Have you noticed how paint colors are often labeled with a food name? Yeah, me too. It makes me hungry sometimes just thinking about it. My most recent favorite paint color is Laura Ashley Pumpkin 2 (from Lowes, but now discontinued) but I call it a Creamsicles® color, or Dreamy Dreamsicles, as I coined the term a few years ago in my now-guest bedroom. You can read about when I repainted that room here.
Recently, I ordered new bedroom furniture for myself and had to paint my bedroom. I did my usual sticking up of swatches all over the wall but the colors I liked–blues, blue-grays, gray-greens, which many of my blog friends rave over, and they are pretty for sure–were too dark or drab in this Northwest climate. When it is gray and cool here three-quarters of the year, the inside of my home needs to feel sunny and warm.
So I started painting and decorating. Self-care to the max.
Cutting in. You can see how gray the “sand” color was that I chose before. (No wonder I was depressed and not sleeping.) What I particularly love about this new color – and it will be apparent in the photos – is that it changes color depending on what light is shining on it. It changes from pale yellow, almost white to a pretty peach-tangerine.
The photos above show opposite sides of the room. They look like completely different colors. One is with flash, and one without. The color really isn’t as yellow as the photo on the right suggests.
I absolutely LOVE the tall dresser. The surface is rib height and great for putting on jewelry, or whatever.
And the best part is accessorizing a room.
And the best accessory? The cat.
I promised you a little before and after of the renovation I just completed on the first of my mom’s two condos: the two bedroom unit. I talked a bit about the backstory of these condos here. We have sold this condo and it sold for $5,000 less than what I originally expected to sell it for with a newly remodeled kitchen, and yet, we didn’t have to remodel the kitchen. Go me. Good fortune comes if you wait for it.
As a little aside, negotiating that sale was a load of fun and stress. It amazes me how everyone wants a deal. Recent sales in that building were distress sales and the buyers kept insinuating that I had overpriced the unit. I knew better. I’d done my research and being the analytical sort that I am, I knew that my price wasn’t just an emotional attachment to the condo. They also wanted me to “discount” the price because I was saving by not having a realtor sell it for me. Um, no. Tell me how that works. I save money but I give you that savings? I don’t think so. Savings by not using a realtor does not mean I lower my price. As it turned out, the appraisal validated me and my sales price.
On to the before and after…
Here’s a shot of the architect’s drawings and the floor plan.
This is before the framing went up to separate the two units, but after the drywall started coming down. We needed to pull off the drywall to expose electrical so we could see just what needed to be moved and where. Once we figured that out, we were able to get the necessary permits and start work.
The view above is looking from the two bedroom condo into the future one bedroom condo.
Here’s the framing going up dividing the two units. This picture is taken from the one bedroom side.
Looking the other way into the living area of the two bedroom unit.
This is the master bath. It consumed the original bath area plus the original hallway area and my mom installed a large, three-quarter whirlpool tub. She really did a lovely job when she remodeled. Now we had to remove the tub, all that tile, and then recreate the hallway and two bedrooms, plus install a hot water tank closet. The only thing that stayed was the vanity, medicine cabinet, light, and toilet.
This is the view from her bedroom into the bathroom once we started taking off doors and with the bathtub removed. We had to move that closet from that side of the room to the other as well.
The doorway that was blocked by drywall and said tub.
This floor shot gives you an idea of where we had to rebuild the entry.
The bathtub is in, and we raised the plumbing for the shower head to accommodate tall people.
Drywall going up on the dividing walls.
Drywall in and a hallway created.
Creating the dividing wall between the two bedrooms. We added a hall closet here.
The angled wall gave a feeling of more space and contains the hot water tank. We also expanded this space slightly to accommodate a stacking washer/dryer unit.
Looking in the closet from the other angle. You’ll notice the flooring starting to be laid here too.
Here’s the flooring going in. I chose a porcelain tile in-stock from Lowes. It’s light and bright and a good choice for a small area and avoids a dark, closed in look. Plus, in the wet climate that we have in the Pacific Northwest, plus being over the water, I wanted to give this more of a beachy feel. The tile does that. But boy did this tile give us fits. We had issues with the leveling of the floor (which we corrected) and a two-day install took nearly a week.
