Holding on to a Vision

14 11 2012

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

“Even in your darkest moments, you’ll think of something that’ll crack you up.”
Brad Paisley

-I had it the first time I went by that sad, dilapidated little house among the weeds.
-I had it even as we went to view the inside for the first time.
-I had it as we went to sign the final closing papers and take a tour of the place with the son-in-law to devise a plan to make it liveable.
-I even had it as we started to knock down walls, tear out ceilings, exposing even more problems with pipes and wires than we had bargained for. And just as I used to tell my children, as I started dumping stuff out of their closets and out from under their beds, “sometimes you have to make a mess to clean a mess”

I could see the house, fixed up, fresh paint, with furniture in it, brightly lit and feel that it would be a nice little place, a real home. I could see the need for the destruction of walls and ceilings to help get it to the safe, dry, warm, healthy place it needs to be to live there comfortable. I could see the layout, as it could be, not as it was. And that was fine. That was good.

And then I walked in there on Saturday, after not having been there for over a week. It was gloomy. It was dark. It was dusty and moldy, with cabinets and fixtures scattered around along with the dust and debris. Bathroom just a gaping hole, bedroom floors pulled up to reveal nothing but rotten floor joists and dirt crawl spaces. It looked a long way from liveable. It looked even worse than when we first looked at it. I was overwhelmed with just how much work we had ahead of us. No visions of fruit bowls on the island or family photos on the half wall, a newly tiled bathroom or lace curtains letting in light. Just dust and debris, broken tiles, hanging insulation. I was so totally, hopelessly heart sick and discouraged that I just wanted to sit down in the middle of all those rusty screws on the exposed concrete slab and cry my eyes out.

It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth. Thomas Fuller

So I knew it was going to be like this. I thought I had it under control, was prepared for it. But still, it hit me like a truck. And being up there by myself for the day, I didn’t even have anyone to help me reset my thinking and get back to looking at things in a positive light.

“The only way around is through.”
Robert frost

But I hadn’t come up there to sit in the middle of the floor, crying. So somehow I managed to haul out the ladder, pull out my screw driver and get started with the task I had gone up there for. I started removing all the old screws from the studs and rafters, to help get them ready for new sheetrock. It was slow going. I was working over my head for most of the time, head craned back to see what I was doing. It took a while to get used to the power screwdriver, being a hand tool kind of gal, generally, and dealing with the extra weight of the battery was starting to become a bit of a workout. It was monotonous. Move the ladder, climb the ladder, unscrew as many screws as I could reach, climb down the ladder and repeat, over and over. It was hot that day. Worse, it was humid. I was battling nauseau as I climbed up and down that ladder. At one point I had to bail to go find some lunch and a bathroom, which helped tremendously, nothing like a cheeseburger and a nice large iced tea to help lift a mood. Then, back at it. 4+ hours I put into the task, and only managed to clear the kitchen and most of the living room. Not as much as I had hoped to accomplish, but hey, there’s still a little time before the son in law returns to work some more.
So I didn’t give up or give in to the discouragement. I did what I could do. I came away with the knowledge that I had accomplished at least some of what I had gone up there to do and was that much closer to reaching my objective. I could feel a bit better about it. But the optimism is a little shaky and the vision a little dark. But if I just hang in there, I know it’ll get better.
And I won’t leave you with my normal commentary on life lessons learned…they seem to be pretty obvious in this post, haha.
And for those who’ve asked, I have been taking pictures. But I won’t be posting before’s until I have some afters to go with them.
And next week, when I make the drive up there to continue on with my to-do list, I’m taking a battery operated radio and putting on something “peppy” and a lunch that I can eat without leaving the grounds.
So, Status update, 3 weeks after closing. House pretty much gutted, some insulation left in ceilings. New roof, almost done. Plumbing-working, no leaks, shut off valves installed, water pump and water heater working…yay! Now we just need some bathroom fixtures, haha.


Demo Daze, part 3 (4+5)

