I’m In Love With The Shape Of You

I need to write more often because there’s so much to say and I’m not sure where to start. I guess in the middle? Six years ago, Ron and I were financially stressed in a house we couldn’t afford, dealing with my mother whose help always came with strings, looking for a place to live while trying to get our house ready to sell, all while not being very fond of each other. We couldn’t agree on a house to buy, leading to us being homeless for a month when our house sold on its first day on the market. We ended up in a house we despised although it was structurally the most sound of all that we saw. We came a hair’s breadth from divorce.

Six years later, we’re still here in that structurally sound house. Still married. Still not able to agree on a house to buy after a year of looking.

But we’re not financially stressed. We don’t have to deal with my mother anymore. We’re not homeless although if we put our house on the market, we will be; our neighborhood has appreciated dramatically and houses sell on the first day.

Six years in this house and there is still painters tape around the bathroom door trim and on the glass of the french doors. I’ve yet to have a craft room. Our kitchen counters are still the same fucking hideous gold wheat tile. The kitchen walls are still shit brown.

But we have a(nother) new water heater. Today saw the end of the rotted front window that didn’t open and meant we couldn’t call the third bedroom a bedroom since there was no emergency egress. We finally chose a paint color to go over the vomit inducing Easter egg trim.

Six years in this house and we’ve learned how to communicate. We don’t take each other or ourselves quite so seriously. We value each other’s opinions. I know (even if he has no clue) when he says he doesn’t care, to just pick something, he cares a whole lot. I don’t take things so personally; if he doesn’t like something I like, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like me.

Sixteen years in this relationship and I still have a lot to learn about compromise, picking my battles, and showing my love by not fighting over stupid shit like where to live. Because it’s not the house, it’s the person in it with me, that matters.

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Brand New Pair of Levi Blues

Yay! Yesterday was a huge and exciting day in our household, for two reasons. One, the cat had all of his teeth pulled in a last effort to cure his stomatitis. We’re hoping this does the trick, because we’d like to keep him around for a while. We’re also going to put him on a gluten free diet, and stick with tuna, sardines, raw chicken, and raw beef. He’s thrilled, as those are his favorite foods. Since he’s happy, that makes him snuggly and sweet, which is NOT his normal personality.

The second excitement was having our new (to us) washer and dryer installed, and the walls patched and primed in the laundry room. While the handy guys did the majority of the priming, they couldn’t do the baseboards, as they are too dirty, so sometime tomorrow, Ron and Aubrey will knock those out and do a second coat of priming. It takes a lot to cover florescent lime green. They guys will be back on Monday to finish up, and then I have to decide how I want to decorate it. I’ll likely chop up some IKEA white voile curtains and make them just short enough to fit the windows. Now that the dryer is properly placed (as well as it could be with the water pipe constraints), the room seems so much bigger, so there is space for a table for folding clothes. I may build a window seat, so the cat has a place to lie outside. The guys are installing some Closetmaid shelves that I have lying around, and those will go directly behind the dryer.

That still leaves plenty of wall space for either stencils or a large sticker. I may go with the sticker, as I’m trying to keep everything as neutral as possible, so that we don’t have to repaint when we go to sell.

Ron got to use the new appliances first last night, as he needed something to wear to an early morning conference today. Other than the washer needing to be leveled (not a huge surprise), he said they work really well, and have all kinds of fancy knobs. I’m going to give it a go in just a bit and wash up some fabric.

After hearing how much it cost to redo that room, including paint, supplies, labor, appliances, and delivery, it was still MUCH less than buying a new washer dryer set, and they wouldn’t have been anywhere near as snazzy. Ron asked if I really thought it was worth it. I told him I’m taking pictures of before and after to our next marriage counseling appointment, so she can tell him that YES, it desperately needed to be repainted in order to make it easier to sell.

It’s funny how just a coat of paint can change how one feels about a room. It went from being the worst, most dreaded room, to the second best. Next month, we are attacking the bathroom. After that is the kitchen, our bedroom, my office, and eventually, the outside will need to be transformed from easter egg to cape cod, although that will be last. We should have everything finished by the time our debts are paid off and Ron is finished with his CPA exams!

It feels really good to see some progress. We’ll finish eventually…

There’s A Fire

As South Texas reluctantly cedes summer to autumn, it has finally started to drop in temperature enough to warrant a fire in the fireplace, as opposed to blocking it with a large piece of furniture. This required much rearranging of furnishings, and some creative space planning, as I needed to somehow put my bed next to the fire, and still have the TV across from it. The problem is that if the bed is next to the fire, across from it is half the French doors. Fortunately, it’s the half that locks at the top and bottom, so I put my entertainment center in front of it anyway. Problem solved.

