Monday, June 23, 2014

The Goodbye Tour: The Laundry Room

Continuing through the house on our little good-bye stop: laundry room.  A lot of the content of this post is a re-run from this one back in 2012 (apparently I did occasionally post finished room pictures instead of just progress shots back then), but I've updated it a bit and added some new photos.

Our downstairs bathroom was originally the master bedroom of the house.  When the previous owner became too ill to go upstairs, her bedroom was moved to the den and plumbing and a handicapped-accessible bathroom was built.

The washing machine (which was not sold with the house) had apparently been in the kitchen (where we later added a peninsula), and she did not have a dryer.

Justin was a little nervous, given the state of the entire house, that I wanted to renovate the only live-able room in the house.  Since it was converted within the last 5 years or so, it was a nice space.  The paint was nicely done (albeit not in my choice of color!), the fixtures were new, working, and didn't have years of caked on grime.  Longtime readers of the blog will know that all of these perks were not found throughout the rest of the house!

However, I knew that I wanted to have the washer and dryer accessible on the first floor and not have to install them in the basement, and the amount of space in the bathroom was really unnecessary.  We apparently don't have any pictures that show the full scale of the room, but here's a collection of before shots to give you an idea.


We spent several months doing laundry in a laundromat until the glorious day when the plumbing was revamped for a washer/dryer in the place of the old vanity.  (Remember that announcement, here).  In one of our biggest Craigslist successes, a woman drove from over an hour away to pay us $100 for the removed vanity.  

I stole the medicine cabinet for the upstairs bathroom, leaving us with a hole in the wall for much longer than anticipated.  My decorating and organization left a lot to be desired (but we were frying bigger fish at the time, like finishing the upstairs):

Then, I finally decided that it was time to make some things happen.  With 48 hours (or some other ridiculously short time frame) between that point and the pending arrival of my parents and siblings, I decided that I would finish the bathroom before they arrived to surprise them with the progress.  I think I finished the drywall repairs, painted the ceiling, and did half of the first coat (again, the huge size of the room and immense amount of cutting in took me by surprise) before the doorbell rang.  So, guess how my family spent a big part of their Ithaca vacation :)  (Thanks, guys!!)

Mom, helping to paint (and clearly acting on a dare from my dangerous-with-a-paintbrush sister in this shot!)

Maura and Colin, installing the sticky tiles I love - as a surprise for me while I was at work one day!

I revamped the cabinet that had been hanging in the kitchen and hung it here for cleaning supply storage

A new pedestal sink (on the previously empty wall), a mirror, new accessories and a new shower curtain, and now's now:



Project review:
- New shower curtain/mirror/towel bars/etc

Before, after, and one last look:

Monday, June 16, 2014

They could have been the "stressful mysteries"

As I shared in one of my recent posts, I'm generally moving beyond the emotional-wreck stage and into the let's-get-this-party-started stage of moving.  However, I'm still a Type-A, hormonal pregnant lady who is experiencing a fairly substantial life change, and so....there are days.

But despite "those days" (sorry, Justin and/or any/everyone else), I'm finding moments of grace and inspiration that are strengthening me throughout this whole experience.

Take yesterday, when I sat in church praying a rosary before Mass began.  I started meditating on the Joyful mysteries (never mind that I realized later that I was supposed to do the Glorious, but given my reflection, I'm happy for my mistake).

The first mystery: The Annunciation.

I start my Hail Marys, and start thinking of the Angel appearing to Mary.  I'm suddenly struck by fear and the anxiousness that Mary must have felt at the arrival of an heavenly messenger.  I thought not only of the startling messenger, but his alarming message: she was to become pregnant out-of-wedlock and to bear the Son of God.  This is not exactly a Precious Moments cherub delivering happily-ever-after news, as I've been oft to think before, with the benefit of now knowing the whole story.

Hmm, I think, as I reach the Our Father bead and begin a new mystery.

The second mystery: The Visitation.

I'm suddenly struck, again, by a new image.  No longer is it just happy hugs and long, loving chats by two glowing cousins.  I realize that it's two women meddling through the discomforts of pregnancy, one having sustained a long journey, without our modern conveniences, and with the added anxiety of not completely understanding the great mysteries God has planned in each of the new lives in their wombs.

Yikes.  There's more stress in all of this than I ever previously noticed.

The third mystery: The Nativity.

Childbirth.  In a cave.  Surrounded by animals.  Far from home.  Young, and very likely scared.

