When we moved to the Disposable Shack in 2004, we were riding the wave of good economic times and not thinking too much about resale value. This was going to be our ‘forever home’ and we were designing it from the ground up to be exactly what we wanted.
Here is what I can tell you now because I am so much older and wiser than I was a whopping 8 years ago. The second – THE SECOND – you open up that first shiny home magazine on the top of that delectable pile of magazines that you just bought at Barnes and Nobel (and forgot your discount card, so had to give your phone number… again), you give yourself over to the world of what-everyone-else-thinks-you-should-have-in-your-home-and-now-you-totally-believe-you-should-have-in-your-home-too (also often referred to as WEETYSHIYHANYTBYSHIYHT for short (and yes, I did notice that the acronym ends in “shiyht” which when sounded out is somehow appropriate for my message).
Now, I should have known better by then because I had actually designed, along with our awesome builder Dick (who is definitely not a dick, but makes me think of Bonnie Bedelia’s best line in our family favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard: “That is your name isn’t it? Dick.”).
I designed our first house in 1992 using MacDraw on my spiffy original iMac (oh, yes, I AM that old). My nearly perfect husband and I took said “design” to several builders and that’s how we met Dick. We liked him right away. The guy has passion. The guy had knowledge. But most importantly, the guy was funny (Okay, he was also really honest and really good at his job – but those are “by the way” things rather than centrally important to me).
So, even before we designed and built the Disposable Shack (our current house), we did indeed go through the acquire-land-build-house process so you think we would have known better. BUT we had, like, NO money the first time because 1. We had just had Mac (first born girl…and all that implies. Also, funny that her name is Mac. I swear to (insert deity of your choice here) that her name has nothing to do with my obsession with Apple products. Damn it. Lightening just flashed). And 2. We were moving from our first condo, which we bought in 1988 at the very peak of the housing market bubble (are there peaks to bubbles? Probably not). Which burst. On the day we closed. So we were building our first house knowing we would also own our underwater condo for years to come, introducing us to a role we were never prepared for: Landlord. But we can talk about that another time. Remind me to tell you the hot water heater story.
Anyway, no money meant no huge shiny piles of chic and trendy magazines and home decorating books. And lots of trade offs meant that certain choices weren’t even on the table. It was going to be formica countertops. The only choice was the edge. Would it be a wood, square formica, or wrap around formica edge. But it was going to be formica (shudder. Not because it was formica, but because that wooden edge was hacked to death and looked awful within a year).
Okay so we build our first house and go through the process and I learn about foundations and framing and that everything goes so quickly right up until they have the whole thing framed and then it takes about…like….8 YEARS to get from framing to drywall going up because the electricians and plumbers do the things they do that you NEVER SEE but is a TON of work, and then you get dry wall and things start to go really quickly and in the end the painters get all the credit even though their job takes the least amount of time.
But in the mean time, even though we had a tight budget, we had to make choices – a TON of choices. Here are some: chimney placement, garage or no garage, how many trees to take down, siding, shingles, windows, porch and deck materials, stone or wood for front stoop, floor coverings, choices for each floor covering (e.g., you chose wood? Okay do you want oak, pine, hickory, ash, birch (red or white), cherry, mahogany? Do you want real wood (cuz there is fake wood that looks exactly like it but I must say that it seems rather like fraudulent wood to me and I didn’t want to start my life out in a house based on fraud)? Okay now tile – what type? 1×1, 2×2, 12X12, subway tile, marble, ceramic or porcelain and do you want it sealed or unsealed and at some point you have to choose from like 657,498 colors. Oh, I’m not done. Wall. Taped drywall or skim coat plaster. Ceilings? Swirly, popcorn, or smooth? Lighting? Don’t even get me started. Cabinets? Appliances? And the bane of my existence, cabinet knobs (by the time we got to that choice, I was DONE (and poor Dick witnessed my melt down…. over frappin’ cabinet knobs. All perspective had gone out the window. World hunger had nothing on my cabinet knob predicament. It was pathetic.)).
So I had LIVED through all of this. And then, in 2003 I got piano lessons for my birthday. (yes, this is pertinent to the flow of the story, just read on). Piano lessons at the ramshackle house in town that sits (sat) on the piece of land that John (nearly perfect husband) and I drove by in our late teens and of which he said something like, “That is a perfect place to live.” and he swept his hand around, “Look at what you’d see!”. Clearly, if it were a movie starring Ryan Gossling’s abs, I totally would have known it would someday be ours. But sadly his photoshopped abs were nowhere in sight.
