36 Hours in Puerto Rico

Let me give you some advice:  the most important person alive right now that you need to get to know is yourself. When life gets crazy, it is impossible to have a conversation with anyone about anything important if you haven’t first conversed with and come to understand yourself.  I’m asking you to be selfish here.  Listen to yourself, figure out how your subconscious thoughts are communicating with you, and give them your attention.  You will feel so much better, and what’s more, you’ll end up saying things of meaning and getting more out of life.

I had a moment this past spring when I was sitting at my desk at work rushing to meet a deadline, mentally scheduling the first hour of my life when I got home from work (go to the post office, call the vet, pay the bills…), thinking also about some tense conversation I had earlier, when I just snapped.  I remember wanting to scream internally and thinking to myself “I really don’t think I can do this anymore.  Not at this pace.”  I had been blowing off my check-ins with myself to such a degree that I couldn’t even figure out what it was that was bothering me so much.  It was just everything.

So I did what I know to do.  I booked an impromptu trip to a place I’d never been before so that I could get away from my life and figure out what to keep and what to eliminate.  I scheduled the week off work and I took the first flight of the morning to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

There is something empowering about going alone to an unfamiliar place where you know absolutely no one.  The only thing you bring with you is what is truly essential to who you are.  You don’t bring other people’s influence, you don’t bring anything situational, and if you’re doing it right, you don’t bring responsibilities either.  It is the only way I know to truly reset myself.

I needed this.

However, this was going to be delivered to me in a much different way than I expected.

When I got to Puerto Rico, I decided to check in on my reservations for the activities I had planned.  Everything was cancelled.  An unfortunate combination of logistics and stormy seas put a halt to my grand adventures.  I made a decision then that I’m sure makes no sense to you now, but it was right for me.  I decided to switch my flight and schedule a trip home just 36-hours after arrival.  Why?  It was right.  I don’t know why.  It felt right and I don’t argue with my gut.

So here’s what to do in San Juan with just 24 hours:

Wake up and watch the sunrise on the beach.  Get breakfast and hail a cab to Old San Juan.  Walk through the public sections of the forts before the tourists wake up.  Capture a billion hazy early-sun panoramas of the old town.  Walk the mile-long trail along the ocean and read all about the history behind the city.  Meet some stray cats.  Remember how energized you are by animals.  Walk through Old San Juan as the shops open and talk to some of the gallery owners about local art.  Purchase local stuff.  Visit the cathedral.  Walk around some more and find a place to eat that serves things you’ve never heard of.  Try to order in Spanish.  Take a trolley tour of the city because at this point your feet are bleeding.  Buy socks.  Meet some locals who are obsessed with Pittsburgh because of Roberto Clemente.  Drink filtered Caribbean water because you have never gone anywhere without drinking the local water even though that’s the one thing people always tell you not to do (I love water).  Watch a thunderstorm roll in from the ocean.  Try to convince a nice man that you really, truly, honestly don’t speak Spanish.  Get a ride back to your hotel.  Meet some really awesome locals in an ice cream shop.  Walk along the beach.  Watch the sunset while strolling through the tide.  Hobble, tired, back to your hotel where you will sleep for only three hours before you (again) catch the first flight of the morning, this time toward home.

It was exhausting in the best possible way.  Normally, I’d hope to come back from a vacation feeling refreshed, but I was so excited to leave Puerto Rico completely depleted of any passionless, negative energy that it didn’t matter what I brought home with me.

Every time I travel is a revelation, even when it is just a 36-hour visit to an insanely beautiful, interesting locale.  I learn who I am at my core–independent, curious, compassionate, creative.  I see what makes me come alive.  I am reminded of the size and scale of my life in the giant scheme of the world and how I have the power to minimize and maximize whatever I deem important.  I get inspired and find new keys to unlock realms of my mind I haven’t yet searched.

What do you do to reveal yourself when you are feeling lost in life?

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Dream a little dream

One of my favorite blogs (The Girl Who Loved To Write) posed a journaling challenge at the beginning of this year with 52 awesome prompts to get you started–or in my case, through a huge writer’s block.

If you love to write, or hate to write but really want to take inventory of what’s going on in your head, this is a really great way to start this oh-so-healthy practice.  I love to write and I desperately need to stay connected to my thoughts so I can sort them out before they turn into anxiety and confusion.  It’s really a service to everyone I encounter.  Truly.

