Attempting to settle into a house you’ve invested so, so much of yourself into—and I’m not just talking money but legit blood, sweat, and tears—is kind of surreal. That is to say, moving in felt kinda fake, like it was all just for fun or playing house (which I never tired of as a child). Having 95% of our joint energy for so long focused on this single house made it almost larger than life, if that makes sense.
Especially because it often felt like a huge struggle, as we were dragged against so many challenges we hadn’t seen coming. I don’t know how else to describe it, but you just get swallowed whole, whether you like it or not. You might recall that I wasn’t even all that interested in home ownership. But a project like this just seeps into everything, almost like an obsession you can’t quit (really, you can’t or we might have tried at some point).
Now it was just our house. The place we lived. If we wanted to invite friends over, this was just the place they came, an address they plugged into a GPS (unless you’re like me and still use Mapquest). It was so simple and nonchalant.
But this place took over our lives. It was all we thought about. It was all we did. Shopping now meant Home Depot or Lowe’s. Our biggest purchases were wood and tools (why are they sooooo expensive???). We couldn’t get away from it.
It’s not all bad though (nothing ever is, right?). Even though I was most often found pushing around the shop vac like a noob intern, I found myself starting to –gasp- understand shit around here. Building concepts. Having some input when decisions had to be made, or at least grasping what the problem was, even if I had no clue how solve it. Still, I was picking stuff up, hedging the bridge from Lisa-The-Tool-Time-Girl, to Tim-The-Tool-Man-Taylor. D was always Al, though, because he really was the only one who knew what was going on.
Speaking of which, we still had two mega issues to tackle - the bathroom and floors. Somewhere after that, we’d worry about a kitchen (just to remind you how far off we really were).
The kitchen was completely bare, except for the plumbing tubes coming out of the floor. They were a menace because 1. they were just a tease for indoor water, and 2. you had to be really careful not to mess with them, lest you knock them out. I don’t really know what that means, but D warned me repeatedly about it. This meant I almost always knocked into them if I came within a two foot radius.
D had been avoiding the bathroom, not wanting to get into the monstrosity the shower could easily morph into. After several weeks of a non-functioning bathroom, things started to wear on me though.
I basically started showering when I came home from work, which is a weird time to shower. It was still hot enough outside to brave the cold water, and I found it easier when I could see more clearly. There were slugs all over the place, and I realllllly didn’t want to step on one. Also, I was able to see spiders crawling up the walls and check my sponge for signs it had become something’s home (in hindsight, I don’t know why I just didn’t keep it indoors).
Plus, the mosquitos were feasting on me! And being naked, they had their complete pick of flesh. Needless to say, I was quickly covered in bites. We tried burning those candles and oils that claim to keep them away, but it was useless. Also useless, putting bug spray on while showering, because, duh. The shower was a haven for water-loving mosquitos and we just had to deal with it.
Complicating showers was my need to shave. The water was too cold outside, which gave me goosebumps, which is just painful, bleeding shaving. I retreated to the basement, where we had a laundry sink hooked-up—with warm water. I wobbled on a small stool, one leg hung over the sink at a time while navigating my mosquito-poxed legs. Sexy.
Also, if it was raining or I was just being a particular baby, I washed my hair in the sink, or like, my whole body. Washing yourself in a sink is REALLY annoying, especially when it’s a basement you’ve dug bones out of in the last few months.
It’s not really a reason to complain, because at least I had water and all, but it was complicated compared to my former showering life.
Speaking of having water, it was even ickier down there when it very mildly flooded.
I mentioned the mondo dehumidifier before, but if you have chronic water problems, I really can’t recommend it enough. We started using it immediately after we took ownership of the home. Everything was thoroughly drenched, but this pup instantly started drying it out.
It has a small plastic tube that carries the water away, so you don’t have to empty it out like you do the smaller versions. The only downside was I realized it was running us about $50/month in electric, which makes you question if water in your house is so bad after all. But it is! So just like, buck up and pay I guess.
Cooking outside started to grate a bit, too. I know, I know, problems right? It was simply a case of annoyance, kind of like shaving. I hated dragging the meat downstairs to be washed, then outside to be prepared and cooked, then back down to the basement for cleanup. I’m semi-embarrassed admitting this, FYI. Seriously, it was so much easier to just order a pizza. But you can only eat that stuff so many times in a row.
