Demos and Renos

Things are good. Things are much much much better. Life is now at an excellent place, both personally and professionally, after months on end of merely existing and praying that this space would arrive again in our lives. We can finally breathe in, expand our lungs, and breathe out again.

So what better time to tell you about our new house??

Yeah, at some point I’ll get around to recapping the wedding weekend, but those are much longer stories for another day. I figured that everyone loves a before and after, so let me fill you in on our renovating and where our house is now. Sprinkled throughout are tips that we learned throughout this super stressful, incredibly anxiety-ridden process that can hopefully help and spare you the pain and fights.

But if we’re being honest, no matter what I share with you, you’re gonna eventually duke it out at some point over tile choices or something as equally dumb. It’s a fact of life, like taxes and death.

Tip #1: If you’re planning on renovating a house, get a prescription for you and your partner for an anti-anxiety medication or medical marijuana.

Holy crap you guys. No matter how prepared I try to be for situations, like renovating a house (for which my only reference is HGTV and the DIY network), this is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever dealt with (and in the same year as our wedding, so it’s a miracle I didn’t end up institutionalized).

I’ve never been more stressed out in a year’s time than this past year.

With the wedding planning, purchasing, renovating, design, Timmy’s travel schedule, my work, and moving, I lost it many, many, many times. The house hunting was incredibly frustrating since Timmy wanted a turn key home, but I knew that at our budget, we wouldn’t be able to find a turn key home unless it was over $400k. We HAD to find a house that could use some renovations in order to be able to afford it in the first place. Eventually, after about 4 months of house hunting, we found one that had all the things we were both looking for that actually felt like our home the second we stepped in it.

But it was butt-ugly inside. Early 90s, butt-ugly. With features suitable for a wheelchair-bound person (of which we are not…one day, probably sooner than later, yes, but not now).

We agreed early on that renovations were a must. However, like with all financial crap that goes along with buying a house, the things you don’t know will end up haunting you later. We didn’t get the mortgage structured the way we needed to in order to complete renovations without having to take out another loan. And if you attempt to take out a loan so soon after purchasing a home, you don’t have enough equity in the house yet, so the amount you can get approved for isn’t going to be the amount you need to complete the renovations.

Taking out another credit card or personal loan were not options with their interest rates. And we are the dumbassess who began demolishing everything before we had the funds in place. We had absolutely no other option than to renovate because we had torn the kitchen and two bathrooms completely apart. So we had to borrow from Timmy’s brokerage accounts in order to pay for the renovations, which caused him an unbelievable amount of stress because he’s the most strict about paying into his retirement accounts.

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Financial discussions had been had by us many times, but it seemed like during this process, things we said were forgotten easily, so who was paying for what and where was this money coming from and when did this thing need to be paid for were issues that had us fighting nearly every day. Not to mention that every decision that goes into renovating and designing a kitchen and 2 bathrooms isn’t just ONE decision, it’s a million little details.

Like I’ve stated before on this blog, Timmy and I do not make decisions the same way. Timmy needs time to analyze and compare; I don’t. Timmy’s travel schedule for work meant that he couldn’t get to some decisions in a timely manner, and no matter that I involved him from beginning to end, our decision-making styles and abilities to remember all the big and little things just didn’t sync up.

When I say we had fights, I mean we had FIGHTS. The biggest, baddest, worst fights of our relationship.

Looking back, I wish I had been medicated for a large portion of the renovations. It would’ve helped me keep my cool and remain patient in situations where all reason had left the building.

Tip #2: Be really, really, really, BRUTALLY honest about the things you can DIY and the things you should hire professionals to do.

I watch HGTV and DIY quite a bit. I, like most people, after watching those shows think to myself, “That doesn’t look so hard! I can totally do that!”

Those channels are big, fat, fucking liars.

Anything you watch on those shows takes you 2-5 times longer to accomplish in real life. Demolishing a wall doesn’t take you 20 minutes, it takes you an hour. Removing tile from the floor with the exact same tool they use on that show doesn’t take you 2 hours, it takes you 7 hours. Plus all the time you have to stop, catch your breath, rehydrate, return the tool to the Home Depot rental store so you don’t pay overages, then going back to rent it again the next day.

I seriously thought things like removing cabinet doors, demo-ing walls and floors, removing countertops, etc. would go as easy as it does on those shows. But if you don’t have a saw to remove the countertop/backsplash from around outlets without electrocuting yourself, you have to pay someone else to do it. You can open up a wall that is seemingly empty and find that all of the electrical wiring from your entire home to your breaker box is in that one random wall. You can remove a double sink countertop from the master bathroom but without a new spinal injection, you don’t have the strength to carry it downstairs to have hauled away so you just leave it in the middle of the living room.

