I wrote this post like a week ago, but was holding off on posting it because I thought I might like to add pictures. Then, my home computer got some sort of Trojan that made it (and I’m not exaggerating here at all, this really happened) play an audio clip of someone crying and praying the Our Father. I don’t understand how these things happen, since I bought this computer in August and I didn’t realize that people still got computer viruses, let alone that they did weird things like this.
Anyway, no pictures. Use your imagination.
So since I’ve written last, winter happened. Christmas was a thing, and then New Years and Valentine’s Day followed, and there were other days that occurred as well. It was cold forever, and I spent the entire season moping about how cold it was and operating at about 20% efficiency, which, although I haven’t verified this, is about as efficient as I estimate my 30 year old furnace to be. I was productive enough to shower, go to work and occasionally even feed myself, but not much else happened in the way of looking for new jobs, improving my home, or writing in this blog. Which brings us to right now.
Today, I had a venti iced coffee, and it has left me with a venti urge to Get Back on That Metaphorical Horse. Not a real horse, though, because they’re huge and terrifying and why do humans need to ride animals at all when we have cars? This is 2013, no one needs to ride a horse.
So, as I’ve mentioned, I own my home. I know, whatever, a lot of people own homes, and this is not a huge accomplishment. My house was pretty much in move-in condition when I bought it almost 5 years ago, and I have done very little to maintain it, but every time something has happened, it has happened with great drama.
I’ve mentioned the GREAT CEILING LEAK OF 2010, and then there was the lesser Ceiling Leak of 2012, which occurred when part of a fan blew off of my roof during a thunderstorm, causing a large hole through which rain poured in. I was able to find an amazing roofing company who fixed it for 100 dollars. Can you imagine that? In my head, I’ve conjured up such a horrible image of contractors wherein they see that I’m some defenseless young girl with a checkbook and they overcharge me because I am vulnerable. To date, this hasn’t really happened.
There are some things in the house that I have fixed myself or with the help of a dear companion. I replaced a ceiling fan with an overhead light (solid B+ work, I only had to re-do it once because I didn’t twist the wires tightly enough). I added thresholds between the carpet and hardwood (probably more towards a C+ job, since I knew nothing then [or now] about staining wood.) Elissa and I (although mostly her) replaced the dimmer switch for the recessed can lights in our kitchen because the previous switch required a comical amount of manhandling before it would stay on without flickering, and sometimes, if you laughed or coughed or yelled too loudly, it would switch off altogether. I don’t want to admit how long I lived with that faulty switch before actually doing something about it, but I will just say that it’s a Whole New World we’re living in now that the kitchen lights turn on exactly in the fashion we desire.
Generally speaking, I’m happy with my house. It’s in pretty good shape and I’ve decorated it satisfactorily. I bought it when prices were low, and I think that even if I sold it today, I’d still be able to make a bit of a profit. It hasn’t been a money pit by any means, and I feel good knowing that it’s ‘good debt,’ which is a thing that homeowners say to feel smarmy about people with credit card debt. (This is conflicting for me, since I am in both of those demographics.)
The backyard, however, is the thorn in my side. Every summer since 2008, I have attempted different things to make the backyard more appealing.
It’s not even a huge yard. We’re talking maybe 25 ft by 60 ft? It’s a small area, but it’s enough to make me insane. I bought a rhododendron (it died), I bought a chinese lilac (it died), I bought 2 small eucalyptus-looking shrubs, which are marginally still alive, I guess, but they look pretty bleak and they’ve got weeds all tangled up in them. Meanwhile, there are randomly-placed unsolicited perennials that appear yearly, along with some suspicious-looking succulents. There also used to be wild onions, but I think my fat dog ate them into extinction one year. There’s one of those plastic ponds, with some kind of cemented-in filtration system that has never worked, to my knowledge, so I just scowl at it and empty it yearly. And then it fills back up again with moldy rain water, and the dogs drink out of it when they want to throw up.
Part of my problem with the backyard is just discipline. I have no intrinsic motivation for landscaping, and I don’t have the right tools, so I never really gain any pride from it. It’s not like any of the other things I’ve learned, like painting, or mild electrical work.
It’s hard labor, with weird mismatched rusty tools. I have an electric lawnmower that I inherited from my parents, and I have a manual reel mower that I bought on my own, and mowing the lawn with either of them is terrible in its own unique way.
