Birthday Eve

I tend to spend the evening before my birthday (Birthday Eve, if you will) walking through the dank mist of what ifs and whys. I have chosen to skip that step this year, primarily because something popped out of my mouth today when talking to Nick that made me think. The words formed so naturally and practiced that I have no doubt the idea has always been there, waiting for me to take notice.

I’ve never thought about why my birthday brings such happiness and excitement. I never request presents, but I have a lot of friends who do just that. I don’t expect grand gestures or pretty words, but my family sometimes does just that. My joy has nothing to do with material gain or flattery though: it’s just a reason for me to be giddy…or so I thought.

You see, I keenly remember the day my mother died. The details from the last week of her life creep up upon me in random moments…I can’t get myself to forget. I think that this would be true for any life event that dramatically changed my life. While my mind may not have been able to form lasting memories on the day that I was born, I’ve always been thankful that I was given such a great start…it was great because I had my mom. I was absolutely blessed with that kismet bond. I don’t know what I did to deserve such a gift, but I will be grateful for it until my last breath.

Unrestrained acceptance…that’s what we had…that, and a deep, fathomless friendship. Of course there was love, love is almost always there when I hear people speak about their childhoods fraught with disagreements, resentment, and hurt feelings that they’ve carried into adulthood. The acceptance and friendship weren’t required of my parent, but they made me a better person. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do something so big for another human being or if I even made her life as replete as she made mine, but it is a gift meant to be reciprocated.

So why do I love my birthday so darn much?

I love it because it was the day I first met my mother, and knowing her has defined my life.

Paske Christmas Party - 2004

Pipe Dreams

The day I both longed for and dreaded arrived last Thursday.

Late Summer Progress

We met with a vendor to select plumbing fixtures, you see. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I had definite ideas going into the meeting…which makes it much harder to agree to money-saving concessions. The entire process has been a lessons-learned exercise (not that I intend to build another house). Biggest take-away so far? When all of the estimates are coming in from vendors at the early phase of the project, make sure you give input what you actually want, even if your builder doesn’t invite the information.

We visited the plumbing fixture showroom the weekend before the appointment just to get an idea what we should expect. It was daunting. Nick went home that night and looked through the estimate paperwork, trying to see if it was even in the realm of possibility that we could be on budget. I think I’ve mentioned before how unnerved that man makes me when he starts reviewing all the selections I’ve already made. WELL, that’s nothing compared to how I feel watching him try to make the numbers in the columns match. It’s like watching the mercury rise in a thermometer and hoping that he stops heating up before he bursts.

To start with, I wanted all fixtures in oil rubbed bronze. I don’t know why I had my heart set on that finish, but how can anyone explain why they like what they like? Apparently, not all fixture finishes are created equal, and this is a more expensive option. Shocker. Do you know what oil rubbed bronze looks like? I didn’t before all this started, so I give you this, a photo of the sink fixtures “we” chose for the master bath:

We also thought my soaker tub in the master bath would be unattainable. I wanted a bathtub with chromotherapy, also known as color therapy. It might just be a bunch of hooey, but at least it would be pretty. In the event that it is much more than a bunch of hooey, I might have a way a sooth my back on the really bad days when nothing else seems to work.

Fortunately, the representative we worked with showed us an in-budget (and quite possibly slightly UNDER BUDGET), freestanding soaker tub that could be ordered with chromotherapy but without jets (I find jets terribly uncomfortable) in one of her catalogs. The only concession we had to make was switching away from the Kohler brand to stay in our price point, a concession we both accepted easily.

The final point of contention between Nick and me is the downstairs powder room. His thought was to finish the room on the cheap with the knowledge that we would redo that room in a couple years. Well, to me that just seems like we’re wasting money on something that I hate and that we won’t even be keeping very long. So much stress and tension caused by one little sink in the smallest room of the house: it’s crazy!

We’re still waiting on the final numbers, but he did concede to let us talk about a vessel sink with an open spout faucet and decide if the additional expense is worth it. Until then, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for the niftiest bathroom in the place.

Meanwhile, back at the lot this week:

Another day, another wall :) We met Todd and Nick today: they're framing our house! They were both friendly and down to earth - just the sort of people you'd want building your home! IMG_4151 Untitled

Azure skies and unfettered dreams

Late Summer Progress

And one last picture, just because I think this guy is kind of cute:


True Colors

So, I have to write this while it’s still fresh: we just had the quickest, most satisfying appointment with a vendor this afternoon! We were scheduled to make stone selections for the exterior of the house and the fireplace in the great room. We love both stone selections we made, and I am surprised how much of a rush it was to make the selections as quickly as we did. You have to picture it—a show room covered in stone choices, and we zeroed in on our selections almost immediately.