7 11 2012


Monday, August 29, 2011

Unfortunately, I only had 2 days off of work, so the rest of the week was up to Bob and Jay. They had arranged for Mark the handyman to come back and work with them, so I was hoping they would be fairly productive days. 
And Wednesday was. Mark the handyman said he would be there at 6 am. They got there at 8:30 and were a little surprised not to see him there, worried that he wasn’t coming, until he pulled in at 9 am. They got most of the ceilings down without too many nasty surprises. They got the last of the kitchen gutted, with appliances and cabinets set aside, with the hope of salvaging them. We were hoping to save the bathroom, but decided against it so they got the fixtures out of there. The floors in the bathroom and bedrooms, however, turned out to be more difficult and time consuming than was expected, so Mark the handyman said he would bring a cordless saw (remember, there is no power turned on) on Thursday so that Jay could cut out the floors while Bob and Mark worked on some of the plumbing/waterline issues. 
Jay’s funny story of the day? Seems he was in need of a rest room. So he and Bob headed downtown to the restaurant we had had lunch at the day before. He went in, used the rest room and then headed over to the counter to ask for a coffee to go. The lady said “CAWfee” Jay said yes. The lady said, “you’re not from around here are you?” Jay said no. The lady said, “did you have lunch in here yesterday?” Jay said yes. The lady said, “my daughter waited on you yesterday, She said you were cute” Jay said “thank-you” and “I really like this State”. So now he keeps talking about all these NH “tomatoes” and I keep reminding him he has a jealous wife. 
Wednesday night was interesting. We were all running late, me because I had covered one of bobs pet sits on the way home from work. We headed to the buffet again. Then I went to bed (those 5 am mornings were killing me) while bob and Jay stayed up to have a couple of drinks and play some cards. Seems Jay got Bob laughing so hard Bob started to choke and gasp, to the point of blacking out. Fortunately when he blacked out, the choking stopped and he just “fell asleep” So now every time poor Jay cracks a joke I tell him to knock it off is he trying to kill his father-in-law. But it was kind of scary at the time. 
Thursday, I got to go to work (it amazes me how much more pleasant, less stressful the days are when the coworker’s off). Jay and Bob had, probably, the most stressful day of the week. They got up extra early because they needed to hit the hardware store for some plumbing supplies. They got to the house, expecting to see Mark. Only Mark the handyman didn’t show. Not late. Just not at all. Set them back a bit. Discouraged them a lot. It wasn’t even the fact that he didn’t show, more the fact that he didn’t call. Even if he came up with a good excuse, he messed up big time on the trustworthy front. So I guess we’re looking for a new handy man. 
Thursday night I had to make a trip to the laundry mat. The son in law went with me, and we hit the pizza place next door while the wash was being done. I tell you, the more time I spend with the kid, the more I like him. A kid, any mother would be proud to call her son. 
Friday, they did manage to finish the gut. They came home with a new power drill for me and a list of things I could work on for the next couple of weeks before Jay comes back up for another week of (hopefully this time) constructing…mostly pulling nails and screws from studs and stripping up the linoleum on the porch and in the kitchen. We’re also working on getting the wiring, plumbing and roof done (roofer started today…we hope) and then maybe we’ll feel like we’re getting some where. 

Demo Daze, part 2

7 11 2012

Friday, August 26, 2011

After finishing up on day 1 we sat down over dinner and discussed the problems we had encountered and what we were going to work on the following day. On day 2, Bob was supposed to go up to the house with Jay, while I stayed behind to take care of a couple of pet sits and then catch up with them later. After seeing what Bob could physically do and what I could physically do, we decided that it might be more helpful and the best use of my day off if I went up with Jay while he stayed behind and took care of the pets and then caught up with us at lunch time. We were also expecting some help to show up, since Bob had placed an ad for a day laborer, just to come in and help clean up some of the mess as we worked…though we were wondering what exactly what it was we were going to get.
So the Problems we needed to deal with were:
1. Water. We had hoped to fix a pipe coming off the water heater, get the pump primed and get water on. Wasn’t going to happen. While opening up walls in the living room we found several more disconnected copper pipes and decided that we couldn’t do a thing until we opened up more walls and got the entire picture. Add probably calling a plumber to our list of things we had to do. So the house, for now, remains waterless.
2. Electric. Although we have service to the house, the master breakers have been off. We knew it was going to need work. We didn’t realize how much, until the walls started coming down. Melted sockets. Uncapped wires going nowhere. Wires running over water pipes. So until we could get the electrician in, we were also going to remain powerless. Makes it hard to use electric power tools, haha.
3. Layers. There were more layers than expected. Wood planks in the living room were attached, well, directly into the concrete block walls. Took longer than expected. Paneling over sheetrock over multiple layers of insulation. It definitely slowed us down.
4. The Roof. The roofer, who was supposed to put in an appearance on Monday had never showed or called. That problem was turned over to Bob, to make contact and see what was up. Part weather throwing him off schedule, part problem with a contract never making its way to us and back.
So Jay and I made it up to the house by 8:30 am and started in ripping out the interior of the porch. At this point I was starting to get almost good with a hammer and pry bar. The Walls came down quickly, the ceiling, however was pretty well screwed into the joist. Every once in a while Jay would say,” put your pry bar here, Ma.” And we’d get a piece down together. On one particular piece of sheathing, he asked me to help out. I got my pry bar into it, it wouldn’t budge. He told me to put my weight into it….and then stopped to look at me and laughed…I’m holding on to the pry bar, dangling from the ceiling with both feet off the ground, and still it wouldn’t budge. He said that was almost as amusing as my spiderwoman impersonation from the day before.

