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.

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