Here’s the bathroom wall tile, which coordinates with the floor tile, installed. I chose an oversized subway-style tile, 9×13 rectangles. It’s porcelain tile but up close it looks like marble. Sleek, shiny, spa-like.
And finally, some after photos of the finished unit. Phew.
View from the living area into the hallway.
Bathroom showing the flooring as well. I chose to use the same floor tile from the entry through to the living area.
Bedroom one into the hall.
Hall closet and bedroom 2.
View out the window of the living area.
Living area into the kitchen. Still a nice kitchen, even if I didn’t remodel it. Corian countertops, tile floor, just overall nice.
The water heater and washer/dryer closet. A definite improvement and value added. (Other units in the condo, unless later remodeled, do not have in-unit washer/dryers.)
Hall linen or coat closet.
Looking from the hallway into the living area.
The final doorway.
Say goodbye to 201. Lots of memories there. Now ready for a new life with new owners. The memories of my mom at that condo are still in my heart, not there in the material world.
A little backstory. Back in the 1980s my mom and dad invested in a waterfront condo in downtown Kirkland, Wa. The original purchase was a two bedroom condo over the water, looking toward Seattle. For many years they rented it out to corporate employees until the time my father became terminally ill. My parents sold their h ouseboat in Seattle and moved to the Eastside into the condo to live as snowbirds traveling between Kirkland and Palm Springs. Their first trip to Palm Springs in the RV was their last. After my dad passed, my mom moved in there permanently. In a couple years, the neighboring condo (a one bedroom) was for sale, and my mom purchased it. She knocked down the walls between the units and made a large two bedroom two bath unit that she loved and that hosted years of parties and family gatherings.
Fast forward to 2011. Mom decides to move to the assisted living facility and we decide to rent out the condo in order to help mom with some residual income. Before we could rent it out, I had to fix some things. This started the nearly two year long cycle of rehabbing these condos. You can read about that first cycle of rehabbing the condo here.
We found renters, who totally destroyed all the wonderful work we did to the place. We finally got them evicted about a couple months before mom died. After she died, we were told we needed to sell the condos to close out mom’s estate.
The problem? We couldn’t sell the condos as one big unit. When mom combined them, the tax parcels never got combined and there were two sets of property taxes and two sets of homeowners associations dues. This is all fine if someone doesn’t have to carry a mortgage. However we learned we could make so much more money from the condos by separating them back into two units. Even after the construction costs, separating the units was the most profitable option for the estate.
And now we’re current. So that’s what I’ve been working on since mom died. I had to interview contractors and realtors and establish budgets and timelines. In all honesty, although it’s been stressful at times, I’ve really enjoyed doing this. Plus, I knew I’d found the perfect contractor as soon as I met him. There was just a feeling, plus he came highly recommended from someone I trust who has never steered me wrong.
Although I’ve had great help, this condo has seemed cursed in a way– until now, but I’ll get to that shortly. We’ve had issue after issue, including a stop work order placed while I was on vacation in Kansas. I’m sure it was a treat for my fellow travelers to listen to me sweet talk the inspector while in the Kansas City airport boarding area. Ha!
We also had a plumbing leak in the middle of the night and the emergency plumber had to break off the lock and get in to shut off the water. (We also had a leak in the same place a year earlier. Hmmm. Methinks that plumber then didn’t fix the issue correctly.)
In addition, we found that when mom combined the units, that contractor didn’t get the required permits. The city could find nothing on file. However, we got an inspector who worked with us not against us, knowing we needed to sell these things quickly.
For Sale By Owner. As executor of my mom’s estate, it’s my fiduciary responsibility to make the most money for the beneficiaries as possible, so I decided to try the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) option with the hope of saving that ghastly commission fee that is paid to the realtors. As luck would have it I didn’t have to look for my first buyer. They found me. It was someone who had lived in the building before and specifically wanted to move back there. Win/Win. We just closed on that condo about three weeks ago. Woohoo!
Since that appraisal came through easily at my sale price (far above what the last distress condo sales were at), I thought I’d try the same FSBO route for the second condo. I listed it on Owners.com and what-do-you-know? It looks like I have another buyer lined up.
