Farmhouse Make-over

Finally, here are the before and after pics of our house! A fun fact about this house is that it isn’t really a traditional farmhouse, despite the fact that the rest of the farm is over 100 years old (the barn, for example, is ancient!). The house is 1940’s era, and was actually moved, fully-formed, onto the property in 1942. The original (supercool) old farmhouse was moved into town, and is still there. I kind of wish that we had the original…but the 1940s is turning out pretty well! It’s another “both worlds” thing in my life: the house is really similar to a lot of the houses in Minneapolis, and probably isn’t too far off from what we would have lived in if we stayed there!

We’ll start the tour at the front door! This is the entrance/mudroom before:

Mudroom After 2 Mudroom After 1

This room took longer than it looks in the pictures! We replaced the front door and had to rebuild the threshold. The ceiling was full of cracks and all warped, so it had to be sanded down, filled and repainted. We replaced the lights and painted the walls and woodwork. We went with a dark color for the walls because we have found out that mudrooms are called mudrooms for a reason, and stark white just doesn’t work with mud!  Here it is now:

Mud Room After 2 Mud Room After 1

I kind of forgot to take completely before pictures of the kitchen, but you’ll get the idea. Here it is in process:

Kitchen Before 4 Kitchen Before 3 Kitchen Before 2

The stove and fridge have already been replaced in the pics above, but the stove used to be the same lovely avocado green as the dishwasher. In the kitchen we replaced all the appliances, replaced chipped tiles in the counter-top, ground out all the old grout in the counter tiles and re-grouted, scraped off the wallpaper border, plumbed in a new sink, scraped off the wallpaper base (around the table; not really visible in the pics above), painted the walls, spray-painted the shutters, and installed wainscoting around the base of the wall where the table goes. I really like the wainscoting (my idea!), though I was a little bummed that my original idea was not implemented here: I wanted to use wood from the barn, but my mom (aka, “bossypants” ) said no because of the risk of bringing bugs in. I bowed to her point there.  Oh, we also stripped the ancient nasty wax off the linoleum floor and re-waxed, which was not a small project:

Kitchen After 4 Kitchen After 3 Kitchen After 2 Kitchen After 1

I didn’t actually take before pictures of the living room. I didn’t really have my wits about me at the time of the “before,” I was just too stressed and overwhelmed to think about it. But you can get a general idea of what it looked like on a very good day in these pics from my wedding day (also, what girl doesn’t look for excuses to look at her wedding pics? Even if they are of her lookin’ all classy putting her smokes in her dainty satin purse…heh):

Liss, packing supplies

In the living room we ripped up the carpet, sanded and finished the wood floors, and painted everything but the ceiling. Most of the furniture here is temporary – we threw our old furniture away when we moved out of the apartment and haven’t replaced it yet!

Living Room After 3 Living Room After 2 Living Room After 1

Moving on! Here is probably my favorite room (and the most finished to my specifications!). This is the master bedroom before:

Main Bed Before 1

This is the only room that already had the hardwood floors exposed, but we still had to sand and refinish. Peeled wallpaper, painted everything, and Ta-da!:

Main Bed After 3 Main Bed After 2

Main Bed After 1

I am also a big fan of the bathroom. As you can see, I like the bright colors! I would have gone for something brighter in the kitchen, too, had we not been keeping the linoleum…

Here’s the bathroom before:

Bathroom Before 2 Bathroom Before 3 Bathroom Before 1 Bathroom Before 4

Lovely wallpaper circa 1960-something, rust stained bathtub and tile, mildewy ceiling, crumbly cabinet and medicine cabinet, tilty toilet, 1980’s lights. Awesome. We replaced broken tiles, scrubbed and re-regrouted the all tile, had the tub refinished, installed new faucets, installed a new cabinet (made by my father-in-law), new mirror, new light fixture, sealed and painted ceiling, peeled wallpaper off, leveled (by jacking up from the basement) the sagging floor around the toilet, painted walls and woodwork, and re-caulked the bathtub:

