Saturday, August 3, 2013

the sound of my house being worked on

This morning my husband quietly got out of bed early and left me to sleep. An hour or so later I awoke to the sound of the hammer drill. If you don't know what that is, it is basically a hammer infused into a drill and it sounds like a combination of the two. Only louder.

Nathan then walks into the room and softly comes alongside me and says, "do you hear the sound of your house being worked on, Mrs. Thum?"  And as he leaves the room he asks, "do you want some eggs?"

Note: this was not a typical morning.

This morning's first encounter is something I would classify as romance. It's that out-of-the-ordinary gesture of love that takes me by surprise and makes my heart sing. And at this stage of life, the sound of a hammer drill is the perfect accompanist for my singing heart.

I've heard women say lately that living through a renovation has been among the more difficult things in life for them. I usually swoon when they say such things, for alas, someone gets me. Because I'm pretty sure my husband would be perfectly content living in a cardboard box full of dirty laundry, as long as it had a garage full of greasy tools and hardware.

In about a week we will have been caretakers of this church house for three years and it has, for the most part, felt like a difficult three years. So difficult, in fact, that Nathan and I started seeing a counselor. That's right, our renovation actually drove us into therapy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining and I am definitely not ashamed. I am so thankful that I married a man who appreciates counseling as a healthy part of life and wanted it as much as I did (read: single ladies, seek this quality in a mate). I will tell anyone who will listen that we go to counseling because I hope it will encourage them to do it, too. I believe that going to counseling doesn't mean we have a bad marriage or one that is in trouble, it actually means that we have a good and healthy one. And I believe that absolutely everybody has stuff to unpack.

Fast-forward from the stressful, frustrating, divisive place that we found ourselves in as a result of living in a construction zone. Scroll through the weeks our counselor described as detox, in which things got worse before they got better. Pause on this morning, where I wanted to wake up grumpy and offended from a conversation my husband and I had last night about insurance, of all things, but couldn't in light of his sudden romance.

This morning all I could do was smile and feel utter gratitude and happiness, and I couldn't help but wonder if I was feeling that simply because things were so hard for a while. Would I take the hammer drill, sweat and sore muscles for granted if they were just expected? If I were so privileged that construction workers were always traipsing through the house and bathrooms were being efficiently constructed in less than 6 months, would I forget to stop and realize that it is happening because my husband loves me? Because I can't think of anything that feels more like love than a gladly given sacrifice.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

video blog 6: a preview

We have been working on our made-from-scratch upstairs bathroom for about 2 months now. When people ask about it, we just say, "slow and steady wins the race." Some things we can knock out so fast, but most things take a lot longer than we thought. There have been times when the project seems so big we have to stop altogether, take a deep breath and a break.

When I was younger-- in high school and college--  I used to cut hair for people because I kind of liked it and I was pretty good at it, but one thing I would always make sure I told the person is that "I am not a professional." I could do a good job and I worked for free but it would take three or four times longer than if they had just gone to a salon. Building this bathroom is just like that. It is taking seemingly forever to finish what we started but our labor is free and as we look around at the progress we are making we cannot help but see how beautiful it will become.

Lately we have had to "bite the bullet," as we say around here and spend our money on the fixtures that will make the most impact when it is all said and done. Faucets, lights, tiles, oh my! We have saved so much money doing labor ourselves but when we thought about cutting corners and buying cheap fixtures, we had to draw the line. I have heard it said that "hardware is the jewelry of your home." As cheesy as that sounds, it is kind of true. Our shower faucets were just delivered and I swear I lit up when I saw them. It was almost better than jewelry. Almost.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

video blog 5: a day in the life of green thum, inc.

It is mid-April and we are getting slammed with what I hear is more snow than we've had all winter. But when you live in the ice box of the nation, you don't really take snow days.

Monday, April 8, 2013

video blog 4: custom shower

Building a custom shower can seem really intimidating (it did to me!) but it is actually relatively inexpensive and simple. Our shower will be seven feet (84 in.) by about three-and-a-half feet (40 in.), which is huge, and it will have a heated floor, which is extravagant. We were already heating the entire upstairs so the cost of building that into the shower was almost nothing. With the cost of lumber, the rubber pan liner, pre-pitch (a $30 splurge since we wanted the pitch to be correct and even) and concrete this shower has run approximately $175. I priced ready-made acrylic pans, that only spanned about 5 feet, at anywhere from $175- $600 and in the end they still look cheap.

I would say that my biggest piece of advice for anyone taking on this project would be to watch a ton of YouTube videos. I honestly don't know how people did DIY home projects before YouTube...

Friday, March 22, 2013

video blog 3: rules of Thum

Yesterday Nate and I finally agreed on a stone for our bathroom vanity. We learned a lot through the process and I have developed a few rules of Thum that I would offer up as advice and that I will take with me the next time we are in the market for a stone counter surface.

Rule #1: be nice. This works any time you are shopping for anything and especially something that requires a service to be performed (like stone fabrication). We stopped into one fabricator to ask about price and to look at remnant slabs and we got to talking with this guy, Xavier. Nathan is always getting to talking with people and I think that is one of the greatest things about him. Anyway, at one point Xavier opened up about the fact that if you walk into his store and you are cold or demanding then you get one price, but if you are nice then you get another price. He quoted us the nice guy price and it was really competitive. Sales people and fabricators want to work with and help out the nice guy and I can't blame them. If you are a jerk then there just might be a hidden surcharge.

Tips for being nice:

  • Take your time and make small talk.
  • Ask questions about the person's personal life or their profession. "How long have you been doing this?" or "Is that a picture of your dog? What breed is he/she?"
  • Everybody likes to be the expert about something so if you make them the expert then they will feel good. And they are the expert on stones. 
  • Ask, "How's your day going?" Then ask follow-up questions.
  • People are inclined to like you if they think you like them. So smile and act like you like them. Better yet, find something you can genuinely appreciate about the person and they will feel appreciated.

Rule #2: location, location, location. We found that the price for a stone slab or remnant was much cheaper in a location where there was a high concentration of suppliers. When we checked at showrooms that were further away from "granite row," where the competition was stiff, the price was much higher. Like hundreds of dollars.

Rule #3: you pay for pretty showrooms. Whenever we walked into a place that had a sexy showroom with samples, showcases and beautiful salespeople galore, the price of the stone product was higher. We could usually tell when we walked into a building if we would be able to afford their stones. These rules are not hard and fast, by any means. For example, Xavier's showroom was beautiful and they had a great logo but they offered one of the best prices we found on fabrication (granted, that was the nice guy price). 

Rule #4: money talks, cash walks. This is the primary content of today's video blog and the point is this: there is the price of a product and then there is the price of a product if you pay in cash today. Always let the person in charge know that you want to deal in in cash up front. If they give you a price and you feel like they could go lower because of your comparison shopping or because of the vibe you are getting, it doesn't hurt to ask, "Would you take $X in cash?" Nathan and I find that, most of the time, they say yes. Or they give you a price that meets in the middle. Even at big-box stores we have found this to be true. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

video blog 2: stone shopping

Nathan and I are "maximisers." That is, we feel the need to see everything that is out on the market before we make a purchase. This also means that it takes for ever for us to make a big decision like buying a stone counter top. Yesterday we had no idea how to shop for stones or how the process of turning a big rock into your bathroom vanity works but today we discovered "Granite Row" in Denver, where we waded through a seemingly endless sea of stone slabs, and we are starting to get a sense for how the it all works. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

video diary 1.1

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the time and the words to explain what is happening around here at the Church House, so I am starting a video blog series. If a picture says a thousand words, maybe a video will say it all...