As my contractor said, I’m living right. Maybe so.
In my next post, I’ll walk you through the before and after pictures of the first two bedroom condo. I may have a new sideline business.
Spring is coming. Spring means new life starting out of the ground. Starts from seeds, from bulbs, from roots that hibernated through the long cold, dead winter. Roots that never died, just slept. Bulbs that are ready to burst forth with bright colors and fresh scents.
This seems to describe me now. The last decade of my life has been littered with chronic health issues in my family, and the last couple years have been intense. I’ve described them ad nauseam here on my blog, and I’m pretty much done with that. I’m ready to bloom again. New, fresh, more vibrant, grafted into a new me that embodies all the pain, loss, joy, and stress of the years that have passed. I’m ready to move forward in new directions, full of a life yet to live.
Yes, I lost my mother. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. It’s been nine months and I’m starting to come out on the other side of my grief. I believe that both my parents would want me to live my life full of joy, service to others, and living the best and greatest life that my higher power has planned for me.
There’s been a lot happening so far this year. 2013 is a year of rebirth for me. At the end of January, my job of five years ended. Since then, I’ve been working on building my own business while closing my mother’s estate. I’ve been catching up on my sleep. I’ve been focused on clearing out the clutter that has accumulated and getting rid of things that I really just don’t need or want any more. It’s all fun, even if it is exhausting. I’ve been letting ideas germinate in my soul and opening myself up to all sorts of possibilities for future employment and life experiences.
I’ve been taking a much needed and long overdue break. And I’m not done resting yet, but I’m starting to feel renewed and rejuvenated. Ready to join the ranks of the living again.
Stay tuned as there’s so much to tell you!
My 2012 was a horrible year in just about every aspect. My mom (and last remaining parent) died from an accidental morphine overdose of 10x the prescribed amount, which was administered by an unlicensed, unregistered caretaker who was employed by the retirement facility where she lived – the facility entrusted with her care. Three weeks after my mom died, my daughter shattered her ankle resulting in a two-month hospitalization. A couple weeks later, my other daughter had a life changing event that impacted us all. The only thing consistent in all that was my job.
Friday, I was told that my contract with my current job ends 1/31. Yep, just about 2.5 weeks away.
A little backstory: I work through an agency. My agency is fantastic. I have been employed by them for nearly five years. Through those four and a half years, I’ve spent 90% of my time contracted to a specific team at a major software company. This is the longest I’ve worked in one place for the last 15 years. Needless to say, I’ve developed relationships with my team, and a comfortable working schedule and rhythm. I have loved my job, I’ve been good at my job, and I’ve been extremely grateful, loyal, and dedicated to my job and my team.
But things change. The business changes. Evidently, they think they need different skills than I can provide – or than they think I can provide. So, with that, they’re ending my contract.
Here’s the thing: I saw this coming. I predicted this back in the beginning of December and it was confirmed in my gut when my colleague – who does the exact.same.work as me – was extended through 6/30 and I was not given an end date, just told I’m extended past December 30. I even somewhat predicted that I’d know by last Friday. My intuition is always spot on and it gets better and more accurate the older I get and the more I practice listening to it.
People were telling me things to make me feel better, but I knew. I knew by how people acted, by things that weren’t being said, by the unbalanced project load, and more. Still, knowing all that, I went on vacation over New Years and I am glad I did. Had I known my job was ending, I probably wouldn’t have spent the money. (However, if I’d known for sure my contract was ending, I’d not have worked on my vacation.)
My agency will – I am confident – work hard to find me another gig. And I’m smart and talented and am working to build my own editing business as well – something I tried to get started five years ago before hooking up with my agency and this great gig. Regardless, I know I’ll be fine. I told my agency that I would land on my feet and that I was ok. I kept that stiff upper lip and strong demeanor that is so…. me, I guess.
However, about five hours or so after getting the news, I freaked out. The reality of it all hit me. I stressed out so badly that I almost thought I was having a heart attack because my chest hurt so bad. I panicked about running out of money. I panicked about being all alone through all this. I needed to hear my mom’s voice telling me it would all be ok and she isn’t here to tell me that, except in my memories. I panicked about the uncertainty and fear of change.