Bathroom After 4 Bathroom After 3 Bathroom After 2 Bathroom After 1

The hallway was a lot more work than it looks like it would be:

Hallway Before

What you don’t see in the photo above is that it used to be wallpapered in this slate blue and dusty rose early 1990’s number:

Hallway Wallpaper

I think that everyone lives in some level of horror of decorating their home in the  style of their childhood. When I was a kid, my mom, who really has very good taste, had my whole childhood home decked out in “touch of country” fashion of the ’90s. That was en vogue at the time, but I have a special hate for it now. That made it extra fun to spend a whole week looking at it while I scraped and chiseled this crap off the wall (the lady that hung it apparently used super glue). When I was done, I ripped up the carpet and crow-barred up a bazillion carpet tack boards and staples. Then I painted the walls, ceiling and woodwork, and Dave and his bro sanded and refinished the floor:

Hallway After

Seeing all the doorknobs in the photo reminds me to note that any hardware you see is hardware that was replaced. To replace all the doorknobs, the doors had to be re-drilled. Fun! And now we’re at the final room on the main level:

Spare Bed Before 1

The photo above was taken post-wallpaper-tear-down, so what you’re seeing is the color of the room as it was when my dad and uncle shared it! So, peeled, ripped, painted, sanded, refinished it looks like this:

Spare Bed After Spare Bed After 2

Kind of bare for now until we decide what to do with it!

That’s it for the time being! This post does not include that the house has been rewired and all of the plumbing has been 100% replaced. Nor does it include the fact that the basement flooded and the entire finished part had to be ripped out AND the foundation got fixed. It also doesn’t include the many outdoor projects. Long story short: it’s been a helluva lot of work, and we’re not done! We just got one level done, which is a big job in and of itself!

Current project: early stages of finishing off basement.

Advertisements

Welcome this is a Farmhouse

Since this is my blog, where I can be a sloppy writer if I want: I don’t know the rules about ripping off song lyrics to use as a blog title, so I’ll just say that the title of this post is from a Phish song called Farmhouse. You should listen to it.

As of July I live on a farm. This was my grandmother’s home for 50 years, and my grandfather’s home for the last 26 years of his life.

The driveway goes to the back of the house. So what we call the front is really the back

The driveway goes to the back of the house. So what we call the front is really the back

They moved to the farm from Bloomington when my dad was six. There is so much to say about the story of this place in relation to my family, but I think that’s for another time. This is just an intro to my personal relationship with this place, and my new way of being here.

This is technically the front of the house. But we call it the back.

This is technically the front of the house. But we call it the back.

My dad has been the primary caretaker of the farm for my entire life. My grandpa had a stroke when I was pretty young…maybe six or so? And from there on out, grandma took care of grandpa until his death, and dad took care of everything else. My dad worked nights when I was a kid, and during the summer he was at the farm at least four out of seven  days, which means my brother and I were here, too.

The barn in February. We have since torn the silo down.

The barn in February. We have since torn the silo down.

I was also very close with my grandma growing up, and spent the night out here frequently. So the farm was basically a second home to me. My brother and I ran wild outside here, did a lot of baking with grandma, ate a lot of her amazing pancakes, and hung out and watched TV with grandpa. All family holidays were here. I  had several childhood birthday parties here, including a hayride. And when I grew up, I got married here.
IMG_7527

DSCN5042fixcrop2

Suffice it to say that the farm has never not been a very special place to me. And now I get to live here.

Despite loving the place, I was worried about whether or not it would be really hard to adjust to living here. I mean, I did live in the most populace neighborhood in Minnesota before moving out to the stix. I was used to constant over-stimulation. I was worried that I would be bored or lonely. I was worried that I would be scared to be there alone, especially at night. I was worried that I would grow to hate the commute to downtown so much that I would just hate my life. I was also really worried that it would never feel like my home; it would always feel like I was a visitor at Grandma’s house. That concern wasn’t so much about my grandma imposing her will, but was more about overcoming my own childhood attachment to the place.