Yesterday was grey and chilly enough that we went through three fire logs. Considering they last for several hours apiece, my daughter and I felt it was an all day fire kind of day. It’s probably a good thing that she works in a restaurant that smokes meat, as she insisted on sitting in front of the fire to warm up after her shower, so she smelled slightly smokey, but in a good, bbq kind of way.

I’ve become quite attached to this whole fire thing, which is good since we’re planning on moving north as soon as our credit cards and a couple of other debts are paid off. I know that not only is it nice and homey, but when the electricity goes out, it is a source of cooked food, warmth, and hot drinks, so any house that we consider will need at least one, if not several.

Of course, here, a fire is pure luxury. Aubrey and I often go camping, so having all the gear necessary to survive and knowing how to use it is no big deal. Keeping warm means putting on a sweatshirt and some socks. Besides, we’re far enough from the coast to not be bothered by hurricanes, wet enough to not have to worry about wildfires, stable enough that there has only been one minor earthquake here in my entire life, and low enough that we don’t get the ice or temperature differentials that the Hill Country experiences each year. Oh, I guess we do get some serious floods, but I’ll take floods over earthquakes any day.

However, the primal instinct that draws us to a flame is undeniable. To me, it’s soothing, and I often get lost in my thoughts, mesmerized as the flames flicker and dance in their orange and red finery. Perhaps this is why autumn is my favorite season.

“burning in my heart, reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark”

I Am Strong, I Can Do Anything…

It’s no secret that our budget is constantly taking a hit (and not in a good way). A new year means a new deductible, and I am always having medical procedures. Then it was $500 to get Aubrey home (which was a BARGAIN, trust me!! Truly, it was a gift from a friend…). Then there’s Matt’s tuition, my books, Matt’s books, paying for work on the house to someone that bailed…all this adds up to BROKE. In response to our current fiscal crisis, my husband issued an executive order that until April 1st, I am not to buy anything for the house. I am to spend nothing on the house. As he said, teeth tight, jaw clenched, voice deathly quiet, “NOT. ONE. CENT.”

Normally, I would just say “Uh huh” and do whatever. But this time, I know he’s dead serious, and I know he’s absolutely right. We are cutting it ever closer every pay period, and we do need to gain some control. So instead of getting pissed off and thinking (or saying), “Fuck you,” I decided to turn it into a six week long challenge, and blog about every project that Aubrey and I manage to do with only what is free, given to us, bought with a gift card (I have a bit on a Lowe’s card from returns), picked up on craigslist curb alerts, traded for, bartered for, or that we already have. For the average person, that might be really difficult. Fortunately for us, we have a LOT of crap and we’re really good at tetris-ing stuff into our car.

Not only did we move from a three bedroom with two living areas into a two bedroom with two living areas, but when we moved in here, we inherited two decent sized sheds, one of which was full of stuff. The people before us liked to think they were home improvement experts, and left behind various cabinets, pieces of wood, hardware…in the house they left hideous curtains, curtain rods, mini-blinds, and a whole lot of ugly.

While I don’t believe I will finish my house in six weeks, especially since I’ve been working on the bathroom for going on eight weeks now, and still I’m nowhere near the end, I do believe we will get a lot done, organized, built, fixed, and generally dressed up a bit. Although I usually only post to this blog, I have decided to start another: The Upcycle Shed (http://www.theupcycleshed.wordpress.com)

All of the posts for The Upcycle Shed will either be about a project, a product, how-to, etc… There will be pictures, instructions, and helpful tips (I hope!). There will be a lot of sacrificial IKEA furnishings, as I mutilate my current furniture into something else. Yes, I just may chop up that $150 ebay Anthropologie duvet, two standard shams, and two euro shams…I’m not sure.

The only rule is that I cannot spend ONE CENT for anything, no matter what I may need. This is going to require some creativity; fortunately, Aubrey and I both have that in spades. We will be whipping out the sewing machine, the pry bar, and racing around the city to get various free objects. We are not experts, and I can guarantee we will be doing things in ways that will make Bob Vila cringe. At some point, someone will require a trip to an emergency room. Indeed, I can guarantee there will be blood. There will be many posts with the warning, “Don’t try this at home!”

Along the way though, you might just learn something new, be inspired to create something new from something old, or just read in horror and think, “Oh God, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!” One never knows what one will find in The Upcycle Shed!

“I AM WOMAN!”