Anyway, I may be posting my responses to a lot of these prompts in the future, but there is one in particular that I really want to share with you now:

The one dream you have that you just can’t stop thinking about.

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Let me begin by telling you a little bit about what my life is like right now:

I have a really good job in my field by most standards.  Each spring, graduating seniors in my field dream of finding a job in a company that is secure but growing and interested in new ideas, pays decently well, and allows us to do what we were taught in school–design buildings.  I have that job.  Plus, they let me come in at the crack of dawn and skip lunch so that I can keep my already 45-minute commute at a minimum.  I realize that it is a huge deal and without the benefits and pay, I’d be starving somewhere in poor health.  Plus, I get to learn a lot and do new things all the time.  So I’m really grateful for all of that.

I am happily engaged to a pretty swell guy.  Everyone from close friends to people in line at the grocery store want to know when we’re getting married and my answer is always this:  We are single for a really huge portion of our lives.  We are then married for a really huge portion of our lives.  I have this opportunity to enjoy a moment where we are simultaneously single and committed and it is really fun and full of great moments–why on earth would I want to rush that?  We have already chosen each other–now we get to dream a little before we lock it all down.

I own (okay, the bank still owns most of it) a house.  If you’ve been around the blog at all, you know all about the ongoing house refurbishing projects.  It’s a good place though and filled with love and kittens.

This is the short list.

So I’m living the dream, right?  Yes and no.  I am really grateful for what good things I have in my life, don’t get me wrong, but the dream I am living is not my own–it’s a dream, but it is definitely someone else’s dream.

Something else you should know:  In advance, I’m sorry if this shocks you or makes you uncomfortable.  Barring any unforeseen miracles, Mark and I are not planning to have children.  We love all of the little faces that our friends and family are raising and love being in their lives, but we’re going to be happy with being the cool aunt and uncle that will give good advice to your kids when they’re too weirded out to talk to you.  Please continue to invite us to help with school projects–they are my favorite–and letting us be a part of your families.  It’s the greatest!

So why are we living this life that looks like we’re on the fast track to PTA meetings, minivans, and chronic burn-out?  Somehow we got caught up in taking all the “right” steps and making all the choices our friends have been making and we forgot that we have some pretty crazy ideas that we’d like to follow.  (Nothing against our friends–they are very happy with their choices and seeing that makes us happy too!)

That’s when I realize I can’t stop thinking about this one dream that we just so happen to share.

We’d love to start and grow a business that will enable us to move away from our traditional careers, embrace things that make us happy, and have more time to be generous with our talents, resources, and energy.

What does this mean?  We’re not entirely sure yet.  And that is totally okay because we want this to be the really right thing that gives us the kind of frustration and joy that makes us want it for the rest of our working lives.

One thing, if I’m allowed to dream big, that would make me so happy would be to live much closer to the ocean.  Mark has held this dream for years, but I only just discovered it for myself during my whirlwind 36-hours in Puerto Rico (story about that later).  I have health issues that have been a part of my picture since birth and will continue to be with me for life–and while I’ve accepted that and deal the best I can, I found that after walking along the late afternoon tide on a beach in San Juan, the rhythms of the ocean do a whole lot for my body and spirit.  We both confess that we feel a lot healthier near the water–so if we get the chance to make our dreams happen there, we’re going to take it!

Being able to work more creatively and have more authenticity in what we do is going to be key.  We want to be proud of our work, but we also want to be challenged by it and inspired to do more.

All of this is why I love the above quote by Uta Hagen.  I have never felt like a “regular” person so it is time to put to rest chasing after that supposed normal and commit to risking mediocre for what may be extraordinary.  I’m so excited for what the future holds for us!

In the mean time, we’re being patient.  We’re embracing this time and doing a lot of soul searching and listening for how we will be a part of what we and the world need in this moment and beyond.

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What to Do: Spayed Kitten Taking Off E-Collar

Hi everyone!

I’m taking a little break from the house-blogging to chat cats–particularly spaying and neutering.