The hired man showed up promptly at 9 am. We heaved a sigh of relief; he looked normal and clean and intelligent and pretty much dug right into hauling out the debris. I figured we would get either someone who would show up, half hung over, do a half assed day for the money and then disappear or someone who was hungry for work. Seemed like we lucked out. Especially when it turned out he was a general handyman who normally charged more than what we were paying, but wasn’t turning down much of any work. Also seems he had some wiring and plumbing experience. Hmmmmm.

So by the time Bob showed up, just before lunch, we had the porch entirely gutted, insulation down and shoveled out, picture window removed from interior wall, Bedroom walls completely down and living room carpet and pad torn up. An electrician showed up right behind him and they walked through and looked at what had to be done and a few different estimated depending on how we wanted to approach it. Everyone who comes in seems to be impressed that we’re approaching it the “right” way…Not that I see that we had much of a choice, haha. Even as we were thinking maybe we didn’t have to take something down, we’d get a better look and change our minds.

And then Bob took us all out to a sit-down lunch. Nice break. Got to know the handyman a little better. Came up with an afternoon game plan. And then promptly got over fed and lazy! But we gave it a good try. By the end of the afternoon, we had the livingroom ceiling down, bathroom walls, down and started on the bedroom ceilings. We found 2 impressive wasp nests high in the rafters, and had to stop and treat them. I have to admit, though, I was glad we decided to call it a day about the time we started in on those last couple of ceilings in the bedrooms. I really didn’t much care for insulation and other debris (some of it, Yucky to put it mildly) raining down on my head. In the meantime Bob and the handyman had come to an agreement about working a couple more days (Jay wasn’t much caring for the ceiling work either, haha), to help finish the ceilings and do some of the plumbing repairs. So I knew I could return to my real job and things would still make good progress.

Demo Daze, part 1

7 11 2012

Thursday, August 25, 2011

“Well this nine pound hammer. it’s a little too heavy,
Yes for my size, buddy for my size.
Well roll on buddy, Don’t you roll so slow,
How can I roll, when my wheels won’t roll?” (Traditional)

So we’ve started the Demolition Phase. Out the door and up there by 9am on Monday, with work boots, basic tools and plenty of water. Forgot work gloves, so we had to stop along the way. We did remember masks, though it was funny watching Bob try to get it fitted to his face. Our first plan was to get the water on and running, but after finding some disconnected pipes (??) we decided against that until we could see what was going on and get a plumber over there. We wandered around aimlessly for a bit, trying to figure out where best to start, settled on the wood plank walls in the living room and started in. Jay, pulling down boards, me running around trying to remove electric plate covers and unscrew boxes, Bob hauling debris as it piled up out to the just arrived dumpster.
The other thing we had managed to forget was the new ladder we had bought. So I had to make do in a few places that were slightly out of reach. Some tall areas were reached by finding a cement block or two and using them as a step stool. But to get at the wall behind the woodstove, I literally hopped up on the wood stove and then crouched from there to get at the outlets higher on the wall. Next thing I hear is “Hey look at Ma, she looks like Angelina Jolie in “Salt” For some reason they seemed to think it was funny, and already consider it one of the highlights of the renovations.
From there we moved on to the bedrooms and I got to try my hand at taking down the walls. Having never really done this before, I was a little slow to start, managed to smash the heck out of a finger early on, figured out it wasn’t broken and just kept swinging the hammer. Jay says if I ever move to Jersey, I’ve got a job with him, haha. I have to admit there was really something satisfying about punching through that paneling and sheet rock and just tearing down all those old, moldy walls. I really kind of liked it.
We did lose some time, trying to find a place to eat lunch. Seems half of the dining establishments in Ossipee are closed on Mondays. But we got back, got a bit more of the walls down, started losing light fast and had to call it quits for the day.
So at the end of the day review (Showered, clean and sitting at a buffet in Concord, life was good) we went over our day, the problems that popped up and how we were going to approach them. Then, we went home…and collapsed

A visit with the realtor.

6 11 2012

So the hubby and I decided to call our realtor and set up a showing.  Our regular realtor, who I think was just about sick of us, helped set up an appointment with the agent listing this house because it was a bit too far for him.  And so, one day after work, we made the hour plus trip north to take a look.

I truthfully didn’t think my husband, old flatlander Bob, was going to get past the half mile or so of dirt road to get to the house.  I’m not so sure he had ever even seen a dirt road before moving to rural NH from the Jersey shore.  But he didn’t seem to mind it.  Nor did he seem to mind the fact that it was a pretty forlorn looking little place.  And he didn’t even cringe too much when we walked in through the door

From the drive w stepped into an enclosed porch.  Bead board and wall paper that looked like photos of birch trees.  Damp walls.  Damper ceilings.  vinyl tile over concrete.  Lovely!