Hey Baby, I’m Your Handy Man

There is something about a toolbelt. On a man, it can add instant sex appeal (if they know how to use it, that is). On a woman, it is empowering. There’s an immediate sense of capability, creativity, strength, and “Men? We don’t need no stinkin’ men!” Seeing the end result of creating something from bits and pieces of nothing is pretty damned incredible, too. Considering that most of those bits and pieces are junk from out of our shed…well, there’s no other feeling like it.

I blame ikeahackers.net and instructables.com. Not too long ago, my house could pass for an IKEA catalog, but I’m trying to move past that stage of our lives. Now I want cool, funky, different. The beauty of ikeahackers.net is that it shows how to take common IKEA furnishings and turn them into uncommon, but useful, new objects that don’t look so…IKEA-ish. Of course, instructables is really my downfall, as they usually show step by step how to construct or destruct something. All the pictures look so easy! Add in my recent lesson in power tools from the evil one who deserves no name, and we were ready to go.

Our first project was to design a standing desk from an old coffee table/entertainment center by adding legs and casters. The Vika Curry legs do not have holes for casters, so they all had to be pre-drilled. Unlike most men, Aubrey and I mainly use her inexpensive tool set that I bought her for school, and another inexpensive rechargeable screwdriver set that my bff gave us as a housewarming gift (actually, we stole it from him). Yes, we are working with a $15 tool set from Big Lots (it’s on the table in the picture below), a $10 screwdriver set from Harbor Freight, and a $20 Black and Decker drill bit set. Almost all of our hardware is random stuff out of our shed, or recycled from something we’ve destructed. So we used a screwdriver bit that is actually a long, tiny drill bit for pilot holes, made all the pilot holes for the casters, then used casters that we’d taken off another piece of furniture. After the first screw hole, I learned that it was much easier if I made the pilot hole, then screwed in the actual screw, then took the screw out and did the same for the other three holes. THEN the caster was much easier to handle and the screws didn’t slip around so much.

The layer of dust and the mess permeate the entire house.

Aubrey and I both think the standing desk is fabulous, although I haven’t yet bought any stools to use with it. Ron deemed it a useless disaster because it is too high. I had intended to use it anyway, but our second project rather led to the decision to destroy the standing desk and use the table bit of it elsewhere.

Our second project was to use the closet system that was taking up a LOT of space in the shed. We used the headers, standards, and brackets. Because we screwed directly into studs, we didn’t need any anchors or molly bolts (butterfly bolts). Once all the hardware part was installed, we moved on to destructing a cheap white melamine/mdf bookcase that is about $25 at Walmart. That gave us two shelves that are 72 inches long, and 5 shelves that are 30 inches long. Both sets are 12 inches deep. We used the long shelves horizontally above where our little loveseat sits, and used the other shelves vertically from ceiling to floor.

Two sides of a cheap bookshelf make two 72" long shelves!

I had originally planned to paint all the shelves, but then I started to put all my white IKEA boxes and magazine holders on the shelves, and realized it looked like an IKEA idea room. I’ve always wanted something like that, but could never quite get it to look so clean and neat. So quite by accident, I got a look that I never thought I could accomplish. The blue tape on the large KASSETT box is holding it while some Lock-tite cures, as these boxes are so big, they tend to bulge out unattractively.

Of course, while all that sounds super easy, it was actually quite difficult because we didn’t have a drill. We OWN a drill, but the chuck key has been missing for ages. All we had was that tiny pilot hole bit on the small rechargeable screwdriver. Fortunately, we also had self-tapping screws, so once the pilot hole was drilled, we again screwed in the screws, took them out, put up the header/standard/brackets and screwed them back in. Once we had it figured out, we moved pretty quickly.

While we still had a leftover header, four 48 in standards, and three more bookcases to destroy, we didn’t have any brackets left, so we had to stop. Yesterday, we headed to Home Depot to get more brackets, some strips and clips to install in the bathroom cabinet that the evil one started but didn’t finish, and we got another two headers and two more standards. We also wanted to get some simple aprons, so we could each hold screws, a pencil, a screwdriver, and a level without the constant, “Where did I put the…” and “FUCK!” when we dropped screws. We found the perfectly functional $.77 aprons sitting at the bottom of the toolbelt shelf. Talk about slick marketing! Aubrey found a small toolbelt she really liked that fits on a regular belt. I went up a notch and got one with the belt attached that is essentially two of the ones that Aub picked, as well as a single pocket in between, and a holster for a drill/screwdriver/hammer. We did get two of the little aprons as well, for when we’re painting or doing other small projects.

