Moving to a New House: The Final Act

When she came home at the end of the school year in May to find moving boxes still on the floor of her mother’s office and pictures stacked against the walls, my youngest daughter finally realized she needed to take matters into her own hands.

By that point, we’d been in the new house for well over a year and had ample time to settle in. We’d bought it in the beginning of 2016 and officially moved in that March, but some remodeling continued through April. So, while there were new carpets and refinished hardwood flooring and pretty much every square inch of wall space and trim had a fresh coat of paint, I still couldn’t bring myself to hang pictures on the walls or find a home for boxes of knickknacks I’d dragged from our old house.

In the past, my home interior design aesthetic veered towards the busy; I loved color and patterns and whimsy and never met a picture frame or window treatment I didn’t love. But in the new house I was hoping to tame those baser instincts and instead go for a cleaner, more grown up (if you will) vibe. I painted all the walls a pale, pale greige and only put blinds on a few windows for privacy purposes. I had no problem unpacking boxes of pots and pans and office supplies, but had no idea what to do with all the sentimental doodads I’d amassed over the years, which then sat on the floor of my office for months.

I had a big moving box filled with all the photo albums I carefully curated throughout the 1990s to document my children’s lives — which they then thoughtlessly pulled apart in the following decade — leaving countless empty plastic sleeves and visual gaps between Christmases and Easters of long ago. There were smaller boxes filled with all the overflow photos from a time when you’d pay a little extra to get doubles when you got your film developed, and then ended up with more copies than you’d ever need of people looking away at the last minute or errant fingertips.

Another box contained binders full of news clips I’d written over the years. Carefully clipped articles I wrote for my college newspaper were stuffed in folders alongside pieces I’d written for journalism courses, typed on thin sheets of typing paper with comments along the margins from various professors who suggested stronger ledes or less adjectives when describing, say, the university’s mineral collection.

And then there was the box holding all the weird chatchkas I’d assembled over the last 25 years. The colorful collection of wooden cats my younger daughter and I had taken to bringing home for each other from trips; the street sign from the first house we lived in the town we’ve called home for almost 23 years; a jar of seaglass I gathered off Stanley Beach on our last day in Hong Kong, amazed that there could be so much worn down glass in one place – a seemingly never-ending supply – and wondering how exactly the Chinese people disposed of glass bottles and jars; and a weird amount of signs with positive affirmations folks have given me over the years ranging from “Don’t Forget to be Awesome” to “The Ocean Fixes Everything.”

As is my wont, I learned to accept the boxes and wall hangings that took up a fair amount of real estate in my new office and went about starting and abandoning a host of other projects. It’s pretty standard that I’d go through the entire moving process – from getting my old house ready to sell to packing up 13-years’-worth of Legos and hair elastics to overseeing a new kitchen and bathroom remodel – but stall at the very end. Like, after picking out cabinets and appliances, why was it so hard to hang things on the walls?

One of the things I love about our new house is that it has lots of nooks and crannies for people to get lost in. It’s a Tudor-style built in 1929 and unlike houses built today, with big open spaces, our house has lots of clearly-defined rooms separated by walls and doorways. And while we struggled in the bedroom department – I needed to figure out how to stuff 5 grown people into 3 bedrooms – there was a fair amount of living space to spread out in.

Initially, I thought I’d make the sunny room running along the back of the house another place to watch TV. The former owners took advantage of the great light the room gets at all hours of the day and used it as a kind of sun porch; a great place to sit and chat or read or watch TV. But I already had one or two of those rooms and really, who even watches TV on a TV nowadays? Then, when I was trying to figure out where to set up my writing desk and wondering whether I could squeeze it into this new sitting room, it occurred to me that THE WHOLE ROOM COULD BE MINE. I could make it my office and fill it with all the things I love: my books, my pictures and my doodads.

I bought a couple of bookcases from Ikea (the Liatorp) to hold all my books and my printer and some office supplies. A set of drawers from World Market to store smaller supplies and stuff like notecards and stamps. And a super groovy and comfortable Lucite desk chair from IKEA that balances the heavy desk that was from my younger sister’s childhood bedroom but that I’ve repainted and repurposed a number of times since I acquired it 25 years ago.

And then, I proceeded to store anything I didn’t know what to do with in the room for six more months until I bought a reading chair from Ballard Design and needed to make room for its arrival. It’s my dream piece of furniture. Something I’ve lusted after for years. I fantasized about curling up on a cold winter afternoon to read a good book or propping myself up on pillows to work on my laptop. In other words, it would become my downstairs bed.

But to prepare for my beloved’s arrival, I needed to get hella boxes out of my office and this coincided with my younger girl’s arrival home for the summer, who helped get my butt into gear. She’s super a little bit bossy and a lot taller than I am so she uses that height to her advantage. She’s all about threats and intimidation. She said she’d help me create a picture gallery on the wall near my desk but told me that first, I had to get to work unpacking those final boxes.

So one weekend in May, I got tough on a lot of the crap I’d been hanging onto for years and filled up a number of contractor’s bags with signs about cats and picture frames I bought at Marshall’s in the late ‘90s. Then, I went to Target and bought a long storage piece with 8 baskets into which I shoved all the photos and wooden cats and other things I couldn’t figure out what to do with but wasn’t willing to part with, either.

