Brave new floor

Spence with floor

Spence. He is le tired.


I know I promised a home tour, and . . . it’s coming. I really, really promise! But I just can’t muster the strength to show you our new homestead still filled with boxes, crumpled newspaper and a fireplace covered to protect us from bees (bees. I can’t).

We chip away a bit more at our epic “to do” list each night, and we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were just two weeks ago. My mother- and father-in-law were here to help us with the big move last week, and they were such a tremendous help. It felt strange when they were gone, actually, because we hadn’t spent a night there without them.

To be honest? It was sort of nice to feel like a “kid” again. With Spence’s parents here to help, we had ready assistance and other folks to help with decision-making. Though I’ll be 29 next week, I’m still not used to being an adult in the house. That probably won’t change until we bring a child home ourselves.

I just don’t feel grown-up to own property. Call it arrested development or fear or uncertainty, but part of me still expects to wake up in my childhood bedroom with my ‘NSYNC pillow propped in the corner. I slept in a canopy bed until eight months ago, and I’m not ashamed to tell you that. It just was what it was. I was a 28-year-old who still fell asleep with sock monkeys, and all this? It’s . . . challenging.

Exciting. But tough.

For the most part, though, I think Spence and I are settling in pretty nicely! It still feels strange to open my eyes in the woods and not our bustling apartment building (or the aforementioned canopy bed), but I’m getting familiar with my new surroundings and slowly unpacking all that needs to be unpacked. We have a spare bedroom across the hall that’s currently filled with the contents of our future closet (the one we’re working on at top), so I dig through trash bags for beloved shoes or work tops or accessories and eventually find what I’m looking for.

Eventually.

Our biggest stride to date — and I use “our” loosely, given my handy husband has been putting in most of the sweat equity — is in finishing the floor in the closet. The house came with large built-ins in the walk-in closet, but the carpet was stained, buckling and generally gross. An unattractive mirror was cemented to one side; the walls were builder’s grade white with scuffs and discoloration throughout.

It looks different now.

My mother- and father-in-law were kind enough to patch the busted walls and paint the closet last week, and we tore up all the carpet to expose the plank sub-floor underneath. A fortuitous find at Lowe’s had us coming home with three boxes of laminate flooring for about $40 after two trips. At a time of terrifying financial undertakings, that was a major score.

Spence finished putting down the last of the laminate on Tuesday night, then caulked around the baseboards to seal it off. We just need help reinstalling all the cabinetry (it’s super heavy) and we will be finished, and my clothes will no longer be strewn haphazardly throughout the upstairs.

I can’t wait.

I lack decent photos to demonstrate the scope of the change, but here is a tiny before-and-after while we’re still working:

floor progress

Great strides! Great strides.

Lest I take credit where credit isn’t deserved, my help was limited to bringing Spencer tools he needed (after he described them by color) and making sure he always had a drink in the hot room. I did help hold down portions of the floor while we snapped it together and carried boards down to the garage for cutting, but . . . yeah. My assistance typically revolved around doing a mountain of laundry down the hall.

I hate to be a female stereotype, but I was mostly in the way. I fully intend to pitch in on all sorts of other home projects (and have been cleaning like crazy), but Spence worked faster when I wasn’t hovering in the cramped room. I think.

And every little bit helps, right?

Also, I know what baseboards and sub-floor are now — and can talk about them without sounding completely ridiculous. We’re all winners here.


Sunshine in a vase

Flowers

Remember in the winter, back when I was on the hunt for cheap flowers as a way to maintain my sanity through the interminable winter?

Well, I got addicted.

But I’m trying to behave.

At a time when we’re meticulously budgeting, $10 here and there might not seem like a big deal . . . but sometimes it’s hard for me to justify purchasing things that are just going to perish. Until we get a handle on certain expenses, I’m trying to be really careful with our funds.

It’s interesting. Hard, but a good sort of challenge.

When it comes to flowers, though, I can’t seem to help myself. They’re too lovely to ignore. Fresh blooms in the house just add such light, airiness and joy — simple joy. Beauty.

