Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Latest

As I write this, 9 trades are working on the house:
  • The tile guy came back for the 30th time cuz he didn't finish the job on any of the other 29 occasions.
  • Three kitchen people came back to functionalize the cabinets that look great but don't work (do not even get me started on this because I'm seeing red, no pun intended).
  • There are 4 painters trying to get through the painting and finishing.
  • There's the fireplace guy, who's fixing the final glass and showing me the ropes.
Fortunately, there are movable boxes everywhere (and not set-up furniture) because they're using pretty well all of the floor space to fix and finish.

But there's much yet to be accomplished in this phase of the reno. (Note: There's all kinds of additional stuff that needs to begin in the next few weeks - things that were not contemplated as part of the original build, rather, new requirements given that parts of the house destabilized as a result of the new build. When I speak of this phase, I'm referring to the stuff that was supposed to be done before we moved in...)

Since our hardscaper didn't meet the timelines he assured us that he could (the backyard was supposed to be complete by Sunday - instead, he's weeks away from finishing another job and didn't bother to show or clarify until I managed to reach him), I look out my windows at mounds of garbage that should have been long-binned, amidst dirt and encircling wildlife (cats and raccoons abound under these circumstances). I may, in fact, have the pleasure of renting my own bin and cleaning up my own construction site f I don't source a solution somehow- note to reader: that's not my idea of time well-spent i (esp. since I paid people to do this 3 times over). Ever tried to find a hardscaper in July??

Alas, while I'd love to shut my black out blinds and just ignore it all, they're not on the windows because the blinds peeps didn't cut them optimally the first time so they had to refine them and, apparently, this takes longer than making them in the first place.

The lighting also continues to need refinement. I will say, last night some shit was seriously put into perspective when the electrician incorrectly positioned his ladder, while aiming to reach a misplaced pod, and almost killed himself. No joke. It's utterly MIRACULOUS that the worst of it is needing to refinish a part of the floor that was damaged. He managed to jump off the ladder just as it grabbed at his freakin' crotch?! and somehow it didn't crash through a piece of glass / wreck the upstairs railing / destroy walls etc. But really, who the fuck cares about a floor that can be fixed. I am so glad that guy had good reflexes - though his placement of the ladder, in a two-story section over a stairway, was utterly stupid. It's strange when near-disaster becomes good-fortune. PS: The floor held up spectacularly, all things considered. It's scuffed but there's only the tiniest dent. Oak is truly superior wood.

The evenings are the challenging time. That's when I have to look around at everything that's not adequate, though it should be. That's when I can't find any of the things still in boxes, so that I can live in my house like, well, I actually live here. That's when I see the peeps and the feral animals staring into my backyard. That's when I have to shore myself up for whatever bullshit is going to come the next day - and the dozen people who will arrive starting at 8 am (if we're lucky). It's a mind-fuck to, on the one hand, loathe the activity (because it's SO disruptive and I'm so angry about the trades being here largely to fix things they did inadequately in the first place) - but also to be so grateful for it because it's the only way the affronting problems can be resolved.

I'm so out of my comfort zone. My house is generally my best reprieve from over-stimulation - except for now, when it's the sole source of all that stimulation. Tahiti is looking pretty good right now, just sayin'.

No question, this house is not photo-worthy on any level. I know that this end-stage is a moment in time, if one that feels interminable - that it's always darkest before the dawn and all that shit - especially when you have to live amongst it while it all unfolds. Mercifully, we have internet again, after 4 days without (which is a serious issue when you work from home, as Scott does). This means I can, once again, mood alter with the only thing that vaguely undercuts the sickening anxiety - Grand Designs. Somehow, watching the more complex, expensive, visionary and miserable projects of other unsuspecting home renovators really takes the edge off. I mean, those people have it BAD. I'm also availing myself of terrific weather and patios with good cocktails.

I realize my narrative needs to change. It needs to change because I don't want to be the bitter lady who spent 4 years of her life (once all is said and done) realizing something beautiful, only to begrudge the process to the extent that joy can not be found. I used to be friendly and optimistic. Right now I'm brittle and mistrustful. A smudge ceremony is in the near future. As necessary, so will be an appointment with a therapist.