We had to replace our water heater, clean out our vents, and have our AC unit serviced because it began to leak water, which set off our water leak detector from the old water heater. If you’ve ever heard this detector going off, it is deafening. Since I didn’t even know we had the detector, I thought it was the smoke detector. Since my efforts to silence the alarm weren’t working, I called the fire department who ended up informing me of this detector and making me feel like the dumbest person who ever existed on earth.

I assumed we could do the tiling. But you have to measure correctly, know how to mix tile and grout, be able to cut tile down that doesn’t fit, make sure all the tiles are lined up, all with working a full-time job, teaching class, and traveling out of town. We simply couldn’t accomplish a lot of the things we had originally decided to DIY because it would’ve set our timeline back 4 months.

Since we found metal studs in some of our walls, the option of mounting our TVs all of the sudden became a daunting task and one that I was not willing to tackle since I don’t know the first things about mounting anything with metal studs. So we hired someone to mount 3 of our flat screens TVs (and he did a better job than I ever could considering he hid all the wiring and they are beautiful!).

So what were we able to do? Well there was stuff we could realistically accomplish that we didn’t have to hire anyone to do. We were able to paint the bathrooms (which required a dual paint job because Timmy hated the paint colors our designer picked out originally), the living room, and the 2 bedrooms. We put together all the Ikea vanities and cabinets. We put together bed frames, installed new handles on our cabinets and drawers, and painted our old kitchen cabinets. We sanded and restained/sealed our deck.

Because Timmy’s work schedule kept him traveling most of the time, a lot of the updates had to be done by me after work or on the weekends. I was able to replace our dining room chandelier, hallway sconce light, closet light fixture, outdoor motion detector light, and 4 ceiling fan light kits. I installed new garage door sensors, garage remote key pad, and changed the code for Timmy’s garage door opener and remote. I repainted our garage doors, our front door, spray painted our house numbers, hung our old cabinets from the kitchen in the garage, organized our garage, hung our bikes, and replaced our automatic outdoor lights. I’ve replaced showerheads and door handles, put together our deck furniture and new dining chairs… it just never ends.

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Old disgusting hallway sconce

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New and improved hallway sconce

Our next major projects are to have our 2 decks re-screened because our current screens have big, gaping holes in them and to repair a few roof tiles that are cracked.

We are hiring people for those jobs.

It’s one thing after another. You get some work done, only to find out that the rest of it can’t be completed by you so you have to stop and figure out how much it’ll be to have a professional do it. And that’s how it adds up, little by little, driving both you and your budget out-of-control.

Tip #3: Don’t live in a reno zone if you can help it.

Living in a renovation zone after the year we had was NOT an option. I have no doubts that Timmy and I would’ve separated before the year was done if we’d gone that route.

Timmy and I had worked out that if we were able to purchase a house by August or September, we could have 3 months of solid renovations going and completed by the time we had to move out of our apartment in January.

We almost made that timeline.

For the most part, renovations didn’t begin until the end of October. Our contractors and designer rushed to get the majority of the bathrooms and kitchen completed before we left to go home to Atlanta for Christmas. We cut our trip home short because there was just too much to do in St. Pete, so we didn’t get to see anyone except family that trip. Once we returned to St. Pete, we immediately began packing for a January 3 move.

Unfortunately,  Timmy didn’t schedule his pod (the one with all his stuff from his Lake Mary apartment that he moved out of back in January 2016) to be delivered to the house until nearly 2 weeks later. And both my move and the pod unpacking were done without his presence since he decided to go to the Sugar Bowl and then had a work trip planned.

The Sugar Bowl trip, while I wish he had been a tad more thoughtful, actually worked in my favor since he was out of the house and I could just focus on putting stuff away on my own. I was the one who had encouraged him to go so he could 1) hang out with friends and have a good time and 2) stay out of my way on a very stressful day.

We decided late in the game to order glass shower doors for our master bathroom, so those were delivered, but then the company had to reschedule due to an injury. So for two weeks, we had HUGE glass doors taking up large amounts of space in our master bedroom that couldn’t be moved anywhere else since they weighed too much. Not to mention, that we slept on a mattress and boxspring alone in the guest room for close to two weeks before that.

For a few weeks we lived with unpacked boxes all over the place, until finally I was able to unpack everything and move the unneeded items to our garage storage. And then we could relax and actually enjoy the space we had worked so hard to create.

