Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Living Room | Before & After

Well, friends, while progress is being made on the kitchen, it is slow going. We are going into this thing with a real plan, so we are double and triple checking before tile goes down and cabinets start being built. I did manage to do some kilzing this week, and am hoping to get more done after we get back from doing relief at the ranch this week. In the meantime, however, I do have some exciting news which I'm sure you have already noticed me word-vomiting all over social media: NO MORE BOXES IN THE LIVING ROOM! Blake built us a modern-industrial-moderately-hipster bookshelf, so now all of our precious books have a home.

Because of this, I actually have true before and after photos of our living room! So, I'm not going to make you wait any longer.

I literally never could have imagined how good this room would look when I first saw it, because all my brain could see was that wall color. And miles of moldy carpet.

Last night, after we had cleared out the boxes and Blake and I stood around staring at the walls and figuring out where to hang our pictures, he sat down in our big chair, heaved a sigh of relief and said, "You know, our bedroom has been my favorite room that we've done, but I think this room might be winning me over now." Now that the boxes are gone and this feels like a living room we actually live in, I definitely understand this sentiment. Granted, each time we complete a room, I truly can't believe how amazing it looks. Even when you're in the middle of it and watching the step by step changes, the transformation when it's done and you think back to what you started with is pretty incredible. 

The only problem is that I feel like this shelf is almost at full capacity. Sorry, Blake, if we buy many more books you'll just have to build a second one.

This is actually a photo from the dining room, but we hung up a bunch of our decorations today and I just really love how this one looks. :)

Here is a list of some things we would still like to tweak in this room:

  • More lamps/lighting* (in daytime this room is great because of the windows, but at night it is pretty hard to work in here after Addie goes to bed)
    *Blake just texted me and said he stopped by Goodwill and hit the lamp jackpot
  • Eventually, when we have the budget for it, new all-matching furniture, but we're pretty happy with what we have now.
  • A coffee table (Blake already found plans for an AWESOME one that he is planning on building during kitchen projects where he has to wait around, like for tile grout to dry)
  • Buy or build an entertainment center for the television
  • Acquire a large area rug 

All of these are just little things that would tweak the room a little more to our taste, but as of now we are perfectly content in a finally completed, box-less room. Besides, "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful," right? Here is a list of things we did in here:
  • patched a giant, crumbly hole in the ceiling
  • pulled up the carpet (ourselves) and hauled it off (ourselves)
  • painstakingly scraped flecks of paint off of the hardwood floor and treated it (thankfully I had help with this part, but all in all I think the floor took at least 12 hours to scrape)
  • patched the walls and treated the moldy spot in the corner
  • painted the walls and ceiling
  • cleaned the base boards and crown molding of paint, then reinstalled them
  • cleaned and spray painted the vent covers
  • installed the ceiling fan
  • replaced all of the electrical outlets and covers, as well as light switch covers

I will admit that compared to other rooms in this house, the list you just read seems easy to me. It was frustrating for the living room to sit almost-finished as long as it did when, of all the rooms in our house, it needed the least amount of work. However, now that the boxes are gone, I can sit fully content and blog on this couch about the fact that even this has been yet another opportunity for me to remember God's faithfulness. Which I knew and could see in the middle of it, but it's always easier to process the lesson when you've completed it. And this is the lesson that I am learning, over and over again, and storing up as treasure in my heart:

Lately, I find myself meditating over and over again on God's faithfulness to our family. In the six months we were waiting for God to provide either a job or the right conditions in which we could move to Willow Springs, I thought God was trying to teach me I was too high maintenance. I thought it was some kind of twisted lesson on lowering my expectations. After seeing a mouse for the fourth time in a week, I thought, "Okay, God, are You trying to remind me that while I get angrier and angrier over my current position, that someone else has it way worse than me?" After finally having to resort to food stamps, I thought, "God, is this You trying to tell us we heard You wrong? Are we waiting idly for something we're not called to do?" These are the kind of questions I dwelt on for far too long--the questions that come from a place of insecurity, constantly wondering "Am I good enough? God, am I enough for You? Am I doing all of this right? Do I disappoint You?" Several problems are apparent in this line of thinking. First of all, insecurity is just another kind of being self-centered. Trust me, I've learned this one the hard way, more than once. Secondly, it's just not like that. The fact that we aren't good enough for God is why "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Whether I have a "perfect" day or a horrible day, I will never be enough; but Christ is. 

