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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Lessons Learned from Wedding Planning

The follow-up sentence to this title should read: from someone who is known as a control freak by everyone who knows her and also has mild OCD.

I realized how much time has passed since we got engaged when a co-worker a few days ago asked if I had found my dress yet, and I replied, “Yes, just this past November.”

Pause. Not November 2015. NOVEMBER 2014, OVER A YEAR AGO.

So yeah, we’ve been planning our wedding for quite a while now. And our wedding planner reminded us we only have 18 weeks left until our wedding, which ended up with Timmy and I dry heaving a bit at this news. Things haven’t felt all that stressful the last 6 months or so, simply because we got most everything completed as soon as we set the date.

I know I’m quite different from most people in this world. Organized doesn’t even begin to describe how I operate. I see the world not how it is, but how I can group like things with like and how quickly can I accomplish challenges and to-do lists. So once Timmy and I set the date, off I went like a horse out of the gate.

There are so many lessons I’ve learned over the process of planning a wedding for a date 1.5 years after getting engaged. I tried to give us enough time to do what we needed to do (from a different state) while also giving us a cushion of time to also do the dirty work of getting used to what life would be like as a married couple. So many lessons however were ones that came out of left field for me.

I originally scheduled dress shopping at only two small stores in Atlanta Thanksgiving weekend in 2014 simply to placate my sister and mother, who were quickly starting down the “when are you going to start planning” path. I figured dress shopping would calm them down.

Lesson #1: Expect the Unexpected

…like buying a dress before you thought you would and before you have a budget.

I had ZERO plans to buy a dress. And lo and behold, I found my dress at the last store we went into, La Raine’s Bridal Boutique in Virginia Highlands. Correction: my sister found my dress, which was the last one of the day, and I had already changed back into my clothes when my sister brought me the dress. I immediately said, “Oh. My. God.” when I put it on, and the consultant reminded me that this dress was the only one I had a reaction to.

And then I knew. Done. Check. Dress found.

The whole thing happened faster than I had intended, and all of the sudden, with that decision, wedding planning had begun. I wholeheartedly had planned on waiting MONTHS before starting any type of planning with Timmy.

Expectations mean next to nothing when it comes to wedding planning.

Even though it wasn’t the color I wanted, it wasn’t ever what I had envisioned, it was definitely my dress. Which leads me to my second lesson-

Lesson #2: Compromise Will Save You…and Your Sanity

I tried on maybe 20 dresses at both stores. And once I found my dress, I stopped the search and never looked back. I’m the best decision-maker ever (although some have called me impulsive, including myself). I make decisions quickly, with assertiveness and acceptance. Timmy, well, not so much.

I learned maybe 1 minute into our wedding planning that everything I learned about being with Timmy would have to be applied times 10 to the planning process or else we were going to kill each other. I would make a list of decisions that needed to be made, asked him to honestly decide if he cared about those decisions, and the ones he agreed to, I gave him 2-3 weeks to marinate before re-addressing the issues.

That way, I wasn’t all down his grill about deciding things on my schedule, and I still got a decision made by him in a timely fashion.

Obviously, not all decisions have worked like this, but I would say, once we found our groove, probably 75% of the decisions were solved in this way.

I have compromised on nearly every aspect that I thought I would have very strong opinions about. When it came down to it, if it seemed like Timmy felt stronger about something than I did, I let him have it his way. Now, some of those decisions are biting us in the ass a bit now, and I wish I had fought more for some of the things that are going exactly the way I predicted, but hindsight, blah blah blah.

Lesson #3: You Have to Let It Go

Making decisions between Timmy and I has never been an easy thing. I knew heading into this we would really be testing our relationship in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. At the end of the day however, we both realized that we had to let it go. Resentments? Let it go. Anger? Let it go. Confusion and frustration? Let it go.

And I don’t mean let it go like “never discuss it and get over it.” I mean, talk. Talk. More talking. Talk more than you thought you needed to. And then talk again.

Talking through everything that popped up, no matter how insignificant the emotion or issue, made us get on the same page. There was no other option than to be in sync with each other.

And after talking, we realized the issues or things we were so worked up about, NOW we could just let them go.

Lesson #4: You Have to Be on the Same Team. Period.

There has been some drama pop up here and there, like everyone experiences when you attempt to bring two families and two sets of friendships together. If Timmy and I had been divided on anything, we would probably not be wedding planning at this point anymore.

The first issue that ever popped up, the one that blindsided us completely, and had us scrambling to re-evaluate some friendships and trusted loved ones, FORCED us to be on the same team. He had to have my back and I had to have his. We knew we could NOT have opposing or conflicting statements, emotions, or decisions. Any sign of us not being together on it would have severely affected the emotional state of the other person and could have torn us apart.

Once we realized how strong our teamwork was and how it made our vision complete, we have been on the same team on everything else since then. There are no ifs, ands, or butts on this one.

Lesson #5: Still Date Each Other

This one got much easier once we moved back in together at the beginning of this month. Timmy and I hadn’t lived together in 2 years, so every weekend we spent together, going back and forth between Orlando and St. Pete was always filled with dinners out and about.

But during the week, it was usually a call once or twice a day, and then a quick FaceTime right before going to bed. Love was there, but connecting is quite challenging that way.

Once we moved back in, we promised each other a number of things that we’ll see how well we can stick to them over time. The one thing we HAVE done is cook meals and sit down at the dinner table nearly every night for almost 4 weeks. No t.v., no phones, no distractions. Just us.

It can be easy, after 6.5 years together, to start to take each other for granted. And yes, for the record, I’ve heard 90% of Timmy’s life stories a million times now. But that shouldn’t keep us from spending real time together. Time enjoying meals cooked together or by the other partner. Time looking at each other, time not rushed, time for us.