I broke down because I am just plain tired of changes. Please, God, make the changes stop for a while.
All that said, I guess I’m really not too upset about the job ending. It was probably time for a change for me anyway. I think the universe is telling me that it is time to really clear away the past, completely. It’s time for me to recalibrate and reinvent my life. Wash away the old, in with the new, and all that jazz.
I have lots of ideas and plans for the future. So many things I want to do, and things I want to experience. I guess the universe is telling me NOW is the time. And in my head, I know I will survive this. I’ve survived it before. And I know from experience I’m never given more than I can handle.
And I know I’m not alone either. I’ll be just fine.
Let the changes begin.
This door has been hidden behind drywall since 1996.
This door was revealed today and made me cry.
I didn’t anticipate these feelings.
The memories that were hidden surfaced today. Memories of walking through that door when my father was alive and both my parents lived there. Walking through the hallway to the living room that was packed with people saying their goodbyes to my dad. Taking my place on the sofa next to my father as he held my hand with his big strong hands. The oxygen helped him breathe. It was the last time I sat on the couch with him before they left for Palm Springs.
My father never walked through that door again.
My father died in Palm Springs.
My mom came back. She walked through that door so many times alone.
She slept on the floor by the sliding glass door, listening to the water below the condo. Trying to stay close to my father’s spirit.
Three years after my dad passed, my mom bought the condo next to this one and covered up the door with a bathroom wall and giant jetted bathtub big enough for at least five toddlers.
She knocked down the walls in between and made a large spacious condo which she filled up with family and friends.
My mom used a different door to go in and out of her condo until the day she walked through that door for the last time.
The walls between the two units are going back up and the two condos will be sold.
I will eventually walk through that door one last time.
After that, I have no idea the path that I will follow.
But I know that on that path, the spirits of both my parents will escort me – sometimes making themselves known, like they did today, and sometimes just silently guiding, observing, encouraging, comforting me.
I will find my own door.
My mom and my oldest grandson – Thanksgiving 2009
We probably had a family Thanksgiving in 2010 as well, but I don’t have any pictures of it.Thanksgiving 2011 was one I think we all want to forget in some way or another.
And here it is, Thanksgiving 2012.
Nothing today will be like it has been for prior Thanksgiving celebrations. My mom is not here. She was the glue that kept us all together. When she passed, our family fell apart as we knew it. I have come to accept that and understand that life changes. Everything changes. At first, it feels as if nothing will ever be as good as it was. In hindsight, things might not have been as wonderful or as perfect as they seemed.
Changes are necessary for life to evolve and become better. Each of us has our own path to forge, and that includes my daughters as well as me. This year I have learned how to be a better mother, more supportive, more understanding, more forgiving, less judgmental or controlling, and, most importantly, I have learned how to untie the apron strings. I am learning that I have a future too and to face my fears of forging ahead solo – not as a daughter, not as a mother, not as a caretaker to chronically ill family members but as a woman with my own dreams, reinventing myself.
Fear of change isn’t a fear of losing what you had, it’s a fear of the unknown ahead.
Today I am embracing the day with a smile. Literally, I felt myself smiling from within and on my face. Something that I haven’t felt in what feels like forever.
Today I will spend time with both my daughters and my grandchildren. Today I do not have to lift a finger to cook anything. Today I can relax, enjoy, and EXHALE.
Today I am grateful for everything I already have. I don’t need to shop Black Friday sales because I have enough. In fact, I probably have too much. I will spend my holiday weekend clearing out closets, cupboards, and making room for Christmas decorations. I’ll spend some time at my new sewing machine starting some small, easy projects for holiday gifts.
Today I am embracing the approaching holiday season with a quiet exhilaration. I feel my mother’s joy of Christmas deep in my soul, and I will celebrate it in my way honoring her and feeling alive. This is what she would want as well.
Today I will hug and love the family I still have – two daughters who I love with every ounce of my being. Together we will reinvent our family and build new traditions somehow.
Today I am thankful to my higher power for every blessing I have been given. Even when it is disguised in heartache and pain.
But please, bring on the JOY. I’m ready.
Love you all, my friends.
