“We could be stuck in traffic, for over a week…with a car full of quintuplets who are all cutting teeth. And around my neck could be a flaming Christmas wreath. And I’d be smiling underneath.”
These were the words to the Ani DiFranco song my husband had playing when he proposed, so we worked it into our first dance combo too at our wedding, and as our 9 year wedding anniversary approaches in the coming weeks, I can’t help but thinking of this song as we’re shoved into the dressing room of this historic 1885 Victorian mansion we bought that was in need of a total gut job, we’re living in one room – the dressing room – which anyone who knows me knows laundry is my nemesis so this room started out messy and feels like an episode of Hoarders only a few weeks into living like holed up hobbits here.
We’re like the family from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” — all sleeping in one bed together with the mattress and box spring on the floor — surrounded by the “stuff” of each day, which lately is including cough drop wrappers and tissues, as we’re all sick to boot.
In over our heads?
We’re scared to death as we’ve jumped in head first and way over our heads doing cosmetic projects that were way down the list of important things we needed to do first. But I’m a seize the day kind of person, and the day I was asked to turn our house into a designer showhouse as a fundraiser for a new Child Life Program at the hospital’s new pediatric wing, my answer was a resounding yes!
Over the past few months, we’ve had the pleasure to work with designers I’ve worked alongside in my career over the past 12 years. It’s been an honor to see how they work firsthand with their clients. And I’ve learned a whole new respect for the trade. Just like everyone thinks they can be a photographer these days, I’ve always heard people say “you should be an interior designer” to folks like myself who have a good eye for design and putting things together. But there’s a huge difference between that and actually being a professional interior designer. First, there’s a lot of math and measuring. I missed fraction day in middle school, so measuring always boggles me! Professional designers also have lot of knowledge of construction and how a home works. It’s not all just picking out pretty things and putting them together. I’ve also really appreciated the time and care spent researching the products they spec. For example, our kitchen designer decided the first flooring we picked wasn’t going to be durable enough after doing her research and found a luxury vinyl tile that is made of 75% limestone instead. And the other thing I’ve loved seeing is how they challenge you to think in ways you never thought possible.
The downside to working with the best of the best is also the reminder that we don’t play in this league. My husband and I are just your average folks. We’re not the typical clients of the high end businesses we’re working with on this project. We’re humbled by this fact every day since this project started in June. And when it’s all done in mid November, and the fundraising events are all over, all the fancy furnishings that didn’t sell, will go back to their fancy showrooms for people who are not in our league to enjoy someday. And it’ll take me years to find all the perfect pieces for the spaces from antiquing and yard sales and such. Just as it was going to take us 20 years to renovate all the spaces that are now getting done in a speedy 2 months! All of our belongings were hastily packed back up in August for renovations to begin, after just moving and starting to unpack in April, so everything is a disastrous, unorganized chaotic mess. Have I had that moment of “What were we thinking buying a property like this? We can’t afford this.” Youbetcha. But we have to believe we are doing exactly what we are meant to be doing right now. What we’re doing right now is raising $500,000 for children and their families to have some sense of normalcy when they’re in the hospital. And creating a place within and around our home for our community to come and gather for special events in the future. You better believe we plan to pay it forward with the good fortune life has given us.
In the meantime, we’ve got each other. Whether living in an 800 square foot carriage house or a slightly larger cozy Cape Cod or now an 11 bedroom, 6,000 square foot Victorian (shoved into one tiny room space till mid November). I cooked with the same love on the electric range in our first apartment as I will on the fancy custom white and brass 8-burner Blue Star that’s coming in a couple weeks. (I guess since my husband said that was my birthday and Christmas and “forever gift,” it’s going to count as my anniversary gift too!)
And even last night, as we sat enjoying our old favorite “Sushi Wednesday” from Giant ($5 rolls, can’t beat it!), with a bottle of champagne (just as we did on our first anniversary after our daughter was born because we were too tired to go out), my heart was beyond happy as my daughter laughed at the episode of “Will & Grace” we watched on my laptop, eating dinner in bed together.
We can be happy and grateful anywhere we are, as long as we’re together. We might not have any money left when all of this renovating is done… we might be eating cabbage and potato soup all winter… and have to sleep in the giant double oven of that big ole Blue Star because we can’t afford to heat this huge house… But we’ll have our love to keep us warm!