Forgive me for my angriness - I don't do things half-assed, including feeling the feelings. I promise that, as soon as I have the slightest amount of bandwidth, my goal will be to reveal the many beauties of this home - and to appreciate them with the requisite gratitude. I just need a bit of time.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Eyes of the Home

I should not be writing this post right now. I should be packing or shopping or cleaning or confirming something. I know this because my husband is so in my face that he could blow an eyelash off my cheek. So. much. bossiness. I get it. We're at that primal moment when war behaviour is destined to emerge. The kid's gone so he can't control her process. That leaves me.

Just for the record, I know that when you're moving next Saturday, you have to pack all the things before that day arrives. I don't need to camp for a week.

But that's not what this post is about. This post is about my choice of windows. Unquestionably, I knew what I wanted: Crittalls, from UK. They're steel framed, generally single-glazed (esp. in olde days) because they are designed for a temperate climate. I love the skinny horizontal mullions. I love the black frame, the smallish panes. They walk that tightrope of old, industrial and new. When facing a small, green space, there is nothing more beautiful IMO. They're moody but they let coziness shine through.

Crittall Windows
Photo from the Crittall website linked to above.
Alas, the only Cdn vendor that approximates this look is Pella and the cost was going to be about 54K for 2 walls of windows. Yeah. Partly that's cuz I live in Canada and everything here costs much more than elsewhere in NA and prob than most of Europe. We have few economies of scale.

Ironically, had the original builders not fucked me over, I could have bought these windows 4 times and been no worse off. But that's not how this process goes.

In the absence of the Pellas, the architect suggested something unappealingly generic so Scott and I spent a weekend redesigning the drawings and came up with what we call "a little bit Crit". We pulled this look off for 12K (but note the full window budget was 25K and we replaced all windows in the house except for those on the third floor which was renoed 5 years ago):

Small portion of the back wall of windows - only decent shot I've got, currently. 
These are vinyl outside (to last through the winter), triple-glazed and wood on the inside, painted black.
Notice the absence of casings. We inset the windows and finished with a U channel (in stark contrast to the fancily cased Victorian windows at the front of the house). We offset the vertical mullion and skinnied up the horizontals.

But until earlier this week, while I LOVED the windows, both Scott and I were vaguely dismayed because they didn't look Crittall at all:

This is the other back wall of windows on the second floor - aka Kristin's sewga room, re-envisioned.
See how un-Crittall those gorgeous windows are? By later this week they'll look like the downstairs ones inasmuch as they'll be painted black.

Here's my point: I looked and looked and looked at those windows all the freakin' time and I couldn't figure out where we went wrong. I mean, I was more than happy to get with the windows I got, but (not being a profesh designer and all) I couldn't understand why they didn't look Crittall. And then it hit me - they needed to be painted black.

I know - really self-evident. Perhaps I seem dim. But till I figured it out, it eluded me.

My other points are these:
  • You can design whatever you want. Whether you get it in the end depends on many factors outside of the scope of your control but, in theory, you're in charge.
  • You don't need to spend a zillion dollars - but you do need to be creative. Also, unless you're REALLY creative, you will need to spend to some extent. 
  • Break it down. What do you like about what you like? You really need to see what's going on in a granular way in order to recreate a look.
One other point: As I continue to go back through years of posts wherein I discussed design and what was then the impending renovation, I'm pretty amazed to find that I spoke about doing all of the things I've actually done, to some extent or another. To suggest I don't have a process is flat-out wrong. My process is dialoguing here. You don't need a mood board if that board is already in your mind.

On that note, I can no longer ignore Scott bellowing at me from the third floor. Off to roll up a mattress prematurely.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

In Which I Remind You that Renos Suck

Lest you think we're sliding into that "reno sweet spot" (what with our move back to the house happening on July 14), please be assured that there is no such thing. On today's laundry list of compelling issues that just slide off one's back (sort of), the motor on our furnace blew and it did something to the gizmo to cause all of my pipes associated with my new AC unit - and the actual AC unit - to freeze solid.

