Once, my ex asked me if I was sorry I’d ever married him.

I told him, if someone had told me the night before our wedding what would happen 10 years later, but that I would get three beautiful, amazing children out if it, I’d have said, “Bring it the f— on.”

Some people have told me, “But you’d still have your kids … they’d just be a little different.” Would they? It’s hard to say. How much of their father is in them? How much of me? And who’s to say that they would have ended up being MY kids rather than HIS?

And I wouldn’t be the me I am today, either. I wouldn’t know how much I could live through and survive. I wouldn’t know for sure that I could do it on my own. I wouldn’t know how to appreciate an amazing relationship instead of a mediocre one.

So no, I don’t regret anything. Car ma vie, car mes joies — aujourd’hui, ça commence avec toi.

Today, I went into that room in the basement – maybe you have THAT ROOM too, the one where you throw all the crap you don’t know what else to do with. With a friend’s garage sale coming up, I thought this might be a good opportunity to de-clutter and make a little cash.Image

The end tables and coffee tables that my ex refused to take were an easy choice. So were the unopened toys from long-ago, overly fruitful Christmases and birthday parties. But the plastic tubs filled with baby toys and stuffed animals? Those brought on the tears. The adorable rattles and lovies I’d bought as a mom-to-be, so filled with hope for my babies and the life I planned to give them. The little stuffed animals I remember chubby hands holding and slobbery mouths gnawing upon. The doll-sized baby sling Matthew used to carry his Elmo in.

It’s hard to be reminded of what life used to be like then, planning a family with unshakable trust and confidence in the future. And of course it’s always a little sad to encounter such vivid reminders of babyhoods gone by — never to return with my three kids, and possibly not with any other baby, either.

I threw away the junkier things, safely encased in black plastic garbage bags so the kids wouldn’t see them. I set aside some of the working toys and cleaner, cuter stuffed animals for the garage sale. The rest went back in the bins, awaiting another — perhaps braver — attempt at excavation.

I didn’t know my grandpa fought in D-Day. Truth be told, I didn’t know him well at all.

20140606-083024-30624397.jpgDistance and estrangement from my biological father (his son) had come between us, and it wasn’t until after my father’s funeral, looking at old photographs at my grandparents’ house, that I found out Grandpa had been on the beach at Normandy, 70 years ago today.

When my ex-husband first broke the news that he was leaving, and why, one thought that kept me going was, “If Grandpa could step onto that beach, I can step onto this one.” It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I found out that D-Day stands, in some circles, for “Discovery Day,” the day you uncover the gut-wrenching, heart-stopping truth about your spouse.

I can’t compare my fight to Grandpa’s, of course, in any sense that doesn’t seem ridiculous. I don’t want to minimize his bravery or sacrifice; a divorce is hardly facing the Nazis. But we both had jobs to do – things we had to survive, in situations we didn’t make but found ourselves in anyway. And that gave me tremendous strength.

So thank you, Grandpa. Thank you not only for fighting for our nation, but for inspiring and encouraging your granddaughter seven decades afterward.

The house that I wrote and dreamed about so extensively – my perfect house, so tenderly planned, the one I was sure I’d spend the rest of my life in – never was. It never will be.

frontelevA month after I learned that the house wasn’t to be, I learned that the same was true of my marriage, as well. My perfect marriage, the one I was sure was for life. The irony was lost on me at the time.

I still live in my same little suburban ranch house, the one that my now ex-husband and I bought six months after we met, as a “starter house.” Its single bathroom and 1100 square feet are woefully inadequate for three children and one adult. It doesn’t begin to compare with the house of my dreams and its spacious, light-filled rooms.

But my other dream has fared better. No, my marriage has not been resurrected – it is dead and will stay that way forever, for reasons too numerous and personal to share here. But time, perspective and introspection have all forced me to see that its “perfection” was a combination of illusion and denial.

Once, after my husband left, I sat at Mass, weeping, listening to a wonderful priest give a homily on Matthew 7 (“Ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and you shall find”). He told us to consider that if we had been praying at length for something and God had not answered us, that we were praying for the wrong thing. At the time, I couldn’t conceive that God DIDN’T want my family to remain intact. Though in the end, my opinion didn’t matter, and possibly God’s didn’t either.

And while I don’t pretend to know what the Almighty’s will was for my marriage, I can tell you that He constructed something beautiful from the wreckage.

It looks like, for several reasons, we won’t be building our house in the near future. The financial and emotional outlay involved is, I think, more than we can reasonably handle at this point.

We still desperately need a bigger house, though, and are on the hunt for one. There’s one nearby that’s in many ways the opposite of what we were planning, but it looks promising. I’ve emailed our realtor about taking a look at it. A couple of other possibilities are out there, too.

We haven’t given up on the idea — we’re keeping the land. But it just doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for 2013.

AVC_1437-Edit

Well, we had our perc test completed today (after much rescheduling due to rain). The kids were delighted to go see the backhoe, and many dandelions were picked. Things look good! Unfortunately, the best drainage is right where we want to put the house, so it looks like we might have to go to an engineered system or possibly an advanced treatment system.

In other news, the construction plans are done, and our builder is gathering bids. We’re supposed to get together by this weekend, I think, to go over everything and make sure that it comes in within our budget. After that, we need to get the permits taken care of and finalize the loan with the bank. Dave (our builder) thinks that if everything goes smoothly, we might break ground in June. I’m giddy with anticipation!

 

Not much new house stuff to report. We’re still waiting on construction documents, so our builder can give us a final estimate (we had a rough one done earlier). We’ve been pre-approved for the loan, so that’s awesome. And next we have to schedule the perc test. The property has perc’d several times before, but those tests have expired, so we need a more updated one. (Sure wish we’d scheduled it before all this rain we’ve had!)