As I pray, I think of the painting of Mary we have in our room.  I purchased it last fall, having seen it at the Catholic bookstore in our new town on our should-we-move-here trip.  I was struck by the image, one of the only times I've ever seen anything besides radiant joy in a nativity picture.

But how true, that single tear, representing the bewilderment of every new mother.  How, she wonders, could I ever be worthy of this new life, and how will I ever live up to my call in raising this gift?

Mass began, and I put my rosary aside, unable to shake my new understanding of these mysteries.  I came home and began telling Justin of my observations, and we talk about the 4th and 5th mysteries.

The fourth mystery: The Presentation.

"Well, that's not so bad," I said to Justin.  "Other than the whole prophets telling you a sword will pierce your heart part," he counters.  Oh.  Right.

The fifth mystery: The Finding in the Temple.

I can see the great joy here, but not without recognizing the immense pain, fear, and concern at having not only lost your own child...but misplaced THE SON OF GOD.

Throughout each mystery, I see the fear, the anxiety, and the pain that must have accompanied Mary at each of these moments.  They might have easily been named the "stressful mysteries."  However, we are taught to reflect on these moments with JOY.   The Church shows us these examples of Mary's grace, first in recognizing her beautiful fiat, her acceptance and trust in the Lord.  Mary, in her humanity - and perhaps even in her femininity - would have had the inclination for such a naturally anxious response to such stressful occurrences.  However, she chooses joy.  She chooses to follow God's plan for her life, and to hope in the good that is to come from the suffering.  Therein lies the second lesson of these mysteries: God's plan is bigger than the moment, larger than what our human understanding can comprehend within the limits of time and space.  With the lens of history, we can appreciate the joy in each of these Biblical moments: the announcement of the arrival of the Son of God, the wonder of John the Baptist leaping in his mother's womb, the birth of our Savior.  We know how the story ends, and this knowledge teaches us to accept all that had to happen for this Divine Plan to be instated.  But in that narrow space of each moment, Mary couldn't have known or understood all that was to come, yet she chose anyway to respond with joy.  In our own lives, we rarely understand how God's plan is at play.  Even in moments when we know - or have chosen - that our changes or plans will mean things being tough before they get better, we often focus on the stress, rather than the ultimate joy.

And so, this is my prayer: that in each moment, as we go through challenges, changes, and stress, that we learn from Mary's example - that no matter how overwhelming or stressful it might seem in the short term, we choose to accept God's plan and accept it, not with anxiety, but with ultimate joy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Good-bye Tour: The Den

Back in May of 2011, I wrote a post titled "The Den, Done."  Just like with the living room, I now laugh at what I originally considered finished decor.  Of all the rooms in the house, even the "finished" version of the den I'm about to show you was the least finished in my mind - I never quite reached a state with this room where I was 100% happy with how it looked.  However, it's really Justin's room (albeit overtaken in the corner by Anna's toys), and he was happy with it, so that's what is important.  Incidentally, I could now write a post titled "The Den, Undone," as I'm sitting on the floor in the shadow of a pile of boxes, but we'll focus on the pre-moving decor...

Let's start at the very beginning:

Be sure to note both the neon orange paint, as well as the smoke-residue outlines of everything the previous owners had hung on the walls.

Although the decor and furnishing has been an ever-evolving project (perhaps in part because this room, while it's supposed to just be Justin's office, has needed to be too many things for too many people, including an entrance way and toy room), the den was the first room completed in terms of renovations.  It was our "master bedroom" (term used loosely for the messy mattress-on-floor situation we had going on; picture below) for 4 1/2 months from the time we got married until we finished the upstairs.

(Wall sconce = tie rack.  Classy.)
We went through many iterations of chair placement, toy storage, etc, etc, etc.

And finally, over time, it became this (which is much less embarrassing for people to see immediately upon entering the front door):

Transformation occurred by the following:
- Ripping out the carpet and refinishing the floors
- Adding furnishing, window blinds, and art
(More before & after shots of details here)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Quick Takes: Edition 13

I started writing this last-o'-randoms for last week's Quick Takes link-up, and subsequently wrote several other blog posts in my head.  It just seems that the mind-to-screen ratio is pretty low on this front.  Alas, at least something new to read:


First, and probably most exciting, we have finally decided on a name!  Unlike Anna's name, which came to us quickly and with little debate, choosing a name for little lady #2 took a bit longer (and more lists and more discussions, etc).  She still needs a concrete middle name, but I'd like to introduce to you Baby Julia.  (Also known as "oolie" to big sister)

I'm sure that Justin would add a disclaimer that we reserve the right to change her name up until the time we write it on birth certificate paperwork at the hospital, but we've been calling her Julia now for a few weeks, and it seems right.

