Saturday, October 29, 2011


Hello blog. I have not died.

It's been over a month since I last posted, hasn't it? And we were only gone for nine days. And we got the internet at home again just before we left. Really, I have no decent excuse.

I owe you all a report on our travels through France, and I have pictures of all the churches where we stopped and prayed (and most often got to light a votive candle or two); and had I posted them when we first returned, I could probably remember which one was which, and in what town, and to what saint each was dedicated. We will see whether I can now. (In France, when in doubt, guess all churches are dedicated to Notre Dame - you'll be right 90% of the time.) Also, as I may have mentioned in a comment or two, the "IF girls" are now in the intention book at Mont St. Michel's chapel :).

But because I cannot get my act together and stitch together a post full of pictures (is it just me, or has blogger repeatedly switched the way it loads pictures in the last 2-3 years - finally settling on a method that is worse than any of the prior ones?), I am writing about something simpler.

I have marched into my home projects with a vengeance - you wouldn't know, because the place is still a disaster, and probably will be for a while. But I really have been doing a lot (for me). Every night when I get home from work, I let myself drift mindlessly into the internet for a bit, and then when I have gathered back a bit of my energy (I am by nature nocturnal, though this is rather sapped by having to get up in the morning and go to work), I try to get something done every day. Some days it's just priming the plaster repairs so that the next day I will be able to paint them, but I try to do more. I try to make it so that every weekend I can paint a room, and the wall repair and taping will be done so I can get up in the morning and just start painting. And then I try to add other little things in around that.

Of course there are so very many other things. Here is my list:

1. Paint full bath - DONE
2. Paint master bedroom - DONE
3. Paint third bedroom - DONE
4. Paint over red below chair rail in dining room
5. Rip fake-tile wallboard off kitchen walls
6. Finally get wallpaper sample for second bedroom and find matching paint color
7. Repair and paint kitchen walls
8. Paint second bedroom
9. Paint living room
10. Paper one wall of master bedroom
11. Paper one wall of second bedroom
12. Find replacement wallpaper for third bedroom
13. Paper above chair rail in dining room
14. Install molding below chair rail in dining room
15. Install crown molding in living room
16. Hang textured paper between living room crown molding and picture rail
17. Install crown molding in dining room and all bedrooms?
18. Buy queen bed frame and mattresses (should go higher?)
19. Find vintage gas stove (should go higher?)
20. Have roof resealed
21. Have eaves repainted
22. Replace makeshift Bilco door
23. See about having skeleton keys remade
24. Trim front vegetation
25. Paint living room bookshelves
26. Buy chairs for living room
27. Go to upstate to get mother's and in-laws' furniture
28. Replace kitchen cabinets
29. Move fridge into kitchen
30. Haul dryer under-drawers into basement (sell???)
31. Paint half bath
32. Paint laundry room
33. Replace tile in half bath
34. Paint hallways (pick color first)
35. Tile kitchen floor
36. Paint basement...
37. Scrape paint on porch windows, insulate porch...
38. Deal with landscaping next summer...
39. Finish attic...
40. Semi-finish carriage house...

You see the problem(s). Somewhere around 15-20 I exhaust what I can do in a year. (I was putting them in actual order for a while, too, but at some point I stopped; the roof will be re-sealed very soon. I'm just waiting on quote #2.) And I can only really do that if I keep up a fairly heavy pace. That pace has a few effects. I spend little hanging-out time with just my husband. While I recognize that that is bad, I refuse to feel too guilty about it, because he is sitting on his computer while I paint and patch plaster; in my view, he is the problem. He needs to take on projects with me, and then we will have a mutual activity to enjoy. As it is, I have striven not to nag him about his inactivity, and just try to do more myself. (That's not my typical MO - typically, I nag. I am hoping the guilt will get to him eventually. I actually do need his help.)

The other two effects are that I'm not as flexible with hopping in the car and driving 30-45 minutes to see our friends back on the other side of DC, as I said I would be. And I thought I would be. But doing this much work takes a lot of time, and if my DH and I aren't doing something together, I don't come to where they live just to hang out. I stay home - even on a Friday or Saturday night (well, tonight it was because no one called or emailed me to let me know what was going on, even though I asked. My DH is out of town, and this frequently occurs when he is not around. I could be annoyed if I wanted to, but I have chosen to enjoy the solitude and productive hours instead) - and I work on my house, and go to bed early.

