Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why I (Sort Of) Blog

I've always admired writers. Easily pulled into a story and the life of fictional characters, I often close a book feeling sad these characters are no longer "part of my life", imagining their future, somehow affected by whatever experiences they went through. I still have the rare skill/curse of reading a book cover to cover in a single sitting, ignoring all people and responsibilities around me. With this adoration for the written word, I always had a secret desire to be a writer. I sadly lack the creativity and imagination to create characters and a storyline, which is coupled with a shyness that would likely prevent me from ever attempting to publish a book, but I love writing. I find I can express myself on paper in ways I sometimes can't while speaking, allowing myself the time to think and edit words / thoughts before shared.

I've been lucky enough to land in a career that's evolved into a lot of writing and editing, which I find very fulfilling, but sometimes leaves me with the desire to write my own thoughts as well. Hence, the blog. I'm in no way a consistent writer; I write when the mood strikes, ideas are top of mind, or I just have something I'd like to share. Sometimes I start writing, stop, and never go back to the draft because my interest in the subject or mood has changed and I just can't get back into it (Clearly, I am not novel-writing material, but maybe there's an untapped Carrie Bradshaw type quality there - without the fabulous wardrobe and poor husband choice).

I recently came across an old journal - circa immediately post-college years. To be honest, I was a little scared to read it. I know those weren't my happiest years. I had no money, hated my job, a lot of uncertainty about life, was in a meh relationship, and I distinctly remember writing mainly out of sadness or frustration. Sounds like a riveting read right?

Since my curiosity won the best of me, I spent Sunday morning reading my 22 year old words. First sentence; first entry: "I am sad". Woof. The journal spanned two years and at times while reading, I wanted to hug younger me; she really was sad. I can vividly remember some of the boyfriend fights, work issues, and money woes, but I was shocked to find I'd sort of rewritten history a bit in my brain. This was pretty shocking because I am the girl who remembers EVERYTHING. I can tell you what other people wore 10 years ago. I'm really baffled that my mind played such tricks on me and I remembered things in completely incorrect orders or left out key details.

I also can't believe how trapped I felt at 22. (22!!) I was so scared of everything; leaving a relationship I knew wasn't the right fit (not one to preach, but don't move in with your boyfriend at 22. It likely won't work, you'll fight about things you have no business fighting about at that age, and you'll regret it when you're 29 and living with your Real Person and feel like you sort of robbed yourself of having this experience with him first), quitting my job, moving back home (the absolute right choice when you are drowning in bills. Seriously, fuck that it sucks being home. It's better than moving home at 30 for the same reasons).

The thing is, everything I was afraid of happened at some point. The relationship ended (I was fine; better for it and based on my entries, realized this pretty quickly thereafter), I moved home and paid off most of my credit cards (though still no savings. I'd advise 22 year olds to save money in addition to not living with boyfriends), I left my job (and the one after that, and the one after that), and I lived somewhere completely new (my mom moved back to her hometown when I was in college, so moving home meant moving somewhere I'd never lived).

This brings me to something I remembered a little differently. I remembered being lonely when I moved home; I do not remember being so lonely in my relationship. When I read those entries it was honestly painful - and really unnecessary. The friendships that were born or strengthened post-breakup were 99% with people that lived down the street from our apartment. Why did it take me moving two hours away to find them? I'm digressing a bit, but the message in my trip down memory lane was that things happened the way they were supposed to. It's corny, but Garth Brooks is right, thank GOD for unanswered prayers. I am not supposed to be in Newport (took me one more move to figure this out for good). I am not supposed to be dating that person who contributed to me being so sad. Who, by the way, was not a monster, but instead the sweetest boy. The thing is, he brought out the worst in me - brought me down instead of encouraging. Was complacent at a time when it was SO important to reach for goals and a future. Life was harder with him, and I learned a lot in that timeframe, but it was not what my life was supposed to be long-term.