Here’s how it usually goes:
- Spring starts and I’m committed to maintaining the yard and I mow the lawn.
- Maybe this occurs the next week, and sometimes, in the most ambitious summers, even the week after that.
- Then it rains or we go out of town or we have to work late or something else happens.
- Then the grass is too long for my little sissy lawn mowers. And then there’s too much dog poop, and it would get stuck in the blades of the mowers if I tried, and this is when lawn morale sinks and I just wait for the grass to die. This is almost certainly before June 1.
Well, this year is the year, folks, because I AM HIRING SOMEONE. 2 SOMEONES. And they are going to mow my lawn and pick up dog poop. And you know what? I don’t feel guilty about spending this money, because this will make me happier.
Here’s my reasoning. There are 2 of us, living in a low-priced home, with moderate debt, and decent jobs. We’re not super-rich, but at any given time, either of us have enough money in our accounts to spend 30 dollars on dinner or make-up (this is me) or wine or records (this is her) or any other random frivolous purchase that comes to mind. And we do spend that money, probably more often than we should. So the funds are there. I think it’s just time to face the fact that doing-it-yourself doesn’t mean you have to do EVERYTHING yourself, especially when that really means that it just doesn’t get done.
Everyone knows that when the inside of your house is clean, you feel better. Walking through freshly-vacuumed rooms unencumbered by mountains of mail and clothes (Currently, because winter weather just ended last week, 3 of my dining room chairs are covered in layers of jackets and coats that we’ve worn in the past 2 weeks) just makes me feel calmer. Otherwise, it’s easy to just let it all swallow you. What I didn’t realize until just recently is that the backyard is the same way. It’s not a pet or a child or something that commands my constant attention, but it needs to be maintained, and if I can’t do it myself, then I need to hire someone to do it, so that it doesn’t swallow me. Also? I want to have company sometimes, and having an overgrown poop garden for a backyard is embarrassing.
So I guess that’s all that’s new. I am vaguely optimistic about a job thing that is happening, but since I don’t really know how long I’ll have to wait before something happens, it’s not really worth mentioning. All I’ll say is that I think that good things are happening, even if they are happening at an incredibly slow pace. Maybe by the time summer comes around, I’ll have more to report.
Also, since I wrote this, I had a guy take the pond out. The whole experience was pretty underwhelming, and basically, the company sold me (actually Elissa) a coupon for 8 HRS OF HANDYMAN WORK and instead of letting us work this (mildly drugged-looking young) man’s fingers to the bone for 8 hours to do all of my bidding, he just propped up our leaning fence and took out the pond, putting maybe an hour and 45 minutes in. But we thought those jobs would take longer, and it didn’t seem like he could have done much else, ability-wise, so maybe it went as well as it could have. At least our fence isn’t leaning anymore and the pond is gone, but maybe the guy missed the point of taking out such an eyesore, because he left me a new eyesore, a large pile of dirt and rocks where it used to be. Overall, it’s a wash. I’ve been thus far unsuccessful in finding a new landscaping company to come out and give me an estimate on cutting the lawn regularly and cleaning up the pond drama. I imagine landscapers to be an aloof sub-culture of people who can’t be held down by ‘appointments’ or ‘offerings of weekly cash payments.’ If we could all be so lucky…
(Also also, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that some day, I’d write over 1600 words about a patch of grass.)
So I’ve had this blog for over a month now, and I’ve only produced about 10 entries, which is pretty low, if it’s something that I actually want people to read. It’s easy to beat myself up about this, because in college, I was quite the prolific blogger. I was blogging all the time. I was writing 2 or 3 entries a day on some days. It was pretty much all melodramatic whining or inconsequential updates on my life, and there’s not a whole lot of work from that time that I’m proud of, but nonetheless, words were making the long and arduous journey from my brain to the computer screen, and regularly!
So this begs the question, what happened to me? Did I get boring or complacent? How did I become so uninspired? I used to really enjoy writing, and I guess I still do, but now that I’m older, writing has become akin to working out, in the way that once I sit down and start doing it, I really like it and I’m happy and I feel better, but it’s hard to take that first step sometimes, especially when I’m busy or tired or otherwise occupied by my daily life.
Also, maybe I’ve grown to over-think it. I only religiously follow about 3 blogs (Young House Love, Making it Lovely, and Bower Power), and they’re all home-decor, DIY, style, young-familyish things, and while I love to read their ideas, I don’t really know if it fits me. Yes, I own my home, and yes, I’m youngish and like to fix things myself, but the truth is that it’s not really something I’m passionate about right now.