Bob Barker said it first–have your pets spayed and neutered!  It’s so much better for their health in the long run and it prevents animal overpopulation and shelter overload.  If you or your child want the experience of watching a litter of kittens come into the world, offer to volunteer at a shelter as a foster mom.  This time of year there are a LOT of pregnant female cats coming into shelters that need safe homes to stay in while they bring their brood into the world.  Your home could be the perfect place!  Maybe you’ll end up falling in love in the process and adopt a cat or two. 🙂

Yesterday was spay day for Rollie (AKA Rollie Pop, Charmin, etc. etc.) and neuter time for her brother Pig Pen.  Neuters are very simple procedures but spays are much more intense and invasive so our little girl has come home with stitches and a shaved stomach.  Most vets will discharge a spayed female with what is called an “E-Collar” or Elizabethan Collar, or just simply “the cone of shame.”  The idea behind this is that it prevents the cat from being able to lick at or pull apart her stitches.  The thing is, cats HATE E-Collars, and if a cat hates something, it can’t happen.  You know cats.

So Rollie made it her personal mission last night to break out of the collar.  After re-tying it three times, my gears started turning.  She hates the e-collar because she’s finding it hard to see what is beneath her and she can’t play with her toys or lay down comfortably.  (Yeah, she’s about the only cat that still wants to hunt toy mice after her surgery).  What can I make really quickly to cover her wounds and let her be comfortable?

A cozy crocheted surgical sleeve!

Before:

Rollie in an E-Collar = Not Happy

So sad.  So very sad.

After:

2015-06-20_08-42-11_250“Look Mama, I can see the floor again!”

After wearing her sleeve for just a few hours, she’s already much happier and is currently curled up taking a nap in her favorite position which she couldn’t get into while wearing the E-Collar.  What’s better is that it stays in place, is thick enough to prevent her from scratching at her stitches, and it is breathable.

To make one of your own, crochet a tube about six inches wide by about 3/4 the girth of your kitten.  Attach using a button and loop.  Or I’d be happy to make one for you.  In the mean time, Rollie is happily representing the colors of her Pirates baseball team and on the road to recovery from her spay!

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Blogging Awards

When I went a month without my computer, I missed a lot of great blog posts.  While getting caught up on my reading, I realized that my sweet and SO talented college friend Stevie from Stevie Storck Design Co.nominated me for a Liebster Award!  I had no idea what this was, but it is REALLY cool so I’m excited to accept my nomination and pass it on to some other great bloggers as well!

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As part of the award, I get to answer these eleven questions from Stevie and then nominate five blogging friends to answer some questions too. So, without further ado:

1. What/who inspired you to start your blog?
I have had a million-and-three blogs over the course of my twenty-eight years and I tend to abandon them after a year or so mostly because my blogs tend to have a theme like “Gabrielle moved away so here’s the website where we can kind of keep in touch” but then I move back and it loses its purpose.  I started this blog over a year ago to be a platform to simply share my life as it is without any real staging or theme behind it.  But then, of course, I bought a house and it became my house blog but I’d like to keep it so that in time it can go back to being my “life” blog.  I am inspired by so many blogs.  Every time I find a good one I envy it in the healthiest way and hope to create something equally cool in time.

2. What topics do you love to write about most?
Ironically, I love to write about topics that I haven’t yet written about on here.  Rookie mistake.  I am an introvert with a lot of thoughts that I don’t often get to express freely.  But mostly I think that, if you are doing it right, life is really challenging and I love to write about the particular challenges I have that maybe others can relate to.  I like to find the most raw and real ways to connect with people and show myself candidly because I figure for as alone as I can sometimes feel, someone else has to feel that way too.  And if they are out there carrying around a life full of weird little quirks, I want to find them.

3. Who should read your blog and why?
Adventurous people, kind people, survivors, cat lovers, architecture lovers, people who habitually bite off more than they can chew, people who talk to therapists, nature lovers, travelers, imperfectionists, people who aren’t trying to impress anyone, creatives, deep thinkers, listeners, clumsy people.  I can relate to these people best and I want to meet all of them, plus I’m sure they’ll find things about my blog that they can relate to as well.  All I ask is that you come emotionally unarmed and without an agenda.

4. What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am agoraphobic.  I can be okay for a long while but then there are definitely spells where I don’t leave the people and places where I am comfortable.  I think that by not telling people about this for so long, a lot of friends have felt alienated or like I never wanted to hang out with them–because seriously how many times can I say I’m sick when I’m invited places?  But, now you know.

5. If you could snap your fingers and be anywhere in the world right now, where would you want to be?
Normally, I would answer this as Australia as it is absolutely one of my favorite places on earth but since it is winter there and I hate winter, I’m going to say Puerto Rico because I’ll be there in eleven days and I can’t wait.