I haven't kept a journal since that journal. Every time I thought about it, I thought about how sad I remember my thoughts being. It was interesting/ somewhat cathartic to read through, but I never want to read it or feel it again. What I've found with a blog, is that everything I write is fairly positive. I'm sarcastic by nature, so that's not disappearing, but I really try not to publish negative thoughts or energy. Part of this is just a karmic /The Secret type belief that you should put out to the world what you want to receive in return, part of it is the resistance to publicly post such personal negative feelings as I'd freely write in a journal.

The other part, which I knew, but maybe needed a little knock on the head to remember, is how much happier I am now. I literally have everything I so desperately wanted at 22 (and knew I would get by the way) - I have the job, with the much better paycheck; I own a house (still pinching myself on this one); I am with the person I am supposed to be with who drives me b-a-n-a-n-a-s, but is the perfect match to my personality and (usually) correctly handles my overwhelming, sometimes crazy, thoughts and actions; I have friends whom I love so much; and I know who I am. 22 year old me was really fucking confused about a lot of things, but she knew she wasn't happy and it was up to her to change that. I'm so grateful for the little pushes I received and bumps I stumbled over that made me make the decisions I did and landed me where I am now.

So, two days and I'm guessing about 3,000 words later, this why I blog. I don't know who reads this, it's not linked to any of my personal social media sites, I'd maybe even be embarrassed for some "Facebook friends" to see it, and I don't send out alerts when I've rambled on about something new, so this has literally been my journal for the last two years.  This entry turned into something I didn't expect, and I guess that's a weird benefit of writing too, but the point is, this is my outlet. This is me - random musings, the occasional rant about the opposite sex, stories about my dog, and recently, house updates my friends are for sure sick of hearing about in person. To anyone reading, that's pretty much all I've got.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why Am I Tripping Over Your Shoes?

This question is asked at least three times a week in my house. When we lived in a 700 sq.ft. apartment, it was frustrating, but I got it. We had no real entrance way, our "hall" closet held coats, off-season clothing, brooms, a vacuum, laundry baskets, holiday boxes... the list goes on. Our pub table slowly turned into a coat rack and Reed was always good for at least two pairs of shoes strewn across the living room on a given day. BUT...now we have a 2,8000 sq.ft. house. Why am I still tripping on shoes and finding coats on the kitchen chairs? I'll even fess up here and admit I've hung a coat or two on the counter stool - seems silly to put a wet coat in a closet with 10 other dry ones, or hang up a jacket you know you'll wear again in an hour.

A few weeks ago,  in my mission to rid our "new to us" 29 year old house of every inch of floral contact paper (is there ANYTHING grosser than old, sticky, stained paper under your pans and food?) I decided to tackle the pantry. (Disclaimer: This picture is from the previous owners. I do not and will never have multiple bottles of fake maple syrup or keep onions on a dirty old floor)
The pantry is somewhat oddly placed, as it's not exactly in the kitchen, but in the little cluster of 1/2 bath, laundry room, garage entry. We also use that area as Murray's room when we're gone, so a pantry there would be a little too tempting for him and very annoying for me to open a dog gate every time I need cornmeal.

As I was swearing over contact paper and what used to be a lovely manicure, I thought "Why am I even doing this?". Our kitchen has ample cabinet space; I'm even ignoring an entire cabinet because the contact paper is especially stubborn and I temporarily gave up to avoid crying on the kitchen floor (also dirty, linoleum, and does not have a long future in this house). So I said "Fuck it" and asked Reed to come get the shelves and dump them in the basement, where removed doors, old shelves, and paint cans now live. As I stared at the empty space, it occurred to me this should be the jacket, boots, winter accessories dumping ground. We are never going to use the front door, so the hall closet there can happily accommodate the less-worn coats and guest jackets, but this space was perfect to remove the everyday outerwear before you even reach the kitchen.