(For more on my theory about naming babies before birth, see here).  One additional bonus I hadn't realized is I think calling Julie (not a typo - that's a nickname) by name is helping Anna understand the totally crazy concept that there's another person in mommy's belly, and we're hoping it will ease the transition come October!


We effectively have 3 weeks to pack everything (it's technically 34 days until we load the truck, but we'll be away visiting family during some of that time and hosting others for part as well).  After a super busy spring where we were focused on one big thing at a time, it was sort of crazy to recover from graduation weekend and realize that the move is the next big thing!

I switched my room-by-room strategy from an extensive deep-cleaning to a clean-all-visible-surfaces cleaning in efforts to move the picture taking along.  This was significantly inspired by Tuesday's arrival:

Literally, boxes full of boxes.
For the record, U-Haul has the best quality/prices I could find,
plus they offered free delivery and will buy back unused boxes.


The good news is that I have 3 more rooms completely photographed and ready to share (as soon as I work on that mind-to-screen thing; I've shared them several times over in my head!)  It's a little tedious and feels a bit silly to get every room "perfect" when I'm about to start packing things, but I know I'll be so happy to have the pictures to counter my files full of "before" pictures!


I recently treated myself to a stack of books from Amazon, mostly related to motherhood and homemaking as they relate to the faith.  I've realized that I spent 4 years studying and earning a degree in management/sociology, and while it's somewhat applicable, I spend my days doing things for which I have no specific training.  I have a strong desire to not just do this stay-at-home mom thing, but to do it well, and have therefore committed myself to studying/learning/thinking/over-analyzing - not just the practicalities, but the philosophy of why we do what we do, too.  I'm hoping to add a tab of "My Bookshelf" to the blog as a central point to share all of the great books I've found in case anyone else is interested in a similar sort of study.

This week's recommendation (until I get around to actually adding that new blog section): 

If you've read any blogs recently, I'm sure you've come across this, but I finally bought it and it lives up to all the positive reviews I've seen.

I of course welcome additional suggestions on things to read!


Speaking of advice, moving/packing tips are also welcomed.  Our situation is a little bit unique because we'll be house-sitting for the first 10-months.  So rather than simply getting all of our possessions safely to the new location, we have to do so in an organized manner, dividing everything into three categories: (1) things we'll need right away, during the month or so we'll overlap with the current family (like clothes, some of Anna's toys, etc), (2) things we'll want after they head overseas and we move upstairs from the basement apartment to the main floor (some books, some kitchen things, a few personal pictures/knickknacks), (3) things we won't need until we move into our own place next summer.  This is a somewhat tedious project for me, as I look around the house and look at each item in turn saying "HOW CAN I LIVE WITHOUT THIS FOR 10 MONTHS!?!" and once I talk myself down from that ledge, that leads me to a "well, gee, if I don't need it for that long, do I really even need it" guilt trip about having any possessions at all.  It's an interesting process, but I think long-term it will help us determine what possessions really are important and what are not, and a probably healthy detachment from our stuff in general.


Despite all the packing drama, I'm actually really excited for the move.  I spent plenty of time being sad, but I think I'm moving more towards the sweet in the bittersweet.  I'm sure it will be difficult at times, but we're headed to a place with an incredible and welcoming community (I can't even keep track of how many of Justin's new colleagues have offered come unpack our u-haul) and thinking about moving is probably more difficult than actually moving is going to be.

We have a great relationship with the new owner of our house, which makes me comfortable leaving because I know this home will be in good hands.

And, we've started to look at real estate listings, which means that my mind is going a mile a minute with plans for renovations and decorating and new paint colors (and opening all my boxes of stuff), and dreaming about a new project always cheers me up!


This graduation speech by Admiral McRaven at University of Texas was making its rounds on social media last week, and I wanted to link to it here, particularly for his first tip in the "lessons from a Navy SEAL:" "If you want to change the world, start by making your bed."  I think his explanation is excellent (and I will certainly remember when Anna, Julia, and future siblings challenge the necessity of such a chore).

So there you have it, it's not just little-old-me who thinks that the old wisdom of having a neat house and neat appearance will affect other aspects of your life.  A Navy SEAL agrees.

Visit Jen @ Conversion Diary for lots of other quick takes!