Let's look at the bright side: We're having a massive heat wave so the unit should be thawed by tomorrow morning when our HVAC guy comes to fix the situation. Moreover, our HVAC guy is one of the few trades I can respect - and he's giving us a huge discount on the fix. (He was not the cause of the issue!)

On the less bright side: the heat wave - in the absence of working AC - means my paint is drying at the pace of an actual snail.

Also, it would be good to know when my 12 new doors are going to arrive, like, optimally before I move in - not that anyone can tell me.

Oh, and the counter people (aka the Princesses from Vaughan, as I now refer to them) have advised that they can't confirm our installation date and time until Monday (the day they're supposed to arrive) because the person who looks that up on the computer is away. Also they just don't give a shit about my tiny job. It didn't go over well when I suggested that it must be rather difficult to run a professional business the size and scale of theirs without having, perhaps, 2 employees (out of 100) who understand how the computerized booking system works. Yeah, I know. Not my most strategic move but I'm ready to explode.

Then there's the fact that extreme heat may impact drying timelines for my final floor seal - which could have implications for all kinds of things that I cannot broach right now without becoming vaguely hysterical.

Also, the fix for the stove vent (you may recall 4 separate trades managed to mess this up independently with nary a second thought) is entirely sub-optimal from my vantage point. My husband spent 5 months designing the most beautiful mechanical wall you've ever seen - which is no small feat in a house that's 15 feet wide - because his hate-on for the ugliness and wasted space produced by bulkheads is rivaled only by my profound disappointment in this entire process. The only reason I didn't go full-on reno-zilla is that he swore to me that a 4-inch high valence, coming down from the ceiling,  truly wasn't going to bother him and he begged me to let it go for everyone's sanity.

By the way - this is merely a short-list of today's issues. I can't remember them all without looking at a spreadsheet. (Wait - now I remember but I just can't bring myself to write it down.)

Add PMS to this list and it leads to a fun tale about how, today - when I ran out for 5 minutes desperate to find something to eat between multiple work crises while simultaneously having a heady debate about tiles with Scott, on the phone - I had to quickly switch gears to lose my shit on some idiot who decided to cut in the line I had been standing in for far too long. I didn't even start the argument. She had the audacity to imply that I was being rude by not tolerating her breach of protocol (Canadians tolerate) and, at that point, I was done. Oh, that woman didn't know what hit her (namely a barrage of multi-syllabic in-your-faceness, the subtext of which was fuck off bitch). It was quite a spectacle. Unsurprisingly she backed down a) cuz possession is 9/10ths of the law and the cashier was already checking me out and b) when you go at someone without cause and that someone comes back at you hard, you gotta carefully consider how crazy she actually is.

When that was done, I remembered that I was still on the phone with Scott. He confirmed that I was "scary like a lawyer" and then he decided it might be more fruitful to talk about tiles tonight.

Over the past few weeks, I've heard first-, second- and third-hand tales about multiple people who can't get any traction on their renos, currently in play. Like none. They're, 6, 10, 18-months in, living in their basements, eating takeout, bathing their children in a kitchen sink. While I'm incredibly critical of the broken-ness of the building industry - and I will continue to be this way until I find a way to fix it (and I will find a way) - these stories make me understand that I do have traction - albeit builder-grade* (the worst concept ever). Sure, it's taking a veritable furnace of life-energy from two perfectionist overachievers who should probably be more mindful of their health, but I will move back into that house in less than 2 weeks - and I will have bathrooms and a kitchen - if not interior doors. Goddess-willing, I will also have initial backyard hardscaping, blinds, wood beams, a sexy barn door and a bunch of new kitchen gizmos (if no furniture, cuz really, who has money for places to sit?)