So, the project:

We bought this house sort of unplanned, first planning to rent, then buy a no-maintenance brand new 1 bedroom condo (Thank God for unanswered prayers on that one), and somehow ended up in a 4 bedroom house on 1.2 acres in need of some cosmetic updating. Reed was a little overwhelmed; I was overexcited with na├»ve beliefs in my skills, thank you HGTV and Pinterest. When I came up with my brilliant mudroom idea, I searched Pinterest for "closet mudroom" and found every plan seemed to include a very handy husband, of which Reed is neither. It occurred to me I always see IKEA Hacks on Pinterest, so I went to the IKEA website for some ideas and voila! My mudroom was born.

IKEA KALLAX shelving unit: $59.99
Coat Hooks: $7 each
Foam pads: $8 each
Fabric: $29

As we've just bought a house requiring 8+ rooms of new paint, we had a few stray buckets lying around. I used the same color as our living room (Glidden French Grey) and painted what were the supports for the old shelves white (Benjamin Moore White Dove), which is the same color I used on the trim throughout the house. I'd already painted the doors, but decided to remove them as the garage door and dog gate hit them anyway and I don't envision closing them again. They've retired to the basement as well.

I found the KALLAX shelves measured almost perfectly the same width as my closet. I'm aware this was a pure stroke of luck, but I have to imagine even a few more inches off is worth not fighting with your husband/boyfriend/self in Home Depot and back home when measuring and cutting wood. I also know it's much less money than buying wood, more paint, and the proper saws, not to mention time saved. I ordered the shelves and they arrived in 5 days, requiring 20 minutes of assembly.

I decided making a cushion for the bench was within my realm of capabilities and much easier/less expensive than stalking HomeGoods, Pier1, etc. for the perfect size cushion. Word of warning: the Jo-Ann Fabrics cutting table, if you don't frequent it, is possibly the most intimidating location ever. I asked for the wrong measurements first, broke into a sweat, and fumbled off to the back corner to collect myself and re-evaluate when the cutting lady told me foam is "very expensive" and they'll only cut the length for me. This was after spending a solid 30 minutes deciding on fabric. As I sulked to the back corner, still sweating, I found a wall of foam in various sizes, thickness, and (yes, quite high) prices. In another stroke of luck, I found 2 inch chair pad foam which was 15 inches wide, meaning 4 would perfectly fit on the new bench. Since we'll only sit on the bench to remove boots etc., I was more than happy to save a few bucks and decided to use hot glue to create the proper sized cushion. The fabric, which of course was not on sale, came to about $29 for 72 inches and the foam cushions were $8 each, totaling $32. The cashier also had a 25% off coupon, which made my day, but the moral of the story is if you're a bit savvier in the crafts store than me, you can do this even cheaper with coupons, sale fabric, and when foam goes on sale (which I'm told, does happen. Just not now. Woops.)

I successfully hot glued the four foam pads together, fitting nearly perfectly over my bench. The pads were a bit wider than the bench, but I just scooted the bench forward a few inches to make it look even. Again, this isn't a couch, so since it will get such minimal seat-time, I was happy to make a few accommodations for appearance and to save money.

I had every intention of sewing the fabric for the cushion, but in a last minute Pinterest search "how to sew without a sewing machine when I haven't sewn a stich since 8th grade" I found a no sew cushion tutorial  (In MY Own Style), instructing me to wrap it like a present and use safety pins. SOLD. I actually like this option better because I can easily switch the fabric when I inevitably get sick of it.

I bought three coat hooks from Home Depot ($7 each, but again, I spent more as I wanted the brushed copper hardware I'm using throughout the house. They had much cheaper options in plastic or nickel). I also had baskets from IKEA shelves elsewhere in the house and borrowed from there for winter accessory storage.

So, that's it. Here's the finished product. I absolutely LOVE how this came out:

This project was SO easy, SO quick, and much less expensive than a custom built in mud room. It's just the two of us and a dog for now, but if / when there are other, smaller occupants of the house I can dig up one of the shelves in the basement, finish scraping off the dreaded contact paper, and put it in the top with cute baskets for additional storage.