Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unsung renovation heroes

Pretty early on in the whole blogging gig, Justin politely called me out on my often inappropriate use of pronouns.  For example, he correctly noted, I often reported that "we" completed a project, whereas my personal contribution wasn't much more than handing tools or holding things.  On the other hand, if I take the lead on a project and Justin is the tool-handing helper, "I" did something.  So, my apologies.  And thanks where thanks is due.

To that end, I thought it would make sense to devote a post to all the other unsung renovation heroes who have gotten us through the last year's worth of work.  These are people who have gone above the call of familiar or friendly duty, and taken it upon themselves to willingly trade their free time for hard work, sweat, and crazy renovation dirt.

First, let's thank my sister, Maura.

This is the girl who has a whole room named after her around these parts. She spent a week here in the summer, as well as another week in March.  Justin and I would return home from work to find her having accomplished more in that one day than the two of us had collectively finished in a week.  One particular day, she rattled off the list of things she did, and my chin was already on the kitchen floor, before she said "Oh yeah! And I forgot; I mowed the grass and weeded the garden." She's amazing.  How many college freshman willingly spend their spring break using the Shop-Vac to suck flood waters our of their sister's basement?

Second, our dear friend Mike.  Mike lived down the hall from me my freshman year at Bucknell, and subsequently became a close friend to both Justin and I.  He has made the trek - not once, but twice - from near Philadelphia to spend time at our house.  It was awesome enough that he drove 4 hours each way just to visit; but then he got his hands (very) dirty on some of the worst renovation jobs (tearing out the old sewing room walls and installing new insulation on the first trip, then sanding drywall on the second visit!)  True friendship, right there.  Thanks, Mike!

Thirdly, my father-in-law, Steve.  One day last summer, Justin and I were eating dinner at his apartment when we looked out the window and saw a white car on the street in front of the apartment.  "Hey," Justin said, "that looks like my dad.  That IS my dad!"  Steve's surprise visit was certainly a pleasant surprise, not only for his company, but for his willingness to complete several difficult and/or annoying house-related tasks in the hot sun (searching the driveway for errant roofing nails, breaking up blocks of concrete and posts from the old handicapped ramp, and scraping paint off the newly discovered hardwood floors all come to mind).

So those three people really deserve medals of appreciation for their help over the course of the last year.  But they aren't the only ones.  A huge thank you also goes out to my cousin Rachel who is Maura's partner-in-crime and was also a huge help over the summer.  The only picture I can find is us as we were getting all dolled up for the wedding, but I assure you that she was also very willing to get her hands dirty up here at the house!

Also thanks to my brother, Colin, for his help.  I have to put his picture in so he knows I'm thankful.  He claims his intense Johns Hopkins pre-med coursework already contains more than enough reading, and his sister's blog should contain fewer words and more pictures.  In case you are reading, Col, thanks for your help and also for your ideas.  A lot of very helpful constructive criticism and also brand new ideas have come out of this guy:

And my dear-ol'-Dad, who is not only our resident home security & safety consultant, but also has put in lots of time hanging things up in this house (whether that be drywall, coat hooks, and new shelves).  On one visit, I asked him to hang a piece of plywood in the kitchen to add some extra space before we get more cabinets.  But now I have a really nice wood shelf with fancy brackets.  It's seriously the nicest thing in my kitchen; all because my dad never fails to make sure that he gives all his best.  To everyone.  And did I mention that he makes sure we're safe and secure?

And let's not forget my Mama.  She is overwhelmingly helpful.  Like the time I sat up in bed, looked across to the guest room (we're still doorless upstairs, except for the bathroom) and had the following conversation: Me: [sleepy face].  Mom: "It's about time you wake up!  We have LOTS to do today!  Like right now, we're going to wash the windows."  And she proceeded to scrub the windows to the point that they're dangerous to neighborhood birds.  I had to tear her away from the project to eat breakfast.  She doesn't stop working the whole time she's here (or the whole time she's at her house, for that matter).  Also she taught me everything I know about being creative and working with my hands.  And she listens on the phone to my daily litany of complaints, updates, and musings about the whole house renovation process.  That's a lot of listening.

We also wouldn't be here without the incredible advice of many, many family members.  I distinctly remember a conversation with a coworker before I left Harrisburg.  I told him we had just purchased a fixer-upper house, and that we planned to do most of the work ourselves.  "Have you done anything like that before?" he asked.  "Not really," I told him, "but a lot of our relatives have, so we've grown up around it."  "Is that like saying, 'Hey, my uncle is a heart surgeon, I'll do your surgery?'" he asked.  Touche'.  But thankfully, all of the uncles, grandfathers, and others who are electrical engineers, architects, carpenters, and other very experienced renovators were very willing to guide us through heart surgery home renovation over the phone, email, or other conversations.  Sorry that we tend to always steer the conversation that way over Thanksgiving dinner!  I may miss some people, but sincere thanks to Pap-Pap, Uncle Mike, Uncle Kevin, Uncle Tom, Uncle Paul, Uncle Tim, Uncle Curt, Pap, Uncle Bob, Uncle Joel, Uncle Barry, Uncle Rex, Uncle Ismael, Greg, Evan & Jordan!

We also owe huge thanks to our neighbors.  Across the street, we have a wonderful couple who came from Italy in the 1970s.  They are like our Ithaca grandparents, and besides feeding us amazing food and taking care of me when I cut my finger and had yet to have any Band-Aids in the house, also look out for us, provide lots of advice (he was a carpenter back in Italy and renovated his entire house here), loan hundreds of tools, and let us drive their pick-up truck.  Next door, we have another fabulous neighbor who loans us ladders, wheelbarrows, her pick-up truck, etc., and doesn't complain when Justin uses the noisy power sander all night long or when our "to go to the dump" renovation junk pile is visible from her back deck for longer than is polite.

I also owe a big thank you to everyone reading this blog.  Your support has been incredible, and your excitement at following our progress has spurred me on  more than once.  Also your patience (in waiting for posts, and also waiting for me to shut up about house projects once we get together in person) is much appreciated.

Finally, just in case you missed yesterday's gushing tribute, thank you Justin!

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