Outbuildings

Outbuildings

So far all of my worries were for naught. There is so much to do out here in terms of actual physical labor that being bored is practically a sin! Also, I have been spending a lot more time on writing and reading than I did with all the distractions of the big city, and that makes me very happy. Basically I’ve been making up for lost time with all of the introverted things that I like to do and haven’t done enough of while I was busy being hyper-social.  I have been  enjoying the peace. And being a little on the hermity side.  However, it is also very important that I have still been making an effort to get together with my friends. I’m no longer able to go to everything that I once did due to the distance, but I’ve still been trying to get together with people a few times per month.

Crazy jungle-like garden which I intend to tame this spring!

Crazy jungle-like garden which I intend to tame this spring!

The commute is long, but I finally relented a little bit of my Luddite  tendency (and gave up on feeling that I was  somehow cheating on actual books), and got a Kindle. I’m so in love with it I can hardly stand it. I’ve been reading double-time (which is excessive since I already read a lot before!). Anyhow, I actually enjoy the commute at this point because the 20 minute drive to the park and ride is pretty, and then I get an uninterrupted hour of reading or journaling time!

So far I have not been scared of being there alone at night (well, except for a couple of times when I’ve been letting the dog out and my brain dared to think: what if that thing crashing around in the pasture isn’t a deer or a racoon or a coyote, but a human being? It doesn’t take that long then for my brain to go down the path of adding an ax, chainsaw, etc. to that human. *Shutting mind to possibility of human in pasture*). Otherwise there is nothing creepy about the place, and I think my childhood experience there actually helps a lot. It feels very homey and comforting to me.

Despite the childhood memories, I’m actually surprised by how not weird it feels for me to live there. I feel like the extensive interior updating (pics forthcoming. This time I promise I will actually do it. I will post pics!) has made the house feel like my own, but the memories still overlap the facelift in a way that makes it very comfortable for me. In any case, right now I feel very much like I get the best of both worlds in a lot of ways: City for work and fun and country for home and rejuvination. After a full year of more intensive chaos than is even usual for me, I am feeling pretty blessed.

Farm Update

You may recall, if you have ever read this blog before, that one of my recent-ish posts explained (including helpful flowchart) that Dave & I will be taking over the homestead at my family’s farm pretty soon.  What it did not mention is that my grandma didn’t have an end-of-life plan other than, apparently, dying quietly at home one day while nobody was watching. Since she’s not a farm cat that is sneaking away into a field to die, and her family actually loves her and takes care of her and checks on her, that is not what happened (much to her chagrin – man it’s pesky to have people all “carin’ about you” and stuff!). Anyhow, there have been a lot of arrangements to be made and extensive work to be done. It took about a month to get most of Grandma’s things (items of some use/beauty/value) moved into her apartment. It took another month or so to get her remaining stuff out of the farmhouse. And for the two months we’ve been chipping away at the many, many repairs/renovations that need to happen there before we move in. These include:

  • Scraping wallpaper off in 5 rooms (4 rooms done)
  • Painting almost the entire interior of the house including all woodwork, most ceilings, and the insides of closets (3 rooms done, 3 rooms to go)
  • Pulling up carpet in 3 ½ rooms (done- I pulled up all the carpet in the back of the house myself, and it turns out that’s a real bitch.  But I have to say, I did feel pretty badass wielding my crowbar!)
  • Paint & install base shoe around floorboards in all rooms where carpet came out.
  • Refinishing hardwood floors in 3 ½ rooms (2 ½ done)
  • Installing new (well, gently used) kitchen appliances (we have the stove and fridge, but the electric needs to be redone a bit, so they’re not hooked up. Still need a dishwasher).
  • Stripping old-school  linoleum in kitchen
  • Wainscoting in ¼ of kitchen
  • Re-grouting kitchen tiles
  • Having bathtub refinished
  • New bathroom cabinet/lighting
  • Installing new water-filtration system
  • Tearing down all the wood paneling in the basement family room to make way for fixing the foundation

Those are just the items that need to happen in the house before we move in. There is still plenty to do outside as well! Thus far Dave and I have mainly been responsible for most remodeling decisions and my mom and I have been mainly responsible for implementation. David and his brother have been primarily responsible for sanding/re-finishing the wood floors (which has been the project from hell for numerous reasons). Also, my dad nearly killed himself tearing the wood paneling down in the basement. He is on serious restriction for any further work involving his back (well, we try to keep him on restriction, though he raked up yard debris all day on Sunday, which is no picnic for the back). My uncle and dad have been mainly responsible for legal/financial/repair decisions and associated running around.

