You know how sometimes you can get discouraged and begin questioning recent decisions and even your daily purpose and feel as though you are so far down that you just might be able to conquer a low limbo pole? Yeah, let me slide under that pole like a snake, because I am just that low. That's been me this week. Then...when you're trying to distract yourself by doing something that will totally turn your mind away from that low place, something happens when you're not expecting it that gives you that little bit of encouragement -- that little boost you need and, once again, the hope has returned and you feel as though you can fly from that booster shot (however little it might've been)! You get a fresh jump start and you begin to feel confidence rising up in your inner self again, and know that you probably -- no, that you will -- survive. That also happened to me this week, and it was in the form of a toilet install. Yep, you heard right, a toilet. You know that little ceramic stool that everyone sits on every single day of every single year of their life? It is strictly a utilitarian device; nothing pretty or decorative about toilets. People have tried to fancy them up and make them more comfortable (remember those cushioned seats from the eighties? Eeew!), but they remain simple, ugly, and as big as life, sitting there in our bathrooms thinking they are truly thrones. Well, I guess they are since we can't do without them.
As I've mentioned many times before, it's so hard for me in the midst of a renovation to pace myself during the not-so-pretty-but-oh-so-necessary first part of the tearing down, the shoring up, and the bringing to code, uh, literally everything in the house. Especially when you shop ahead and find all the pretties at incredible prices and buy them early on because you have a vision and know exactly what you're gonna need and then watch them sit quietly on the sidelines, collecting dust. You lovingly clean them up, swiping off the dust, only to find them days later covered once again with the inevitable debris that falls, flies, and permeates an 1892 renovation. I have longingly pined for the beautiful lighting that sits still and quiet in the corner to be hoisted to its heavenly position in the house, shining down warmth on all who enter. Ditto for the appliances, fixtures, and vanities. I can even picture turning on the faucets...filling the tub for a hot bath... But there it all sits waiting...waiting...waiting until its day comes. It sometimes feels like it never will.
But this week we've made great strides in moving us more towards where we want to be. Except for permanently connecting into the main power source, the electrical is finished. The plumbing is finished and we have that one toilet ready and working well. Now we don't have to run to the nearest business establishment to use the restroom or, worse yet, pee in a cup and pour it out in the backyard like an animal. We've been able to determine that the old 125-year-old tongue and groove that came off the walls in the bedrooms to make room for drywall can indeed be repurposed for flooring and all I can say to that good news is a loud and happy "Cha-chink!" We've power washed the back deck, taking it from slimy green to like-new boards and have been power washing and scraping the house to ready it for exterior paint. This next week we'll tackle one other structural job and then hopefully be ready for the inspector. It's definitely not the end of the project but I think I can finally see a finish line. Way down the road. Somewhere in the distance. Like a ship in the fog on the ocean.
As we inch closer and closer to Thanksgiving, I can't help but feel the excitement of the holidays that hits me each year when the temperature drops, and plans for the holidays start surfacing with family and friends. Every year I say that I WILL NOT get excited about Christmas before Halloween has reared its creepy head, but I do it every time, and I blame the stores and marketing people. But I guess I can't be angry because they, just like you and me, are just trying to make a living, turn a profit, find a life that brings happiness and fulfillment to them. Even those super giants who start marketing the holidays way too early so they won't dare miss a sale is included in that because, after all, they are made up of everyday people just trying to do the same. So with all the hate, disasters, hardship, and tension among people there is in the world today, it encourages my soul to know there's a time when we all try to come together and give thanks for the good in our lives and celebrate a higher purpose. And I'm trying to wake up every morning remembering every blessing I have and focus on those rather than the many struggles around me.
And I thank God for my toilet every single day. The new toilet is AMAZING, even if it is a daily eyesore.
Love. That. Toilet.
"When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself."