Tip #4: If you don’t care about something, don’t care about it.

During a renovation, it is imperative that you pick your battles. Simply put, if you couldn’t care less about what goes on the walls, or the grout color, or the exact handles for cabinetry, stay not caring about it. If you have an opinion on everything, that person should be the main decision maker and only bring the other person in for big stuff.

If you and your partner try to make a joint decision on EVERYTHING, you will both lose. Your patience, your time, and your sanity.

Tip #5: Once it’s done, move forward.

“But you didn’t ask me what I thought about this!!!” “I hated that color!!” “You are so selfish!!”

Once the renovations are done and you’re in your house, let it go. You get resentful, angry, and disrespectful when stress is at an all-time high. Whatever you did, whatever you said, you have to be able to move forward if you’re to enjoy the new spaces you’ve created. You can’t relax when you’re constantly reliving everything that pissed you off during the reno. Leave it in the past, and come to a new place in your relationship.

Hey, you just survived a renovation! It’s time to celebrate!

Next time, those before and afters I promised you…

♥, VB

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Motivation

No, I haven’t felt particularly motivated to update this blog in a long time. Part of it was I had too much to say and the energy required to write it all down was too much. The other part was that life has been more difficult than I’d like to admit this past year and while everyone around us has been like, “Oh great, life milestones, amazing, be happy, you’re going places,” for us it’s felt stifling, stressful, and oh so not amazing a great majority of the time.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining or ungrateful, but the reality of my emotions is far from that. But stress is stress, and in one year, we planned a wedding, got married, bought a house, renovated the house, moved, and tried to find our normal again. Which is so hard when for nearly 2 years straight, you haven’t had a real normal. Timmy moved from Lake Mary to my tiny apartment last January, we were on top of each other all the time, he traveled a lot, and between the wedding planning stress, the house hunting stress, the house buying stress, the renovation stress, the money stress, and then the moving into said house stress, I had literally used up all my coping methods.

I was a ticking time-bomb that went off in January.

The reality of our life is now more normal, more settled, more calm for sure. But that reserve of emotional mess that I had been carrying around and stockpiling just became too much and I broke in a very real way. I was ready to run away and leave this all behind. Which is not at all a very adult way to handle everything, but I was struggling big time. And my partner was struggling in his own way too, and we just weren’t clicking.

I absolutely sank around election time. Trump and the racial hate and misogyny and general hopelessness became the weight that sank me even further, as though the stress of everything else in our lives wasn’t enough. I cried for nearly two weeks straight. I have been off of Facebook since November, about a few days after the election because I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I miss it a little, but after the withdrawals wore off, I’m good without it.

I took on an additional class, Human Sexuality, to teach this semester, so my life is really busy and full, but emotionally, it’s been challenging to catch the happy ride back up the downward slope. My back pain has been worse than ever, and after a failed radiofrequency ablation (where they burn the nerves in a particular area), I’ve been depressed about my back and wondering if life can ever feel normal when all I think about is my pain.

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Maybe it’s the January/February/March blues that get us all. Maybe it’s a combination of our stress, Trump for me, and the winter meh that got us. But we’ve been in a dark place, and we keep wavering in and out of it. Lately, more out of it than in it, which is definitely progress.

It certainly helps that all the boxes and wedding gifts have been unpacked. Our house is beautiful and we still have a few more projects to go, like painting a few spots, rescreening our porches, redoing the floors in our garage, but those weren’t necessities to getting settled. We’ll be getting started on those soon enough.

We love our neighborhood and the quiet nature that surrounds us. We are starting to fish on our fishing pier with the addition of new fishing equipment, courtesy of Timmy. My parents came to visit a few weekends ago (which was so needed) and they brought my bike. So the other night Timmy and I biked close to St. Pete Beach (and stumbled through a ridiculous argument, again), then to a local restaurant for drinks and games.

It was awesome and it felt like us.

The sun is out more, and it’s warmer, so me likey. I can’t wait to start spending afternoons after work paddleboarding around the waterways, and really soaking up the mood-improving Vitamin D. And we’ll get there soon.

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But Timmy misses Jake and his dad and James, and I’m missing my friends and family a lot. Timmy and I working on our connection harder than we have before, but we need our support system around us to help ground us. So friends and family, come visit us! We have space, and it’s close to everything. It’s honestly like being on vacation all the time, living in our new house.