At the farmers’ market over the weekend, I came upon the most gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers — giant sunflowers, with heads larger than my fist. They’re yellow and orange with colorful blooms intermixed, and the Amish children that sold them to me smiled like sunshine as I carried them out.

For a whole five dollars.

I look at them every morning while making my coffee, and each evening when we’re pulling dinner together. They’re on the table in our new kitchen, the one still lined with boxes and bobbles and so many things I just don’t know what to do with — at least until our pantry is done. (The previous owners ripped out the shelving, leaving only dust and holes for us to patch — but we’ll get there.)

When will I learn?

It really is the little things.


Settled-ish

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Morning light from our window


Well, friends, we made it. It wasn’t pretty — and frequently sucked, in fact — but we’re reasonably settled-ish into the new house and I am relieved. I think.

I mean, there’s stuff everywhere. I can’t find anything. My clothes are all in trash bags, and a fine layer of dust from the plank floors upstairs covers my feet constantly. I’m bone tired and bedraggled and ache all over, and some of my poor family members who helped are much worse off than me.

But we did it. We are moved.

(Mostly.)

(There are still things at the condo, but I’m trying not to worry about them. I mean, we’ll get them. This week. And the furniture is all moved, which is the most important stuff. So it’ll be okay. Right? Right.)

Posting will be light this week as we are without Internet for a bit, but I’ll return soon with updates and a little house tour — and hopefully be a little perkier! I am far from perky. I’m actually really disoriented and fighting this urge to want to “go home,” except home is not where it was.

But I’ll adjust. Just have to keep moving.

Good thing we unpacked the coffeepot first.


Stormy breeze, hope

Rainbow

I had a breakthrough last night.

After all the worry and planning and anxiety and uncertainty, I finally felt my burden lift. I felt calm.

Should have known I’d have the sky to thank.

The weather has fascinated me since I was a kid — back in the days when I fancied myself a future storm-chaser (I blame “Twister,” though I’d been watching the Weather Channel religiously for a while already). At some point I realized tornadoes are actually scary and maybe I wouldn’t want to drive into or near one, so I curbed my dreams of becoming a meteorologist and pursued other hobbies.

Also, I’m terrible at math.

My passions have evolved over the years, but I always come back to clouds. The sky. Weather. Hurricane season was once my prime time, and I scoured the news every morning to hear how storms had developed overnight. I distinctly remember waking up at my grandparents’ house in the summer and running into the living room to click on the news, desperate for updates on tropical storms brewing over the Atlantic.

I was a weird kid. Kinda cute, though.

As an adult, the weather still fascinates me — but more in a curious or “red alert danger” kind of way. Various iPhone apps keep me informed on what’s happening out there, and I’m known to friends as the Weather Cop — a title I wear rather proudly. If a storm is on the horizon, I’ll tell you all about it. And probably show you the radar map, ’cause that’s how I roll.

When Spencer bought the condo in 2011, we immediately fell in love with the large windows overlooking town with an unobstructed view of the skyline. High up on the second floor, everything looks beautiful — and the sunsets we’ve enjoyed from our apartment have been incredible. I’ve taken countless pictures, and my weather-loving self has rejoiced at the unparalleled views right from our couch.


La Plata sunset


Spence had little when he first moved in. Coming from a house shared with roommates (and their furniture), the living room held only fold-out camp chairs and a tiny, cable-less television for months. We entertained ourselves through sky-watching. One of my earliest memories there is of the two of us peering up at the encroaching dusk through opened windows, the warm summer air ruffling our hair. We used to lay on the carpet and talk, looking up at the stars. We didn’t need more than that.

Three years later, we’re boxing up the last of our belongings to leave our first marital nest this weekend. We got word that potential buyers were coming to look at our condo last evening (!!!), so Spence and I hurried home to tidy up and move more boxes to the new house. I was in shorts and flip-flops, sweating and tired — but suddenly so buoyed and hopeful that someone was coming to see the apartment. The one we’ve loved so much.

Things are in motion. After several long months, the end is in sight.

