water-based finish. The result is way better than we had hoped. The red oak has a lighter, fresher appearance without the heavy, oil-based finishing product. The fireplace insert arrived a few weeks ago to finish off the showpiece in our living room. The fireplace wall is exactly what we wanted. It makes the room seem taller, brighter, and more modern. We started adding a furniture this month too, purchasing a couple upholstered chairs, an accent table, and a bar cart, and ordering a loveseat and upholstered ottoman to complement the modern velvet sofa we will move over from our current house. It’s the first living room furniture we’ve bought since 1996. We were due for an update. And it’s no coincidence that the first furniture purchase is a bar cart and the first items we moved over were bar glasses and a significant share of spirits. It’s always 5 o’clock in a mid-century brick ranch!
In between the bigger renovations, I have painted nearly the entire main floor, including ceilings. I figure that by the time we move in, I will have painted approximately 3,000 square feet. I am SO done with painting. On the plus side, my painting skills are currently Level Expert. So I am ready to move on and tile again, which is perfect because our small, dated master bath is our next major undertaking. I am ecstatic to report that the main floor bath is nearly complete. You may remember our hideous main bath. All terra cotta-colored, square tile and sixties panache. Fairly certain the only thing that had been updated in that room in fifty years was the sink faucet and maybe the sink itself. I imagine it was once also orange hued like the walls. Well…it’s all gone.
We still need to put in the baseboards and hook up the shower plumbing, but we ended up with a much cleaner, updated room that we did ourselves. We’re feeling pretty impressed with our do-it-yourself skills. On a personal note, we determined that undertaking subway tile on several full walls as our first tiling project might have been a bit overzealous. It took us forever and a day, and the workmanship is far from world class, but it is a huge improvement over the previous look.
And now we’re approaching the final stretch of renovations. We are waiting on our solid, prehung doors, need to redo the aforementioned master closet (er, I mean bath), and will soon be putting in simple, five-inch baseboards. It’s all coming together nicely timing-wise because we will be listing our current home earlier than expected, sometime in the next month if the real estate market continues to pick up. I hope to be living here while the other place is listed because I don’t want to deal with the hassle of continual clean up for showings. I’ll have a longer commute, but less house to clean and that is always a plus. We have been quite fortunate with how this whole process has gone for us so far. My fingers are crossed that we will remain on budget and on time. I have grand plans to spend all summer sitting on our back patio doing absolutely nothing. I believe I will have earned it. Moscow Mule, anyone?
To start our new year, hubby and I spent the day in our fixer upper. We will be spending most of the weekend there to get things ready for the wood floor guy who is starting on Monday and will be adding in new boards in the entry way to replace the outdated tile, as well as sanding off the old, oil-based stain and putting down a colorless, waterborne finish for us. To save money on the floor work, we agreed to pull out the worn carpet, remove the tack strips and staples, and take off the baseboards. There is no love lost in these changes. The two-inch baseboards are unimpressive at best and the carpet is the physical equivalent of a perpetual yawn. It has been fun slicing it up and yanking it out. There is something oddly cathartic about ripping up the old on the first day of a new year. As I slashed that beige carpet and its companion pad and tossed it unceremoniously into the garage, I thought about the things that didn’t go the way I had hoped in 2015. I imagined ridding myself of last year’s mental baggage as easily as I jettisoned that floor covering. A fresh start is therapeutic and invigorating. And, in my case, about six months overdue.
The first task of the day was finishing grouting the wall and the tub surround in the hall bath. We squeaked by on the bag of grout we had, just barely completing the job by literally scraping the bottom of the grout barrel. Although the end result didn’t pan out exactly as I imagined it in my mind, it feels good to be moving on. As a learning experience, tiling this bathroom has been exceptional. I can now say that I have the know-how to remove tiles, pull out a toilet, operate a wet saw, lay tile, use a grout float properly, and tell you the difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles. I also know what rectified tile is and why you might want it. I will never look at another tiled surface in the same light again. Everywhere I go lately, I am finding it far more interesting. It’s amazing what a little education can do to your world view.
As much as we’d love to take all the credit in this latest installment of Little House in the Mid-Size City, the biggest improvement this week came courtesy of our contractor, Simon. He transformed the tired, dated fireplace in the living room into the modern focal point we envisioned. One of the things that stood out to us when we first found this house was the two fireplaces, one upstairs and one down. Both are wood burning and use their own flue. We decided early on to add a gas insert to the fire box upstairs and leave the basement fireplace as is so we can enjoy the occasional crackle of an old-school, indoor fire. Before we could schedule the install of the gas insert we selected for upstairs, though, we had some remodeling to do to create the sleek, streamlined look that will match. The brick facing needed to go, and the faster the better. Early on we settled upon a look we had in mind and set out to recreate it as closely as possible. We found some tile that fit the bill perfectly and were smart enough to leave its install to a professional.
