There’s Compensation, and Then There’s Appreciation.

We have progress people! It’s been a busy month. The morning that the men and equipment rolled in to dig the hole was certainly an exciting one.

I couldn’t help but think it marked the beginning of a relationship; I got up early, made sure I was dressed and had a full face of makeup, not to mention an enormous smile when they came to the door.

Some of us, weren’t as enthusiastic.

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This is Second Born Son inside the house, while THIS…

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Was going on outside. While I was dancing around greeting every trade who stepped on the property, SBS was ready to pack his Chicken Little suitcase and head out for the duration of the reno. We have convinced him to stick around under the condition that he doesn’t have to talk to anyone in the mornings.

Things are progressing nicely. We’ve removed the kitchen cupboards and the flooring.

<PAUSE> Don’t you think we should have a moment of silence for the flooring?

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Me neither. <PLAY>

We gave relocated the kitchen to the laundry room and the upstairs fridge is now in the living room. What this lacks in aesthetic, more than makes up for in convenience. I’ve grabbed two fudgesicles since I started writing this post.

The Big Guy has become quite fond of the new dining arrangement. He feels the convenience of having a laundry room, office and kitchen all in one space is worth considering. I suggested that he can continue to have his meals in this room, but I will be moving into the new and improved kitchen when it is complete.

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I gotta say, it’s nice to stand in the middle of the room and plan entire meal without cumbersome cupboards getting in the way.

During our first meal at our new “dining room table”, we remarked at how agreeable and helpful all of the trades have been, especially our general contractor. This man is a Craftsman. His work site is clean every day. He is a top notch communicator – texting and calling on a regular basis so there are no surprises. He uses common sense, which, I think we can all agree, isn’t so common any more. He thinks outside of the box and comes up with some pretty great ideas, and doesn’t flinch at my nutty suggestions. I make impossible requests and he goes above and beyond.

In the weeks leading up to the project, I stock piled baking because I knew my kitchen would be out of commission for a while. Also, I wanted to have some snacks here for the crew. Last week, thanks to the heat, I switched it up from cookies and muffins to freezies, ice cubes and fudgesicles.

Our Craftsman expressed thanks, pointing out these gestures were not necessary. After all, we did sign a contract agreeing to pay for his services, he pointed out.

“Hey, there’s compensation, and then there’s appreciation,” I replied. He’s making our house into the home we have been waiting for, for a very long time.

I’m keeping in all the freezies he needs!

 

 

 

 

Where to Start?

I realize it has been far too long. There’s been a lot of “stuff” going on. For a while, I wasn’t sure how things were going to shake out, therefore – radio silence.

When we bought this house, we knew it would need work. It was built in 1980 and had not had a lot of love or updating since.

The day we moved in, we stored all of our belongings in the garage and set up the boys’ rooms. We then set to work on ripping out all of the shag carpet and wall to wall curtains that were left behind by the previous owners. Flooring was replaced in the living room and dining room. We put new flooring in the boys’ rooms shortly thereafter.

Within the next few years, we replaced windows, blew in more insulation, updated the landscaping, replaced the pump in the well, put a new metal roof on it and painted every room except the laundry room. The only two spaces that were untouched was the Rec Room and the kitchen.

The Rec Room is a total throwback to the 80s: shag carpet, large stone fireplace, wood paneling for DAYS. Without a doubt, the highlight would be the disco lights.

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Yes, this is a DIY special. Tin foil and Christmas lights. Also, enough custom shelving to fit every cd, dvd and vhs we’ve ever owned. Yes, someone had A LOT of spare time.

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There’s enough stone here for the foundation of an entire house!

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We decided early on to leave the Rec Room as it was. To be truthful, it would be hard to start in this room and not stop. Do you rip out the carpet but leave the paneling? Paint the stone fireplace but tolerate the teeny tiny custom shelving??

We weren’t going to tackle the Rec Room any time soon.