More concerning to me - because part of me was glad that we had an opportunity to get a fresh start as the last few friends were about to hop on the baby train and leave us behind for the umpteenth time - is that I'm making zero efforts where I am now to make new friends. I would really like to have local friends. Maybe some nice girls with whom I have a lot in common! I do worry about new friends - they're either mommies (in which case having things in common is an illusion, and they will sweetly invite me over for 2PM on a Thursday several times, and when I say no each time they will just stop trying), or they're married and childless, in which case they're about to be mommies (heaven help me), or they're single, in which case they will almost immediately get married, and then become mommies. If they're infertile, they'll probably get pregnant or adopt not long after meeting me. That's nice for them, but it doesn't leave a lot of options for me, other than being the permanent cheerleader for life events I can't share. It's not that I think I should never have to be happy for someone else who has something I don't have (and I am in fact happy for other people once in a while rather than just bitter), but that can't be the basis of 100% of my friendships. Somewhere there has to be something where there's something more mutual going on, right? Isn't that how everyone else creates friendships?

Maybe I need to be seeking friendships in the nursing home community. The average member of that cohort probably has more years before senility or death than most of my current friends have before they have a(nother) child (even if they are not now pregnant, married, or even dating anyone).

Anyway, this post was supposed to be about something else entirely, which I'll sort of squeeze in here at the end. It's this. I'm a saver and a penny-pincher by nature. We're in no difficult financial straits, of course. But I've never had to worry about overspending as a pattern, because it's totally contrary to my disposition. But I had prepared myself for the cost of home improvement supplies long before we moved. I get the idea that paint is $20-35 a gallon, wallpaper is $10-30 a roll (well, the stuff I'm looking at), I can expect to spend $5-20 a yard on 54" fabric for curtains, components cost a certain amount even at ikea...and so I'm not worrying about spending the money, and I must drop over a hundred a week (wow - it's way more than that, actually) on stuff for my projects. I could tell myself that that will slow down - soon I'll be done buying paint, I've only got a couple more pieces of furniture that I need - but after that come the really expensive projects!

What if I have found my blind spot and suddenly accidentally become a spendthrift? What if I have just turned around years of financial self-discipline and we start saving at a trickle (even though we make so much more than we need)?

I am starting to become seriously stressed about this. I know there are lots of things other people do much more expensively than I do. I just spent $75 on a solid wood rolltop desk for which it would have been pretty reasonable to spend $200. If they turn out well, tomorrow I'll buy a (used) mattress and box spring for $90; that's 1/10 of retail for a queen set, isn't it? I'm mostly reusing the furniture we have, and in fact I don't think I've ever bought a piece of furniture new. My "new" cabinets, when I get them, will be from craigs.list. My mortgage is less than most of my friends' rent. Some people actually do spend $100 per panel for drapes, and I am going to shop and shop until I can do it for 1/4 of that or less (but I will need 20 panels total!!). I'm keeping all our solid-wood furniture and refinishing it instead of buying a matching set.

But I'm not willing to make do with whatever - I got rid of two ($20) desks before we moved, not because they didn't function, but because they weren't nice pieces. Now I've spent $75, for a very nice desk, but I could have had a desk for $0. The walls were already painted when we got here (well, some of it was falling apart), and I've redone even some that weren't ugly because I wanted something else. That could've been $0, too. I want to add molding where there should be molding because I have a sense of how the house should look...but I could leave it the way it is. I have passed up dozens, if not hundreds, of ads for beds on craigs.list (some at good prices and close by), because they were not what I was looking for.

I have done the opposite before; I have grabbed the first thing that comes along, or the lowest-cost thing, and my home always looked it. I have it in my head that that is what leads to the home that you see in the first five minutes of an HGTV episode - the house is in good condition, all the furniture is new, but they hate their room so much they won't even go in it. And I think that beauty is a product of waiting until just the right thing comes along - not being wedded to the vision in your head, because something unexpected might always improve it, but being committed to it, unwilling to sell it out because it's difficult or inconvenient or costs a little more than you had hoped. And my experience - seeing the places I've lived, and other people have lived - confirms that this is true. Patience, discernment (not to say pickiness) - those are the keys to style.

But what if I'm wrong, and all this leads to is waste and ruin and destruction and death?

Hope all of you have been doing well, too.