We’re aiming to move in on or around June 1, so we’ve been busting ass to get things done, while each still maintaining our normal work schedules. That is why we have not seen most of the people we love for several months and why we will not be making any plans to do so in the very near future. Life has been chaotic and we very much miss having any kind of routine and/or fun.  We just have to keep reminding ourselves that this is a finite project and when it’s done we’ll have a beautiful place to live!

Before/After photos forthcoming!

Editing for Greater Than

For the last 1 ½ years or so, one of my main spiritual/emotional quests has been tracing the trail of wanting to be cared about. I’ve been looking at how and why so many of the things I do and the choices I make are completely affected by this haunted feeling that if I don’t do certain things a certain way, nobody will care about me. I guess I have this deep inner fear of being judged “unlovable” based on an ever-shifting set of criteria. I know on level deeper than my mind that my fear is unfounded, so right now I feel like my main focus is to edit the criteria, to really look at all of the things that affect my level of happiness with my life.

The main set of criteria are created by the society I live in, and are a very strong template for what is and isn’t acceptable. I’m not talking about on a moral level. I’m talking on a very physically observable level. Judgment of worthiness in this society is based on material wealth, a particular form for physical beauty, and the acquisition of stuff. The main intangibles of importance are titles, images, brands, and to some very small extent, actual knowledge (I don’t think advanced degrees, wisdom, or experience buys that much cred anymore). Behavior, putting your money where your mouth is, is only important insofar as what your image can support. People can get away with all sorts of crimes if their image portrays them as not being a criminal. Integrity, showing yourself to be exactly as you are, is almost unheard of.

I think that most people, including myself, can’t have full integrity because they’re so confused by image, by our social template, at this point that they have a hard time knowing who they essentially are. We are so dogmatized in the church of stuff and image that many of us don’t even know we’re trapped. Those of us that know we’re trapped can remain in the unpleasant task of sorting dogma from reality for years, if not a lifetime, because the dogma is so all-pervasive in every aspect of our lives. We can easily become so wrapped up in one or a couple of the many socially-tangible angles (politics, religion, economics, pretty much any “ism”) that we fail to ever recognize that all of those things are just a different kind of trap.

Similarly, when we first begin to reject the dogma, I think that a lot of people (again, including myself) go into a kind of psycho-spiritual free-fall where they look for any available cliff to cling to. Often the cliffs we cling to are just another set of “isms,” but they are an “alternative” to the more mainstream “isms.”  The so-called “alternative lifestyles” (they are so ubiquitous now that the public can just refer to them that way and know that people will have a general idea of what is being discussed!) have their very own sets of criteria and dogma, and they can be even more confusing precisely because they offer an escape from the mainstream dogma. Ultimately, some of the tools we learn down these paths as we’re fumbling towards bliss can be helpful. But in the end most of these systems and templates of being just obscure the one key that each of us hold to our own individual happiness: Ourselves.

It’s very common in psychology and alternative spiritual paths to hear the phrase “you are enough” or “I am enough.” I have been thinking deeply about those phrases recently, thanks to conversations with friends and various things that pop up on the web. I think that those phrases are very powerful and real, but I want to make a final edit in this post: I think that they are easily misunderstood as simply “stop beating up on yourself.” I think that they do mean that, and that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up, but that they also mean that we are greater than all the criteria that the world puts on us. It means that I am an essence beyond any image I might feel the need to portray. It means that to find joy all I really need to do is strip away all the layers of bullshit and get back to the very core of who I am (spirit). I don’t need to add more things, more stuff, more practices, and more activities; if something doesn’t feel authentic for me, even if it is something I admire or know that others admire, I am free to reject it. And that, as far as I currently understand, is the way out of any spiritual trap (even if it takes a long time!).