Mom and me at the Heathman Hotel, Kirkland, Washington – mid November 2011. The doorman gave her that beautiful white lily. We had some lovely dinners together at the Heathman Hotel. What I wouldn’t give for just one more with her.
If I were an insect, that is how you would label the stage I’m in. I’m not an insect – obviously – but I love that term. Sounds close to “poopy”. So, we could call this stage of my grief the poopy stage. But pupal sounds more elegant.
For insects, pupation can last for a long time, even years. But it definitely lasts for months. It’s been five months now since my mom died. But only about two months since we put her ashes to rest next to my father. **
Wikipedia says: “A chrysalis… is the pupal stage of butterflies… Like other types of pupae, the chrysalis stage in most butterflies is one in which there is little movement.”
Little movement: That pretty much defines how I have felt and acted these last few months. I have needed to isolate. I have needed to be alone with my feelings, my thoughts, my dreams. I have been nesting. Surrounding myself with everything that symbolizes comfort and reminds me of my mom. Some people worry about me still and keep calling. Others have stopped calling or returning my calls. Some, I think, feel that I should be moving on, getting out, and socializing. Socializing and noisy environments is the last thing I want or need right now. Others try to minimize my grief by saying, “She’s in a better place” or “She had a fantastic life and helped so many”. None of that helps. None of that is productive because all of that I already know and saying it unintentionally minimizes how I feel.
See, I think I know myself pretty well. I also think that I’m pretty good at self-care – most of the time. Except for food, but we’ll save that for another post. I know that eventually this, too, shall pass. It just takes time and I’m allowing the process to unfold organically.
I’m reinventing myself. I’m cocooned in my pupae. But that pupae has its purpose and won’t be needed forever. I’m coming to terms with a future without parents (in the physical form) and a future life lived for myself not as a caretaker for a parent or a child or a spouse. I truly am single.
I’ve had these moments – moments that are inspiring this post – where I have cracks in the protective cocoon through which I can see the sunlight. I can feel small surges of excitement, motivation, and great energy as I break through and find myself. I foresee a future filled with adventures, change, and a feeling of wholeness inside myself. A feeling of connection to my soul. Glimpses of a time where I won’t feel so utterly lost and alone.
These surges are encased in the silk thread remembrance of my loss. A friend said recently, “The pain of our loss doesn’t get better; we just adjust our lives around it.” She’s right. I don’t know if the sharpness of the pain of losing my mother will ever soften. I’m adjusting my life slowly but surely. As my mom would want me to. And living my life for me while still contributing to society, just as my mother did. She taught me so much, so well.
Even as we head into the holiday season, with Thanksgiving (in the US) and Christmas, I am embracing the days. I’m making them my own. It feels good. And not quite so pupal.
** There was a reason for the delay in placing my mom’s ashes to rest. There will be a short news story about this on our local TV station, KIRO TV, that will be airing on November 19, 2012 at 5PM. Coincidentally – although, there are NO coincidences in life, that day is the 19th anniversary of the day my father passed away. You can watch the newscast live (they stream all their newscasts) and I’ll post the link on my blog after it’s given to me. Please watch and let me know your thoughts.
A little backstory: For 11 years, I’ve had to deal with this homeowners association (HOA), which is mismanaged by this woman. Where we need consistent and non-prejudicial application of the “rules”, we get petty letters about insignificant infractions. Where we need quality contractors to maintain our common areas, we get cheap migrant labor who use hand-held scathes to cut down the alder saplings on a hillside. (Is there such a thing as a non hand-held scathe?)
Let’s be clear. I live in a really nice neighborhood in suburbia, the homes are less than a dozen years old (I bought mine new) and are adequately maintained, they look nice, and we don’t have cases of bright lavender siding or multiple broken down cars on lawns. Yep, no stacked TVs on the front porch either. (Just in my garage… not kidding.) It’s a quiet neighborhood. Kids play outside in the summer, parents walk them to the bus stop, and the neighborhood is pretty unremarkable.
Well, except for the one creepy guy who we all think murdered his wife.
Yeah, you get to wait for that story.
