You’ll want to read this if you:
- Wonder what happened after I wrote “I’m Baack!” several months ago — then went underground.
- Enjoy watching shows like “Love It or List It”, where regular people turn into raving maniacs as they house-hunt, renovate, and spend all their money on sinking-ship properties.
- Want to feel better about yourself and how you spent the past six months, relishing in a little schadenfreude (that’s a German word for “finding malicious joy in the misfortunes of others” – a word for which we certainly need an English equivalent!)
- Consider yourself a loyal friend and/or reader and want the scoop so we can move on to higher ground… (Aargh! Did I just say the word “move” again?)
Thanks for staying with me.
OK, out of respect for our ever-shrinking attention spans, here’s a quick By-the-Numbers Synopsis:
Number of Days to Sell our Previous Home: 7
Number of Properties Viewed to Find New Place: over 50
Number of Viewing Days: 3 (I was commuting, so we had to cram!)
Number of Places We Almost Bought/ Pined for/ Put Offers on: 5
Minutes Spent Viewing the House We Ultimately Got: 20
Days that House had been on the Market: 1
Days between the Accepted Offer and the Move: 15
Henry was the lucky one. He got to drive the overloaded U-Haul through the mountains at night with Oliver, our macho-cat, who was fiercely opposed to every aspect of the move. To make sure Henry knew exactly how he felt, Oliver howled the entire way, and, when that wasn’t explicit enough, added explosive diarrhea to the mix. I drove our overloaded car, along with the dog, who was overjoyed to be included with the cargo, and our ‘sensitive’ cat, too traumatized to make a peep, let alone loosen her bowels.
Of course, when we reached our destination – our new home! — I was the lucky one who got to wrestle stinky Oliver into the bath.
Using the downstairs bathtub did something funny to the plumbing. Brown sludge (not Oliver’s) started oozing out of the upstairs tub, and the upstairs bathroom smelled like… well, like a sour septic tank, which had supposedly been cleaned just before our move.
By the next day, the waters started flowing. Our newly- awakened toilet took to spontaneously erupting whenever other sinks and taps were used. The hallway became a burbling brook, and then the downstairs toilet wanted in, and became a spewing geyser. As for the smell… well, let’s just call it ‘pungent’. I’m sure the dog, who loves rolling in dead salmon, found it delectable.
We got to be very good friends with the plumbers, damage estimators, flooring specialists, and drywall repair guys who came to the rescue. Luckily, the house was still under the previous owner’s insurance (we got early possession). Of course, settling the insurance claim took weeks and weeks and weeks, so we had almost a week with no plumbing but the kitchen sink (don’t ask), and many weeks of living with ripped out floors and no one coming to the rescue. Oh, and it was wretchedly hot the whole time.
The fridge decided to die next, after several episodes of shutting down and mysteriously coming back for a few days. It wasn’t until we tried moving the stove that we noticed the oven door wasn’t attached, and never would be. So we relied on the oversize microwave that came with the house, until it, too, agreed that being in service was simply too much work, and joined its dearly departed kitchen mates. In the basement, an early vintage Maytag washer and dryer, disconnected and disconsolate, waited for someone brave enough to clean out decades of black crud and check for signs of life.*
Did I mention the house was built in 1960? And that the previous owner had died in the spring? I took to singing “Grandfather’s Clock” –with loud claps and foot stomps for the best lines: STOPPED — SHORT — NEVER TO GO AGAIN!!! — as we waited for the other shoe/s to drop.
Meanwhile, I’d already planned to update the wall colours, which ran from Can’t Decide Beigey White to Yikes Alive! Turquoise to Total Takeover Teal.** Upon closer inspection, I realized all the ceilings needed repainting, too, and that most of the original paint was, in fact, oil-based.(Primer alert!) The kitchen cabinets were those vinyl and oak trendsetters from the 60’s, the kind I’d once declared I could never live with. (We are co-habiting quite peacefully for now.) And since all the floors needed replacing, even the ones we liked before the flood, I decided to get ALL the painting done before the flooring arrived. And by “get done”, I mean do it all myself, since I’d just finished repainting much of our previous house in preparation for selling, and that, apparently, was just the Warm-Up.
My life became (again) all about paint.I wore the same paint clothes, all day, every day, for the next 36 days, except for trips to Home Depot and the local paint store, for which I reserved a second set of scrubs. I painted my way through 14 gallons of ceiling paint (53.06 litres, to be exact; it’s cheaper than buying primer) and at least 16 more gallons of color. Even the dog, whose life consists of following me from room to room, hoping for some exercise, got sick of watching me paint. The high point of every day was my late-night Epsom salt bath, where I scrubbed away today’s paint in readiness for tomorrow’s (I’m a messy painter). Some of my new church friends helped for a day or two, which was encouraging, but mostly it was just Me, My Goal, and The House.
When I say I worked every day from 8 am till midnight, I exaggerate slightly: some days, I stopped by 10 or 11 pm. I usually didn’t stop for meals. I did go to church on Sunday mornings. By the way, if you’re looking for a guaranteed way to lose inches, gain muscle, and listen to ALL those old CDs you never have time for, this is IT. Forget Pilates: you’ll look like a gymnast and feel like a marionette by the time you’re finished. (No cheating with spray guns, and make sure you include lots of ceilings and ladders.)**
We had a self-imposed deadline to get everything done by October 9th, which was the day our kids and company were coming for Canadian Thanksgiving. And we almost made it! The last of the flooring (43 feet of carpeting for the basement – Henry’s office and the family room) was scheduled to be installed that day. Upon arrival, the floor guys tore out the last piece of old carpet – and found smelly, soggy evidence of NEW, or at least different, leakage in the house (not yet confirmed, but most likely caused by a crack in the foundation). The floor guys took a minute to point out the damage before they careened away, never to be seen again. Knowing how desperate we were about the deadline, they were smart to disappear before we had the wherewithal to chase them.
We had a lovely Thanksgiving, minus the unfinished rooms. To date, the basement is still ‘under investigation’, still damp and still emitting weird smells. I have yet to see the lovely copper-brown carpet we ordered. And I’ve run out of steam to finish painting the kitchen cabinets, the side door entrance (awkwardly tall ceiling), and a whole house worth of baseboards. We’re still living here as ‘tenants’ (who knew probate would take this long?), but we’re thankful every day for our functioning toilets, named after our two favourite plumbers.
The upside? Well, it sure feels great to get up in the morning and NOT paint. My hands don’t look 80 years old anymore. We love our neighborhood and the gorgeous views from both sides of the house. There’s a spectacular canyon with trails just four minute the house, and we inherited a veritable vineyard: enough grapes from one huge vine to feed the neighborhood – literally. To my daily delight, the living room and dining room now look lovely. Our pets are happily settled. (Oliver’s gone into retirement and become a needy old codger; Kittyn has a new lease on life and is now a happy indoor/outdoor cat instead of a scaredy cat. The dog is happy just to be with me, as always.) We have a wonderful new church family, and one of my new best friends lives only two blocks away.
After all the drama, we know and love this old house inside out. We hope it loves us back.
And cuts us some slack.
Because this “diamond in the rough” really does have “lovely bones” and “loads of potential”. Really.
*I finally mustered up the courage, and lo and behold, they both run fine. At least for now…
**Unfortunately, these amazing results are not permanent, unless you keep at it for the rest of your life.
***I’m sure the new owners of our old house are having just as much fun renaming my color choices (“Fifty Shades of Purple”, “Purple is as Purple Does”, “Lavendazia”, etc. )