I have to say, I think Simon rocked it. He found the best configuration for the tile and created a custom, walnut mantle that is taller and deeper than the previous one. Our taste in living room furniture leans toward modern contemporary, so we will at last have a room that suits us completely. We’ll be mounting our television over the mantle. We debated this for quite a while after reading myriad articles about this placement on the Internet. There are a lot of opinions about this practice, but ultimately we decided that for the furniture configuration we wanted this was the best option. Setting the television to the right of the fireplace would put it too close to the eight-foot wide window and create too much glare. Besides, we’ve always wanted a spot for cozy reading chairs, and they belong in front of that expansive window. We bought an angled mounting bracket for the tv so we can reduce the potential for neck strain looking up at the screen. With the can lights we added back in October and the flawless hardwoods that had been hidden for decades finally exposed, this room is coming together better than we imagined. I’m beginning to see the potential hubby saw in this house while I was still dragging my heels and clinging to my doubts.
Looking back to when we first took possession of this home on October 5th, I wish I had kept track of how many hours we have logged working on it. We knew when we bought the house that this would be a growing experience for us both. We’ve stepped way outside our wheel house here. I’ve never had an eye for design because, frankly, it’s never mattered. We don’t spend much time in our home. Our house is a big container that holds all the crap necessary for our exploits. We like travel and the great outdoors, and we don’t spend a lot of time hanging out at home. We come in, drop our stuff, grab new gear, and head back out. Our home is a place to do our laundry, eat, sleep, and wait for our next adventure. With this new home, we’re becoming invested in a way previously unprecedented for us and not just through the ever-increasing budget necessary to turn a 1964 house into a 2016 home. We are committing blood, sweat, and tears here every day. I am sore, bruised, and banged up. Today I cut myself three times in an hour, each time running a mental check on the date of my last tetanus shot. 2010, I think. At least I hope that’s right.
Who knows? Maybe when we’re done grouting tile we really love and hanging doors we’ve chosen, when the wounds from nails we’ve impaled ourselves on have healed, we will decide to stay put more often in a new, old house that fits our family, dreams, good intentions, quirks, missteps, and all.
So, a couple months ago we did this crazy thing. We bought a fixer upper that we plan to move into next spring, after we fix it up. At the time, I promised that I would blog about our experiences renovating a 1960s ranch house. Honestly, it seemed like an easy enough thing to promise at the time. I was looking for things to write about and this redo seemed like easy fodder. Along the way, however, I learned a few things about renovations. One: They suck up a lot of waking hours. Trying to balance every day life in one house with two children and a dog while trying to tile a bathroom in a house across town is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Two: Projects are messy. I am solid Type A-. I would like to blog about something in a linear fashion, from start to finish, and tie it all up with a neat little bow. This would be a lot easier to do if anything we started months ago was actually finished by now. Three: Physical labor is exhausting. I am a writer. I sit on my butt in bed with a laptop and only my fingers get a workout. Ripping up linoleum, lugging out toilets, and tiling bathrooms is tiring. By the end of the day, I fall into bed and pray morning will miraculously arrive two hours later than usual the next day. And, for all these reasons, it has been problematic for me to blog consistently (or, let’s face it, at all) about this (or any other) experience. That changes now, ladies and gentlemen. Today I make good on my promise and present our mess in progress.
The first thing we tackled was painting. Most of the home’s interior had been painted what I can only describe as a pale blush, not quite beige, not quite pink, but definitely not a basic, warm white. Pink was not flying for the boys or for me, so it was the first to go. I started in the basement with the boys’ rooms and the family room. Along the way, though, I sadly discovered that three different variations of white had been used on various ceilings throughout the house, which led to my painting every ceiling to achieve consistency.
What a pain in the neck, literally and figuratively. It looks great now, but painting ceilings is a chore best left for your worst enemy or your grumpy teenage son. You’re welcome for the torture tip.
Luke and Joe both chose Benjamin Moore Gray Huskie for their rooms, which I love. Luke added a bit of his characteristic ‘tude by requesting some bright orange paint accents (which I did on a section of ceiling) and a funky IKEA pendant light fixture. I really love how that turned out. It’s so Luke!
We desperately wanted to replace all the interior doors, but after doing the math we decided to replace only the doors on the main floor for now and to paint the ugly doors in the basement. It sounded like an easy enough plan. Two coats of primer and two coats of fresh white paint were added to twelve doors. Easy peasy. When we went to rehang the three doors in Joe’s room, though, we ran into a snag. Apparently doors like to live where they were originally hung. We had to use trial and error to figure out which door went where and of course we only figured that out after we had installed the hardware. I’m not going to tell you the number of expletives offered during that process, but it was a hefty amount. But, we are learning robots, so we labeled all the other doors to avoid that shell game again. In the end, the result is adequate. New doors would look infinitely better, but they will have to wait until other, more pressing updates are made. Or until we draw the winning lottery numbers.