I have photographed many things in my life. Most of all, some really beautiful people -- some physically beautiful and some with beautiful hearts. I have photographed animals big and small, beaches, tiny babies, cotton fields, flowers, trees, the sky, the snow, and lots of interesting buildings and places. Many years ago I saw a movie (a romantic comedy) where the main character (a photographer) photographed refuse. I must admit I had to look that word up because I had never heard it used that way before. Upon learning that she photographed garbage, I laughed and couldn't help but wonder why with all the beauty there is in this earth anyone would photograph garbage. And here I am, posting on my blog page, first and foremost, an image of old plumbing pipes that have served as poo canals for many, many years. It is unthinkable, even for me.
Yet, I've learned never, ever to laugh at what someone else does because I can almost guarantee you that you will find yourself doing the very same thing for which you have scorned others somewhere down the road. But as much as this image is totally gross and has no inherent beauty of its own, it has a great beauty to me in what it MEANS.
OLD LEFTOVER PLUMBING IS COMING OUT; BRAND-NEW PLUMBING IS GOING IN!!!
Can I hear an amen?! If you could see me now, you'd see me doing my happy dance. It is the best and most encouraging news relating to the renovation I've had in weeks. Even better than the holes being filled. Even better than the electrical being complete. Even better than the beautiful soaking tub that came in for the master bath and the adorable sink and farmhouse faucet tucked away for the half bath (but not for long, right, plumbing going in!!). I have waited and longed and literally pined for this day. It is starting to feel like a home...a real home with power and water and operating toilets, and my heart is happy and my bladder is so very grateful!
There are so many things for which I am grateful, though, and the plumbing is only one of them. It is very fitting that we celebrate Thanksgiving in the fall when everything is so beautiful and the land is being harvested and, even though many city folk no longer put away summer vegetables for the winter, I can remember my paternal grandmother shelling butter beans and shucking corn in the late summer to freeze and have garden-fresh vegetables all through the cold months, and those are the vegetables to which I compare all others to this day. I am so grateful for my heritage and those memories and they will forever be in my heart. There is no one who can match the cooking of my grandmothers and mother. So I am grateful for a country where we set aside a day entirely for the purpose of expressing thankfulness for the many blessings we enjoy.
I am thankful for my hubby and his right-hand man on this job. We have always been very blessed to have great help on our renovation projects. In the beginning my wonderful son-in-law was able to put in some hours and was a very valuable asset, as he partook of some of the dirtiest demolition I've seen to date in our work. I called him our quiet, gentle giant. Now our faithful Honduran friend has been there through the thick and thin, through some of the hardest and dirtiest work as well. I kid him and the hubs and tell them they are like two little spider monkeys, as they climb under the house in the belly of the filthy whale, and then climb into the attic and swing from rafter to rafter! Well, that might be an exaggeration, but they have spent countless hours in the hot upper agony of the house wiring recessed lighting and shoring up the old girl's bones. They are literally the hardest working men I know, and they end every day hobbling with aches and pains as they go home and nurse aging bones and sore muscles. They are truly my heroes, and for them I am grateful.
I am thankful to still have my 91-year-old father with me, for my kids and four beautiful, healthy grandchildren and all the rest of my family and friends. It is a tremendous blessing to be surrounded by people who love you and I never ever take that for granted. I am thankful for a roof over my head and breath in my lungs. I was blessed by a young man who served me at a fast-food window this week and agreed with me that just knowing he was able to get out of bed and go to work that day was a good reason to smile. We all have our burdens, and we all have our blessings. I guess because this is a season of gratitude and bounty, I would call it my favorite time of the year -- nothing extravagant, except for the spread of delicious food that adorns our tables, but that in and of itself is reason to feel like royalty. And, yes, I am thankful for toilets. Toilets are indeed a luxury in some countries and running water as well. I will never take my toilet or my hot running water for granted again.
So with Thanksgiving less than six weeks away, shall we start right now counting our blessings? If you have a working toilet and running water and food on the table (however humble it might be), you can start there. And I guarantee by the time November 23rd rolls around, you'll have a list so long that it will take you the whole day to count them one by one.