*On this topic, is it not sad that this term refers specifically to mediocre workmanship. Like, you can have good work or you can have "builder-grade". Take back the night, Builders. Find the pride in your industry because you're the only thing standing between us and the devolution of architectural value everywhere.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Let's Get This Party Started

A while ago, when I was trying to articulate "my style", I wrote a bit about my design objectives and process (which some of my friends refer to as my scary-ass "non-process"). I find it interesting to reflect on these posts because I continue to feel all of those feelings - and to work in this haphazard way - but I also have a much more integrated understanding of my style and approach now, having been put on the hook for (aka given the opportunity to) design at every turn.

So let's have a moment with a Kristin-reno photo that isn't only posted on instagram. And remember, if you want to see house photos, you really should check out that insta link:

Kristin's and Scott's New Kitchen - unfinished but getting there!
I find this space profoundly pleasing. Even incomplete, I see how it's going to look (not generally one of my strong suits, fyi). The countertops are going to be pure white quartz, which goes up the wall a few inches as backsplash (not the cheapest finish I've chosen, admittedly) and my fancy-ass Bertazzoni dual fuel stove* will be on the other side, with a thin sheet-metal backsplash. It's the tiniest bit industrial, but mainly warm and sleek. I live in a horrible climate in a city that is architecturally rather suspect. My interior needs to scream hygge.

I feel I'm at a point that I can articulate what I'm going for and, of course, I'm not one to hold back! I want this house to be sexy. I want it to be the sexiest fucking little space that ever was. I want people to leave my dinner parties utterly hot for one another because my interior is messing with their minds.

No question, there's a way in which this space is the kitchen-equivalent of the midlife crisis sports car. But it's much more than that. It's shiny (reflective), briefly colourful (cheerful), uncluttered (zen), wood-forward (warm). The proportions are beautiful.

On the topic of kitchen renos - this one was rather affordable (in the scheme of unaffordability). I went with cabinets that are obvs customized and of good quality, but mid-range in cost. I'm not replacing my fridge or dishwasher. They both work, I feel they can meld with the eclectic scheme so I'm not changing them until they fall apart. Sure, this place might be sexier if you didn't see the fridge, but that would be opulent. Moreover, lest we never forget, I've paid for this (not cheap) reno twice. I've got to pick my poison.

Yesterday I showed a similar photo of the kitchen to a friend at work. Before she could catch herself, she gasped and said: That red comes off when the kitchen is finished, right? It's not actually supposed to be that colour?! And I laughed with glee! I was entirely unfussed by her admission of horror. Have at it, I say! You don't like this, no problem. Chances are I don't love your kitchen design (except inasmuch as it's an expression of where you live and what you like). It's no one's job to appreciate my kitchen but mine. And Scott, natch. PS: He is SO on board at this point, all pre-installation anxiety is rapidly diminishing.

What I loved about my encounter with my friend is that it was unscripted. And this space got a huge reaction. Sure, I'd have liked it more for her to say it was the best thing she's ever seen, but I am just so happy she had a reaction - that I created something worthy of response.

For me, interior design is art. Beautiful construction is art. Efficient placement is art. But my style of art may not be yours and that's alright!

What I've come to understand about my home is that it really is a little mansion! It's proportions are unbeatable, to my eye. It has individual rooms, all of which have individual purpose, and yet they cohere. It's old, it's modern. It's a little bit rustic, a little bit sleek. As I like to say, it punches above its weight. If it makes you think, even for a second, about what you like and what you don't - about what suits you - then I have been successful. Wait - I have been successful. At this point, it's just a matter of degrees.

*Before you predict that I went stupidly high-style (which one does when buying a fancy-ass stove), I got this baby on sale for half price (the model is now discontinued). It's also the small version, a) because I don't have more than 30" of width to spare and b) because I really don't need six burners and 2 ovens in my household of 3 / soon to be 2.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

And Now For A Terrific Story (That, Admittedly, Gets Off to a Slow Start)...