It’s only been a month of living in my less than 800 square foot, one bedroom, one bath apartment, a place we were CERTAIN would make us kill each other in no time at all, and we have grown so much closer, it’s insane. In our cozy little apartment, it feels more like home than any other place we’ve lived together.

Lesson #6: Use Who You Hire

We made about 93% of the decisions on our own. And yes, one of our first decisions was to hire a wedding planner. But I’ve only used her for her expertise maybe 3 times in almost a year.

Why? Like most things in life, sometimes it’s just easier when you do it yourself. I used the internet, my wise friends and family, and my gut to make decisions and hire vendors that fit our vision. I talked to my most organized friends and they gave me what they had when they were planning their own wedding.

I quite clearly can do this all myself. I involved Timmy on the things he asked to be involved in. But at the end of the day, I struggled with figuring out how to use my wedding planner.

And then, MONTHS after already printing out the invitations and having them sit in my apartment for close to 9 months now, my wedding planner caught the only typo that 6 of us who reviewed the invitation never caught.

And my heart fell through my butt.

Obviously (well not really as she had to explain this to me on the phone yesterday) proofreading every important document is a wedding planner’s duty. [Thankfully, the typo is not a big deal or else I would have to order brand new ones. Most people won’t even catch it when they receive the invite. Whew.]

So that naturally led to discussions of the guest list (which so far, has really been the only point of true contention between Timmy and I). And she reminded me of the million and one things to remember when addressing envelopes (which are stupid and I hate them), so she reminded me that she also can look through the guest list to review everything there.

I mean, these are things that it didn’t even occur to me to use her for. I didn’t need her help in picking out invites. We didn’t want to spend a fortune because everyone just throws them away anyways, and we weren’t going to design some floral, romantic, girly thing from scratch. We didn’t want to spend money on calligraphy since the envelopes are the first to go in the trash. But what she did remind me was that since the invites are technically from my parents, they would want calligraphy on the envelopes since it’s a thoughtful and very beautiful touch.

She helped steer us to some vendors that have been amazing so far, but the band was all us, color choices were me, outfits us, wedding page me, music selection us. Her expertise was so invaluable at the beginning when I didn’t know how to talk to vendors, how to look at proposals, how to not work with some vendors, spatial design and decor for a room the size of ours.

If you hire a wedding planner or day-of-coordinator, USE THEM. Don’t believe for a second, since you’re so organized, you don’t need them until the day of. I could’ve saved SO MUCH TIME just reviewing all my decisions directly with her instead of searching the internet like a mad woman for proper etiquette, yada, yada, yada.

Lesson #7: Poof! There Goes Your Budget

You have set ideas how things will go. I wanted to elope and avoid spending money of any kind. I wanted the whole thing to be about the two of us, that’s it. And Timmy felt very strongly that NO.

All of the sudden, we were planning a wedding that I didn’t really want. My parents gave us a budget (because they are amazing and OMG how incredible are they?!!) and it didn’t work with the amount of people on the list. Then they raised it. And it still didn’t work. And they raised it again. And the whole time Timmy and I kept fighting about the guest list and the amount of money I felt we were spending and at the same time wasting.

And then we had another budget increase from Timmy’s mother, and all of the sudden, our costs went crazy. It was like there was no limit on something I had desperately wanted limits for. And I felt crushed. Crushed by guilt. Crushed by the loss of the way I had wanted things to turn out.

If you don’t put your foot down, your budget will explode in your face. My parents gave us, quite frankly, a VERY healthy budget and it still wasn’t enough to satisfy some people’s desires. Instead of buckling down and saying from the very beginning, oh well, we can’t have everything and everyone we’ve known our whole lives at this wedding, we’re still running into issues around the guest list now.

But because we’re also on the same team, these later challenges have felt much easier to handle since we’re both shouldering the effort.

Lesson #8: Plan for the Marriage, Not the Wedding

Like I said before, we have had a long engagement intentionally. At the very beginning, I had a VERY hard time adjusting to this new course in life. I hated everything that we were doing and everything that we had to keep making decisions on.

And now, I’m loving it. I love planning. I love making decisions. We’re at a really good place where now all I am is excited for our wedding. I’m not dreading it, I’m not sad or guilty or anything else but stoked to party with all our friends. I’m so excited, some days I’m ready for it to be tomorrow.

But we 100% haven’t forgotten that the wedding is one day. The real thing is the marriage. The wedding is temporary, a memory that hopefully we’ll be able to store away as much as we can for as long as we can, but a marriage is forever. Whenever we’re with our married friends, one of my first questions is “What is your advice to us?”

I’m craving time with Timmy, even in our cramped apartment, because soon, he will be my husband (I’m still making gagging noises when I say that, so clearly I’m not 100% ready). I need to know him better, I need to trust him more than ever, I need to feel like we’re both fully committed to this partnership. Not that I haven’t felt any of those things before. I just need them more now.

Because marriage is the hard stuff. Picking out vases and candles and outfits and paper for invitations is not hard. That stuff is NOTHING compared to what kind of life marriage brings two people. And it’s a part of life that Timmy and I have zero context for because we’ve never been married.

It’s the fear and uncertainty of the unknown that is keeping my brain up at night sometimes. Even when my heart is settled and sure and dedicated.

So through all these lessons, this roller coaster of emotions spent on a million plus decisions for this wedding, I still repeat what I said almost one year ago:

“The happy is being with my partner, the happy is spending a life exploring each other and this world, the happy is making him laugh for years to come, the happy is in the celebration of this love.

The happy is Timmy. Which will be my mantra from here until our wedding day.”

♥, VB