During my years of living here, I’ve had – as some of you know – family members with chronic illnesses, and no one to come take care of home maintenance issues for me. That means that I’ve received more than one of those happy little letters about insignificant infractions and threats of fines, but this one (nearly) took the cake:
Anyway, this year, I made it my mission to take care of all the deferred maintenance on my home – all while caring for my dying mom and all the duties required after she died, taking care of my toddler granddaughter while my daughter recovers from a severely broken ankle, and holding down a full time job.
I finished the yard. I had the fences professionally pressure washed and stained. I had my entire home pressure washed, the gutters cleaned, and I upgraded my back and side yards. I made a tidy place to put my trashcans out of sight from the street.
My house looks friggin’ fantastic.
In the process of doing all that, my one-year-old, shiny red, gas lawnmower died. On the front lawn. My neighbor tried to help me start it. We succeeded for a while, but I’d hurt my back and couldn’t start it myself.
So there the lawnmower sat. Dead. Later diagnosed with a case of bad gas. On the front lawn. But it was pretty, clean, new(ish). I figured I’d fix it sooner than later but I had more pressing issues – like my mom’s autopsy. (Yes, that story is coming soon – I promise.)
And then I get this email from the evil property manager:
“I was out last week and again today and noticed your lawn mower was parked in the yard. Can you please store it in your garage?”
What? Don’t you park your lawnmower in the yard?
That did it, though. I was at my wits end. It was the last filament of my patience with this lady. I blew my cool. I fired back with, “You know what? You can kiss my ass.”
Damn, that felt good.
So unlike me to blurt that out – in writing or otherwise. But I was done. Completely done. And you know what? I don’t regret it at all. My house looks better than it did new. There is absolutely nothing she can do to me.
Now I laugh at her antics. Because the fear is gone. She has no power over me, my home, or my finances. She can’t legally fine me for anything because I haven’t done anything wrong.
Now if it happens again, my friend gave me the best explanation:
It’s yard art.
Since I had to postpone my trip to Hawaii (I’ll explain later, but thankfully not due to family illness) I thought I’d go and get me a nice TV to put in my sewing room. I was looking for HDTV, minimum 1080P/120Hz, and one where I could stream Netflix, and where my grandkids could watch TV when they visit while I sew or they do crafts at the table in my sewing room.
I went to Best Buy and within 20 minutes – probably less – I found this TV. The guy said, oh, yeah, it’s the best. Right. That comment should have been my first clue. Then he sold me a Samsung Blu-ray player so that I could stream Netflix and have the Wi-Fi features. Total bill was over $600 including the additional 5-year warranty. I should have just paid a little more for the better LG TV, like the one I already have, and called it a day.
I brought this home and first off, no digital tuner built in. I didn’t even think to look. I just assumed they all had that these days. Had to get a Comcast digital adaptor (had one on hand, believe it or not) to even get the standard definition channels to show up. Once I got the Comcast tuner activated, I couldn’t get the TV to understand the signal. Trying to find the setting to get it to recognize cable was a test in patience, and I failed. At one point – my third call in to Best Buy – the home theater geek asked me “what’s a digital tuner?” Irritated, tired, impatient, and frustrated, I responded, “What are you, an idiot?” I guess he hung up on me. Whatever. I don’t care. Sometimes, restraint of tongue is not my best feature.
Finally, I figured it all out by my little ol’ self and got the cable channels to play. It only took me three hours.
This isn’t my first dance. I’ve installed HDTVs before. I used to work for a company that built DVRs and DVR software, so I kinda think I know a little bit. But this TV is a major POS. First, it advertises that it’s HDTV, and yet, doesn’t say so on the box. Hmmm. Then, when I hooked up the Blu-ray player and streamed Netflix, within less than two minutes, the video was choppy and the monitor image was very grainy.
It’s all going back to the store tomorrow. All of it.
Yes, I know I need an HDTV cable box to get true HDTV channels, not just a digital adaptor. That’s the easy part. But it should NOT have taken me three hours just to get the standard cable to show on the TV. And the user experience was awful, not to mention the service from Best Buy.
I think I’ll stick with my LG brand of TVs, or Sony. They’re rated top for a reason.
And next time I have a cold, am shopping with a tired toddler and my daughter who also has a cold, remind me or kick me in the arse if I try to make a major purchase like this again.