It’s just now starting to sync for us. Just now. If we haven’t been reaching out to you as much, be patient because the ground is just now starting to solidify underneath us again. That’s just life, I guess, and I know we’ll get back. It’s always ups and downs, and we just have to have faith and put the work in.

Winter sucks. Trump sucks. Hate sucks. But we will rock again.

♥, VB

 

Making It Yourself: Maps on Canvas

I’m not a DIY-er. I’m impatient, not creative, nor do I want to look up 15,000 steps to create something I can easily buy on sale at TJ Maxx. Some people have the craft bug in them; I’m not one of those people.

But every so often (and by often I mean maaaaayyyyybe once every 12 years), I’ll find something that I know I can accomplish with few ingredients and steps. I’ll think to myself, “Now this is a craft someone like myself can do and not f*^k up too badly.” Bonus points for crafts that look like you were trying to slightly f*^k it up anyway.

I can paint the hell out of things, and I like to think I’m pretty handy around the house. Like my desk-turned-into-tv-stand-and-storage, I can definitely do things that don’t require much other than paint, brush, and stapler (I mean desk stapler, not a fancy schmancy one). So why not try to do a craft that involves a painting-like approach?

I bought this map probably 6 years ago with the intention to get it framed so that it looked like an antique. Little did I know at the time that having to custom order a frame for 50″ x 32″ was somewhere in the million dollar range (I exaggerate, but yes, that’s what it feels like when you’re a grad student). And so it just sat. And sat. And sat some more.

world map

We almost threw it out a bunch of times, but I held onto the idea that something could be done with it. Pinterest definitely served as an inspiration because I know I would’ve NEVER heard of Mod Podge anywhere else. So while I had the idea in my head of what I could do with it, I never quite had the motivation until a few weeks ago.

I decided to just say screw it, and let’s make this project a reality. The plan was to split the map into three sections, Mod Podge them onto the canvases, and make interesting yet super easy art. So off I went to Michael’s, armed with a 20% digital coupon, and bought 3 15″x 30″ canvases. Since I’m lazy as hell, I eyeballed the sections and cut, hoping for the best. Don’t do this if you really want perfection.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took one section at a time because, duh, and Mod Podged the canvases first.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m sure there’s a WAY more precise method of doing this, but I’ve already established that this isn’t the perfect way to DIY a canvas map. I used foam brushes to distribute the glue all over the canvas and down the sides since the map was overhanging (which is what I wanted).

I laid the map down on the canvas and did my best to get out the air. You can see that I sucked at this step. In my defense, this map had been rolled in its container for YEARS, so getting it to lie flat at all was a huge success.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI repeated this process for the other two canvases, sucking equally at getting the air out of each. You can also see that I accidentally tore the Hawaiian Islands, but hey, they’re islands. At least I didn’t tear an entire country in half.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once all 3 canvases were done, I waited the required time as directed on the Mod Podge bottle (I think it was 2 hours). Then I Mod Podged the top of each canvas with two coats, waiting 20 minutes in between each coat. I took down the entire bottle of Mod Podge with this project (and I’ve used the words Mod Podge more times in this post than I’ve ever said in my whole life).

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI let them cure for two days on my dining room table. Warning: be ready with a wet paper towel in case anything drips on the surface of whatever you’re using. Since I’m also not super precise, I kept brushing Mod Podge onto my table when trying to brush the canvas sides, and luckily was able to wipe it up immediately.

After curing, I hung them and was surprisingly impressed at my ability to not destroy the map. They kinda look vintage, look kinda artsy, and definitely look better than just framing the original map. I also eyeballed hanging them with spaces in between each canvas because I can’t be bothered with a ruler and level.

With the coupon, I spent around $65 on 3 canvases, the brushes, and the Mod Podge. Not bad for a non-DIY-er. Not bad.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

♥, VB

 

 

Updates and Upgrades

Crazy. Life is totally nutso right now. In a completely good way, though, so don’t think I’m complaining. Big things are potentially in the works, although I can’t really share anything yet. I know, that makes me a huge asshole for dangling some juicy info in your face, and then snatching it away. No one likes those people, the ones who are like, “OOOOOH, I have something to tell you but I can’t tell you.” Apologies.

I partook in one of the funnest bachelorette party weekends over Labor Day weekend for a close girlfriend whose wedding is in two weeks! (What a shock, another wedding to attend!) I know that’s a while back, but honestly I couldn’t really post anything about it or post pictures since the majority of the photos will probably get us all fired from our jobs and brand us ineligible for future jobs. Not that they’re bad or illegal, we’re just being naughty.