Meanwhile, upstairs we began destroying things. We tore out a couple old walls with spindle openings. Good riddance. We removed the ugly tile at the entry way to replace it with oak hardwoods to match the rest of the main floor. We had a contractor tear out every door and its frame on the main floor. At one point, I stood in what was once a move-in ready (albeit outdated) home, and shook my head in disbelief wondering what we had done. Tearing down walls is fun. Realizing that you have to fix your mess is something else entirely.
The biggest project we’ve undertaken thus far is the full bathroom on the main floor. We demolished it with plans to add new tile floors, subway tiles on the walls and in the tub surround, a new cabinet and toilet, updated lighting, and a huge mirror. We have the incredible fortune to have talented friends in the plumbing industry. They have sacrificed full days teaching us how to mix mortar, cut tiles, properly install tile on walls, lay out floors, and even weld plumbing. They have taken what would have been a $5k bathroom project and turned it into a project half that cost.
We’ve spent four full days with four full grown adults trapped in this small bathroom. The end is in sight. We hope to grout the tile this weekend. If we can get the plumbing hooked back up by the first weekend in January, I will be thrilled. I will definitely share before and after photos once it is completed. Once that bathroom is operational, we move on and tackle a light update in the closet that constitutes our new master bath all by ourselves. At least, that is the plan…until we really mess something up and have to call Ron and Carol to save us.
January is going to be a big month for our new home. We’re having the original wood floors sanded and sealed. The outdated brick fireplace is getting a facelift with new tile and mantle. We’re ordering new carpet to be installed in the basement. And I will continue to paint living areas and bedrooms upstairs while we update our tiny master bathroom. Somehow we are going to manage all this while fitting in the boys’ weekend ski lessons. We will. Trust me. I am determined now. We’ve been staying at the house one night a week on ridiculous air mattresses, and it already feels like home. It’s hard for me to visualize how it will all come together, but I know it will. Time is flying by during this process and sometimes it is hard to keep my eyes on each ball as it is suspended mid air, but I’m doing it. It can be daunting, but I am leaning into it and learning more than I thought possible. I just keep on keeping on with Tony the Tiger roaring in my head. It’ll be grrrrreat!
You know the time discrepancy they say exists between human years and dog years? I feel that same time disparity in my life right now. I am the dog in this scenario, and I have lived a year in the past month. In four short weeks, we looked at homes, found one, and closed on it. On Monday, we took possession of a 1960s-era, boxy, brick ranch in the city. We will spend the next six months renovating it, transforming it into our personal space in preparation for our final severance from suburbia next spring. This morning I find myself sitting in our future dining room writing at a plastic table while awaiting the internet installer. After only a few days, the house feels like home. I already know how the sun moves through the rooms and the ambient light changes throughout the day. I recognize the quiet rumble of the heater when it springs to life with its echoes of distant thunder. The backyard is my oasis, a private park with mature trees gently shading the ideal spot for an adirondack chair and a good book. Denver is my old friend. Everything is close here, intimate and accessible. And, in an introvert’s dream, I can live anonymously in its confines, obscured by the constant buzz of a world hurriedly carrying on without any notice of me.
Still, with all the familiarity around me in my new space, there is upheaval. I find myself in a netherworld, half out of my old life and half into my new existence. The boys are growing up faster than I imagined they could. Joe starts high school next year and he is now tall enough that I can watch his green eyes up close as he processes that he will soon be taller than me. He shows no signs of regret in leaving our current home and growing up; he relishes the dream of a basement space where he can revel unabated in teenage solitude. The new house gives him room to slide out of my hands and into his independent life as he was always meant to do, but the implications of this transition are simultaneously amazing and horrifying. There are days when all I want to do is sit on the couch swilling midday wine and wallowing in episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine on PBS Kids to mourn his growth. Alas, no amount of wishing to go back has materialized a time machine in which I could take that trip.
So I have found other coping mechanisms. I admit I’ve sought refuge in a binge-watching grave of The Office. You know, television is great for creating vacuous space in your head. And it’s a good place to idle while you’re waiting for motivation, but it’s no place to reside permanently. It’s time to bid adieu to things past. I’m working to separate from parts of my existence that were so integral to my being that I feel physically crushed by their emotional loss. I’ve been hobbling along in a Dunder-Mifflin haze for too long trying to avoid noticing those phantom limbs. Now that we’re committed to this new house, though, that time must end. Shit is getting real. It’s time to harness my rapidly spinning mind and use that energy to move, both literally and figuratively.
One way I hope to manage this shift over the next year is by returning to writing. As we inch along making improvements to our new home, I am going to document the physical transformation of our new space here. Along the way, I will work with added ferocity to live in the present (even though the present becomes the past with increasing speed as the boys get older). I’m positive I will discover a thing or two about myself and about my future trajectory as we set ourselves up for this next phase in our lives. Learning new skills, like tiling floors and installing custom closets, could help improve my self-esteem and garner additional confidence. The more I allow myself think about it, the more excited I become to shake off the weight of Michael Scott and see what I will uncover and where I will land. Goodbye, Scranton.