At some point in the near future, we are painting the window trim and the fireplace in the office. Then we are installing more shelves above where Ron’s desk will be. We are taking the casters off the Vika Curry legs, taking the legs off the standing desk, and attaching them to a Vika Amon tabletop that I had picked up on our last IKEA run. I know, that’s an extremely common combination, but it’s what Ron wants for a desk. I’ve decided to use the coffee table/entertainment center that we originally started with, and attach it to the bottom bits of what Ron was using as a desk, because it will be perfect for the printer, scanner, paper, and other office supplies. I’ll use the top from that desk as my desk top, but put it on brackets on the wall. We’re destructing another desk for another 2 72 in horizontal shelves, and the rest for another five shelf vertical sytem that will be above my desk.

Considering we’ve been under a “spend no money” mandate, we’ve accomplished a lot. Of course, we had to spend a little bit, and I need to make another IKEA run, but all in all, I’m super happy with our “use what we have” solutions. Let me know what YOU think!

“I’m not the kind to use a pencil or rule…”

I Was In Crazy Motion

I am the freaking bomb. Some of Ron’s major complaints about home improvement are that I: 1) don’t use what I have, and just go buy more stuff; 2) that I rarely finish projects; and 3) that it costs too much. The bedroom/bathroom reno project is where I am proving him wrong. So far, I’ve spent less than $1000, and that is on two rooms…and includes buying a new bed. We still have another $500 of vanity and toilet to buy, but seriously, $1500 to renovate a hideous and non-functional bathroom and a fugly bedroom? No complaining allowed on this one!

Of course, there has been a lot of creativity involved. For one thing, our medicine cabinet is a 36 inch kitchen cabinet that was sunk into the wall. It’s great that it is deep and the shelves are adjustable and it holds a lot of crap. However, it just had a thin piece of plywood across the top and bottom, with a giant gap/crack between the plywood and cabinet. To top it off, there were no mirrors on the doors. There isn’t any electricty near the sink right now, either. The previous owners had taken out the linen closet, installed another kitchen cabinet with a tile counter into the closet recess, added a light, a mirror, and an outlet. This was great for blowdrying one’s hair. It was not so great for Ron shaving, or someone brushing their teeth. Unfortunately, custom cut mirrors are extremely pricey. I tried buying a cheap mirror that goes on the back of a door ($5) and cutting it with a glass cutter, which almost worked. The problem was that the back of the mirror was covered in glued on paper; the glass wouldn’t crack correctly. I tried scraping off the paper, but it scraped off the silvering, too. I had to abandon that non-solution.

Instead, I went to the local dollar store, and bought six 8×11 mirrors (including the cheap plastic frame). I knew the measurements of the cabinet, but I wasn’t sure how big the mirror really was inside the frame; was it covered, held in with glazer pins, or glued on? Turns out they were held in with glazer pins (those little black things that you bend back and forth to keep the back of a picture frame on). Luck of all lucks, they fit in the cabinet perfectly when I turned them landscape and stacked them one above the other. They are too narrow, but some trim will fix that, so that doesn’t bother me. Yes, there are seams where the mirrors meet, but it’s not too shabby. I even got to implement a recently learned skill; I attached the mirrors with Kwik Seal Plus (kinda like Liquid Nails). Will had shown me how to use the Liquid Nails, but he used it all. I rummaged in the shed and found the Kwik Seal, slathered it on the backs of the mirrors, then held the mirrors in place with blue painters tape overnight. I also used a caulk gun (another new skill) and sealed up all the cracks on the cabinet. I have a little sanding to do, but it’s going to look awesome. I already had everything in the shed (no telling how old that Kwik Seal is) except for the mirrors. Six mirrors; cost: $6

A month ago, I bought an Ikea white scroll iron bed with a foam mattress for $100 off craigslist. It didn’t get put together until night before last. I knew the mattress was a little thin, so I had already bought a fiberbed topper for it, and figured that would make it fine. Uhm, no. Ron came in, laid down on it, and pronounced it horrible. Crap. That meant I needed to either get a mattress set in two days, or figure out some other solution.