"Count your blessings, name them one by one;
count your blessings, see what God has done..."
Okay, I'll admit it. Renovating a house built in 1892 is trying to whip my butt. It's testing my last bit of patience. It's trying to stomp directly on my very last nerve and grind it into the dirt. Not because there have been any crazy surprises we weren't expecting (and for that I am thankful), but because it's taking so long! You know those renovation shows on TV where they seem to turn a house around in -- well, one hour flat, and show very little of the waiting process? Not reality. They almost every show find some horrible surprise lying under the floor or behind the walls which in reality takes TIME to eradicate. Fortunately, we can't always relate to that because that rarely happens with us. Not because we are genius but because we can't afford surprises! We really inspect houses before we buy to renovate BECAUSE we try to avoid those unknowns. You know why they do it on TV, right? DRAMA. They do it for drama and drama alone. But just the intensity of renovating a house that is so old has enough built-in drama without creating any. There are so many things that have to be done that are not surprises but that you don't really realize you're gonna have to do till you get there (especially if it's your first REALLY old one!). It's sometimes learning as you go. Ugh, I am so over it...well, for about a day maybe and then I get my act together and carry on!
The last couple of weeks, like all recently, have really flown by! Progress on the jobsite moves along, and (in spite of my opening rant), things are looking up and we are encouraged that soon and very soon things will take a turn and we will be headed toward the final chapters of this renovation. As I said in my last post, we are trying to shore up everything on the outside of the house to make it paint-worthy and secure it for the winter. It's amazing, but not hard to believe, how many little holes can get into a house that's seen its share of the years. And I don't like holes! Holes are simple little invitations to critters, telling them they can come in and visit, and some of them think it also means they're welcomed to take up residence and stay for awhile. So for the past few months I've been looking at various holes and fretting over what tiny rodent might be considering that invitation to get out of the weather. But you can pass this message on...All holes are being filled, wood is being replaced, and we are buttoning down the hatches. The only critters invited to this party are humans!
I am in the final stages of the design planning, and this week marks my last -- very last -- purchase of lighting fixtures. Every room in the house is gonna have some bee-u-ti-ful lighting and I am so excited for that! I am picking out tile for the kitchen and fireplace hearths. I have purchased a gorgeous free-standing tub for the master bath. I am looking at options for counter tops. I am choosing final paint colors and making those purchases. Everything is in place for final completion but it's just taking a bit longer to get there than I like. You know when your kids ask a million times on a trip "are we there yet?" That's me! But in reality, we've made excellent progress I suppose. We are into the 4th month with at least two more to go (at least). Our last renovation took a full six months, start to finish, so in reality we are right on track. It just feels like forever to me.
This week we are also tying down options for the floor in the back re-do. As we had hoped earlier in the project, it looks like we're gonna have plenty of heart pine to reclaim for the floors. This is the 125-yr-old tongue and groove that was removed from the bedroom walls (didn't wanna have TOO much wood on the walls!) that will be reassembled and used for flooring. This week I have been pulling nails out of that wood, trying to begin the process of making it floor-worthy and, let me tell you, it is a tedious process! My right arm is reminding me today that nail-pulling is not for the faint of heart! And this entire process will be tedious, because nail-pulling is just the beginning. Next will come filling holes, repairing small imperfections and refinishing the entire floor boards in the house so that they all match up nice and purdy. I am making myself tired just thinking about it and it's not even 9:00 in the morning yet!
On a personal note, I am so glad to be able to do this work which is so fulfilling. Even though I playfully complain and occasionally throw the short and to-the-point rant, I am daily grateful to be doing something I enjoy. And no work is without its challenges, right? So...off to the next round of #our1892renovation, and may the force be with us. And I know that He truly is.
And, better yet, off to babysit the tiny little cherub I call my youngest grandbaby, and that's work I never grow tired of.
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
- Helen Keller
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