And Then the Furnace Went Out

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I was riding high on the wave of excitement of buying a rental property- the pride of my contribution to making this happen, the prospect of earning passive income, the possibility of one day living right smack in the middle of DC again, the chance of selling it one day for a profit.

And then the heater broke. Only it didn’t actually break. The pilot light went out. And then it went out again. And again. And again.

A Tale of Two Cities

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I have a bit of a love affair with DC. I don’t know why. The city has beaten me down time and again. Parking is a problem. Driving is a problem. Renting is expensive. Buying is expensive. Crowds make my skin crawl in the summer. The summer humidity makes me dream of winter. Grocery store lines make me want to spring for delivery service. Stuffy government jobs make me want to escape to a hippie commune. Yet, DC still feels like my home, even after a year in Virginia. Indeed, it’s the city where I’ve spent the majority of my adult years.

I was drawn to Washington, DC when I first heard an older classmate from my high school heading off to American University. It sounded cosmopolitan and I wanted to be a part of it. After forgoing a work opportunity in Zambia, I landed here as a summer intern at 25, bright eyed and dreaming of saving the world. That dream faded over the years, but my desire to stay in DC never did. I often wondered if I had landed in New York City, would I have developed the same love? What about Mineappolis? Or Denver?

DC is the place where my life happened; the place where I fell in love, had my heart broken, lost my home, lost my livelihood, lost a dear friend, and then somehow found strength to rebuild again. There was a time when I wanted to escape this place and start over. But I wasn’t sure of where I would start over. So I hunkered down and found my way in DC.

When James and I were ready to move in together, I sidestepped the obvious path of moving into his house in Virginia. It felt too suburban and it seemed like everyone had a baby and a dog. I wasn’t ready for that. Or I didn’t think so. However, it soon became clear in Southwest DC, we didn’t love our neighborhood and parking 3 blocks away from our apartment with a baby didn’t make sense.

Del Ray did.

So, after a year together in DC, James and I moved back into his house in early 2014. However, a year later, I’ve still been longing for the movement of the city. I can’t really say if the longing is really for the excitement that came with my younger life, zipping around on bike, time for yoga class, or simply more freedom, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. James and I talked about moving back to DC, but our work is here in Virginia, and Isla is thriving at her third day care, after a year of looking for the right place for her to learn and grow.

Despite knowing it didn’t make sense to move, I couldn’t stop looking at real estate.

While other people were browsing Black Friday deals, I was browsing real estate deals. I found a little house at a great price that I was sure we needed to buy, right in the middle of the city, just blocks from the Magic Mike house where I lived a few years prior. Maybe I needed to claim my corner of DC, even if I wasn’t going to live there right away. We ended up putting an offer on the house, and were surprised to be chosen over 6 other offers. It was kind of a disaster making that decision right before holiday travel to two different states. We closed around New Year’s Eve and our renters will moved in last month.

We are business owners!

Maybe one day I’ll get to live in our DC house. Maybe we’ll end up in Coeur d’Alene or Cleveland or Portland or Seattle and I’ll never actually live there. But having the house, my little dream investment that I’ve scrimped and saved for under the worst of circumstances, makes me feel a little more connected to the city while I find my roots here in Virginia and try to settle in.

There is no issue with our quiet Virginia neighborhood. Most people love it here because, above all, it’s safe. And for some reason, I seem to avoid safety like the plague. If it’s comfortable, easy, or straightforward, I tend to run the other way. There was nothing safe about leaving home and taking on a mountain of debt for grad school. Or taking off for work in South Africa, without knowing a soul in the country. Or signing a lease on my very own apartment while piecing together employment. Or starting a family with a man I had been dating for a year. I tend to find the less traveled path, make big decisions, and figure out the rest later, as no amount of preparation or pro and con list has ever adequately prepared me for life. In fact, in most big decisions I’ve ever made, those scenarios that I’ve reached to the furthest corners of my mind to anticipate have never played out, and were replaced by situations I could not have possibly dreamed up, both to my benefit and detriment. Perhaps we can’t explain why we feel pulled in certain directions. All we can do is listen to those nudges and entertain the risk of following them.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -attributed to Mark Twain.