The kitchen. Ah, the kitchen. When we viewed the property before we bought it, there were so many patterns going on, it was almost seizure inducing. It started with the floor.

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Would you believe me if I told you I tried to square up this photo but the room started spinning?

The cupboards were poor quality and the laminate countertops were a lovely shade of regurgitated butterscotch pudding. The only saving grace was the tiled backsplash which was SO old, that it was actually back in style again.

We lost two of our very limited cupboards when we installed a dishwasher. The shelves were starting to submit to gravity. There were several days when I thought I’d come home to our food vessels shattered into pieces on the floor.

Well folks, the time has come. We are doing a renovation/addition that will see the kitchen expanded and the dining room more than doubled. We are putting an extra bedroom and bathroom in the basement, along with an office. It’s going to be big project and we were so excited about this that Second Born Son couldn’t wait to start Demo Day!

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Within minutes these two had pulled down all the railings, the skirting and one of the stairways!

At this rate of going, we’ll have this addition done in a week!

Note: thinking of posting a couple of videos to really show the progression. You can advise when you overdose!

 

 

Crazy? Why, yes, I am.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved Mustangs and Jeeps.

The first new car I purchased when I graduated from college and got a job was a dark green 1991 Mustang Coupe. I was driving a Mercury Tracer that my Dad bought for me.

TRACER

Mine was a two-door but it was dark blue and missing the quaint European-inspired landscape. Dad taught me how to drive stick in this car and this vehicle got me through college.

I had my eye on a sports car and the Mustang had my name all over it.

 

MUSTANG

Unlike this photo, it wasn’t a 5.0, but as this photo shows, the salesman thought the driver should be male. When I told him I wanted standard transmission instead of automatic, the conversation started getting awkward. For him.

“I don’t think you want a standard,” he said, with a knowing tone in his voice. Patronization was the order of the day.

“Actually I do.” I responded. “I’m driving a stick now.”

He’s not listening to me.

“You know, when you bring that car back to me, I’m going to have to sell it as a second car, you know the second car of the household, and that’s usually the wife driving that car, and women just don’t drive standards.”

Crickets.

I give that statement a moment to settle and then I state the obvious.

“Last time I checked, I was a girl. I’m looking at buying this car, not selling it, and I want it to be a standard.”

I loved that car. We called it The Ditch Pig because it was rear wheel drive and it loved the sides of the roadway. When First Born Son came along, we knew we couldn’t keep The Ditch Pig for long. The little bucket seat was barely fitting in the back seat and when the time came for FBS to be front facing, the car was going to have to go. We traded my car for my Dad’s 1990 Lumina.

LUMINA

What I lost in a model year, I gained in a proper back seat. We kept it for a couple of years then moved into a couple of other vehicles. When my Dad was done with The Ditch Pig, Little Sister traded him for it. It was fun to drive and lasted forever.

After the Lumina we had a number of family-friendly vehicles. We even took FBS’s goalie bag to shop for an SUV so we knew it was big enough to handle the oversized bag. Many a weekend we had FBS and Second Born Son’s hockey bags stacked in the back. Vehicles were merely modes of transportation. It had been a long time since I was as excited about driving as I was when I bought my first car.

Then it happened. FBS bought his truck and while he was finalizing the deal, I found myself stepping into a Jeep for a test drive. SBS came with me because was getting sick of all the truck talk. We loved it. Only problem was, it was a two-door and as long as we have a 6’2 kid at home, he needs to fit in our vehicle! The timing wasn’t right and as much as I loved the Jeep, it just wasn’t time.

The reminders were all around us. The Big Guy kept pointing out every. single. time he saw a Jeep. Then we saw THE Jeep.

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It was in a parking lot at Wasaga Beach. I turned to TBG and I said, “THAT’S the Jeep I want.” It was big, it was aggressive looking and had attitude. I was in love. I think I scared TBG, but he was secretly pleased at the same time.

With a little research, I find out it’s a special edition – the 75th Anniversary Edition Unlimited to be exact. A limited number of 2016 and 2017 Wranglers have some custom features that made for a pretty impressive ride.

But, we did already have a vehicle and again, the timing wasn’t right.

Then this happened.

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Perhaps it’s difficult to see, but this was my latest vehicle. It is exactly one car width too far to the right. It’s almost in the flower bed. This is not good. I was trying to back up to gain some moment for a drift ahead of me, when the granular snow pulled me off the driveway. This has never. happened. before. To me, it was a sign.

In January, with some inspired timing, I noticed a new 75th Edition was being discounted at the same dealership FBS had purchased his truck. A couple of phone calls and we had ourselves a deal.

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure we actually had a deal until we were leaving the dealership and were driving the new vehicle home. I gotta say, there was a little bit of shock settling in.

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Yes, it’s black. Three out of the last four vehicles have been black. Yes, TBG likes to wash cars. It has features I didn’t know I’d want and a couple I’m pretty sure I don’t need. Regardless, I’m thrilled with it and love driving again. TBG loves driving it, and while SBS was a little hesitant at first, he’s enjoying it as well. The only draw-back is we had to postpone his driving test so he can have a couple of months to get used to the new wheels.

For the most part, people are usually pleased to hear that someone has a new vehicle. The odd one (emphasis on odd) looks at this beast and thinks I’m going through a mid-life crisis. I would suggest that this is actually what all grown ups aspire to – having the things they can enjoy while they are still young enough to enjoy them. God! That sounds like I’m really getting up there! I just feel that you shouldn’t have to wait until you are retired, or until the kids are married, or until….whenever, before you enjoy some fun things in life. I’ve told TBG that this vehicle is going to last me a long, long time. We’ll enjoy driving with the top down in the summer, and I’ve already put the 4-wheel drive to good use this winter.

So I’m ok with people saying I’m crazy for wanting this vehicle. They don’t have to like it, and they don’t have to pay for it. I’m doing both, gladly.

They probably couldn’t get up into it anyway.

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I Now Pronounce You…

It’s been many moons since The Big Guy and I vowed to fight over blankets and morning routines. Sometimes I look back and shake my head over the things that were deemed important and necessary to have a wedding in the early 90s.

Although there was some small movement away from traditions, (we didn’t have a traditional receiving line – GASP THE HORROR!)  we were pretty conventional. Except, when it came to my name.

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I was drawn back to a conversation I had with my future in-laws about 25 years ago, after reading this article. It seems crazy to me that a quarter of a century after I hyphenated my name, there is still a debate about women taking their husbands’ surnames.

It never occurred to me NOT to take TBG’s name. I just didn’t want to have to give up MY name. For some men, the issue of a woman refraining from linking last names is too big a picture. They need to look at the root of the matter; you are asking someone to change what they call themselves. I was Sarah B for the first 21 years of my life. I was actually called that in classrooms when there was more than one Sarah and we had to tack on the first letter of the last name to distinguish between me and Sarah K. It was a small school and it we knew it was going to be a long year whenever we realized we were in the same class – the only two Sarahs.

I don’t recall a specific moment when I decided I was going to keep my name. I do remember thinking for a while before getting engaged, that there were no males to carry on the family name. It was important to me to carry that on, and to preserve my identity. I had also done some research into the family I was joining and learned that there were not one, but two previous Sarahs. I’d be Sarah The Third with this last name. I didn’t really think about my future kids, but figured we’d sort that out down the line. I know when I told my father of my plan, he was quietly pleased.

But the aforementioned conversation with my soon to be in-laws took place about six months before the wedding. There was a discussion about the service and how we would be introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Big Guy. My oh-so helpful future brother-in-law, who knew of my plan, said, “That’s if Sarah takes TBG’s name.” Two pairs of eyes were on me.

“You AREN’T taking our name?” asked my future MIL with a look of disbelief on her face. My FIL didn’t speak but had an equally perplexed expression.

“No, it’s not that,” I tried to explain, “I’m actually going to hyphenate my name.”

Silence.

“Did you tell TBG this?!” demanded his mother. I stated that we had talked about it, and that he was in complete support. Conveniently, TBG was not in the room for this charming exchange.

This was more than shocking to my future parents-in-law. I don’t think they personally knew of any other woman who had done this, and it was outside their understanding. I’m sure for them it was an insult, but they could have chosen to see it as a young woman who had a more independent mindset, wanting to demonstrate her commitment to her husband, while still being autonomous. It had nothing to do with how much I cared for my fiancé. In fact, the idea that he was supportive of this, and wasn’t threatened by it, made him all the more attractive to me. Gotta love an open-minded man!

On the day of our wedding we were introduced as “Mr. Big Guy and Mrs. Maiden Name – Big Guy.” An easy way to let our family and friends know how I was addressing myself.

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When it was time to have children, the agreement was that they would only have their father’s surname. If they decided they wanted to have a hyphenated name, we would pay to change it. TBG agreed.

Traditionally, women were considered the property of men – that’s why her father would hand her off to her husband on her wedding day; a transfer of ownership – and with that was a name change. Times have changed and the issues surround the surname have become somewhat complicated. When a woman divorces, the dilemma is there – do I change my name back to my maiden name? Do I want to have the same name as my children?

In this era of women fighting for, and being recognized equally in most modern relationships, it seems a little dated to argue over what she calls herself. And a little archaic to insist she have the same moniker as her spouse. Welcome to the 21st Century!

 

 

 

 

The Little Boy Who People Said Couldn’t, Became the Man Who Did

I will never forget this moment for the rest of my life. I’m sitting at a teeny, tiny desk with The Big Guy, First Born Son’s Grade 1 teacher and the school principal. They are trying to tell us that while our son is lovely and polite, cooperative and friendly, he is a poor student. So much so, that the teacher is telling us that she believes he has ADHD.

I remember how I felt in that moment. That they got it wrong. In a big way. Here was a kid who had a vocabulary that rivalled most teenagers. He already knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life; be a farm, drive a truck.

When TBG and I voiced our doubt of this off the cuff diagnosis of his academic failure, we were told we were in denial.

<PAUSE> It is my opinion in this day and age, that the label ADHD is a quick “bandaid” solution that is far from a quick fix. I know people whose children legitimately fall into this category. We also knew from TBG’s aunt, a retired teacher who worked most of her career with ADHD and children on the autism spectrum, that FBS was absolutely NOT ADHD. If this was the case, we absolutely would have followed up on this. We were told we were trying to avoid a problem. I felt it was insulting to children who had this disorder and their families, to simply throw ADHD at parents as a “solution”. <PLAY>

I suggested that he be held back a year, and was told, no, not a good idea, because he would have issues with his peers. I shot back with “you worry about his education and I’ll worry about his social life.” He wasn’t held back.

EDUCATION

They told us we should expect that FBS might not graduate from high school. We should keep our expectations low. You can’t imagine what it’s like to have someone tell you that the future for your child has already been set for him, and it isn’t good.

We knew early on that we would have a struggle with FBS and his academic endeavours. Hours upon tear-filled hours were spent wrestling with math, reading and science. The only class he truly enjoyed, and seemed to do well in, was gym. French was a nightmare, exaserbated by the fact that the French teacher didn’t like that learning didn’t come easily to him. She just wanted to teach the easy learners.

This became a pattern in school; the teachers who didn’t want a challenge, were harsh. The teachers who knew he was trying were kind, but still didn’t know how to help. In Grade 6, a glimmer of hope. The teacher gave him an award for his positivity and outstanding efforts. For the first time since Kindergarten, FBS felt he was good at something in school. It was a turning point. Unfortunately it would take two more years before another teacher would make the effort FBS needed.

In the mean time, his self esteem plummeted. He was frustrated by his lack of ability to understand his school work, which was compounded by bullying that started in Grade 3. So much for keeping him with his peers!

It was his Grade 8 teacher who took the time to look into what was going on with our son. Testing, research and investigation paid off in time for high school where FBS became strong academically. It came down to this; what takes most people three or four times to understand, takes many more times for FBS. He can understand if he ‘s shown HOW to do it, and not simply told. He needs to keep math in front of him throughout high school, especially once he’s determined he wants to get into welding, a skill that requires ALL the math. Learning tools were offered and implemented. We immediately saw a difference in our son, and his schooling, but it would take years before he could truly hit his stride.

In his Grade 12 year, he told his father and me that he wasn’t going to to his graduation. We replied with, “The hell you aren’t!” It was at that time that we told him what was said in Grade 1, that he’d been written off by a system that didn’t take the time to collect students who fall through the cracks. It gave him pause. He didn’t realize how far he’d home; the obstacles he’d faced and triumphed.

He went to his high school graduation. He was an Ontario Scholar, on the Honor Roll and achieved his Specialist High Skills Major. Not bad for a kid who’s highest expectation would be to sweep floors at Tim Hortons.

FBS then applies to college and is accepted at his first choice. He wins not one, but two awards for his outstanding work over his two-year program. It’s obvious the story of his perseverance in elementary school is motivating him in college.

Today he graduated from that program. He’s been hired at a reputable company and will be making more money than I am!

A couple of weeks ago, he decided take some of his saved funds and splurge on his first new vehicle. It’s a truck.

Tonight, as we left a dinner with family to celebrate his graduation, he made a startling revelation.

“You know, I’ve accomplished just about everything I wanted to; I got into the college I wanted, I graduated, I got a job welding and I got a truck. All I need now is a farm!”

We have no doubt that will happen. And we look forward to cheering you on, as you prove everyone wrong.

Congratulations Sweetheart! Could not be prouder!

 

Bathroom Part II

I believe that your relationship will survive anything, if it can survive a renovation.

I say this with ample experience. We had a massive renovation/addition at our previous home that involved our back entrance, master bedroom, kitchen and adding an ensuite. That was almost 15 years ago! Things are looking good for us!

While you “lived” through our emergency bathroom reno from last year, I’m thrilled to let you know that, yes gentle reader, we hate ourselves enough to subject our marriage and family to ANOTHER bathroom renovation. Thank Sweet Baby Jesus that there are only two bathrooms in this house.

Mercifully, there is no dire, structural emergency prompting this reno. Thanks also to the experience (also known as “character building”) of the first bathroom, we are far more prepared for the cost. This time, we are PREPARED!

So let’s start at the beginning…

SHOWER

This is the “shower”, which is only 3/4 of a standard shower, made more difficult to access by the dumbass door which only allows you a foot and a half to squeeze through. The Big Guy and First Born Son took to this bathroom when we moved in, which makes ZERO sense because neither of them can fit under the door frame never mind the shower head. Since the last reno made the upstairs bathroom too “nice”, Second Born Son has taken to showering down here too. Again, at 6’2 this is not logical. ANYWAYS!

TUB

To the right of the door is the Jacuzzi tub. Yes folks Jacuzzi – trademarked and everything. I’m pretty sure this was the first generation, if not the prototype. I tried using it once, and dared not to activate the jets as a quick pre-soak inspection told me everything I needed to know about the condition of the calcified tube work. We were also fairly suspect of the condition of the wiring for the motor after 30+ years.

I’m going to assume you judged me for my poor choice of wall color, but that’s ok, because now you can see there isn’t much you can do with calf-scour brown tiles. Yes, those ARE the same tiles from the upstairs reno. So observant you are! Gold star! 1-inch tile was all the rage in 1983.