So when I can’t think of anything to write about that seems relevant or interesting, I just avoid it altogether and mope to myself about yet another thing that I started and didn’t finish.
But! When I wrote yesterday’s post, I really liked how it turned out, and it didn’t have anything to do with my often-crappy job (although I’m feeling markedly less bleak about it currently because of a long holiday break and a generous holiday gift) or my occasional bursts of DIY-Empowered-Woman energy. It just really seemed to echo my voice, and didn’t sound over-produced or contrived (to me.)
So I think the answer is to write more and stress less, which is probably on some t-shirt somewhere already. Maybe this is a disclaimer, then, to say that if you’re looking for something specific or thematic or cohesive, this blog may not be it yet. However, if giving up a theme lets me write more, then it is definitely worth it (to me.)
If you know me in real life, you probably think that I am not a huge fan of Christmas, and that’s sort of true, but it’s only part of the story.
As a kid, I loved Christmas in the typical manner. Even though I know now that my parents didn’t have a lot of extra cash, it never felt sparse or tight on Christmas morning. I can’t really ever remember a year when I was totally sold on a present and didn’t get it, but my mom had a way of managing my expectations in such a manner that I didn’t really expect any kind of insane gifts. Asking Santa for something was never a sure thing, but more like, “Well, Santa will see what he can do.” Santa was getting up in years, after all, and with toys getting so technologically advanced (like Teddy Ruxpin and NES), it was hard for him to keep up and I really couldn’t be mad if I didn’t get every toy on my list. One year, I asked for a “Crimp n’ Curl” Cabbage Patch Kid, and my mom said she found an article saying that the dolls were low-quality and that they didn’t get good reviews. Now, let me stop here and say that I have no idea what the real story was. Maybe the doll was too expensive when combined with other gifts I’d asked for that year, or maybe they were out of stock everywhere and my parents couldn’t find one, but this was 1991. I’m pretty sure that there wasn’t a newspaper article reviewing the pros and cons of the Crimp n’ Curl Cabbage Patch kid. But, my mom’s master plan worked. On Christmas morning, I wasn’t disappointed to find out that I hadn’t received a Crimp n’ Curl Cabbage Patch Kid because I was a savvy consumer (or at least the seedling of a one), and I didn’t want any kind of sub-par product.
Elissa tells me that I am impossible to buy a gift for because if I want something, I save my money and buy it for myself. This is true. I am borderline fanatical about reading reviews, watching prices and making informed purchases. I am not the kind of person that would like an unsolicited digital camera, for example, because I have very specific preferences when it comes to brands and features. I recently bought the new 8.9 inch Kindle Fire HD, but not until I compared it with the Galaxy Nexus 10, The Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Asus Transformer series, and the new Microsoft Surface. (Note: Not the iPad. Never the iPad!) I think this can all be tied back to my Christmas experiences as a kid, because A) my mother showed me, whether in earnest or as a trick, that you can’t base your purchasing decisions off of enticing marketing and B) if Santa ever did miss something that I really wanted, I just saved my Christmas money and bought it myself later on. I think this took a lot of the pressure off of my parents, because there wasn’t ever a make-or-break Christmas present that would elate/devastate me.
As I get older and I compare Christmas traditions with my friends, I’ve realized that Christmas was a completely non-religious event in my family. I went to a Catholic school because it was close to my house and happened to be free, so I got the usual Advent/Jesus/manger fare there, but at home, Christmas was a secular event focused around giving gifts, seeing family, and decorating the house. You wouldn’t have heard any kind of “Reason for the Season” or “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” rhetoric in my house, but don’t get me wrong: My mom will still be confused or offended if you say Happy Holidays to her instead of Merry Christmas. She doesn’t understand the irony of this, either, so don’t even try.
The other day when we passed a church, Elissa pointed out that the wise men were “making their way” to the stable, and I noticed for the first time that the wise men weren’t being displayed with the rest of the nativity folk. She explained that when her mom put the nativity scene out every year, two things were important. One, the wise men started out on the other end of the room and worked their way over to Mary and Joseph, and two, the baby Jesus wasn’t displayed until Christmas morning.