Gratuitous Self-Pity

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find an embeddable clip of my favorite example of gratuitous self pity in a movie, so here’s a link to it!

Do you ever come out of a funk by just realizing how absurd you’re being? That happens to me pretty frequently. I by no means intend to invalidate clinical depression or any other mental illness – I know that these things are very real. In my case it is pretty atypical for my depression to get very bad for very long. There have been three times in my life thus far that doctors have advised me that antidepressants would help, and I have been able to decline the meds and deal with it behaviorally each time (though none of those times were super-fun. My depression tends to manifest as anxiety and/or compulsive behavior).

At this point in my life, the line between depression (feeling utter lack of motivation or hope, accompanied by obsessive thought and usually excess of some kind; whether it’s eating, drinking, smoking, whatever) and wallowing (feeling sorry for myself) is pretty clear. Usually I can avoid depression all-together if I stay on top of my game in terms of eating well and getting enough exercise. However, sometimes at the tail end of an episode of depression I will catch myself dragging it out by wallowing. Let’s face it: feeling sorry for yourself can feel pretty good. Wallowing in self-pity and blaming everything and everyone but yourself and thinking about how the-whole-world-is-against-you-and-you-can’t-help-it can be strangely comforting. It protects you from taking any responsibility for your life and from doing the work that you don’t feel like doing.

When I was just coming out of my most recent bout of depression in March, I had one of those “lightbulb” moments while I was talking with a friend. I had been relating some of my woes about my financial situation and feeling like a failure and blah, blah, blah; and there might have also been a little bit of “so and so doesn’t realize how good they have it.” Then, just as a charitable gesture, I said “but it’s all relative. One person’s terrible situation seems ridiculous to someone whose situation is terrible for real.” In that moment, it suddenly dawned on me what a jerk I was being whining about my student debt and my lack of a house or kids or other tangibles.  I said “Wow. I just realized that I pay $18 per month to not be fat (Weight Watchers), while a huge percentage of the world’s population is starving.” Um, yeah. I have nothing to feel sorry for myself about. Wallowing desisted. The depression was over.

I think that this is why it’s funny in movies, etc., when you see scenes of gratuitous self-pity. It’s funny because we all do it, and because deep down we all know we’re being ridiculous. We’re lucky to exist. We’re lucky for so many things just by being alive. We’re luckier still if we are not hungry, have access to medical services, water, etc. If we’re lucky enough to be watching a movie or reading a blog, we’re luckier than most of people on this planet.

 Ah perspective. Ain’t she a bitch and a blessing sometimes?

The Tale of the Squirty Birdie

So, this happened yesterday. For real:

David got home from work to find Stella all wound up and frantic. He thought it was kind of weird, but didn’t think too much about it (she is wont to have freak-outs sometimes!) until he heard a flapping noise coming from the back bedroom. He went back there to find out what it was, and lo and behold there was a GIANT FRIGGIN’ BLACK BIRD in our apartment! Apparently this bird was first in our neighbor’s apartment; she figured that it got in through a hole in the wall around some of the plumbing in the bathroom (our building is 104 years old, so holes around pipes aren’t that weird!). Of course, she was all freaked out because, well, there was a crazed bird in her apartment, so she panicked and just locked it into her bathroom. Instead of making its way outside, the bird apparently made its way in to our bathroom and out into our apartment where we think it realized, “SONOFABITCH!!! There’s a big ol’ dog in here!!!” and proceeded to fly all over the apartment, with Stella in tow, literally losing it’s sh*t. The dog must have finally cornered it in the back room where David then found it, still freaking out.