Nick has put me in charge of nearly all of the decisions at this point, saying he’ll agree with whatever I decide. It helps, naturally, that we have a sort of prototype of our perfect home. However, I am extremely unnerved after each of these appointments because he comes home to look through the catalogs and study the choices I made.

I suppose that as long as he is still smiling by the end of the day, I am doing okay! I looked over at him as he studied the stone patterns and colors, and he was grinning like a fool (a very happy one) the entire time.

I feel like this should be some sort of deeper lesson for me to go with my instincts now and then instead of studying everything to death.

The photo on the left is an example of the pattern and color of the stone we will use on the fireplace. The picture does not capture the nuances of the color, but I think it will be versatile with many different decorating schemes over the years. The photo on the right is a combination of bits that will be thrown together for external materials—ashen stone, dark mocha vinyl siding, and cedar [lookalike] shakes.

Why does it seem like time moves slower as a person moves closer to completing a plan!?

Frame of Mind

Sitting in the front door:

They started framing the first story within the last couple days, and I have to be honest: it’s seriously starting to feel like the mounds of dirt and wood might actually transform into a house one of these days! The photo above was taken just this morning. The crew was still working Friday afternoon when we drove by the lot, so we decided to return the next day. We were surprised to see that there were workers there again on Saturday…the first time we’ve noticed anyone working during the weekend.

View from the back:
First story, coming up!

View from the front:
First story, coming up!

That brings us to today, Sunday. They’ve done SO much work already, but there is something about seeing future walls that gave me an effervescence deep in my tummy…by golly I think it might be excitement!

Nick decided that he wanted to get a picture of both of us sitting in the door frame before we left. I watched from my perch as he crafted (or attempted to…) a makeshift tripod. Meanwhile, I saw a man across the road walk down his driveway to enter his car. I smiled and waved, and he reciprocated. I continued to keep an eye on Nick’s shenanigans while also watching my future neighbor back out of his driveway excruciatingly slowly (I was puzzled at the slowness).

When he was backed out diagonally across the street (it isn’t a busy road), he opened his door and called out to see if we wanted him to take our picture. You see, he was also keeping an eye on Nick’s shenanigans and figured out what was going on when he spotted the smart phone Nick was trying to balance on fragile scrap-wood formations. He just left his car in the road, idling, to jump out and take our picture. I know it seems like I’m waxing poetic about something that was “only” a simple act of kindness, but the twists and turns in my life have taught me to value those moments and the people who write them into my story.

Living at the condo was a much different experience, one that I was indifferent to at the time but regret in retrospect. I didn’t know my neighbors, and I couldn’t even tell you what they looked like. I believe that most of our neighbors were in my age group and worked standard nine to five jobs. We pulled into our garages, closed the garage door, exited our vehicles, then entered our homes—and in the morning we did it all in reverse. We truly lived in silos.

SO yes. Neighbor Bob left his car idling in the middle of the road to take a handful of iPhone photos of us this morning, and I loved it.

Decisions completed over the past seven days:

  • Cabinets—and surprisingly on budget too!
  • Garage Door
  • Exterior Materials

In the next week, we will meet to pick out the exterior stone used on the house as well as all the plumbing fixtures. I am pretty worried about the cost of the plumbing fixtures…I am trying to keep my cool until I can have a rational conversation with the vendor, but it doesn’t seem like the budget is all that forgiving. I suppose time will tell…think cost-effective-thoughts for us this week!

Building Foundations

So, it’s been two weeks since we last talked house happenings. Our foundation walls are all grown up now!

Oooooh: basement walls!

Nick has a hard time warning me that I’m in his shot, as you can see above and below.

Basement walls!

Seriously!—walls everywhere!
Basement walls!

We’ve picked out windows and doors and were only a bit over budget even though I didn’t cut any corners with the front door with decorative glass.

We’ve also picked out appliances, and while we are very happy with our choices, we are significantly over our appliance budget. Nick checked out the quote online after meeting with the vendor and found that the prices we were quoted are pretty much the best that he could find (actually, he couldn’t find any better). While there is an outward perception that building a house is expensive, seeing the total slowly tally is a lot to take in.

Next stop: CABINETS! Hopefully we will be able to set up time with the vendor this week if he has an opening in his schedule.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch foundation…

All the dirt has been filled in!
(Nick isn’t fond of this shot of his backside, but I like the picture—I daresay I like his backside.)

We will get decent exposure (as you can see) in the basement, but we opted not to pursue the walk-out because the lot wasn’t naturally graded to support that plan—it was always a “nice to have” not a “need to have” anyway. We wanted to work with what we had as much as possible not only because it’s less costly, but also because it feels right with us living next to a conservancy and all. Most of those trees in the picture are ours, but all the rest just behind and outside of the frame are part of the conservancy, and I’m honored that we will get a front row seat to watch over them for years to come.

Über-artsy panoramic view…of dirt, primarily.
Home sweet home!