I’ve been hearing that the county is pushing just about everyone to get engineered septic systems, and that’s what our neighbors have, so I’m guessing that’s what we’ll end up with as well.  Sure would be nice to save the $10K or so and just have a standard system, though!

 

We met with our designer on Friday and finalized a few things so he can start drawing up construction plans. We’ve downsized the boys’ bathroom upstairs a bit, reconfigured the master suite bathroom slightly, and changed the entry to Eli’s room (bedroom three on the floor plan) to make it a little less awkward.

In addition, we now have plans for the attic and basement. The basement will probably not be finished for some time, though (or just partially finished). In addition, the bedrooms in the attic won’t really be bedrooms (though they could be eventually, I suppose!). Probably my craft/sewing room will be in one of the attic rooms, and the craft room in the basement will be an exercise room. I really wanted to be able to do my sewing and stuff in a room with good light, and it wasn’t going to be possible without either moving the craft room (thus creating problems for the downstairs guest suite and living room) or putting a big ugly window well on the right side of the house. So I think this is a nice compromise.

When we met with Jim, our designer, he asked if we wanted him to draw out sketches of all the built-ins, or if I had some photos of things I liked. I was all, “Oh, do I ever have photos! Are you familiar with … Pinterest?!”

So, these are sort of what we’re aiming for. I really want to stick to the Colonial Revival style in general but not get too hung up on being being absolutely historically accurate.

Wide archways from foyer to library and dining room (I am SO in love with these wide, paneled door jambs — may be one of those things that has to wait, though, depending on the budget):

Something like this for the fireplace (we’ll have the TV over ours — I want it to be slightly recessed so it doesn’t look like it’s about to tumble off the wall):

Lockers for mudroom (love the little drawers above the area for shoes — perfect for hats and mittens!):

And the upstairs window seat (though ours will have shelves on both sides, and we won’t have the sloped ceiling up there):

 

(We didn’t post 2.0 because we immediately knew we wanted to make some changes.)

New and improved! Some key differences:

  • The playroom is gone and will be in the dining room (for now). We realized that the chances of us throwing formal dinner parties in the near future were probably preeeetty low.
  • We’ve kicked out the back living room wall about three feet (and made the second floor slightly bigger as well, making the boys’ bedrooms — bedrooms 3 and 4 — both bigger).
  • We got rid of the split landing on the staircase.
  • We changed the layout of the master bathroom.
  • We added a second door to the first-floor bathroom, making it more accessible for emergency potty visits before we leave (via the mudroom).
  • The front elevation has been changed significantly to make it more correct for a Colonial Revival style — we changed the pediment over the front door, added a window above it, got rid of the faux Palladian window on the front of the garage, and replaced it with regular windows, added a fanlight above the front door, etc.

So, let me know what you think! I think we’re just about there. A couple of thoughts I have …

  • I wish the windows on the right elevation could be perfectly symmetrical, but I don’t see how that’s possible without making them look off-kilter from within the rooms. I think I’d rather like the way they look from the inside, considering I’ll probably spend much more time in the house than staring at the right side of it. In addition, at looking at photos online and from looking at Colonial Revival neighborhoods in a nearby neighborhood, it seems like the sides often aren’t perfectly symmetrical.
  • I think the overhang on the bottom floor (over the cafe and screen porch is a misprint left over from an earlier plan.
  • The dishwasher has moved to the left of the sink, but I think I’d prefer to have it on the right, so I can more easily put away dishes in those upper cabinets.
  • The cute little half-round window by the gable on the right elevation has disappeared. I think we want to keep it.

exterior

exteriorright

floor1

floor2

Jay and I went to a small home show at the local high school last weekend. I was really excited to go out and meet vendors and look at products. However, I don’t know if it was our age, the way we were dressed (jeans and T-shirts — not rags or anything), or both, but it was both amusing and somewhat insulting to see everyone repeatedly and obviously direct us toward their cheapest products. Most people were at least polite about it. “Oh, were you looking for XYZ?” “Why, no, actually, we are planning on ABC.”

There was one kitchen and bath shop whose representative almost seemed hostile, as if she was personally insulted that such riff-raff would dare to presume they could shop at her store. I laughed it off at the time, but the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got. Do I really need to wear Prada to a home show to be taken seriously? Shouldn’t vendors just show people their full range of products (and maybe note, “This one is our budget line, this one is mid-range, and this is our highest-end line”) and let them choose which ones are most appropriate to their budget?

A discussion about this topic on a home-building site I frequent surprised me — apparently quite a few people, especially younger people, have run into this. I got irritated enough that I decided to write a note to the company:

Dear [kitchen and bath store]:

I wanted to send you a brief note to let you know how disappointed I was in my experience with your rep at the home show at [Mytown] High School last weekend. My husband and I met many friendly, helpful vendors at the show — unfortunately, yours was not among them. She seemed annoyed at our interest, and when I asked her questions about the product lines your store carries, she very obviously directed me to the cheapest products (which were not, as I attempted to clarify to her, what we were interested in).

I realize that my husband and I are younger than the average custom home builder, and we don’t generally break out the haute couture attire for home shows. However, it does not follow that we are building a small or low-end home.

It’s unfortunate that your staff member gave us such a bad first impression of your company, because as a stay-at-home mom who loves to cook and bake, I am especially excited about the kitchen in my new home. I hope that, in the future, other potential customers will be treated with more respect and friendliness.

Sincerely,
Alexis C.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 149 other followers

%d bloggers like this: