The landscaper took one look at those hedges, sighed, and told me "Do yourself a favor and rip them out this weekend."
Today I put on shitty jeans and a weird orangey-pink t-shirt and I set out with a soapy bucket of water and a super, super long extendable squeegee and I washed the windows of my house. You know when it's still winter, but you start to pretend it's spring because the sun actually bothered to come out and you actually had to squint at that rare orb for the first time in four months? It was that kind of day.
So there I am, facing the tall side of my 2 storey brick house and I am washing the windows, and this is the conversation I am having in my head, unedited:
"I wonder how much window washers cost? I could hire someone. Although, I am not sure why because I don't really mind doing this. But it's not the *minding* part that's bad, it's that I could be doing something else...more useful... I could be digging up beds... oh crap, I need to review the proposal from the landscaper designer.... I can't believe she only designs... Does that mean she works up the plan and then *I* dig the beds and plant? That seems backward. Maybe I should plan it and then hire those guys from Casa Latina to help dig beds and plant.... Don't forget to pay the Chase bill... Is it bad to hire guys from Casa Latina?... how soon can I plant hydrangeas. FUCK. If I am only going to plant hydrangeas, why do I need a landscape designer? Should I open my business? I have been planning for 3 years, I can't stop now... But all that money... I could just hire someone to DO ALL THIS SHIT FOR ME and I wouldn't be washing the outside of windows on a Sunday..."
It goes on and on. Here's the good news. At one point, washing the windows, I was sincerely having a nice little conversation with myself, thinking, I love that I am out here laboring, washing these windows. My first house, despite all the things that need to be done to it, is better than any house I ever thought I would own. I am lucky I get to wash these windows. People actually take nice little strolls in my neighborhood. They always do, every weekend, even when it's cold. Where I grew up, no one did that. People lived sad lives, kind of secluded. Strolls need prettiness to make it worthwhile, and there wasn't much prettiness in my 'hood.
So here I am, in this house that has a want for every room. And I've written about it before. We bought our house via fax while traveling in New Orleans. It was a sellers' market at the peak of the housing frenzy. We bought the shittiest house in a good neighborhood, but oh, lord, this house needed love. It still does. So, so much, I cannot even tell you.
And that's where I am at with my house, in this love/hate relationship.
How many of the projects in your home are you willing to do yourself vs. hire out? The point of having a fixer is reaping some of the financial gain by doing it yourself. But I have a job, and so does he. And next month I will be traveling for work 15 days of the month. When exactly am I going to tackle these DIY projects? And how can I possibly justify starting my own business when I could take the money I've saved and just write a check to a contractor and have the kitchen and 2 baths done by late spring? Aaaaaarrrggghh. I don't know. I don't know the answers.
Our kitchen had subfloor when we bought it. SUBFLOOR. When we toured the house, it was filthy and foul. There was a days-old fish left sitting in a dirty castiron pan on a circa-1949 stove. (I later learned that in bringing the electrical somewhat up to code so that the mortgage company could even write a loan on the place, it had been incorrectly rewired. I learned this because once we moved in I decided to bake something and upon opening the oven, the ovenlight exploded and shot glass everywhere. Home sweet home, right?).
The kitchen has formica counters and horrible bright yellow walls. The faucet will shoot water in your face if you move it too far to the right. The former owner patched a part of the deteriorated counter with - yes - weather stripping.
I am not kidding.
One night, no long after we bought the place, we had friends over and Christine (one of the friends) and I just stood there, drinking too much wine, reveling over how foul the kitchen was and we pealed off large skins of that yellow paint. We just laughed because it was assumed this nearly-condemned kitchen would surely be redone that year. Well, that was 2 1/2 years ago. Remember... every room is a major project - the kitchen being the worst of all. That wild patch of peeled paint causes my fiance much consternation. It is, in fact, the only thing in the house that we have done to make the place worse - - something we thought hardly possible at all.
My house has been a lesson in patience, and compromises. And also denial. Things I thought, in my own bitchy way, that I wouldn't TOLERATE for more than the first six month persist, and I have learned to live with.
My bathroom, for example? The tile is plastic. I know. It makes you want to cry, huh? It used to make me want to. I actually did cry in the shower once. I was wishing I had my apartment back. It's so easy to make a one-bedroom apartment perfect. But 4 bedrooms, a living room, a proper dining room, wiring from 1929, old molding that needs to be stripped and re-stained, and a kitchen that hasn't been re-thought since it was built, and lovely plaster ceilings that someone stupidly covered with popcorn asbestos 30 years ago? I never knew how much it would take. Anyway, those plastic "tiles" in my shower? They started falling off about a year after we moved in. My fiance (he's so great, I can't begin to tell you), he taped one back up. I can see him doing it, too... like "Oh, I'll just tape it. Lainy will be bummed if this shit starts falling in on her in the shower." And you know what? I love him for it.
He's not the house freak that I am. It really troubles me to my core to not have the place be perfect in my eyes, but I am trying to live with it. The plastic tiles... I am actually totally zen about it now.
We sat on the sofa today and we peered into the kitchen and I said, "If we just tile the floor, repaint, get a new counter, sink & faucet, and get new cabinet pulls... can we just forget about it until we decide to really redo it, just spend like $100k all at once to fix a bunch of stuff?"
And he said, "Yeah. I'd rather do that." Right then, the house won.
The house won because some homes are just not ready for a DIY fix. Some homes are grumpy old dowagers and they want you to quit putting popcorn on the ceiling and they don't want you putting up plastic crap-ass tile. They want you to go to work, make your money, come home one day and say, "See this fist full of money? Fine, you stupid motherfucker, you can have it all."
So there you go. I guess the answer is that you make a home as long as you can - - until you can't anymore. And then you just have to cough up the money and hand your place over to contractor who will make sure the kitchen doesn't explode in your face and the shower tiles don't fall on your feet when you're doing nothing more than getting ready to face another day.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Labels: my house