6. What’s your favorite room in your house?
My bedroom.  I have been working on a secret project in there that is letting me really dig into my creative energy so it has really become my happy place.

7. Do you have a celebrity doppelganger?
Yes!  Does anyone remember the show Lizzie McGuire?  Her best friend Miranda (played by Lalaine) looked exactly like I did when that show was on.  We even had some of the same clothing.  To make it even creepier, we have the same birthday–day, month, AND year.

8. Which of your blog posts are you most proud of? Tell us why and share the link!
My very first post which was about the life and death of my beloved cat.  I wrote it over the course of a week or so and I felt like I said it all the way I wanted to when I published it.  He was a cool dude and I wanted to give him a fitting farewell.

9. What does your perfect day look like?
Wake up naturally and healthy with a cat or two to a sunny high-70s day, spend the morning shopping a foreign market or even a farmer’s market, get just enough lunch overlooking a body of water, take a minute to relax somewhere peaceful, go for a long walk through a new place, take in some city lights or fireworks by night, a good glass of tea, and someone to photograph it all day long so I have the evidence!

10. If you could only listen to one band or artist for the next 10 years, who would you chose?
This is a REALLY tough question!  But okay, George Is Jones.  Not to be confused with George Jones, it is a collaborative effort between Inara George and Rod Jones and they recorded just a few songs and then abandoned the project.  I’ve been listening to these few songs with the same amount of adoration as the first time I heard them (which has got to be at least ten years ago) so I know I could definitely do another ten years with them.

11. What’s your favorite social media platform? Which one have you never really gotten into? 
I cannot do Twitter.  Maybe I misunderstand it, but it seems like it is mostly for keeping up with celebrities which doesn’t really appeal to me much.  I am definitely dependent on Facebook though!

I nominate:

1.  Mellissa who blogs from sunny Florida!

2.  Erin from At the Helm of the Public Realm because I know my architecture friends will love her blog!

3.  Astrid who I cannot believe is my age by how brilliantly she writes at Blogging Astrid

4.  Lauren Nutter and her Ocean Inspired Paintings

5.  Megan of Made by Megan Mae

To answer:

1.  If you could wake up tomorrow with the education, skills, and certifications necessary to perform any job, what would you choose for your new career and why?

2.  What is your favorite thing to blog about and why?

3.  What do you do to recharge and get back into the blogging frame of mind?

4.  What is one thing in your life that you’ve gotten to experience that you wish everyone else could experience as well?

5.  Who is inspiring you at the moment and why?

6.  What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten?

7.  Describe your perfect day.

8.  What is one modern convenience that you could really not live without?

9.  What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?

10.  If a movie were made about your life, who would be best cast to play you?

11.  Who should read your blog and why?

I can’t wait to read the responses!

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During: The Bathroom Update

Hi everyone!

It’s been a busy month in the house renovation world with lots of updates in every space.  However, the one room we have been most excited about getting finished is the upstairs hall bathroom.  This one has given us the biggest challenge so far.

When we bought the house, it was definitely a functional bathroom, but because it was the only shower in the house, a lot of the repairs made were quick fixes that would allow it to stay operational through the project.

Shower Before

When the house was built, the shower was tiled with the retro robin’s egg blue tiles above and, of course, the tub matched.  The previous owners tired of the blue hue and decided to apply shower panels over the tile.  This is a quick fix that isn’t too hard to DIY, but the panels they purchased didn’t go up quite as high as the original tile work, so they opted to paint those tiles peeking out of the top.  No big deal, but we definitely wanted to start fresh and tile the shower with something more modern.

First, Mark took down all the old shower panels and tile, and then the drywall behind it.  Because this is a bathroom with not a whole lot of ventilation, we weren’t surprised to discover moldy drywall.  Ah, bathrooms.  A little bit of prep work goes a long way, so he decided to put up cement board and then seal it off with waterproofing material.  It’s basically this rubbery goo that you paint on all over the area that will be tiled.

We chose a gray glass subway tile for the shower walls which we got from subwaytiledirect.com.  I’d never heard of them prior to our project, but working with them was amazing and they have a lot of great tiles to choose from.  Ordering stuff online is hard because you don’t get to see it and match it before you buy, but we ended up really happy with it!