Well, you all know how that story ended. Right when Blake and I were sure that we had messed up and we heard God wrong and it was time to start over, we were able to move into our house at Willow Springs. Two years later, we felt like God was calling us back to Shawnee, and right as we were buckling in for another six-month-plus wait, God made a way back. We have had countless opportunities to watch God not only provide, but exceed our expectations. That's not to say everything has been smooth and picturesque (have you seen our house?), but His goodness and faithfulness is constantly proven in our story. 

  • redemption in Christ that is constantly transforming us in ways I never could have imagined
  • a healthy marriage, clearly and fiercely guarded by the Holy Spirit
  • a healthy, happy daughter, whose character continues to amaze me, even at only just shy of three years old
  • financial stability
  • the little, daily blessings that you wouldn't even think God had "time" for (let's remember how God relates to time, by the way)
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.

Thank you for reading, everyone. Hopefully I'll be bringing you more kitchen updates soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Da Real MVR (Most Valuable Renovator)

Upon reading another of my posts, Blake raised a valid point: "You make me sound like some kind of super awesome fixer upper miracle worker," to which I responded with perhaps an even more valid point:

"I'm a truth-teller, darling."

I love telling stories. I love language; I love talking with my hands way too much; I love that feeling of anticipation that starts in the pit of my stomach as I begin telling a story and look forward to delivering the one-liner, plot twist, or whatever it is that will elicit a reaction from whoever my audience is at the moment. I can be just as wrapped up in a story about a person's journey through a tumultuous time in their lives as I would a well-expressed, comedic version of my brother-in-law Caleb's experience at the Apple store. There's something magical in storytelling, the way it transports someone to a different place with you for a moment. While fables are obviously entertaining and can certainly reveal just as much truth as reality, I am obsessed with creative non-fiction. It feels deliciously philosophical to me. Not only is the author paying attention to what is going on around him or her, but paying such close attention that they are able to find an artistic, thoughtful, and creative way to express their observations. This is a goal that I am working toward, and I am exercising these creative-nonfiction muscles through our renovation journey. This is why I'm the blogger, not the builder.

My story-telling has generated much more of an audience than I anticipated (and probably more than I deserve, but I don't want to be so self-deprecating as to convince you to stop reading, so let's ignore this observation), and in the conversations Blake and I have had with those of you who read this blog, he graciously joins in on the generous compliments you all give me regarding my writing. He beams and subtly stares at me with the same look of adoration that has made me altogether giddy and nervous as he has since we were eighteen. In response to this praise that I am truly humbled and grateful to receive, I feel the need to further express what I know to be true: Blake's the real hero in our fixer upper story.

So, without further ado, I bring you a kitchen status update in conjunction with reasons I believe Blake to be a better superhero than Superman or Batman, so we can just give that debate a rest already.

Things Blake Knows How To Do* That No Man I Ever Met Before Can Do:**
  • Install electrical for a previously non-existent outlet/light switch/light fixture.
  • Fix plumbing
  • Fix gas work
  • Build desks 
  • Build anything other than a social media account
  • Completely demolish and repair ceilings and walls
  • Tile perfectly
  • Know what everything is called, what is needed to fix it, and how to fix it just by staring at it for a minute or two
  • Tools. Just. So overwhelming.
  • Where electrical wires and pipes and various things lead in a house when they disappear into the wall far beyond what I care to comprehend
  • Crawl under a house and fix things that I have no idea are things
  • Install windows
  • Literally anything (and no, I don't mean figuratively and happen to be incorrectly using "literally," I literally have not found anything he hasn't been able to do)

This list is not meant to make other men feel inadequate; I'm just giving credit where credit is due, guys. I also take no responsibility for man-crushes that may be developing for Blake at this point, as I have learned it is futile to resist this inevitable outcome long ago.

