If there were a contest for laziest Catholic blogger, I’m pretty sure I’d win. It’s been so, so long since my last update, and so, so much has happened, that I’m at a bit of a loss about where to begin.
Probably the best place is with a word of thanks to all of you who offered such kind words of consolation after I wrote about our struggle with infertility and who have been praying for us ever since. At first, I tried so hard to thank everyone individually, but eventually I just got too overwhelmed, by the sheer volume of comments and messages and by life in general, which, if it’s been anything this past year, has indeed been overwhelming.
As some of you know, I’m currently under contract with Emmaus Road to write a book about the house renovations (working title is Don’t Paint the Subway Tile! Lessons in Love, Sin, Gin, and Grace from a Real-Life Fixer Upper). I’ll be starting on it in just a couple weeks, so thoughts about what I want to say are filling up my head. I have lots of those thoughts, but so few are what I had in mind when I originally came up with the book.
Don’t worry, though; the gin recipes haven’t gone anywhere. They’ll still play a supporting role in the book…even a starring role in some parts.
In all seriousness, as you may have guessed, things with the house have just not gone as expected. When we started this whole crazy show last December, I had visions of subway tile and open concept kitchens dancing in my head. I knew we were in for some bumps and bruises and unexpected expenses…but I wasn’t expecting the 20 car pile up that this renovation has become.
We’re 13 months into the renovation now, and projects that I thought would be done in November…and September…and June…and April (of 2017) still remain undone, while our bank account has been bled dry. This is the house where deadlines come to die.
Of course, one of the reasons that our bathroom remains gutted, our fireplaces and china cabinets remain untrimmed, and the entire back of our house remains unheated and unfinished is because other, more pressing projects reared their head and demanded that we do them post haste lest the house collapse, burn down, flood, and rot.
As I have learned the hard way, when you discover that your 90-year-old back addition is in danger of collapsing, because the original builders slapped it on without proper support, ignoring the problem and moving on with the trim work is not an option. When your roof, that you had been assured had several years of life left in it, starts leaking uncontrollably in three different places and destroying your nice new drywall work, finishing up the bedroom fireplace drops down the priority list. And when your bathroom plumbing secretly corrodes underneath the chrome-colored paint, sprayed there by a previous owner to hide the corrosion, allowing it to burst rather than whipping out your credit card to fix the situation is not the wisest choice.
Dave Ramsey would frown upon my entire life right now. However, Dave Ramsey also charges way more than I do to speak at parishes and conferences, so Dave Ramsey has the luxury of frowning. I do not.
Really, the most terrifying things lurk inside the walls of old houses, and my best advice for those of you dreaming of opening them up in some Joanna Gaines inspired fit of madness is “Don’t!!!”
My next best advice is to forget what people say about setting aside a 20 percent contingency. If the house was built after 1950, 20 percent is fine. For every extra decade of age, however, add an additional 10 percent.
For us, each new stage of construction has brought more unexpected expenses, and years of savings have now disappeared into new copper plumbing, LVL beams, gas pipes, and asphalt shingles. I won’t be able to afford curtains or carpet in the den for another year (or two) and we’re in the process of selling our second car (Subaru Impreza, 40,000 miles, 100,000 mile warranty, $10,800, email me with offers), but at least I can go to sleep at night without worrying that I will wake up in the dining room below. That is something.
I’m sure, though, from an eternal perspective, it’s all good. Living in the House of Unfinished Projects is great fodder for deep thoughts (not necessarily for sobriety, but sometimes that’s overrated…kidding…sort of…), and I’m looking forward to sorting those all out on paper. Plus, unfinished bits aside, the house really is beautiful—so beautiful that I have absolutely no business complaining about a single unfinished project, like zero, zilch, nada business—and, God willing, we’ll have the most visible unfinished bits wrapped up by late Spring. There’s a real urgency to this now, since the only way we’re going to be able to afford to bring our baby home is with a home equity loan, and you can’t get one of those when there are ongoing construction projects in the house.
That’s right, I said “our baby.” As many of you saw on Facebook last week, Chris and I (God-willing) are adopting a newborn later this summer. We are so blessed and so thrilled, and also so shocked! We’d only begun the process of talking to agencies and making decisions about what type of adoption we wanted to pursue, when this situation was pretty much thrown in our lap. We aren’t in the world’s best financial position to adopt a baby right now, but how do you say no to a baby? Especially when you’re 42 and your husband is 49 and some people wait years for a birth mom to pick them. In the end, I’d rather be a mom, in debt to the day I die, than a wealthy but childless writer, so…we said yes.
Someday, I’ll tell the whole story. For now though, we’re really hoping this comes to fruition not only because it involves a cute, cuddly, sweet-smelling image of God, but also because the situation is one we feel good about taking on. The birth mom’s situation is super unstable, however, which makes the adoption itself unstable, and prayers for her, the baby, and us would be appreciated.
Okay, now that I’ve complained, shown you the ugly bits of our ongoing renovation, and shared our news, I’ll leave you with some pretty pictures…which you are very much owed. These aren’t proper Before and After’s, and they’re all just crappy camera shots (because my phone refuses to take good pictures anymore), and taken on cloudy days (because that’s all we have this time of year in Pittsburgh), but they should give you an idea of how far we’ve progressed. It’s far.
Please note: kitchen cabinets, countertops, the refrigerator drawers, light fixtures, dining room table, and sofa, were all purchased in the very early days of the renovation, when I actually thought our estimated budget and time tables for completion were based in reality. There was no going back on those purchases without losing deposits of 50 percent or more. So, please don’t judge their relative niceness in relation to my confessions of debt. Everything else was bought on the super cheap or came with us from the old house. And since last fall, we’ve pretty much stopped buying anything but rice, lentils, and cheap booze. Chris now gets dirty looks when he comes home from the store with orange juice. That stuff is expensive!.