Three months ago my husband went to the doctor and found out his cholesterol was through the roof. In fact, they couldn't even tell him how bad it was because his triglyceride levels were too high to determine LDL levels. (Note: He's one of those stereotypical men who won't go to the doctor more than once in a decade, and then only after being nagged for 5 years by a woman.) But - here's the stupid thing - he'd actually gone for the same tests a year earlier and no one called him back with "bad results" (which is the don't call us, we'll call you policy. Except when they mess it up. Which they did because his doctor died shortly after he came in for the tests more than a year ago and then Scott's file was misplaced.)

Now, one might not worry overly, if one wasn't in one's mid-fifties with a family history of heart disease. Every man on both sides of Scott's family has died of some sort of circulatory heart disorder. Scott's father has had triple bypass surgery. His mother has a pace-maker. Both of his parents have been on mega doses of statins since first they became available on the market. Scott's father actually takes the kind of statin that stops your body from producing cholesterol AND the kind that stops your body from absorbing it. And his cholesterol is still high. 

Y'all also know about my feelings about statins. I am really down on them. Everything I've read points to evidence that a) you need cholesterol to keep your brain working throughout the span of your life b) you need it to keep sex organs happy and c) you can have high cholesterol (even VERY high cholesterol) and it needn't impact artery hardening or width, though it can, of course, in a subset of patients. I predict that statins will eventually be known as the drug scam of the early 21st century. Only time will tell if I'm right or wrong.

Of course, I'm not unrealistic. I know that my husband's medical treatment is not my call. I also know that when you've got family members dying at the Xmas table from heart attacks (no joke), you don't take a light approach - unless, perhaps, you happen to be the kind of person who doesn't bother to go to the doc despite your family history.

However, statins weren't on the table after Scott's initial visit because they couldn't determine his LDL levels. The doctor read him the riot act and told him to get 150 minutes of exercise per week, cut down on booze, cut down on sugar, cut down on saturated fat and come back for another test in 3 months. He also said: Then we'll put you on statins. The guy was something out of the Canada Food Guide.

At first Scott was pissed. I mean, our lives have been unpleasant enough over the last 18-months. To cut out everything fun and find time to exercise was not a welcome prescription. But he realized that we haven't been going through drama and hell to make our lives luxe and sexy, only for him to die prematurely from complications of high cholesterol.

In true Scott style, he just decided to give it his all. He went from arguing with the doc about not having time to exercise (and he really doesn't right now) to somehow getting an average of 250 minutes of really vigorous exercise per week. On my watch, but driven by his own goals, he gave up all grains (except for half an english muffin in the am), sugar (english muff doesn't get jam and coffee is cream-only!), most starchy carbs, all but 1 G&T a week and all processed foods. He opted to increase his vegetable consumption by 1000 per cent and I am not on that bandwagon with him. (Note to reader: The only thing I can eat right now without feeling like I'm going to throw up is hot dogs, no joke. So I'm no role model.) I also bamboozled him into taking fish oil and a probiotic.

That's all he did. He's still massively sleep-deprived. He's more stressed than he's ever been in his life. He's currently a workaholic by necessity. He's continued to eat 20 oz of steak at a sitting and all the meat, daily, with skin and fat on it.

Yesterday he went back to the doc to find out the results of another blood test he did last week. The doc was blown away - like stunned. Effectively, Scott has managed to eradicate generations of family predisposition in 90 days without taking a drug - unless you consider supplements and food to be drugs. His every level is now in the range of normal. Seriously, the guy went from being borderline diabetic (and he didn't even know it) to being cholesterol-normal in 3 freakin' months - which would be impressive for anyone, much less someone with family history who's working 14 hour days, sleeping 4 hours a night and doing the work of 5 people. Oh, and he lost 10 pounds (and he wasn't overweight to begin with).

In the words of my mother: Just goes to show you can eat a marbled cow weekly and still bring your cholesterol levels down - if you're willing to give up sugar.

Other note to reader: My mother's had the best diet in the world forever and she still can't bring down her cholesterol by eschewing sugar, so I'm not suggesting that Scott's results represent everyone's potentiality.

