Every day I wonder where the time went. Today I have made myself sit down and grab some time to organize my thoughts; a much needed respite from life under a firehose. It’s self imposed, I mean, we did buy an old house and we expected nothing less than all the projects we have before us. The difference between buying this house and buying our house in Lakewood (aside from the ridiculous price difference) is that we have a time schedule on this house. We want it done in months, not years. Because we want to go cruising again. We are moving fast and honestly, I do not know where this energy I have comes from. It’s probably due to having a sense of purpose and firm goals. We are no longer meandering into the future without a care for our own mortality. We have things to do and places to go and we need an income that will sustain that. This is, if we play our cards right, house #1.
Although we have not moved into Edison House yet, we spend our days there every day. We have a little routine that is satisfying. Mike and I are both working actual jobs, although his job is way more demanding of his time than mine is right now, and we awaken at the Wilson Street house where we have been living with Claire and Dan, get marginally dressed, gather our cellphones and laptops, and walk around the corner to Edison House to begin our work day.
We are finding that we really do like this house very much. We like the size; fairly small by today’s standards, and we like the layout. We like the young man who rents the attached apartment and has lived there for 2 years. Three floors means we are moving up and down stairs all day, which is good for our bodies. We like having our own offices upstairs. We love having a basement. We love the high ceilings. Even the weird little fireplace has grown on us. And I got to use my little speak easy peekaboo door twice so far! It’s as much fun as I thought it would be.
Something we learned on the boat is to really appreciate the use of small spaces and not overwhelm them with ‘stuff’ or large furniture. The size of things becomes especially important when you consider being able to move things in and out of the house, a consideration we never worried about in the Lakewood house with its many wide doorways all around the house. For instance, we are doing a complete tear out and remodel of the kitchen. During the design process I had to decide on the size of refrigerator we wanted. American refrigerators are ridiculously huge in my opinion. They are almost a caricature of American excess. After living with a boat fridge for 4 years and finding that overall I had TOO much space in there, I was not inclined to get anything bigger than the current 30″ fridge that already lives here. When we moved that fridge into the dining room to begin clearing out the kitchen, I realized that even if I wanted a bigger one, I wouldn’t be able to get it through the door! So 30″ fridge it is and will remain. And I’m fine with that.
Speaking of the kitchen, I recently had the joy/back breaking labor experience of removing the hideous ceramic tile, along with 3 additional layers of old flooring; exposing the beautiful original fir underneath. This house is built with 100% Pacific Northwest old growth Douglas Fir and I try not to think about those old trees coming down. All I know is that now every floor has fir that is 15/16″ inch thick and it’s gorgeous. Even the oak floors in the living room and hall are underlain with fir. There is a solidness to walking in this house that speaks to its existence of close to a century.
For now the kitchen floor is covered in the black mastic that is probably made with horse hooves, and turns out to be water soluble. There is a lot of washing of the floor on hands and knees coming to my body in the near future, but I can now take a break from that floor and move on to other destructive activities. I am enjoying the process of discovery as we peel back the layers of this house to its bones, revealing the choices residents of the past have made for better or for worse.
Like the tile in the bathroom. I am dead excited to pull this tile off the wall. My exploratory shenanigans uncovered pink and white candy-striped wall paper. Who knows what may lie beneath the tile of the tub surround, also being torn out, and under the floor tile? That floor is higher than the floor in the hallway, so there is something under there. Maybe just fir, but I’ll be finding out soon. As an aside, if you suffer from any kind of anxiety or even anger, a good tile tear-out is a great way to let it go.
The explorations continue with stripping about 20 layers of paint off of the medicine cabinet in the tiny bathroom. Originally I was going to just take this thing out, but it’s really built into the wall and would be a real act of destruction to remove it. Better to be more conservative in the truest sense of the word and see if the original wood can be brought back to life. So much of the decision making about how to go about upgrading this house must be made carefully, not only with a nod to the history of the house, but also with the checkbook firmly in mind.
The electricians have started. So much of the remodel money is going to be spent on things like electrical and plumbing. But that’s like spending money on a rig on a sailboat. You hate to do it, but it must be done in order for the vessel to be safe. Same on houses. We will not be risking an electrical fire on this house. We are dealing with a lot of deferred maintenance but, again, we already knew that going into this. It’s not our first rodeo.
In terms of plumbing, let’s just say that whoever fixed the leaky drain on the tub did not have an eye to the future. I’m going to show you a photo, but if you are a plumbing nerd, please avert your eyes. It’s bad. The plumber just shook his head. When a plumber has no words you know it’s bad. And yes, it does leak onto the basement floor. There are a lot of plumbers in this neighborhood of older homes. I see them when I take walks, their useful vans of tools trundling down the roads to their next jobs. If you want job security, be a plumber or an electrician.
