Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Difference Between Male and Female Home Updates

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that "small" home updates vary greatly based on the sex executing them. Men and women are wired so differently. Even when we're toddlers, there seems to be an innate tendency among girls to nurture their dolls and play house, while the boys go down a sort of destructo-derby path, crashing toy cars and toppling building block towers. These varying inclinations were very evident this past week in our house as Mr. W and I each took on update projects.

Exhibit A
My update was as simple as working with an existing fixture and giving it a mini facelift. After my traumatic bird episode last week, I was totally in coping-through-creativity mode and decided it would be fun to repaint a planter so it coordinated better with a picture hanging in our living room.

Here's what our mantel looked like before:

Can you tell turquoise is my favorite color?

If you gaze down the mantel, you'll see this picture hanging on an adjacent wall:


Although there's some aqua in it, the deeper blues really pop. So I wanted to bring something into the living room that would tie into the cobalt and navy hues. After picking up some spray paint at the hardware store, and realizing straight bright blue was a bit too much, I settled on sort of an ombre treatment that used cobalt and oil-rubbed bronze—which I applied afterward with a stenciling brush. I also replaced the jade plant in it with a shorter, stouter clipping.

I think it turned out pretty cool. And now the dark blues in the painting aren't so lonely on the nearby wall.

Exhibit B
The "small" update Mr. W chose to make involved removing cabinet doors, reorganizing the cabinet's contents, finding a new place for the trashcan and recycling, and rewiring electrical so that it powers a new oven instead of the old one that came with the house. You know, just a minor tweak to the surroundings...

Here he is disassembling the old oven:

I didn't want a gaping hole in the middle of the kitchen, so after he disconnected the old oven, he put it back in its spot to serve as a cookie sheet storage facility.

And here he is connecting wires and making me nervous that he'd somehow electrocute himself even though the breaker was off...

Viola. Our new oven is installed. Too bad we don't have the new kitchen to match yet.

I think the best part of Mr. W's way-more-complicated project was that he was trying to beat the mother-in-law clock while he was doing it. My parents were on their way to our house after camping in Morro Bay and Mr. W wanted to have the oven situation completely figured out before my mom could arrive and give him a hard time.

He didn't make it, but my mom was impressed and didn't harass him too much. With all the commotion, I don't think she even noticed the new succulent pot on the mantel... Well played, Mr. W. Well played.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Coping When Death Comes to the Sliding Glass Door

I recently read a book called Sheepish about a lesbian couple who runs a sheep farm. One of the things the author made sure to cover was how prevalent death is when you're raising animals and living in the country. No matter how many lambs she and her lover lost, it never really got easier. So one of the ways she learned to cope with the stress of farming was to learn to knit. She had her flock's own wool spun into yarn and she turned to her needles whenever she needed to decompress.

Yesterday a bird crashed into our sliding glass door and despite my efforts, it died. When I found it flapping on the lawn, I scooped it up and put it in a shoebox on our back porch, with water and some soft grass. I messaged Mr. W for advice and then called my dad (a frequent bird rescuer). He told me there wasn't much I could do other than keep it somewhere where predators wouldn't get it and just wait and see.

When it got dark, I noticed the little bird was starting to shiver. He'd been toppling over and seeming to go in and out of sleep for awhile, but I wasn't ready to give up my fight. I asked Mr. W again what he thought my next move should be and he suggested putting a heating pad under the box. Unfortunately, I think the heating pad is in his apartment in Hollwyood. I searched the house and couldn't find it, so I decided instead to shred up some pillow stuffing from my sewing kit and tuck that around the little guy to keep him warm.

Except, when I went back to the box, he had stopped moving.

I cried for about 45 minutes. 

This morning, I dug a hole under our apricot tree and buried him. And then I did what the author of Sheepish did—I decided to cope by creating. One thing had died, so I wanted to give birth to another.

I spent the afternoon putting together our new outdoor dining set from IKEA. After assembling each chair, I sat in it for a minute, taking in the view, enjoying the warm autumn air.

I was just twisting the last of the screws in the last chair when I noticed a little flock of birds coming to play in the sprinkler on our lawn. They perched on our fence and ruffled their feathers in delight as the water fell on them. And of course, I imagined them coming to tell me that they knew I had tried and that I was forgiven.

Not sure if it was the visiting birds or the sense of accomplishment, but I felt much better after that.

And next time death comes knocking, I'll give it my best effort to keep the door closed, but if I can't win at least I'll have an effective way to cope.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Not Exactly What I Had in Mind When I Pictured Living the Dream

When we were in Naples, I found clotheslines in the city so romantic. Not quite
the same when it's in my backyard in California.

I remember that when I started my job at Yahoo! back in 2005, everything felt slightly uncomfortable. It was strange being in an office all day after having freelanced for 3 months. It was hard to write ads about new products I didn't fully understand. My coworkers weren't old friends. Everything felt a little stiff like it needed to be broken in. It took about 6-9 months before I started to finally feel at ease.

I try to remind myself of this in change situations.

It takes time. It's always hard in the beginning.

People keep asking me how things are going with the new house and the new life. Their eyes light up with hope and excitement like they're cheering for us from the inside. And I find myself wanting to fake it for their sake. So I try to focus on how beautiful the surroundings are. How lucky we are to have nice neighbors.

But the truth is that it's just plain hard. All of it.

When Mr. W and I imagined this wonderful wine country life, we thought we'd be here together. Not the case yet. Instead, he gets to struggle in a 330-square foot basement apartment while I try to manage the demands of a bigger house and giant yard.

Nothing is easy right now. Dishes have to be washed by hand. The oven burns everything if you're not careful. We don't have a proper sprinkler system, so every day I have to go outside and water. We're constantly playing bug police, trying to contain the wayward wildlife that continually crawls and flies through invisible holes in screen doors and windows. We've had an ongoing summer flea infestation that has required multiple cat baths and more vacuuming than I've done in months. And until this weekend, we've been without a washer and dryer here. Unfortunately, the dryer can't even be hooked up until we get connected the central gas line on the street, which could take months.

I don't even want to use this lovely machine because it doesn't
have a dryer to go with it. Good thing I work from home. I
can just stay in my pjs all day and not wash my clothes.

Every time I feel like we start to get a handle on things, or make progress in some area, something goes wrong. Primarily when it comes to the cats. In the nearly 6 weeks I've been here, we've had 2 bladder infections, fleas (even though the cats stay indoors full-time), one scary reaction to flea medication, and now a delightful case of the runs. I've never purchased so many supposed cat remedies in my life. (Did you know canned pumpkin is good for cats with upset stomachs?) I don't know how people with kids survive...

That little brass cat on my shelf is my favorite cat in the house. He only cost
$3 at a yard sale and he never has to go to the vet.

When I post pictures of the sunset or wine tasting on Facebook or Instagram, I think part of it is just to remind myself that it's not all hard work all the time here. Because that's largely what it's been feeling like. And that is so not what I had in mind.

The key to feeling better may lie in Mr. W and I being back on common ground. Which should be about another 6 months away. Perfectly aligned with the usual time period it takes me to truly settle in to a new situation. It'll be just in time for us to start tearing the house apart for renovations and putting everything in turmoil once again. Good thing we didn't choose to move to orange juice country. It would be much harder to cope.