I'm writing to tell any of you who are on the fence - and no one was more on the fence than my husband: Before you go on statins or medication for type 2 diabetes or the myriad other drugs with potentially deleterious side-effects you'll prob have to manage on the flip side - give up sugar and grains for 3-6 months. Scott didn't even give it up entirely. I mean, he still eats fruit and drinks alcohol and he has that freakin' half english muffin every freakin' day. Of course, follow the advice of your doctor - though know enough know to when your doctor isn't giving you good advice - but, just for kicks, take the sugar and processed foods out of your diet and see what happens.

It could make every difference in the world or none at all. But you won't have the vaguest idea unless you try.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Watch This

Perhaps it won't surprise you to learn that I've gone through a spate of home-show binging and I've got a type. For my money, the show's gotta be:
  • Architecturally-motivated, which is to say the presenter is an architect/engineer or there's one on stand by in each episode.
  • Either entirely focused on the finished product (which is generally rather architecturally dramatic) or the in-depth renovation / restoration process. Anything flip-oriented, cheap-and-cheerful or DIY is of no interest. If the presenter's claim to fame is painting shit and making papier-mâché gizmos that hide crappy work, I run screaming.
  • Preferably English because North American home-show presenters are the bottom of the barrel, IMO, and yes I am casting aspersions on the majority offerings of HGTV.
In case you're looking for a few options that go really well with knitting and wine, may I suggest:
  • This Old House (the restoration standard and the American in the bunch)
  • The World's Most Extraordinary Homes (absurd eye candy!)
  • Grand Designs (this one will give you heart palpitations from the stress, in a good way)
  • I Own Britain's Best Home (this is really old but it only just made its way to my Netflix, note: it's the iffiest of the bunch but there's an Australian version too!)
  • Amazing Spaces (I have an unnatural affinity for George Clarke and his sidekick, who really is the brains of the team)
I actually learned about Grand Designs from my parents, cuz it's avail on US Netflix but not in Canada. Mind you, CBC runs the full 14 seasons for free, just sign up. When I was visiting for my mother's birthday, in the spring, they bamboozled me into watching it with promises of wine and popcorn. I was not excited by the prospect but, man, they hooked me by showing me the perfect first episode called North London (Season 11, episode 2), about a couple (the woman is an actor, the guy ran his own business till he sold it to pay for the freakin' reno gone rogue) who undertake the most INSANE of projects ever. BTW, I don't like the end result but the story arc is amazing. They have to negotiate 17 party-wall agreements before beginning the project and just the land - which has no street front - cost about a million bucks CDN. There's also another episode in this season where 2 London guys move to the country and make the most beautiful home (60,000 pound window - and by that I mean pounds sterling, not the imperial version of weight) while simultaneously developing a working farm and creating a craft brew business (Newbury, Season 11, episode 9). It's mind-blowing what people can accomplish.

It took us 2 hours to get through the North London episode because I literally forced my parents (with the power of my shrillness) to stop it every 2 minutes so that I could yell at the television set. I mean, we got through at least a bottle of wine between the three us during that time frame. Most of the time my ranting was a riff on: OMG, I had that happen! That boulder thing - check. That zoning issue - check. That moronic engineering error - check. That foundation disaster - check.  That thing with the builders, oy vey - check. The main distinctions between my experience and theirs is that they were living seriously low-brow during the years of construction (one room, two babies) and their project was triple the size and scope of ours. I sense I've experienced the microcosmic version of this process, but I aim not to come out of it in a similar fashion. (As I understand it from internet stalking, they have since divorced and sold the house.)

All of the shows I've suggested have one thing in common: each of the renovators/restorers, at some point, in some way (large or small) articulates that (s)he is utterly compelled by the project. Each guest acknowledges that this presupposes some sort of insanity because, to a one, s(he) is all too aware of folly that simply cannot be repressed. Each is there on the basis of one thing over all else: sacrifice and the compulsion to restore a part of history, or to assert vision that can't slumber in the margins of one's mind. As you can imagine, Scott isn't much enjoying the reno either, but he tells me frequently about how relevant he feels.