At the new house, Spence and I walked around cleaning in advance of the crew coming today to cover our bare plank floors with carpet. Real carpet. And last night was the first time I looked around and thought, This is our house. Though we had, you know, signed our lives away a month ago (terrifying) and spent nearly every weekend and most weeknights slaving away in there, it hasn’t felt real. Transitioning from “construction zone” to “moving in” has been . . . an adventure.

But we’re getting there.

We’re almost there.

Upstairs, we heard rumbles of thunder as we jimmied the washer and dryer out of the guest room. It was warm, both of us sweating. After we managed to get the appliances off the to-be-carpeted floor, a flash of lightning lit up the hall. “Storm,” we said. Spencer and I moved to the large glass windows above the garage and stared out, quiet. Waiting.

Our view at the new house isn’t as expansive. We don’t have the clear views to the west, and the twinkling lights of town don’t beckon us. It’s wilder out there, deep and thick; the woods behind our house are impenetrable in summer, and a little scary at night. We’re much farther off the highway. It’s quiet, too.

But standing there with Spencer, both of us looking up at the night sky, I felt just as I always have. Like I’m home. It called me back to those early days at the condo — back when we had nothing but an empty room and daydreams. Those memories will always taste so sweet to me.

Heat lightning streaked the sky, illuminating the newly-cleaned corners of the room. Lightning bugs buzzed on the lawn.

I put my hand on his back. And we watched.


In which I ramble about anxiety

photo

I’m not going to lie to y’all: I’m all over the place right now.

Which end is up?
Which end is down?

I was doing really well in advance of the move, but Spencer has been away this week and . . . I’m having a tough time.

Why is it so hard for me to say that — that I’m struggling? We’re used to putting on a brave face. Many people in my life are dealing with truly tough things: illness, grief, job loss. When I stack my “problems” next to theirs, they look wholly inadequate. Silly. #firstworldproblems, you know?

And I don’t want to complain. Or look bratty. Or selfish. So I say little, smile, keep going . . . but inside, all that “nothing” has been hard. I’ve been keeping it in.

Spencer has been gone. He’s been out on business before, but I was still living at home then — so I spent that week eating my parents’ home-cooking and generally doing my normal thing. But this? Now? A week before our move? I’ve been alone in the apartment, obsessing and worrying and wondering. Trying to pack but getting too overwhelmed to do much of anything. All the ambitions I had for the week have evaporated, and I feel guilty and sick knowing I could have done so much but chose to avoid it all instead.

But it’s Thursday, I keep telling myself. I still have time. I can pack tonight, check on the new house, get some things together. The week hasn’t been “wasted.”

I think I just needed a break.

And a chance for some forthrightness. Is that a word? I’m making it a word. Because on this specific Thursday, I felt the urge to say I’ve spent most of this week feeling anxious and weird and freaked out about so many changes on the horizon . . . and that’s partly embarrassing and partly just what it is.

More than just my husband, Spence is my best friend. When he’s not here to talk me out of my nonsense, that nonsense becomes all-consuming. Before him, I’d never had a significant other so in my corner . . . someone so thoroughly in the trenches with me at all times. Until this time alone in our boxed-up apartment, I’d never considered how emotionally reliant I am on him. I just really miss him. I love him. It’s been one silly week, but this has been hard.

The truth is . . . I tend to panic. Though I don’t often talk about it, I struggle with anxiety. The easiest way I can describe it? When I’m stressed, I operate in fight-or-flight mode. Despite the fact that I am not in a life-threatening situation, my body screams at me that I absolutely am. My pulse races; I begin to sweat. I have a hard time breathing. When I’m in an uncomfortable situation (like being home alone), my instinct is to flee. My mind convinces me that I’m in mortal danger even if I’m safely ensconced in a locked house.

It’s rather inconvenient.

I don’t walk around scared all the time, but I’ve noticed my anxiety issues reach a fever pitch when I’m stressed about something — usually totally unrelated — in my life. Right now? That would be the upcoming move. The one happening next week. And because I’m stressed about that, my body has begun its attack on all rational sense. I’ve been sick to my stomach since Monday.