From there we went through another door into the main room, a large open living/kitchen area.  Unfortunately I didn’t seem to get any real photos of the living room side, but it was finished in rough barnboard, with a fieldstone wall and a wood stove sitting in front of a closed off fire place.  Only 2 small high windows in the living room let in any real natural light, other than what came through the window facing the porch.

The kitchen took up the other side…

Two tiny bedrooms were off the kitchen, breaking up that wall.

Even scarier than the warped paneling and grungy rugs and rotten wet floors was this:

yup, the ultimate in do it yourself wiring.  We were scared to even try to turn on the electric.

And of course, if I ever dreamed of one of those glorious bathrooms that you could almost live in…this wasn’t it:

And that was it for living space.  Only thing left is the utility room

and a shed on the back that housed the oil tank.

And in spite of all of that…it felt like it would be a good place to live….eventually.  Ever just have a place feel right?

Plus we were getting it for pretty much the cost of the land.  And we could pay cash for it (literally, it took the entire closing for the agent to count it out as we signed all the paper work).  And on August 15, 2011, it became ours.

My son-in-law, a general contractor, agreed to come up and help us get started. So as soon as we got the keys, we went and changed the locks and started to make a plan.  A new roof (the old one was metal laid over shingles, leaving edges exposed and water coming in)  A total gut job.  Electrical work.  And on the first of September, we got to work.

In the beginning…

21 10 2012

Bob and I had been looking at foreclosures for several months before coming upon our final purchase.  We knew that whatever we found would need some work, but at the same time we were trying to limit it to things we could do ourselves with the help of our son in law.  At one point we were interested enough to make an offer in one, but were unable to get what little financing we needed to make it happen and still have cash for the work that was needed.  So we had to start again from the beginning, determined to find one we could pay cash for.

And then one day I found an ad for this one.

It certainly didn’t look like much…but then again not much is what it was going for.  But something about it struck me as kind of cute, and I really liked the location.  So since I was planning on hiking in that area that weekend, we agreed that I would go check it out and report back on my way home.

So after a glorious morning spent hiking…

I headed south to the next town and began the search.  Took me a while.  I kept missing the turn I needed to take off the main road and kept driving back and forth.  Then I couldn’t seem to find the number (turns out I had it wrong) and just as I was about to give up and head home, I found it.

My first thought was that hubby was going to hate it because it was on a dirt road.  I always wanted to live on one, but wasn’t so sure what he was going to think, since he’d made it pretty clear in the past that that was one thing about rural america that he wasn’t too keen on.  My second thought; I wished it could be the pretty little center chimney cape across the way.

So I snapped a few outdoor shots (and a few, peeking through windows where I could) and then went home to discuss it with the husband.

Hello world!

23 06 2012

For the past several months, the husband and I have been working on renovating a foreclosure property in an attempt to make it, well, liveable.  Why did we pick this property?  Well, mostly because it was dirt cheap and we were desperate to find a place that we could buy outright and still have the cash to at least take care of the immediate repairs.  Didn’t hurt that it was in an area of my home state where I’ve always wanted to live, a place where I could see myself finishing out my days, god willing.  A place near some of the best that my home state of New Hampshire has to offer for when the kids/grandkids come to visit.  A place that was still (barely) in a commutable distance to my place of employment.  A place that, at the end of a work day, I’m happy to make the hour plus commute back to, to finish out my day.

My husband and I were married 6 years ago, after he gave up his comfortable life in New Jersey to move to my home state to be with me.  He will admit to you that his life certainly is…um…different, but worth it.  Between us we have 5 grown children and 3 small grandchildren.  We have replaced those moved away children with an assortment of cats and one large dog.  We both work outside the home full-time.  Neither of us had any real construction or carpentry experience before working on this house and it has been a major learning experience for both of us.

Now for my blog name.  Way back when I first began using the internet, I had joined some hiking forums.  Since I always hiked with small children in tow, I would constantly hear “Are we there yet” or “I gotta pee” or “I’m so tired”  Since “Gottapee”  or “ZZZzzzz” didn’t seem to make very snazzy names, I had to work it.  And somehow, years later, even with the kids grown and gone, I find myself still asking myself the same question.  Is it time to leave work?  Am I almost done with that project?  Have I lost enough weight?  Am I the happiest I can be, or the healthiest?  Am I there yet?

I’m hoping to use this blog to document some of the progress we’ve made with the house in the past 8 months and, hopefully, the future progress as we try to take it from bare bones liveable to a comfortable, inviting place to live.