Best Gift Ever

simple living

Have you ever asked a parent what you can get them for a holiday or birthday when you are planning to visit home? And has your parent ever responded ‘Nothing. You being here is a gift.” Perhaps you were dismayed that the answer didn’t help to steer your holiday shopping or you rejoiced that you would have a little extra change in your pocket. Perhaps those words didn’t ring true until you became a parent yourself or spent quality time with someone dear to you.

In all of this holiday hustle bustle, I can’t help but feel like its the simple things that shine brightest this time of year. As a parent and a partner, I value down time with my little family. There is nothing more valuable than the gift of one’s presence, and no sale or sparkly shiny object can make me think otherwise.
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Today, James pointed out to me a little note that came through electronically from our day care provider. It mentioned how Isla, not yet 15 months old, went over to comfort a crying friend at day care. The caregiver mentioned that Isla hugged and gently touched the upset classmate. Reading this note and seeing the accompanying photos made me just burst with joy. What a wonderful reminder of the gifts we can share, not with the money we spend, but with the time that we give.
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Chore wheels- they aren’t just for group houses

alexandria, del ray, organization

Remember when you were broke and you lived with 5 other people in a run down group house and squabbled over whose turn it was to clean the bathroom? You had a little wheel that was tacked up onto a cork board in the kitchen, alongside take out menus and posters for the latest save-the-world fundraiser you planned to attend.

Unfortunately, until you get a cleaning person, the problem of daily and weekly chores may follow you well beyond your group house days.  James and I are 7 months into living in our house and nearly 10 months into parenthood and we still can’t figure how on earth to manage our lives.

About a month after my return to work, we got the bottle prep routine somewhat down, which means we normally get our dishes washed in a timely way. However, I feel like I’m standing in front of that dishwasher half of the time I’m home, whether its loading or unloading the dishes. Plus, at any given time, there seem to be stray toys, dog fur, mail items, and mason jars strewn around the house, not to mention a rack of diapers drying, a bag of pump parts to be shuttled to and from work, and towels, bibs, and burp rags hanging from anything loosely resembling a hook. Getting everything back into its home by the end of each day always proves to be problematic. We didn’t want to resort to schedules but each and every Sunday night, we ask ourselves where the weekend went and why we are still trying to get the house in order.

play kitchen

Isla made this mess, but our kitchen looks pretty much the same.

After weeks of rationalizing that full time working parents without cleaning help all have messy houses, we decided we needed an intervention. However, when I time how long it takes to do the dishes or wipe down the bathroom sink, I’m shocked at how few minutes each task takes.  As much as I want to hire a cleaning person and sit on the couch and eat bon bons while someone else cleans up after me, I’m trying to believe that with a little bit of self-imposed organization, we can actually keep the house looking decent.

Enter the chore wheel.

Ok, its a list. James would prefer it look like a wheel but I’ll work on the aesthetics of it another time. Right now, we have a house to clean! Our list is based on the one found here on The Little Green Notebook. A quick online search of chore wheels revealed at least a handful of them are made by parents of very large families and all the children pitch in, just as I did in my youth. Since Isla isn’t too great at cleaning yet, we didn’t assign her any duties on this round.

Our rendition looks like this:

Morning:

  • Make bed
  • Wipe down bathroom counters and put away loose items
  • Unload dishwasher and prep bottles

Evening:

  • Load dishwasher and clean and put away pots and pans
  • Wipe kitchen counters
  • Take out trash as needed
  • Quick sweep or vacuum and spot clean floor
  • Pick up living room; all stray items on kitchen table and counter put away
  • Check diaper stash; wash as needed
  • Chore of the day (see below)

Monday: Swing day (see below)

Tuesday: Clean mirrors and windows

Wednesday: Vacuum

Thursday: Mop floors

Friday: Toilets and tub

Saturday: Vacuum (again!)