*Regarding fixer uppers; an exhaustive list of things Blake knows how to do would be a little ridiculous to write, and even more so to read (because it would take such a long time that he would probably figure out a more efficient way to describe his expertise before you had read even a quarter of the list. It would also probably be color coded and perfectly organized and available for download via some Google app I don't know exists).
**To clarify, I have since met guys who could do some things on this list, but not all of the things on this list. Also, my dad does not count toward this list, because as everyone knows, Dads don't go in the "Guys" list.

Blake Builds Me Things

These legs are so beautiful I cannot stop staring. Also, it's desk legs so you can stop thinking that last sentence was creepy.

I know you've seen this picture on FB and Insta, but as if the desk wasn't enough Blake took a picture of me that I like, which every lady knows is borderline miraculous. Hence, another appearance.

Blake has a desk he built for himself a while back out of a cleverly divided piece of plywood. It's large, perfectly organized, and extremely useful. When he isn't home, I sneakily use his desk so I can feel perfectly organized. The problem is, I am neither sneaky nor as organized, so I always get caught. I promised him that when we eventually had room and budget for my own desk, I would gladly accept any desk to call my own so I would no longer have to commandeer his. He found a video tutorial for a desk, tweaked the plans slightly, and for $25 and a few hours of his time just whipped this up for me. You know, like it was easy. 

Blake Gets Things Done

Blake is currently the Director of Jacobs Ladder Camps and Retreats, Worship Leader at New Life Bible Church in Norman, we're doing relief at the boys' ranch, and he is in nursing school. Not to mention, he is excelling at all of these things (because Blake Compton doesn't do anything halfway). While he may not be starting full time nursing school until August, that's still four jobs, people. In spite of all of this, however, he is building our kitchen. I finally got to help him do a little mudding on the drywall, but beyond this he has worked on the kitchen entirely by himself. Also, he threw away two dead mice for me. So, this is love. <3

Blake Is Really, Really Ridiculously Good Looking

I realize I would be considered biased on this one, but statistically, you agree with me.

Blake Doesn't Like Social Media Attention

Sorry, darling, but this is journalism. Or something close.

Blake Will Insist That I Am Over-Selling Him

Statistically, I am not over-selling him. I'm just reporting the facts, everyone.

Blake is currently sweeping sanded mud-dust off of the walls, and guess what everyone? In the next day or two, I'm going to do what every okayest fixer-upper does best: I'M GONNA KILZ SOME WALLS. AND MAYBE PAINT THEM LATER, PENDING BLAKE APPROVAL. Then we are going to see some actual, real-life, apparent kitchen transformation. It's really happening! SEE YOU SOON!

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Drywall Season

I know, I've been avoiding you. I'm sorry. I'm embarrassed to say that in our current fixer upper stage, I am absolutely zero help. This, combined with the fact that not only is Blake doing four jobs when you include school, and that my family has three weddings coming up in the near future, and I'm planning a third birthday party (WHAT?!), means we have barely been home, let alone had time to work on anything.

We have been able to enjoy real, home-cooked meals in our dining room, thanks to our "kitchen" set up. We have a mini fridge, a microwave, a knick-knack shelf and plastic shelves turned pantry, two little electric hot pads, a waffle maker (essentials, guys), and a crock pot. I've easily made meals for us plus guests, and most importantly I can easily make Chemex coffee. Also, we know lots of good people who happily feed us often, which is a great way to save money. The new addition of food into our home brought some foolish mice guests along, but thankfully there have been only two of those and a mouse trap that has been set for four days now with no visitors. I'm trying not to get too hopeful that all of the mice are gone, but what mouse could stare at peanut butter temptation for FOUR DAYS and not succumb to the pressure? None, because even smart mice are still stupid mice.

Today, since this is the first day Addie and I have been home and haven't had to go anywhere in at least two weeks (Blake never gets days like this, poor guy), I have focused on actually cleaning the fixed-up parts of our house, having a pleasant* two hour conversation with my insurance company, and finally catching you up on a little bit of progress we have made on the kitchen and mudroom. By we, I obviously mean Blake. I've helped steady a few boards for him to cut, but beyond this I have basically just kept Addie and myself out of the way. Once all the walls and ceilings are up, I can start helping patch, clean, and paint. I have some pictures for you, and they clearly illustrate what I mean.