It is common for glass tiles to not be colored through the entire tile.  Think of a glass beer bottle.  If you break it, the chips of glass are solid brown, green, etc. throughout.  However, with a lot of glass tiles, the color is actually coming from a paper-like backing that shines through the clear glass body of the tile.  This means that when you cut it, you might be exposing a clear edge if the paper does not cut cleanly.  We fixed this by painting in those little spots.  Fortunately, I painted the vanity to match the tiles so I had TONS of extra paint to spare.

We found our shelves at Home Depot online and were completely excited to get them until I got an email saying the order would be cancelled.  Why?  Oh, there was a labor union strike at the port where the shelves were to cross Lake Erie from Canada into the United States.  Until further notice, all orders crossing via the lake were cancelled.  Thank goodness for eBay!

With shower shelves and tiles in hand, we were finally able to start working.  By we, I mean, Mark.  He does tile work professionally so I took to painting walls, baseboard, and the vanity.

After a DIY fail, we decided to hire a professional to come and reglaze our tub.  We’re so glad we did that because it worked out wonderfully!  One important thing to remember is that reglazing does require you to be a little more careful with your bathtub.  For example, you cannot clean with harsh acids (this includes accidentally spilling Drain-O while cleaning your drains!), mats and things that suction onto the tub are restricted, and you should not stack bottles on the corners of the tub.  All of this stuff can cause the surface to erode or become discolored.  We think it’s worth it considering we get to reuse an existing, LEVEL tub!

At this point, we are in the finishing stages and trying to find fixtures that we like to complete the look.  I can be picky about shower fixtures because I hate low-flow shower heads.  I know, I’m killing the planet, but I can’t spend three hours in the shower trying to get shampoo out of my wavy hair every day.  Cake problems.

shower 4I snapped this quick “after” (but more like “during”) shot before Mark reinstalled the toilet.  I’ll get some better “after” pictures when the job is really finished, but it is way too early for all of that and way too dusty, too! So much dust!

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An easy tip to save everything you own

Hi guys!  Sorry for disappearing for awhile. The below is a narrated hieroglyph explaining the last month-ish I’ve been away from the blog:img003

There once was this girl (shown above in tent skirt) who had a laptop.  Okay, that girl is me.  It was a Lenovo model in a pretty blue color and it was a pretty great machine.

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This laptop was so particularly great because it contained little bits of everything that made up a HUGE portion of my life.  Things like artwork I’ve made and sold and will never see again, photographs representing ten or so years of my life, all of my music, all of my writing, photos of the new house (all the before pictures!!!), photos of my dearly departed cat, pictures from my travels around the world that I can only hope to relive…and more, and more and more.  So much stuff.  Whenever people ask the question “If your house was on fire and all living things were safely rescued, what is the one thing you’d go back in for?”  My answer was immediately and unequivocally “my laptop.”

So you’d think I would have backed it up in like 40 different places, right?  You’d think.

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One day, I thought to myself “I’ll update my flash player!”  And, thinking I was on the Adobe website (because it looked just like it, but who knows where I actually was) I downloaded Flash.  Or, so I thought.  What I really downloaded was a criminal named CryptoWall 3.0 who came into my computer and stole all my files by encrypting them so I could not access them.  It then sent me a series of ransom messages saying If I didn’t pay $1,000 USD in Bitcoins to this criminal, I’d never see my precious stuff again.

Well, I don’t like to play games with evil people and there was no guarantee of ever really getting my computer back, so after some serious desires to kill this unknown person, I resigned myself to losing everything.  Everything.  EVERY. THING.

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I’m not going to hide it, I was pretty upset.img007

So if you want to avoid this sad face being one of your own….

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BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER!  Online backups are a LOT cheaper than I ever realized, they are automatic, and totally worth it if you would be lost without your computer data.  Furthermore, back up your files on an external hard drive (or two); it will be $100 well spent.

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Do DIY Bathtub Refinishers Work?

Before I answer the question about refinishing your own tub (or tile), let me apologize for my brief hiatus.  I upgraded my laptop with the latest edition of Flash and somehow ended up with 45 Trojans and a nasty encrypting virus.  My laptop is currently out of commission (which feels like I’ve severed a limb) and I have all the anxiety I always get when little things I rely on go haywire.  #anxietyprobs

So, in the spirit of all things “fail”…. the answer is no.  NO.  Do not refinish your own bathtub.  I’m begging you.