One of the many hilarious things about what ensued after David was in the picture is that he hates birds. He is almost phobic of them thanks to being exposed to Hitchcock’s The Birds at way too early an age. Once he processed the fact of a giant bird in his home, he then had to force himself to suppress the image of the guy with the pecked out eyes in said movie (*shudder*) and make the leap over the threshold of the back bedroom to begin trying to shoo it outside. He decided that his best option for getting the bird to hit an exit was to usher it towards the sun porch (giant door that goes directly outside, rather than into a hallway). Unfortunately, he and his feathered friend were at the opposite end of the apartment from the porch. So began the flailing and swearing and continued pooping across the full length of the apartment. Hold this image in your mind: David, a grown-ass man, wildly flapping his arms, chasing this wildly-flapping bird, and dealing with his own bird-neurosis by spewing a Tourette’s-like stream of “FUCK! DICKHEAD! ASSHOLE!” at the poor scared bird, who finally escaped out the sun porch, and may or may not have immediately dropped dead of a heart-attack (and/or apparent loss of it’s entire digestive system).

Here is David’s final damage-assessment report from the situation:
From: David Thompson
Date: Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 2:47 PM
Subject: Blackbird!!!!!
To: Alissa Thompson
HOLY $HIT!!!!

33 of them to be exact, at least, what I’ve FOUND!!  Here are some of the highlights:

Our stuff:

Wireless router
Base for computer monitor
Butter dish
Scrub Brush
Liquid Vitamin D bottle/dropper
Stove
Dining table twice
Gazelle
2 bills
Flowers from Grandpa’s funeral
Kitchen counter several times
Sink
Stove
Frying pan
Roku remote
Couch

My stuff (I win!):

Toothbrush!
Open can of Coke (mostly full!)
Massage Table
Personal check written out to me

Alissa’s stuff:

Fleece Jacket

Stella’s stuff:

Food dish

Floor?  Only 4 times!!!  How the bleep does a bird have that much $hit??!!!  And only manage to hit the floor 4 times??!!

Thought you might get a kick out of that!

Love you!!!!

Ah, hilarity. All the crap has been cleaned up at this point, and life is back to normal. Except I’m pretty sure our dog now has PTSD.
The end.

A Small Gift Amongst Many Big Ones

Holy Crap. This has been a strange week. It’s not often that a family patriarch passes away at the same time that you’re just beginning to pull yourself out of a three-week dead-eyed depression. But that is what has happened this week.

The man in question was my husband’s grandfather. He was truly a patriarch in the old-fashioned sense: He was an active Lutheran pastor for 70-some years. He had 5 children and 11 grandchildren, and he performed baptism and marriage ceremonies for almost all of them (including our wedding!). At age 94 he was still a fountain of support for his family, spiritually, emotionally, and physically, right up until he got sick less than a year ago. Even though he was quite elderly, he was the type of person that it was nearly impossible to imagine ever dying. My husband said “I just really have always felt like he was invincible.”

Grandpa (which everyone in the family calls him, regardless of whether or not he is your grandpa, specifically) lived simply in terms of material wealth, and was a very busy person. He was a master gardener, a key member of the senior cooperative he lived in, a family man, and continued as a substitute pastor and otherwise active church-member until the end of his life. He was passionately faithful, and he lived it out by being passionately giving and open to others. I knew him for nine years and never heard him utter anything remotely judgmental.  In other words, the man did not pull any punches. He was the real deal, a true model of what it means to “live a good life.” Because of all that, his passing, once his discomfort ended (he wasn’t in pain, but for some people, dying can be hard work. One of the last things he said was that he felt “dead tired;”and yes, that was meant to be a joke!), hasn’t been terribly mournful. Everyone is sad and grieving because they will miss him, but everyone knows that he was satisfied with his life here, and was ready to move on.

I am lucky to have known him, and to have had him as a little bit of a surrogate grandfather (both of mine passed away a long time ago). As for the depression, it is impossible to remain in a funk when contemplating such a well-lived life. He wasn’t super-famous, or accomplished in any superhuman ways, he just did a really good job at life. It’s a little gift that he didn’t even know he was giving: whatever you’re doing, don’t be bummed that you’re not doing something “better,” don’t think so hard about it. Just do a good job.

“O me! O life!…of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless — of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these O me, O life? Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.”
Walt Whitman