*I am using the word "pleasant" for the purpose of being exceedingly sarcastic. A.) Everyone knows conversations with insurance companies are almost never pleasant, and B.) I feel like things are about as resolved after our conversation as they were before, meaning, in this case, unresolved.

Blake had already put up some drywall, but had to take it down to reinforce a few places to prepare for open shelving, and also had to fix some electrical stuff. Not to mention, there was no insulation anywhere, so he has put up the insulation now. It was crazy how much warmer it got in the kitchen just from putting up the insulation on this wall!

Blake also reworked some electric stuff in the mudroom, and has installed the drywall. Once the ceiling goes up in here, I'll be able to start helping him patch the drywall! We're excited about getting the mudroom done, because the butlers pantry behind it will be a really easy renovation, but it's sort of a holding space for all the stuff for the kitchen at the moment. Once we can finish the mudroom and transfer the paint and things into there, I could almost single handedly do the butlers pantry myself. However, the ceiling has to be redone in there, and I can't do that part.

Lastly, you may have noticed a little bit of blog fixer-uppin'. Blake made a new logo for me. :) Also, yes, that is my handwriting! I'm a little proud of how it turned out. Also, I was tired of the clipart. It was funny at first, but I'm a professional. And by "professional," I mean "I've spent a lot of money and sweat on this house, so I'm giving myself more credit than I deserve."

April has been a crazy month for us, but we hope to have more to show off soon! I'll keep you updated, friends. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lessons in Life and Demolition

Many of you have approached me and asked how the house is going, and I'm sure 90% of you have received the same answer from Blake and me: "Errr...it's...going." Slowly, but surely, it's going. Specifically, we've had many questions regarding the state, or lackthereof, of the kitchen. The kitchen is coming along, but if you saw it in person you might not think this is true. We are currently in a stage of fixer-upping where I am basically zero help, so Blake has been working every spare minute that he isn't doing work for Jacob's Ladder, New Life Bible Church, or school. He has even finished spreading grass seed for the backyard (and now has poison ivy on his hands and arms again. He got no sleep last night). Every time I think I am caught up on photos of his progress for this blog post, he finishes another project. The trouble comes in that 1. There are so many projects, and 2. There is only a certain amount of money at one time. We are in a stage often referred to as "Demolition Day," however, this is realistically more like "Demolition Week(s)."

Readers, this is where I need you to dig down deep with me and persevere. We are all fond of the shows where the before and afters happen in the span of thirty minutes to an hour. We almost immediately see the neglected and decrepit turn into something shiny and new. It's this instant gratification that can lead many of us to think this whole DIY-renovation thing is totally realistic and attainable. Personally, I see some peppy, rich(er than me, clearly) newlywed with perfect hair and a pink toolbelt painting walls without breaking a sweat, and I sit back and think, "Okay, if she can do this, I could totally do it." When you're facing the real deal, however, the reality that this bubbly, blonde TV girl is either way tougher than she looks and you totally misjudged, or it was clearly all a big television trick, sinks in. So, now you're ugly-crying into your work gloves, faced with a choice to either toughen up or admit defeat, and you paid way too much money for the second option. It would be great if rooms only took one day to renovate, but this only happens with a crew of at least ten people. It would be great if true DIY-renovation was free. Both of these options are unrealistic. You and I can get through this waiting period of an unfinished kitchen, together. Don't you quit on me!

So, whether you are considering your own fixer upper journey, or you're like me and could stand a teeny reality check, here are a few lessons I have learned and will probably re-learn a few times before this whole fixer upper thing is over.

1. "Done is better than perfect."*
*Unless it takes just a little more forethought and effort to make it perfect; in that case, you should just make it perfect. - Blake

I put this one in quotes, because I thought I had come up with it, then realized I had read it in The Nesting Place. Look, sometimes there might be a hairline crack in that beautiful bathroom tile hiding under three layers of linoleum tile, but it's gorgeous and it's free. There might be the little bit of paint you couldn't get off of the baseboards that has probably been stuck on there for a decade. You may not be able to get each miniscule dot of white paint off of the hardwood floor (because some people don't lay down plastic because they just want to watch the world burn). Get the room done and decorated, and you probably will never notice it, and neither will anyone else.*
*Unless you are Blake, then get the room done and go back and fix the thing that is driving you crazy if it makes you feel better and increases home value. Because it doesn't matter if no one will inspect the closet ceilings, you should still paint them on principle. This is where Blake and Michelle have minor creative differences.