So when my piano teacher announced she and her husband were splitting up and they were selling the place “as is”, I felt a weird gurgle in my belly and asked a few questions. They had started to build another house behind the falling down one we were in (you couldn’t see it when you pulled in and parked due to the falling down chicken coop that stood (leaned?) in front of the driveway. They had gotten to the dry wall stage with the new house, had to take down the old house before they got an occupancy permit, blah blah blah (that’s what was in my head, I swear: “blah blah blah” because my heart was beating and this is what was also in my head:
Oh my God. This is a moral dilemma. Do I tell John that his dream piece of land is for sale? Do I not? Is it unethical not to? Did I take ethics in college? I don’t think so. Damn. Probably wouldn’t have helped anyway because I doubt Aristotle was ever in this particular predicament and if he was he would have probably solved it with physics. But I love my house that I designed with MacDraw and built with Dick and I went through that whole thing with the oil rubbed bronze cabinet knobs when I could have gone with wood. Wait, didn’t I get both? I think I did. But do I tell John about the house? Would he want to move? We just decided to stay put for a few years. I’m a bad person. That’s probably the lapsed Catholic guilt talking. Probably if I wasn’t a lapsed Catholic things would seem clearer. Or less stressful. Because I could just turn all this stress over to God. Oh my God! I’ll have to choose new cabinet knobs if I move…
Yep. That was my internal conversation. I’m paraphrasing of course.
So one thing lead to another (you should Google Brian Regan. You will then understand why the phrase, ‘one thing lead to another’ makes me want to add, “…and the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the sovereign nation of Japan.” It’s not funny out of context so you should Google it. Like now. I’ll give you a link:
It’s at about a minute 50. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Okay, so one thing lead to another and we bought the land and designed the house and built the house and sold the old house and I chose a lot of things and John nodded his head up and down a lot as I chose them (good husband that he is) and we moved in and then…
I chose a “built in”. I have a “built in” dishwasher too. It means that when you walk into my kitchen you are supposed to exclaim, “Where is the fridge?!” then “Where is the dishwasher?!”. In reality, the only thing I “built in” that people can’t find is the trash barrel (“It’s to the left of the sink. Just pull it out.”….I say that a lot). So it looks really nice in that it is covered with cabinet fronts that match my cabinets (and it has oil rubbed bronze handles to match my knobs). It looked GREAT in the magazines.
But I don’t live in a magazine. The fridge caused all kinds of decorating problems after we moved in. Where do you hang your kids’ great tests and quizzes without magnets and a magnetized surface? Okay, even the stainless refrigerators don’t have magnetized surfaces, but some scotch tape rolled up and stuck on the back of the tests makes it possible to hang them on the fridge, and it looks good because the stainless fridge looks like a fridge and we all expect things to be hung on a fridge. Well, not my friend Diana’s fridge because she is so amazing at ‘clutter free’ and no one can compare. But everyone else has at least a yellow sticky or a recipe conversion magnet on theirs.
So then I had to acquire other magnetized surfaces onto which I put things like soccer schedules, high school calendars, wonderful test scores, letters lauding my kids’ achievements, tassles, photos, magnets with good quotes on them, more pictures, a special ornament I like, a tassel, the leg and foot off of a stuffed bunny that my dog ate the rest of (I call it my ‘lucky rabbit’s foot’, though really the emphasis matters. It’s really the foot that is lucky (considering the unlucky rabbit was eaten by the dog). Anyway, you get the picture. I now have many magnetized surfaces onto which too many things are magneted. And yet…
My refrigerator began to look stark to me over the years. One big, honkin’ cabinet. It had no charm. No charisma. No warmth. It needed….something. And then one day in 2010, my lovely niece and her charming husband-to-be sent me the save-the-date for their wedding (which was awesome by the way). And it was one of those old fashioned photo strips from a photo booth. In each one, the two of them are holding a card up with a word on it. Photo 1: “Save”, photo 2: “The”, photo 3: “Date”, photo 4: “10-2-10”. I loved it! Such a cool ‘save the date’. Where could I put it? Somewhere front and center. I wanted everyone to see it. And it hit me. ME! I am the queen of “show me the rule book” when someone says there is a rule that I cannot do something. And I totally spaced on this one.
You cannot hang stuff on a built-in, cabinet-faced refrigerator. It’s not the point. It’s just not done.
Well now it is. I taped that beautiful ‘save the date’ right smack dab in the middle of the fridge. And soon other photos joined it, the way photos often do (primarily due to the often seen but rarely discussed photo flocking instinct).
My fridge is beautifully paneled and each panel makes a heck of a photo frame. Cool pictures placed diagonally and vertically and horizontally and on center and slightly off make a great display. It looks awesome and homey and friendly. People actually comment on it. Some have taken the leap and stolen the idea. I finally have a real fridge.
And the strangest thing about it is that I have now been asked, on two separate occasions, where my fridge is. Go figure.
Thanks for readin’.