It’s hard to find a clean mattress set on craigslist, but with it being near the beginning of the semester, college students have their stuff listed, so there were about 15 listings that I called on. However, most of them are around $100, drastically increasing the cost of the room. Not to mention I would need to find someone with a truck who could help me pick them up. Even worse, no one was returning my emails or calls, or the few that did said their set was gone. Crap again. So this morning, I stood in the doorway and stared at the bed; in my line of sight was also the bare cushions to my Lillberg sofa/loveseat/chair set. My sofa is way too big for the living room, and the Lillberg set, while great if you have pets, is more than a little hard on the ass. I’ve wanted to get rid of it, and I’ve had it on craigslist for a while, but it is still lurking. While it does break down to substantially flat, the cushions take up a lot of room. Out of curiousity (and desperation), I took the covers off all the sofa cushions and laid them out on the bed slats. I had to get a fourth seat back because they are smaller, but three bottoms and four backs made a pretty decent “mattress.” I covered the whole thing with a green king sized sheet that matches the duvet set that I’m reusing in there (the one I love that Ron hates…how can anyone hate Anthropology???), then put the mattress and fiberbed on top of that. Awesome! It’s still somewhat firm, but definitely better than it was. Bed saved, sofa placement solved (flat in the shed!); cost: $0.

The corner window problem was a quick and easy fix. Because the two windows meet in the corner, there isn’t room for a finial on one of the curtain rods. Rummaged in the shed again in my hardware hoard and found a flat, 2 inch washer and a screw that just happened to fit perfectly into the rod. I put the curtains back on (after the rod had fallen for the fifth millionth time in a week), put the rod in the brackets, and Yay! it stayed put. I already had the curtains, rods, and the washer; cost: $0.

I’m sure the rooms will evolve (and there are a few more creative solutions that I’ll write about later), but in the meantime, I’ve pretty much only used things that were already in the house, most of which weren’t being used at all. I even dug out a folding screen with 15 8×10 photo frames, and figured Aubrey can fill them up with her artwork. It brightens up the corner nicely! Matt had wanted it ages ago, but after I bought it, he decided he didn’t want it, so it had just been sitting in the closet.

I’ve been working for half hour increments, then resting, and writing while I rest. Time to get back to work. Stay tuned for more ways to use cheap junk your husband wanted you to throw away!

“When something goes right, oh it’s likely to lose me. It’s apt to confuse me, it’s such an unusual sight. I can’t get used to something so right.”

Some Say I’ll Be Better Without You

It takes a lot for me to let someone inside my heart. Few people have succeeded, other than my husband and children. Not quite a year ago, Isaac left our lives, and I thought that was a pain that would never be repeated. I was so incredibly wrong.

I lost one of my best friends yesterday. One minute, he was in the car, irritating the fuck out of me, and the next, we were on the phone and then he hung up on me. The loss of our friendship signified by the sound of a single click. My heart hurts today. I love him like a brother in this family of friends that I have made. I have watched him do a lot of really stupid shit, but I’ve loved him anyway; I’m not sure if it was in spite of or because of…more likely a little bit of both. However, his latest choice is something I cannot stand by and watch. In all honesty, there is no room for me in his life anymore.

I will miss his laughter, his ADD babbling, his bright and bubbly personality. I will miss how he would randomly grab my hand and start twirling me into a dance. I will miss singing old country and western songs at the top of our lungs. I will miss the fun he brought into my life. Although there are a few things I will not miss, in general, he was one of the best friends a girl could have.

We had just decided to go into business together. Yesterday, both of my male bff’s and I spent the afternoon looking at houses. We had planned to buy an old house that needed work, fix it up, sell it, then do it again. I was so excited, because not only has this been my dream since I was 15, but I was going to do it with people I love. My friend would be the CEO and my husband would be the CFO since he’s an accountant. I would be the project manager, something I could do from my bed on the days that I’m stuck in it. My other male bff is a realtor, so we even had the buying and selling covered. We planned to rehab only homes in historic districts, so we would know that at least OUR house was done correctly, as original as possible, but fresh and updated.

Even as we came up with our business plan, as I researched how to incorporate an LLC, as we came up with a really cool DBA name, as we looked at houses and considered each one, I knew in the depths of my heart that it would never happen. Ever the optimist, I moved forward just as though everything would go as planned, but the pessimist in me kept it in check. I didn’t think it would implode before it ever got started; financially, I know I should be relieved…emotionally, I’m devastated.

So today, Aubrey is showering me with lemon cupcakes and Milky Way Midnights. We are spending the day in bed, watching old episodes of Leverage, after which we will move on to Fringe. I’m incredibly grateful that she’s here. She understands the loss of a friend in the moment it takes a phone to click, a heart to beat, a heart to break.

I wish him the best. I truly, honestly do. I want nothing more than for him to be happy, whether that is with or without me in his life, or he in mine. I hope with all my heart that this latest choice is everything he wants it to be. That doesn’t mean I won’t grieve the loss of him, his friendship, and our dream business. As a mutual friend said, it’s not the end of the world, which I know is true. But it’s still an end.

“But they don’t know you like I do, or at least the sides I thought I knew.”