I’ve been thinking about why I don’t often write about my anxiety given I talk about . . . well, just about everything else. And I don’t really have an answer. I’m afraid of someone misunderstanding or judging me harshly, of course, and also of having my fears dismissed. I don’t like looking “weak” — even though I don’t see this as a weakness, per say. Just a facet. I struggle like we all struggle: shades of being human.

In disclosing our worries, we realize everybody’s got something. And when I talk about how I fear not finding a table in a crowded restaurant, some folks could snicker . . . but most accept this and try to help, you know? Rarely has anyone been unkind. Never am I teased. We adapt and accept and, when you’re with those who love you, they want to help.

Even if that means pushing you outside your comfort zone.

But that’s another post.

I felt compelled to scratch some thoughts out this morning because life isn’t always polished, as we know. I’ve felt like writing this week . . . but not in the way I normally would. My attention has been all over the place — too scattered to talk about books, though I’ve finished some good ones. I just wanted to talk out loud and think, and I knew you’d be here. You’d understand.

I feel a little better already.


Getting there

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We’re getting there.

Appliances are in (and full of diet soda and water, apparently all we need in this world). New carpet has been chosen and is due to be installed next week, and two of the three rooms we need painted are complete. The master closet has been ripped out, the walls need patching, more flooring will have to be procured for there . . . and often, honestly, it feels like everything is one step forward and ten steps back.

But I know it has to get worse before it gets better. And we’re not doing “real” renovations; these are mostly cosmetic issues, though still things that must be fixed.

And we are fixing them. Through sheer force of will.

My aunt kindly came over Saturday to paint our master bedroom, and it looks fantastic! While she cut in around doors and rolled walls, I scrubbed rust and grime from the master shower with the enthusiasm of Cinderella under duress . . . but hey, we got it done. And the bathroom has morphed from a place where I would never want to be barefoot to a place I would only kind of agree to be barefoot, mostly because we have loose nails and staples covering everything like a sheen.

Keeps you on your toes! (Literally?)

Spence and I are tired but making progress, and the progress is more apparent the more we sweat. Saturday was a rare humid-free day in Maryland, so we opened up the windows and let a cool breeze wipe out the last of the stale air. It felt fresher, more open.

And after we’d done all that, it was time to work on the condo. Our apartment should be officially on the market today or tomorrow, and we literally ran like lunatics yesterday morning to make it look spacious, lovely and enticing. That meant cleaning (again! so much cleaning!) every surface we could see and getting, like, a third of our stuff out of there — especially in the master closet, living room and kitchen.

So with aching arms and a nauseous stomach, we packed and moved about 15 boxes. Everything is getting dumped in the basement. At one point over the weekend, I realized that every single thing in our apartment will have to be touched by Spencer or me — packed, sorted, stored, moved, unpacked and arranged in the new place. By us.

How do people move? I mean, I moved eight months ago — but that already looks pathetic compared to this move. And in the grand scheme of things, we have a normal level of stuff. It’s not like we own a mansion we must empty . . . this just your run-of-the-mill stash of twenty-something newlywed belongings.

If I sound tired, I am. I really am. I know this is only temporary and we’ll be moved and settled in less than a month, but that month feels long right now. Very long. June has been a whirlwind . . . and it’s already half over. As of tomorrow, we’ve officially owned the new house for a month — and though I can definitely see progress, it still feels very overwhelming.

Mondays are made for napping.

Or going back to work for nine hours . . . where I’ll get a “break.” Funny how that works, eh?


Bees, mop instructions and other house adventures

cleaning


If you’ve ever wondered who could possibly need instructions for a mop, the answer is apparently yours truly.

Growing up, I was fortunate to have two kind, loving, giving parents who routinely . . . took care of things. Before I fall too far down the rabbit hole, please know that I am in no way suggesting Mom and Dad sent me into adulthood without, you know, basic life skills. They did not. I learned to drive, balance a checkbook, cook and generally act like a decent human being far before I got married.

What I didn’t learn to do? Clean.

Moving in with Spencer, I needed an immediate crash course in . . . how to scrub a toilet. Over the decades I lived at home, my mom routinely took care of bathroom cleaning. I helped out with lots of other chores, of course — vacuuming, most notably — but . . . well, the only time I can recall breaking out the toilet bowl cleaner was when Mom was ridiculously sick. Company was coming over, so.