The cast iron tub that is in our main bath is original to the home, and while it rocks a lovely baby blue color, it is level (!!!) and so we were determined to keep it.  It may also be mortar set, so taking it out was going to be a humungous hassle even if we wanted to.  We didn’t.

The baby blue, though really cute, wasn’t what we had in mind for our bath.  I saw some blogs and reviews online about the bathtub refinishing kits from Lowes & Home Depot so I figured we could give it a shot.  Now, there are several options available: Rustoleum makes a product that is supposed to be pretty good, but it isn’t stocked in stores so you have to special order it.  We used the off-the-shelf Homax brand, which the guy at the store said would be just as good.  It comes in either roll-on or spray-on form.  We went with spray on.

Mark thoroughly read through the instructions and watched the video on the manufacturer’s website so we weren’t flying blind on this.  Next, Mark’s dad came and stripped off the many layers of “use” on the tub and got it down to this shiny brand new looking beauty.

The instructions on the box say that you will only need a coat or two–applied thinly–with 72 hours of dry time between each coat.  So, if you need your shower ASAP this probably isn’t going to work for you.  We followed the instructions perfectly but found we needed more than two coats.  I think we ended up needing five before the blue no longer showed through.

When it was all done, the tub looked amazing.  No streaks or drips–it looked brand new.  We danced.  It was wonderful.

Fast forward one week later when we started to apply the wall tiles (which I am in love with and cannot wait to show you).  Mark lined the tub with a thick moving blanket so that if any tools or tiles bumped the tub, it wouldn’t mess up our beautiful work.  This is when things went sour…

2015-04-08_16-20-19_760See that hazy blotchy blueish gray right in the center?  I know, terrible photo but this was with a five-year-old cell phone and no editing software (BRING BACK MY LAPTOP!!!!).  But that blotchiness is from the moving blanket.  This, mind you, is not a brand new blanket.  It is old and has been a drop cloth many times before with no issues.  There are also little scuffs and nicks in the tub finish from just walking around on the blanket in there.

The worst part is an area where an item fell on the tub which is no heavier or more dangerous than a family sized shampoo bottle.  This cut the whole way through our finish, and actually into and beneath the baby blue tub too.

2015-04-08_16-20-31_574At this point we were so frustrated!  We did everything per instructions and still it didn’t turn out right.  We were, however, glad to find this out sooner rather than later.  If the coating is that delicate, it probably won’t scrub well or hold up to the fifty-million things I tend to drop while showering.

My advice is to pay a professional restoration company.  We’ve contracted someone to do it and it costs about $600.  Not cheap, but SO worth it in the long run!  Have any of you ever used the Rustoleum kit?  Is it any better?

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Gray Matter

I haven’t written much lately because it seems like I’m not doing much, but in reality there is a TON going on!  We’ve decided to take off all the existing 2-inch baseboard and door trim on the main floor and in the upstairs (bedrooms, hall, and bath).  This has been awesome for me because as the designated paintress (it sounds way better than painter), it’s a lot easier to paint a wall when there is no baseboard or trim to cut around.  The down side is, I need to make a lot of decisions very quickly!

If I were going to live in this house by myself, this would be the easiest and most fun thing ever.  But, since I need to make it a place that feels like home for Mark too, I need to find a way to seamlessly blend his style with mine…which is difficult!  Mark feels most alive around cool colors like blues (navy, particularly) and gray tones.  I love warm tones–yellow is my favorite color.  Yellow is Mark’s least favorite.  He’s missing out.

One thing we both agree on is texture.  We both love texturally rich spaces.  I love wood, and brick, and softness, and stone.  Mark does too!  So we’re actually agreeing a lot on the surface things.

But, paint.  That brings me to the gray matter.  Gray is a really great color because it is never just “gray.”  There are green grays, beige grays, red grays, blue grays–and the undertones can be so subtle too.  This is not a one-size-fits-all color.  We decided on a gray wall scheme in our living room because it allowed us to cater to his cool tones and my warm tones without having to really pick a side.  We will furnish with pops of color to give a nod to each of our preferences.  Simple?  Hardly.

It was really tough to find that perfect gray!  Our living room is bright in the mornings with a lot of Eastern light.  Our first round of gray options were all so light they looked white–and Mark hates white.  I’m not a huge fan (for this room) either.  I went to the locally owned paint/hardware store and got the greatest rundown on paint mixing ever!  This is why mom and pop shops are great.  The man there explained the ratios of various tints that go into paint and by reading the tint chart, he was able to help me find the perfect gray.  So much fun.  I’d play with the paint mixing machine all the time if I were him.