That said, we started to explore our take-out options more often than I’m keen to admit. This coming off a yeast-free diet (which was awesome, I’d recommend!), was less than stellar for our systems. But in the name of the house, you know?
Enough complaining though. There was work to be done. Like the shower. D finally got the gusto to dig his heels in and have at it. He first lined the space with a layer of plastic, then this thick felt paper.
Then he was all, not cool brah, and stopped. It was just one of those things he had to walk away from. It’s pretty nerve-wracking doing a shower. You’ve got to get it 100% right, or else you're fecked. The possibility of leaks seeping through our walls and floors, especially after combating all that mold when we started out, was intimidating, to say the least.
So the shower remained a dark, ominous box, which one could spin into a fitting metaphor AT TIMES. Also, it smelled like rotten cheese, which permeated throughout the entire bathroom. It was gross, to say the least.
We had been given a bunch of leftover marble, which we hoped to use in the shower, because free marble. You might recall that’s how we ended up with marble floors. I guess D had like, a crafting moment, because this happened while I was away at work one day.
When you are showering outdoors and shaving in a basement, you can’t really complain when someone tries to build you a shower floor. So we’ll just stare at the picture again and all together realize how don’t-make-me-say-it this was. You can’t always win. D may have been homerunning up til now, but come on, GET OFF THE FIELD WITH THIS SHIT. Sorry booski.
Way harsh, right? I know. So bratty and ungrateful (re-read first couple paragraphs where I shamefully admit the psychoness this place was producing in me). This was my single (probably a lie), housezilla moment. I just didn’t really like the style, size, or color choice. It’s hard to tell because of all the black and poor lighting, but it was decayed and yellow-tan looking. Maybe that was because of the poor light, in which case, SORRY D! I never really thought of that until now.
But I’m not a complete monster, guys. And I didn’t really even voice my opinion, because I wear my feelings on my face-sleeve. But he wasn’t feeling it either. We both just sorta stared and shook our heads.
This caused another delay, because we both knew the floors were meh, but in order to move forward we either had to accept it or rip it out and start again. We didn’t fancy either option, so we just walked/crawled away, leaving the stinky bathroom to itself. Meanwhile I continued to accumulate an unnerving number of mosquito bites.
Our to-do list was of biblical scroll proportions, so just because D wasn’t working on the shower doesn’t mean he wasn’t doing anything. I just can’t remember what exactly he did do. Likely boring but necessary stuff, like, fixing crumbling bricks out back or something. Speaking of out back, and to give a much needed upswing here, the garden D built was blooming to all hell.
There were other rumblings at the house, too, though. Remember the saga of the brick outside? How when we tore off the façade we found almost nice brick? It was great in theory, but just the idea of removing all the concrete and chicken wire from it exhausted us.
We settled on covering it up with stucco. We found someone who agreed to make it smooth as butter—lots of stucco is bumpy, like a popcorn ceiling. We wanted it clean clean smooth. The scaffolding had been set up for weeks and we were really happy when he started working.
The stucco guy was really busy, and would show up super early in the morning. As someone who really likes to sleep, I admired his ambition. That said, it’s awkward when two Polish men are literally talking outside of your bedroom window, probably watching the drool slip out of your mouth at 6am.
He didn’t come every day, and also never at the same time, as he was juggling lots of jobs at once, which we were cool with. But it was also an interesting surprise to slide an eye open and see his silhouette hanging out on the second story. It also felt like they were RIGHT in the room with us, which they might as well have been. This was when we invested in curtains. Not even nice ones. The cheapest, ugliest ones we could find. Because this is no bueno:
But, this was super bueno:
Even though it had to get worse before it could get better (so many life lessons happening in this house)—as in the house started to look uglier, we knew it was on its way to something handsomer.
It had to be covered up in styrofoam pieces before the stucco could be applied. This is called dryvit. It’s supposed to add a layer of insulation to the house, making it more energy efficient. I can’t really say much more on it than that. We were a bit torn over whether to use it or not, but a couple people we talked to were so keen on it that we just went for it.
One thing I can say in its favor is that when they shave it, it looks like it’s snowing, which is good enough for me. And whatever, getting woken up repeatedly by the jolliest Polish man you ever did meet wasn’t that bad either.
Awkward, but not bad.