Before you say that I grew up in a family of heathens (although I did), let me state for the record that my mother does have a nativity set, and she sets it up under the tree every year. It just happens to be a sort of strange one that she painted in the 70’s when she was going through a ceramics phase. The characters are little kids dressed up as the nativity characters (sort of a low-rent Precious Moments sort of thing), and the baby Jesus is painted right onto the manger, so we didn’t particularly have the option of waiting to put him out. There were no wandering wise men, either. When Elissa said she thought that it was strange that the Nativity set was under the tree instead of on a mantle or something, I countered by saying that my grandma’s nativity set was also under the tree, in a community of cardboard houses that also featured a mirror “lake” with an ice-skater figurine. That’s approximately the point in the story when I realized that I am probably the weird one in this case, but that is only one small battle in our ongoing weirdness war, so I’m sure I’ll be redeemed soon enough.
So it’s been a week or so since I’ve written, but in my defense, things have been busy. Thanksgiving was suitably filled with turkey, pie, and excessive amounts of family, like every good holiday should be. Elissa’s entire family is in Ohio, about 2 hrs west of Pittsburgh (where my entire family is), and so holidays have become a balancing act of rushing around and jaunting across state lines.
It’s not so bad, though, at least we get to see everyone and we don’t have to fly anywhere.
I was just about ready to get on here and say that work is actually okay. I’m participating in the office Secret Santa, which is markedly unlike me, but I’m trying to make friends instead of just moping quietly in my corner cubicle about how much I miss my old friends. I still miss my old friends, obviously, but I’m now at a point where I talk to some people and they seem to think I’m okay. Whoever got me in the Secret Santa was totally stumped, though, and asked one of my teammates what he knows about me. I told him to say that I like coffee and chocolate, because I’m apparently Cathy from the comic Cathy. But really, I just want someone to give me coffee and chocolate.
Anyway, today started off okay, and ended up in the shitty column, because the owner told my boss that he doesn’t think I do enough work on a daily basis. This makes me blind with rage because:
a: the productivity metrics of my job are so non-existent that I don’t know how he could possibly have enough information to make that assessment. Maybe he saw me looking at the internet once? Doesn’t he know that millennials can check Young House Love and still get their work done? It’s how we’re wired, for God’s sake.
b: Maybe I have been slacking off, but my job is incredibly monotonous and it seems like I go weeks without anyone noticing if I’m even sitting there, and so it’s frustrating when people only notice when they deem me underproductive.
c: The guy’s a douchebag, so I’m mad that I’m even mad about his opinion. I’ve been working since I was 16, and anyone who’s ever worked with me will tell you that even though I look at the internet, and I sometimes sleep late, I am a hard worker. I do everything that is required of me, and I am smart. Way smarter than the requirements of this job, honestly.
I’m just frustrated today. Tomorrow might be better. The job search soldiers on, but I’m not sure how likely I am to get a new job 3 weeks before Christmas.
We’ve done some things on the DIY front, so the week hasn’t been a total loss. More to come on that.
First of all, I actually did hang the mirrors, and I even took some pictures of the project as I went, but I still need to take some pictures of them where they’re not just reflecting my messy room.*
But I think today’s going to be a busy day at work, so here is the good news and the bad news about today.
- The good news is that I requested 2 PTO days and they were both approved, and everyone knows how much I love not being at work.
- The bad news is that I am currently at work, and I am so so so tired. Improbably tired! Did I actually stay up all night jogging or doing math while I thought I was asleep? Is there a carbon monoxide leak in my house/car/office/brain that is making me feel so drowsy? Inexplicably tired.
- The good news is it’s almost Thanksgiving! Every year, I buy 2 chocolate chip pecan pies from a friend to take to Thanksgiving dinner (This is not a traditional Thanksgiving pie. In fact, it’s closer to a traditional Kentucky Derby pie, but this is Pittsburgh, and we don’t really celebrate the derby so much.) Anyway, with 48 hrs until my favorite holiday of the year, that pie is all I can think about. Soon you will be mine!
- There is no more bad news to report. 3 day workweek!
- And one item that ended up kind of neutral: Had to unclog the toilet last night and it made me start to re-think the dual-flush kit that I installed a few weeks ago. I get that it works for Ikea, and I get that it works for Young House Love (where I got the idea/courage to attempt this), and also probably most of Europe, but I just don’t know if it’s right for us with our precarious Pittsburgh plumbing. It doesn’t help matters that we still need a new fill valve, so maybe replacing that will make me like it more? The jury is still out, but the good news is that the ole’ “Dump a Bucket of Hot Water in the Toilet” trick worked like a dream to unclog it. So there you have it, kids, my first DIY tutorial.