2. Covering up a problem only works for a short time.

The wallpaper is peeling? Maybe if I paint over it, it will stick to the wall a little longer and won't keep peeling, and I won't have to rip it all down and start over. Well, this may work for--at best--a few months. But then, guess what? The wallpaper will wrinkle and peel. Sure, you could paint over it again...and again...but, eventually, it just has to come down, along with those five layers of paint you put over it. 
There are a few messed up tiles in the bathroom, but I don't want to take out the whole floor, and I definitely don't want to lay new tile. I will just lay down linoleum tile. Sure, you can do that. But then if you stick on tile again...and again...eventually, that will all have to be scraped off. You could do some yard work, or you could just build a giant, poorly built deck that is going to rot that someone will have to rip out later. Are you listening to me, former residents? 

Such is life, I think. If I'm lonely and discontented, I will just paint over this problem with new friends...and more new friends...and some shopping...and another Facebook post...and another Instagram post...etc. We keep ourselves occupied and distracted instead of processing our problems. Eventually, these patterns we fall into stack up so thick, that just getting to the problem becomes a project all its own. When Blake becomes a nurse, imagine what his face would look like if someone came in with Hello Kitty band-aids stacked three inches high on top of a gaping, infected wound, and they were like, "I thought if I covered it up and tried to ignore it, it might eventually take care of itself." We haphazardly stack insufficient band-aids over sins that are eating away at us like leprosy. Which brings me to the next lesson...

3. It's probably going to have to get worse before it gets better.

Walls are going to have to come down. Blood, sweat, and tears are bound to be spilled. You're going to have to haul out a lot of junk. It's going to be a big ol' mess. However, when you just roll up your sleeves, breathe deep, and keep going, eventually you will look up, the dust will settle, and the junk will be gone. Thrown out, where it belongs. An empty space can be intimidating, but now you have a place to start. Plus, an empty space can be exciting. You can do a lot with an empty space. You can't do much with a crapload of band-aids.

The hole in the wall is on purpose; we are going to have a bar that extends from the kitchen into the breakfast nook.
Maybe it's time for you to start tearing down walls and hauling off junk to take care of some issues you have been trying to wallpaper and tile and paint over, hoping if it looks decently done it can be ignored. Also, I hate to tell you this, but what can look hidden to you can be super obvious to others, even strangers. It's exceedingly obvious to God. He designed you, constructed you, and wants to take up residence in the heart He has so carefully created. He is the Master Architect. Which is good news for us, because...

4. It's a good idea to ask for help.

God isn't one of those helpers that leans against the wall and oh-so-helpfully informs you that you're going about your work all wrong while he takes a sip of lukewarm beer.  He is right next to you, encouraging you not to stop, and reminding you of the vision. He swoops in to save the day every time you're ready to give up, the moment you ask Him (and, thankfully, sometimes even when you don't ask Him). He keeps working when you are totally worn out, and never gets tired. He's never done redeeming us.

There are days where Blake and I have been pretty tired of doing "redemptive" work on this house. Those are usually the days where someone offers to help; or someone surprises us with a crock pot, or a couch; or Odus shows up with a tractor with a front end loader; or my dad gives up another day off to come help Blake work in all the ways I can't. At the end of the day, it's our house and our responsibility to do the work; but, it sure is great on the days when we don't have to do it alone.

Hardibacker is installed!
Sometimes I'm really good at panorama photos, and sometimes on side of the frame gets all wonky. Even so, I like this view.
Keep meeting me here to see more kitchen progress as we go along; Blake had to take down a lot of this drywall to fix some electrical work for the kitchen, and he has started putting in insulation in the kitchen and mudroom (it's amazing how much warmer it already is in there, I'm not exaggerating). Once that is done, he can replace the drywall. Then we can start the fun stuff like the beadboard ceiling, fixing the walls, and tiling the floor. :)

Addie has this little construction hat that she always puts on right before she declares to me, "I'll just be right back, Mommy, I have to help Daddy work." Don't worry, we don't actually let her walk around with pliers and screwdrivers.