When I watch a good home show I see imagination transformed into action. It's so joyful to watch people express themselves through their quirky decisions, even when I hate those decisions. I don't frequently relate to the creative choices of others but, no question, Scott and I are in the same crazy club. We're people who don't have the good sense to enjoy the weekends (or weeks or mornings or evenings or vacations or anything really) because we're chasing, dare I say realizing, the dream. People who renovate have one thing in common and it's not spendiness or fortitutde or talent or unified vision. It's confidence. It's the arrogance of believing that we're more than the forces with which we must conflict continuously. These shows pull you along for that amazing journey. Do tell me what you think of them!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Not Over Till It's Over

Writing here for the first time in practically 8 months, it's a bit like starting from scratch. And honestly, I can't write in the old voice, because I'm not that person anymore. I'm a "revised" human being, cobbled together like a child's plasticene model of a functional lady. To be clear: I'm very angry. I'm whatever comes after exhausted. I'm disappointed in humanity. I'm still carrying my metaphoric boulder up my metaphoric hill only it feels real, the constant weight of moving. It's been so un-fun for so long that I can barely remember unfettered enjoyment. There's always a caveat - the goddamn project and its endless goddamn problems. (Pls. note - I hate the project with the power of a million suns but I do not hate the house or the husband. In fact, I love them both more than ever.)

Don't feel bad for me. My emerging self is amazingly functional, if mostly miserable. Things that would have thrown me into a state of utter chaos, 18-months ago - now they merely gut-punch in a momentary way. In fact, it appears I've been waiting all of my life to apply my anxiety to something truly deserving, I just didn't know it. :-)

In November, after months of being dicked around, I had no crew, no plan forward. My house was a disaster-zone. At my lowest ebb, I didn't so much speak, as squeak, shrill with disbelief. I could not imagine how things could have come to this (I did SO much fucking research) or that things could ever get better. I actually lost all imagination because it seemed like a liability. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. For the most part, I still can't. (Don't worry, I have adequate caloric intake from alcohol alone. And on the topic of honesty, you cannot go through this kind of experience without a spate of functional alcoholism.) Somehow I get my ass out of bed every morning and perform my full-spectrum modern-woman function. Somehow we've cobbled together the wherewithal, albeit in a state of shock, to get from there to here. But it's so not over.

(Subject of another post: The brick veneer on the front of the house exterior, always ugly, has decided to help us by falling off under the weight of carelessness and heavy construction. So, this job ain't done by a long shot. Next up - trashing the front porch and garden to rip off the front of the house and repoint the original brick. Also we'll need to hazmat-demolish the front/original part of the basement which, after my pipes burst this winter, is a den of mold. But, as row-house dwellers, we have to finish the hardscaping in the back yard before doing this because we need a way to leave and enter the house.)

This is the part of the story where I dwell on my husband, a mere mortal-turned-super hero whose cover is blown. He works 14 hour days, every day, running a business (where he treats everyone with respect) and GC-ing our renovation (where he also treats everyone with respect, though rarely is that sentiment returned in action). Obviously, I think he's a really cool person or I wouldn't have married him but I could not have predicted his level of competence in the face of near-disaster. I am blown-away by his efficacy and his endurance. He has spreadsheets of hundreds of columns - project plans and financial tables - which he monitors daily. He's on the phone with one trade at 7am and another at 11pm. He's constantly resolving serious issues that no one else can come up with a solution to address (even though those issues shouldn't have occurred in the first place). Eventually, I do intend to post a room-by-room inventory of changes to the house, for posterity. When you see how much we've altered, I imagine you'll think 2 things: Lord, how did he keep it all together and Lord, how much is all that shit costing. The answer to both of these things is, I have no fucking idea.

OK, I have no idea about the keeping it together. The money part I know. One simply shouldn't dwell overly. I mean, unless we start to earn more money, and I like to think this is feasible - or come into a sizeable inheritance - I'm not retiring early. But I am so incredibly fortunate. Many others would have lost everything under these circumstances. I've been given the opportunity - the choice - to spend money in this way. There's no more fairness to this than my hideous luck on the construction-front. When you spin the wheel, you get what you get. At some moment everyone has to decide whether to throw in the towel, or to double-down with investment on every level, and the essence of commitment is commitment. We are putting ourselves into this home, viscerally, dozens of times a day. We are this place - as much as everyone who has preceded us over 5 generations. And I consider those people in every choice I make.