That bathroom is not as bad as I previously thought, though. Whereas I had immediately had dreams of pulling out that old tub and putting in a free standing tub, I have changed my mind. What changed it? I took a bath last night after yoga. I used the tub that exists there already and decided I like the way it feels. It’s deep, and solid, and supportive and original to that part of the house. The new plan is to keep it and have it refinished. That’s going to save both money and the tub and time. I still have to rip out all the tile and replace whatever it’s installed on, but we can open up that wall where the plumbing lives and then the plumbers have easy access to running water lines up to the second floor where our final project of any size is waiting. I’m getting excited about the possibilities in the bathroom and the kitchen isn’t even done yet. Whoa, Nellie. I probably should slow down, but how?
On to the upstairs. This little space is about to yield to my hammer and pry bar. I’m going to remove the pitiful excuse for walls in there so the plumber and contractor can explore the space. We need a second bathroom upstairs. Any money we spend on that will be money well spent whenever the house gets sold again (probably after I’m long gone from this earth but don’t quote me on that). Our contractor has some good ideas for enlarging the space, and the plumber has some good ideas for how he could plumb it in. It’s well located just above the other bathroom. If that works out, we will have a 3 bedroom 2 bath with a garage close to town. Did I mention that a lovely French bakery is moving in next to the yoga studio, 1/2 a block away? They’ve been in business down the road about a mile, but are moving to a larger location. Yay! It’s like they knew we were moving in and wanted to be neighbors! It’s not quite the same as Bahia de Navidad in Mexico, with its French baker who delivers to boats, but it’s a great second to that. I’m envisioning Saturday morning coffee with a real croissant.
And speaking of neighbors, I was greeted yesterday by a woman named Brandi in an older SUV as she was turning the corner in front of the house. She liked my overalls. I was seriously confused by her comment because these are probably 15 years old, have boat bottom paint on them, as well as various other grimy substances. These are my serious work clothes. They take a beating and keep on going. What she really wanted was to know if we were moving into the house and to say welcome to the neighborhood. Oh, and to offer me some Irises from her yard and to tell me that she is very excited that we are going to repaint the exterior (Everyone is very excited about that, apparently. Pumpkin Spice is an unfortunate color on a house.) It was very nice, almost heart warming. I hope she can come see the house after we’ve finished the remodeling.
And what of the spirits of the house? I’m sure you’ve all been sitting on the edges of your seats wondering if we have any ghosts hanging around. Well, we aren’t sure yet. There have been some interesting little things like knives being misplaced and found in strange locations later. But that could just be our old and overloaded brains. I do sometimes get the sense that people are watching me in an interested sort of way as I get into a meditative state doing the labor of pulling tile, especially when I was doing the kitchen floor. But that may or may not be something to take note of.
And then there is Grace. Or at least that’s what I call her. Grace is 11 and popped into my head yesterday when I was at the house alone applying stripper to the medicine cabinet. She opened the conversation with a query. “What are you doing?”. Um, what?? “What is that you are doing?”. We went on from there as this external voice chattered on in my head about all the work being done on the house and how excited her mother was that I was taking care of the place. Ooookaaaay….
I don’t know who or what Grace might be, which insults her greatly, but my questioning nature and internal skeptic is always firmly in place when these things happen. There have been a handful of times in my life where I have had a connection with someone dead. I wrote about my friend Betty, who spoke to me for days after her passing. I also had some pretty strange experiences on D’arcy Island a few years ago before our cruise. So it’s not unheard of, but as a general rule, I don’t go around listening to or speaking with those who have slipped the old mortal coil. Anyway, Grace followed me back to Wilson House and I finally had to ask if it was possible that I could go to bed without listening to her delightful, if not a little disturbing, chatter.
Is she a ghost of the house somehow? Is she even real? If she isn’t real, then why am I having conversations that feel as though I’m not initiating them? And what is reality anyhow? Haven’t we learned in the last few years that reality is flexible and people get to choose to believe whether factual things are, in fact, fact? Don’t we now believe in secret cabals and reptile people and space lasers and that the earth is actually flat? I don’t know the answers to any of these things. All I know is that everytime I mention the possibility of Grace not being real I hear this: “I AM, TOO, REAL!”. That response is so ‘eleven’. So I’ll let you know if she sticks around, whoever she is.
Enough of this sitting around and chewing the fat with the blog. I have walls to paint and tile to rip out and paint to strip. Time is flying by.
Oh, by the way! I forgot to say check out the March edition of Good Old Boat magazine for my article on anxiety and sailing.