I’ll say it again, this time in haiku:
Toilet not flushing?
Fill a bucket- hot water!
Dump it all in there.
*I just kind of think it’s hilarious that my solution is not to clean the room -that would be ridiculous!- but instead to take different pictures where the mirrors do not reflect the mess.
I have mentioned that I used to blog in high school and college, and some of these blogs even had custom graphics/backgrounds, because back then, I had a pirated copy of Photoshop 7 (yes, back even before they started calling them CSx), and I taught myself how to use brushes and make headers and blend layers and all of the things that bloggers should know how to do. Then, I got a macbook and an office job and lost all of my photoshop skills. I’ve since gotten rid of the macbook (ask me why I’m anti-Mac, I’ll give you an earful!) and tonight, I decided that if I’m going to blog, I should think about maybe including some images? It just so happens that because Elissa is in grad school, we can get a pretty steep discount on it so that I can avoid paying $500+. In the meantime, I downloaded the free trial and it has been a rude awakening. One thing is for certain: only suckers try to use Photoshop with a trackpad, so it looks like I’ll be digging out my wireless mouse to use.
So far, the only thing I’ve used it for is to crudely sketch out a possible design for these Ikea Honefoss mirrors that I bought.
I bought 2 packages and I want to stick them to my bedroom wall. This is what I’ve come up with as a tentative layout:
You have no idea how painstaking it was A) making this graphic (and it’s not even that good!) and B) getting it into this post. But the point is that I’m learning. Also that I might have a bad-ass mirror layout on my wall sooner than later.
So when we last left off, I was explaining about the worst day of my job to date, and how I work for an insanely frustrating human being. When I got home that night, I felt like I needed to be in charge of a project and I needed to succeed at something.
So here’s a little back story about the kitchen:
2 years ago, I had just started to live by myself after a sad breakup, and I was seeing someone new (my current girlfriend, holla!), but I was still pretty damaged and I was completely underwater financially, since my ex had been sharing the bills with me up to that point. One day, I came downstairs to find that water had been dripping out of my kitchen cabinets on to my electric range, and I panicked. I unplugged the stove, called off work, and then called some plumbing company that had a catchy commercial on TV, and they came out and diagnosed some (probably relatively small) leak in the branch lines that connected my shower to the main stack. I guess somewhere along the way, he must have given me the option to just fix the leak, but because he was a salesman before all else and I was a panicked homeowner still trying to prove to everyone (most of all myself) that I could handle this solo homeowning gig, he convinced me to replace all of the second floor’s plumbing, which was really expensive. I guess they did good work, and it is supposedly warranted for the rest of my life, but I should have called someone cheaper. At the end of that day, I was left with a gaping hole in my ceiling and an even larger hole in my available credit on my credit card, and I decided that I didn’t want to tell anyone that I had called some big name plumber because I didn’t know what else to do and I’m such a damsel in distress, etc etc.
But then inertia kicked in, and I didn’t get the drywall fixed for a whole year. And then when I finally did get the drywall fixed, the guy couldn’t see to smooth it out after it got dark that day because the lighting in my kitchen is weird, so he said he’d come back. But then I didn’t call him and he didn’t call me, and a whole year passed AGAIN of me avoiding having my family over, because I hadn’t painted over the drywall and there was an obvious patch.
Something clicked in me recently, though, and I didn’t want to be afraid of my parents or friends stopping by anymore. I wanted to maybe even invite them to stop over, so they could see this home that I have made with my girlfriend, which is actually okay. My mom hasn’t been in my house since 2009 (although we live in the same city), so maybe it would be nice to have them over. Besides, like I mentioned, I’m thinking about selling the house in the next few years, so I need to scratch these things off of my to-do list. It’s nice to take some pride in my house instead of viewing it as a burden, and it’s nice to finally get out from underneath the inertia that had me feeling so down for so long.
So Elissa and I sanded/primed/painted on Wednesday and Thursday, and then I put the recessed lighting back in today, and it is finally back to how it was, 2 full years later. Maybe there’s some kind of metaphor in there about healing, or maybe not. All I know is that it’s really nice to finish something. Especially when it has nothing to do with work.