“30 Years, 1 Wish” was last Saturday, and I’m feeling a little sad that all of it’s over now. All those months preparing for it, planning, anticipating, ranting and raving at people who couldn’t follow simple instructions, waiting for the big day…all over now. It was one of the most amazing nights of our entire lives, but I’ll be following up with all the pictures and total raised in a later post (sorry, I know I just did that whole, “I have stuff to tell you but not yet thing” again. I couldn’t even make it one more paragraph without doing that, sorry.)

Timmy and I can update you that we’ll be moving soon, but that’s about all I can share (I’M SUCH A DICK!). The short of it: I’m moving to St. Pete and Timmy will be somewhere else. That doesn’t mean we’re splitting up, so don’t freak out people! I just literally can’t take this commute anymore. I spend 12 hours a week on the road. That’s another part-time job. I spend no quality time with him except for the weekends, and that, my friends, does not a relationship make.

I just really really need to be closer to work because I’m involved in so much more here, and will be taking on way more commitments as the year progresses. Not to mention, all the wear and tear on my car from all this driving is hurting my pocketbook, so no means no. And the gas $, oh the humanity. It’s just not fair, I tell you, to spend a rent payment on gas purchases every month. I know I don’t make that much money, but jesus, that’s just torture. So the next few weeks will be spent searching for a new place to live in the St. Pete area. For those of you concerned about me or our relationship status, just think of this move as more new stories for me to share with you.

Finally, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to write any posts because 1) I’ve been waiting for the Women’s Resource Center’s Executive Director to return from vacation in order to total up the funds raised and disperse the checks to the American Indian College Fund and the Colon Cancer Alliance, but mostly 2) I got a new laptop at home and am still learning how to use it. It’s a newfangled contraption that still blows my mind with the upper-level technology it’s got going on.

Why on earth would she spend money on a new laptop when she’s obviously super poor and all that, you’re probably asking yourself. Well, it certainly wasn’t in the plan to get a new laptop mostly because my old laptop was perfect. It was only about two years old, and still was a trustful tech companion. Until one day, I opened my laptop and found a small discoloration on the top left corner of the screen. Surely, I couldn’t have been responsible for that because hello, I take great care of my stuff. And then not even three days later, I opened it again, and found this:

Broken Screen and Broken Dreams

Broken Screen and Broken Dreams

Turns out, Timmy stepped on the corner of my laptop one day, and (un)fortunately cannot remember said accident. But since he’s amazing and generous and a beautiful person, he willingly and of his own accord decided to purchase a new laptop for me, one that integrates all the loveliness that was my old laptop with the newness of a tablet. I give you the Lenovo Yoga.

Laptop now, push the screen all the way back until you get...

Laptop now, push the screen all the way back until you get…

A friggin tablet. Yes, that's right, a laptop that turns into a tablet.

A friggin tablet. Yes, that’s right, a laptop that turns into a tablet.

I feel like one of the coolest kids on the block now. I equate this feeling to what those blacked out figures in the old iPod commercials must have been feeling whilst dancing.

You remember these people, right?

Feeling the groove of happiness

Feeling the groove of happiness

Anyways, that’s what life has been like lately, more or less (actually less since I’ve left out so many details, you’re probably like, “What the hell was the point of this post?”). Stay tuned.

♥, VB

Lakeland? More like Mehland.

OMG, looking for places is seriously one of the most stressful things to do EVER. I hate doing it, even though I am the most organized person I know. I dislike the planning of looking for places, having to keep everything straight as far as square footage, bedrooms and bathrooms, location, amenities, safety and crime, as well as the cost. Does it have a fenced backyard? Since it’s Florida, what does the outside living space look like? Will we be able to sit in a screened-in porch to save ourselves from mosquitoes and heat or we will we be subjected to the sun as soon as we walk outside and get skin cancer immediately? What shops are around (hint: there’s nothing in Lakeland) and are there good restaurants nearby (hint: Outback and Olive Garden do NOT count as quality eateries, regardless of what the realtor told us)?

Even harder is having to look at places with someone else. Compromise is a pain in the ass. Has anyone told you that? That may be not PC or romantic, but it seriously is. You always have to keep their opinions and thoughts in the mix, even when you hate/love someplace immediately. You can’t crush their spirit by just outright saying, “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.” (This didn’t happen, but there were fleeting moments when both of us just gave each other that look…you know that look. The look that implies, “Please hurry your ass up.”)

There were a few moments I’d like to share with you here. Some extremely high, some low, most meh. Join me, will you? Continue reading