I grew up in a household where, if you knew visitors were stopping by, your rump sprang into action. Vacuuming was the first line of defense. Now that friends are coming by to see the new house, I feel ridiculously self-conscious about our construction zone. Spencer keeps reminding me — lovingly, but firmly — that everyone knows we’re in the process of moving, and no one is judging us for having cleaning supplies and rags and water bottles on every conceivable surface.

And the dirt. The dirt.

Our week in California set us back a bit in terms of getting the new house ready for our move, but the break was certainly welcome — and worth it! And we’ve still squeezed in quite a bit of updating in the last few days. We got home on Saturday night and were back at it by Sunday afternoon (jet-lagged, cranky and all), and we’re trying to go by several nights a week to tackle small projects.

Mopping was one of them.

After filling a bucket with equal parts water and Lysol, my husband proffered our brand-new mop. He offered to clean the basement while I tackled the kitchen and, well, there are spiders in the basement, so okay.

I dipped the mop in the hot water. Moved it in swishing circles. Stared at the strips of fabric, now sodden and dark, before plopping the mop on the tile floor. Then I kind of . . . swirled it? Started dripping lemon-scented water on everything? But it didn’t seem quite right. Nothing was getting clean, that’s for sure.

Spencer popped back into the kitchen, ostensibly for a lukewarm drink (no fridge yet), and noticed my confusion. I knew something was off, but couldn’t figure out how I could mess up mopping. To his infinite credit, Spencer did not laugh . . . he simply took the mop from my grubby hands, showed me how to dip it in the water and twist the ringer piece so it’s not just soaking wet and weird, then gave me a crash course in scrubbing.

It was a humbling moment.

But I’m learning. Everything takes time. And if I was spoiled enough to not touch toilets back at my parents’ house, friends, know I’ve gotten my just desserts: imagine trying to clean four disgusting bathrooms in the new house you’ve just sold your soul to buy, cursing the heavens and wondering if you’ve made a colossal mistake. Not because you don’t love the house, but because you really would rather not touch the things you’re touching. Not even with gloves.

I’m being a wuss, I know. You might even be laughing at me. I mean, it’s just a bathroom; I’ll live. But it’s unpleasant.

(And we’ve actually decided to just replace the four toilets and move on. In addition to being gross and stained from standing water and goodness knows what else, two are actually cracked. There is no saving them. Better to start fresh.)


Living room


What else have we been up to? Ripping things out, for one. The stained, smelly carpet pictured above throughout the living room, up the stairs and into the hallway is no more: with the help of friends, Spencer pulled it up and removed nails from the subfloor. Together we vacuumed up all the dust and grime and began scheming our next move, which will involve hiring a professional to install carpet in the living room, guest room and possibly the master bedroom while Spence installs hardwood in the hallway and on the main staircase.

Should be interesting.

(Send margaritas.)

We’ve also installed knobs on some of the kitchen cabinets, so we can now open drawers like civilized people. Paint samples are on the walls of the master bedroom and the guest room, and we’re planning to start painting on Sunday. We also hope to have the flooring chosen by next week so we can get that ball rolling and I’d love to install some lights on the path outside, because nighttime is dark.

But the scariest thing? We’re in a war with bees. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty for fear of terrifying the more fearful of us (read: myself), but let’s just say a colony of honey bees has taken a liking to that cut-out alcove above the fireplace pictured above — outdoors, thank God — and started their honey production. We’re trying to either find someone to take the hive away or remove them ourselves with the help of a knowledgeable friend, especially since they’re occasionally flying into the house through a light fixture.

Bees. In the house.

I can’t.

Homeownership is already challenging so many of my lazy sensibilities . . . and I’ve learned tons, especially because my husband is patient enough to explain tasks to me. I don’t like playing the helpless-damsel-in-distress card, though it’s obvious that some jobs are just beyond my ken. (Also, I don’t like heights.)

But I’ve already wielded screwdrivers and hammers, crow bars and sanders. And I used a hose, too.

I think I like this?

I mean, minus the insects.