The original owner was a municipal public servant in the early days of Toronto. The house was practically suburban in those years. He had 3 children, the youngest of whom died days before Christmas, at the age of 2 (and very probably in my home, though there's no sense of it that hovers). Shortly thereafter the family moved out and rented the property for many years. The husband died before they opted to retake possession. His wife sold it to the next people and she moved to Kensington Market after re-marrying...

Then there was the woman who owned it in the 1900s, for longer than any other owners to date - though we're fast catching up. It had originally belonged to her husband but he died young so she lived there with her daughters, who were rather modern ladies, all working downtown. This woman lived to her 80s and eventually the property was sold. The sisters moved to a house a few doors north.

The peeps who lived there before the couple from whom we bought the place were "the crazy old ones". They painted everything pink. Something tells me they were hoarders. We still hear stories from long-time residents (including our attached neighbours) about how the frail, elderly lady once ran down the block - wielding an axe - to get rid of a door canvasser. To her credit, apparently she warned the guy first. They were ancient yet climbed out the attic windows regularly to clean them - not that anything else was clean. They tarped the entire backyard, we understand, because they didn't like light.

Those from whom we purchased, entrusted the house to us though there was a bidding war and we were not the highest bidders. Partly, that's because we riskily agreed to take immediate possession, despite our ownership of another property, and they'd both managed to score tenure at UCLA in their respective professorial fields starting immediately. Partly - I like to believe - it's because we sent them a message assuring them that we would care for the home and become its stewards, explaining that we'd offered as much money as we possibly could. They left us the curtains in the front room, the ones made by his mother, from fabric she'd snuck out of Germany as she fled the death camps during WWII.

This home was shaped by those lives. It's shaped by ours. Now, when I nighttime property-stalk (I'm discreet but if you leave your blinds open I'm gonna look!), I can't peek at those properties in the same way. Before, I wanted all of the sexy Victorian homes. Now I cannot imagine living somewhere other than my home because I have no investment elsewhere. I'm not in those floors and walls and windows. I wasn't the source of their vision.

Every 5 minutes I tell someone I am never doing this again. (When Scott is with me, he says scary shit like: You'll forget about the misery and I really want to put in a coach house studio someday, or (worse still): You know there's realistically another year of renovation remaining once we actually move back in. Mind you, I can't say I regret it. In every moment I'm reminded of my firey desire, my fortitude. And honestly, I fucking love how it is coming together. I'm the only one I need to satisfy and I am largely very satisfied. This has contextualized my irrepressible confidence and reminded me of its value.

If you want to do a major reno and have fun, there's only one solution IMO (and I stand by this, though many of you may counter): Be fucking rich. Way richer than I am. Way richer than you are (unless you happen to be super wealthy, in which case you have my congratulations). You need to be able to rent a house and not worry about how much it costs when your project triples in time span. You need to be able to comfortably afford to pay for your reno twice in the event that you get fucked over by people. You need money to afford the team of people who will help you to litigate against the people who may fuck you over. You need to be able to take time off work without pay (or maybe just not bother with a job cuz you don't need one). You need to have the money to fly away on a trip when everything becomes soul-crushing, and it will, even if you're a zillionaire. You need not to worry about how every cost overrun may impact your ability to fund your kid's out of province university experience (even as your mind is blown and you are insanely grateful that your kid got into the best university in Canada).

If money is no object, you'll get from here to there pretty unscathed, I hazard to guess. Otherwise, hope to heaven that your health holds up and you come to love your partner more than you did in the first place. Hope that you have the visceral memory of a mouse. Hope that you love what you create to such an extent that the punishing journey of its achievement is an eventual afterthought. Hope that you become more, because of pain, than you would have been otherwise. And take the long view. Cuz really, there's no alternative.