 

Swing day:

1st: Wipe furniture and cabinets as needed and laundry (clothes)

2nd: Clean oven, microwave and fridge and laundry (sheets and towels)

3rd: Wipe down all moldings, walls, doors and laundry (clothes)

4th: Spot clean upholstery and rugs and laundry (sheets and towels)

 

Surely we’ll have to make some modifications if we realize we forgot chores or don’t need to do some of them so frequently. And unlike our failed zero waste adventure, I’m really committed this time. Starting last Sunday, we are giving ourselves a month to see if we can maintain a clean house before we give in and hire a cleaning person.

I don’t really like bon bons anyway.

 

How about you? Do you work full time and manage to keep your house clean? How do you do it? Or do you prefer to enjoy your time and hire out the help?

Nursery Inspiration-Whites and Brights

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I’ll be the first to admit, this whole idea of a nursery is new to me, at least in real life. Nurseries were the stuff of storybooks- magical rooms reserved for children who had fat nannies that wore starched white aprons.

I had never really heard people use the word until I got hooked on the design blogs. Aren’t they just bedrooms? I’m pretty sure no one ever called my childhood bedroom, ‘the nursery.’ Either way, baby rooms are serious business and cost to set up can easily get out of hand when oooohing and ahhhhing over those precious elements that you want your perfect little person to have.

But let’s be honest- aren’t they really for us? We pick the colors and pieces that appeal to us in the hopes our little one will appreciate our taste, or perhaps we completely don’t care if it appeals to them because, hey, its one more room that we get to decorate.

Unfortunately, I did not appreciate my mom’s taste as a child. Three painted pink walls with a fourth wall of pink flowered wallpaper adorned my room for my entire childhood. And sturdy pink wool carpeting that my mom refused to update until I was 17 because apparently anything besides that pink carpet was of the they-don’t-make-them-like-they-used-to variety. Nevermind the fact that I developed an aversion for all things pink and girly very early on. In my last year of high school, when I was almost ready to move away to college, Mom gave in and got me a cream colored carpet that she was sure didn’t measure up to the ancient pink one and we painted the walls in a neutral to match.

I felt liberated.

Keeping in mind my childhood angst over the pink, I’d like to be able to update Isla’s nursery at some point when she has some input. This means keeping costs under control for round one and investing in a few pieces that I hope she won’t outgrow too quickly, as well as keeping in mind simple elements that could be swapped out. In all honesty, we experienced Isla’s first months of life without a nursery, so I’ll be the first to admit most of this is not necessary. In fact, Isla still sleeps in our room, but we do spend a lot of play time in hers.

I had it in my mind that I wanted yellow and white either on the floors or walls before I ever found any inspiration pieces. I also envisioned white and birch furniture and wanted my beloved vintage bird painting in rainbow colors to be an anchor point. From there, I pieced together other elements that kept with the ‘whites and brights’ theme. The wall covering and rug and most every other item I fell in love with were wildly expensive (of course they were) so locating budget-friendly doppelgangers to match my virtual vision took some effort.

Unfortunately, the room has been in progress for months due to to my suggestion that we (ahem, that being James. I hold the baby) replace the icky old baseboards. It turned out to be a massive project pulling baseboards off of old plaster walls and attaching new ones flush to the walls. I won’t bore you with those details now but know that I owe James huge for humoring me on this one.  The remaining problem is that now the sleek baseboards in the nursery look so much better than those in the rest of the house, so um, it only seemed appropriate to replace all of those too.

Now that the baseboard fiasco is over, we are getting closer to being finished with Isla’s room. However, its tough to make time decorating a nursery once you have a baby. My hope is to have this room finally done by her 21st 1st birthday. Its shaping up nicely and is currently my favorite room in the house.

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Inspiration pieces, clockwise from left:

vintage bird painting: Modern Mobler

yellow and white rug: Bev Hisey

mobile: Dagmar’s Designs

wallpaper: AphroChic

floating credenza/fauxdenza: The Animal Print Shop. (The credenza was not sold there, but it was the first place that inspired me to make one).

elephant stool: Eames

crib: Oeuf

whale painting: Eli Halpin

rocking chair: NurseryWorks. My original inspiration was actually a vintage teak mid century rocker from Yugoslavia. James discouraged me from purchasing it while we still lived in the studio, and I might just hold it against him forever.

Did you obsess over decorating your baby’s nursery? Spend a lot? Or not give it a second thought?