Our finalists were:

From left: Benjamin Moore – Stonington Gray, Benjamin Moore – Gray Owl, Benjamin Moore – Sea Haze.

I liked Sherwin-Williams Argos as well (and used it in the bathroom cabinetry) but since the local shop used Benjamin Moore, I worked within their line.

After testing some samples, Stonington Gray actually looked like baby blue in the daylight (there is a lot of blue in that one) and a blueberry yogurt color in the evening.  Not right for our room.  Gray owl was super light and pretty–but almost too soft and nursery-like.  Sea haze was just right–rich with a bluish green undertone that is perfect for hosting some warmer pops of color in our decor.  On my monitor right now, none of these colors look a thing like what they look like on the wall–which is why sampling is SO important.

The color is so great.  I was worried at first–but it really works with our space and marrying our completely opposite tastes!  Something I do not love?  The mini-tarantula found wandering the upstairs hallway.  This house is going to look beautiful but I’ll never live there if he’s planning on being my roomie.  Nope!

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The Team + 2

kitty pigpen

In a past post, I mentioned that I may have an announcement or two for you. Here goes!

Less than a week after closing on the house, my friend Samantha (the awesome purr-son behind Wonderfulkittys) posted that she had a disabled kitten that needed a home (and his littermate!).  For me, a house is not a home until a cat moves in, and something about this situation drew me in.  I’m a sucker.

Fast forward a few weeks and I now have two sweet kittens in my home.  Is the timing perfect? Not really.  But they are such a joy and are great motivation for getting this project finished soon.

About Rollie:
(The black and white girl)
1. I pronounce my name “Raw-lee” and I’m named after Rollie Fingers who shares my handlebar mustache.
2. I have long legs and the softest fur you’ve ever petted.
3. My paws are my favorite part of my body.  I am constantly touching things and wrapping my teeny tiny fingers around things.
4. I am an escape artist.  I’ve learned to unlatch doors and I’m really fast and sneaky when I break free.
5. Sometimes I go by Rollie-Charmin, Rollie-Catster, and stache.
6. Today I am just shy of 4 months old and I weigh 4.2 lbs.

About Pigpen:
(The brown seal point boy)
1. My name is Pigpen (for now anyway) because one of my favorite things in the world is to roll around on the floor and pick up little bits of dirt and whatever I can find.
2. I am a dwarf so I have really short legs.
3. In contrast, I have a very loud meow that sounds like a person distinctly saying “ME-OW”
4. I can be a bit reserved, but it’s okay because with my short legs, I actually fit underneath my sister.  When I’m frightened, I hide there and we stack our heads together like a little kitty totem pole.
5. I have a lot of nicknames: Lil Bit, Piglet, Hercules, and choc are some of them.  We’ll explain Hercules in a minute.
6. Today I am just shy of 4 months old and I weigh just 2.6 lbs.

I’ve had these two in my life for about two weeks now and I have hesitated to write about them until after our first vet visit.  When Samantha told me Pigpen was disabled, she explained that his spine wasn’t quite right.  If you feel along his back, you’ll notice an area right along his side near his spine where there is a bulge that feels sort of like his back twists off to the side.  In the worst case scenario (lordosis), he might not live more than a couple of months.  But after making it to 14 weeks, Samantha thought he might be in better shape than she initially feared.  We knew he had some sort of deformity, but until we got an official diagnosis, we relied on his fighting spirit and army of feline guardian angels to keep him safe.  While we hoped it wasn’t lordosis, we wondered if he’d need surgery, a special lifestyle, or if he’d live a normal lifespan.  Given that, I wasn’t ready to put him in the spotlight of my social circle until I knew exactly what we were dealing with.  I’m a nervous mother.  In the mean time, he needed a warrior name so Hercules stuck.

Today he had his first appointment with a vet that I’ve known and trusted for years and we were absolutely delighted to hear the results!  Our little Pigpen does indeed have a deformity, but rather than it being of the spine (something very severe and delicate to deal with), it is of his rib cage.  His rib cage on one side failed to form down and around his body as it should have.  This could be due to a trauma in the womb or during birth, or just simply due to a fluke birth defect.  The funny bulge is actually his ribs starting, curling in, and ending half-way to where they should go.  The vet examined him and found no reason to perform surgery any time soon (if at all).  Right now we just need to make sure his lungs are fine and there aren’t any problems as he grows over the next year.  We’ll be checking in with the vet often and watching him (particularly his breathing) but in the mean time he has a very clean bill of health!  We’re so grateful!