You might think the tiles are my favorite feature of this area, and I would say “No, good sir, you are mistaken!” It’s the du-lux hand-held shower modification. It ALWAYS leaked and because a Jacuzzi is not designed to be “shower tub”, water that didn’t hit directly dead centre of the tub, and ended up on the top of the tub, and was instantly redirected around the walls of the enclosure to the floor. Basically, if you tried to bathe in this beast, you’d have a flood on your hands or a fire. Good times.

CLOSET

Here you get a much better angle of the aforementioned shower basterdization modification. You will also see the staining in the tub. Did I mention we have crappy water? Fear not, we spent a small fortune on that too. Nothing like investing in new bathrooms and having them look like century-farm indoor plumbing within a year!

Here you can appreciate how the owner/builders maximized the use of space. Not only did they have a shower installed that could only fit adolescent girls, but they also crammed the world’s smallest linen closet. As we were going to update our doors, TBG pulled this one off as well, only to find out YOU CAN’T ORDER DOORS THIS SMALL ANYMORE. Son of a Doorknob! Yes, I did suggest he go back to the repurpose area of the landfill to reclaim the old door. No, he did not do it. I’m hitting Pinterest hard for a solution. I’m open to suggestions y’all!

SINK TOILET

This is the image that gives me nightmares. We have removed the toilet already, to protect the more sensitive readers amongst you. What remains is what a raw plaster wall looks like when you don’t paint before the plumber comes…30 years later, that is. The shower is to the right of the sink. Not a big room, but a main one as this is the one our guests tend to use. That’s right, we allowed friends and extended family to use this space looking the way it did. Hey, we don’t discriminate!

It was right about this time when I came with an idea! “I’ve got an idea” no longer fills TBG’s heart full of fear, but rather a knowing dread that this “idea” is going to involve him. And perhaps some money.

Originally we were going to close in the dinky shower and use it for a closet, but then I thought, “Why waste the storage space in the bathroom?” While the shower was tiny in its current form, it would make a great pantry for the kitchen which is across from the outer wall!!

Thankfully TBG agreed and made it so.

SIDE BY SIDE

Apparently I like plaster dust throughout my house, because let me tell you, this did it! The attempt at tarping you see in the image on the right was noble, but not as effective as one would hope. Therefore, I’ve suspended any house cleaning until this project is complete. It’s been a month with no end in sight. Don’t drop by, we are days away from being condemned for being a public safety hazard.

DOORWAY

Here he is. The Creator of the dreams I come up with. He spends all his spare time, such as it is, working on this. No comments on the kitchen floor – he doesn’t have time for a kitchen reno right now.

Next year darling???

 

Looking For The Answers

The tone in her voice said it all.

“So, what do you think?!”

Aside from the fact that I had no answers for her, the question bounced around my head. She has questions. Heck we all have questions. I find myself questioning myself more and more lately. Which, I find rather ironic, given the fact that I’m “middle aged” (if I live to 90) and you’d think I’d have my shit figured out.

Nope.

While I’ve gained confidence compared to my early adult years, I certainly would have thought that I would have more answers, more stability and more clarity about the future. I have, thankfully, have developed more confidence in myself, my abilities and my relationships. This, sadly, does not extend to other areas of my life.

Is this the point where the mid-life crisis settles in? When you get frustrated enough with the plan you set out for yourself when you were mere “child” in your 20s that you say “F it” and sell off everything to move to a Caribbean island?

<PAUSE> For the record, my particular skill set is apparently highly coveted and in one week there were two job postings in Jamaica alone that were TAILOR MADE for my skills and abilities.The Big Guy had to talk me off that ledge, let me tell you! <PLAY>

So when “she” came to me with her question, I thought, “She must think I have my act together!” Followed by “Boy, do I have her fooled!”

What did I actually SAY to her? That her decisions are hers alone to make. That this is the beauty of life; that we are the only ones who get to have that kind of power to make those decisions. This also prevents us from hating the individual who gave us the advice.

This doesn’t make our decisions any easier, and leaves us with the nagging questions…