So, we’re pleased to finally share the good news of our two furry bundles of joy with all our friends and family.  You’ll be seeing a lot of them on the blog (and in real life)!

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Too much of a good thing

It is Sunday morning and I am stretched out on the loveseat with a softly purring kitten nestled in the crook of my arm.  I’ve just finished a mug of lemon green tea and the sun is warm and golden as it filters in through the curtains.  Everything around me is so peaceful and so right.  But it doesn’t feel that way inside.

This has been a miserable week.  It follows a stretch of nearly impossible weeks and I’m left feeling my spirit has been carved away by the rushing river of sickness and hardship.  My heart is a canyon but it is full even among its voids and it will become a thing of beauty and strength in time.  My mantra.

Let me confide in you, blog world:

I have some health issues that have been troubling me more over the past year and through various different treatments, it was decided that I should begin to take a certain medication.  I’d been on it before and it comes with a whole host of side effects, but I was assured that the benefits would outweigh all of that in time and I would get back to my best life sooner.  I went for it.  The side effects have been horrible.  Not only is it not really doing much for my original problem, but it is making my body so incredibly weak.  As an example, I wanted to wipe down and clean out the kitchen cabinets.  They’re beautiful cherry cabinets and we are definitely keeping them but something about putting my clean dishes in cabinets that have probably not been cleaned in awhile (because who has time for that!?) was just not right.  I started spraying and wiping but my arms stopped being able to move.  I could no longer lift the cleaning cloth.  My dear mother was kind enough to finish for me, but it’s just not an acceptable side effect.  I’m also unable to ever feel rested and by the end of the night (AKA 6pm), I can hardly walk and can’t even stay up long enough to take my medicine on time. I hate it.

That part is getting better as my body gets used to the medicine.  Actually, in the past two weeks I’ve started to feel much more like a 27-year-old and less like someone’s sweet great-grandmother.  Not quite there yet, but close.

Then there is work.  Spring tends to be a really busy time in the world of architecture as permits are being pushed and bids are going out and coming in at lightning speed in time for the summer construction season.  I have been working like a madwoman over the past month and it’s been tiring to say the least.

I realized that I needed to take a break.  I was approved for a day off work and I was already making mental preparations for how I’d spend my day.  Sleep in, go to lunch with my parents, maybe do some painting in the house (which I find relaxing), and let my body and brain recover.  My boss called about half way through my day off with some urgent work assignments.  Next thing I know, I’m working. Tired. Sick. Weak. Worn out. Working.

That evening I had planned to go to Mark’s house for some relaxation and reconnecting time.  Except I could not find my car keys anywhere.  Panicking, I called the restaurant I had visited, emptied out my purse, gutted my coat pockets, and rummaged through my room.  Nowhere.  After an hour of heart-racing panic (it’s my only set of car keys, my house key, and our only mailbox key), my father found them lodged under the back seat of his sedan.  They fell out while on the phone with my boss. Sheesh.  In all that wasted time, I never did get to Mark’s and we missed out on much-needed date time.

I was still reeling from this and feeling depressed about my inability to manage the many facets of my life when I woke up the next morning ready to spend a full day at the new house.  I lugged everything out to my car only to discover a flat tire.  I don’t have time for a flat tire.  Apparently the tire place where I have a warranty doesn’t have time for a flat tire either.

Now that I’m reflecting on all of this, here is my takeaway:  my life has too many blessings in it for me to handle.

–I have a really good job in a lousy economy that needs me to work hard because we just have too much job security right now.
–My job offers me benefits so that I can get the healthcare I desperately need.
–I live in a part of the world where I have access to doctors, medicines, and ever-developing treatment options.
–I have a lot of keys on my keyring that indicate an excess of privilege.  One means that I own a car.  Another means that I have a home.  Another means that I have access to a free postal service that can deliver bills for utilities I already beat the odds to have.  I flush my toilet with cleaner water than so many people on this planet drink.
–I have someone in my life that I love and that I get to visit and connect with when I’m feeling completely overburdened by all of my fortune.

And right now, I have a cat that thinks I’m super cool.  What more could I want?

A break.  I want a break.

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