And then we went through all the pictures stacked on the floor and finally found places to hang them on walls throughout the house. When we were done, all that was left was my collection of really special pieces that friends and family had given to me that I’d been dreaming of making a wall gallery out of for years next to my desk.

So that’s what we did. We spread them out of the now-clear floor of my office to figure out how they should be grouped and when it seemed a little finky (adj: a word used by a friend’s mother to mean not enough or sparse or just plain lacking in something), we grabbed things off my bookshelves to give a little oomph to the project. I threw in a sign my baby from another lady embroidered for me along with that old street sign and grabbed my favorite sign about teenagers that sat on the windowsill in my old kitchen for years. We finished it off with a random mirror I bought at an antiques store last summer in Woodstock when I had visions of recreating the amazing Airbnb we stayed in; and finally, we added a framed illustrated print my bestie gave me of all-time-favorite books from my childhood (hello Forever).

To make sure the display would transfer from the floor to the intended wall, my daughter traced each object on a big roll of brown paper, which she then cut out and arranged on the wall using blue painter’s tape. We moved them around a bit and adjusted the spacing and when we thought it looked just right, used Command Strips to hang everything up on the wall. That part was my girl’s job because she is all about measuring tape and a level and I am all about taking chances and regret.

We kinda think we killed it.

We were so impressed with ourselves, we made another gallery situation on another wall in the office, this time using picture frames I’d bought at Target, like, three years ago that sat in the basement of my old house. Sadly, they’ve been up for about two months and – true to form – I still haven’t put pictures in them. The daughter is not pleased.

And for our final act, we decided that all the remaining signs of affirmation and children’s artwork I’ve been clinging to all these years would look perfect on the stairway leading down to the basement.

And it does (although this picture is horrible due to the tight angle of the stairway).

We’ve taken a break from our mad wall gallery making and buying bulk packs of Command Strips at Costco. I’m thinking we might be at our gallery limit for one house but then again, I am a firm believer that you can never have enough of a good thing. I’ve got my eye on the wall along the stairway leading upstairs or maybe on one of the halls on our upstairs landing, which remain blank while I ponder my options.

Obviously, I need to hurry up and make up my mind about what I want to do before the girl goes back to school next month because I have no idea how to work a level. Or measure, for that matter.

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That’s What Friends Are For

Little Mommies to the rescue!!

Where would I be without friends like the Little Mommies??

In the end, for as much as I’d thought packing up our house to move would be a team effort – I mean, what’s the point of having four kids if not to use as manual labor – the bulk of boxing 13 years of our lives turned out to be a one-man operation. Or should I say, one-woman?

Sure, the four kids did pack up their own bedrooms, which was interesting as each child employed strategies for moving that reflected his or her personality. The two girls were all business — leaving behind neat stacks of cardboard boxes and empty closets when they returned to school for spring semester — while my oldest son waited until close to moving day and then paid his younger brother to help him pack. And that youngest child, who at 13 still struggles with putting his dirty basketball shorts in the hamper each night, had a closet full of clothes on the day the movers arrived but had also carefully labeled boxes he actually had packed – filled with his stash of wooden swords and golden Mickey Mouse ears in homage of Star Wars’ c3pO – as “Sentimentals” and “Sentimentals 2.”


Sentimental items rated not one but two boxes for my 13yo.

And I do not wish to neglect mentioning that my oldest daughter drove eight hours home the weekend before the move with her roommate and spent two full days packing the remainder of our kitchen, color coding all boxes with bright duct tape that correlated to the rooms they were to be stored in the new house and creating a master list noting the contents of each box (so I know that Box #43 contains our crockpot and mulling ball, labeled PINK to head to the living room, and Box #5 – with a GREEN piece of tape indicating it was to go to the office – is labeled Holy Box, which contains a crucifix I received as a wedding gift 25 years ago that I don’t quite know what to do with along with a holy water font) . It’s amazing what can happen when two extremely Type A women are handed clipboards. There was no stopping them.

My younger girl got trapped with me one Saturday during the holidays down in our crawlspace as we weeded through a sea of Rubbermaid boxes filled with Halloween decorations – giant rubber hands on spikes and Styrofoam tombstones – and 20-year-old collection of my oldest son’s Brio Thomas the Tank Engine set (why, hello Percy and Henry), trying to determine where all of it was to go. By the end of the day the basement was filled with piles to be sold (an old Target trestle table and oodles of Skylander figures), thrown out (sorry K’NEX) or dragged to the new house for sentimental purposes (my youngest child is not the only sentimental person in the house and so I decided I could not part with the iron beds my daughters slept on when they were young).

So, the kids did do their part but the majority of figuring out what to do with a lifetime of stuff fell on me. And I mean, I guess that just makes sense and honestly, I don’t know if things would have been much different if I was still married. When we moved 13 years earlier, I was seven months pregnant with our fourth child and don’t really remember my then-husband doing much of the packing and unpacking. He was off at work while I weeded through old onesies and a mountain of American Girl merchandise determining what was coming along.

I thought my strategy for this move seemed at first quite brilliant: as we were planning on staying in our old house for a month after we closed on the new house, I reasoned the kids and I could slowly move all the boxes into the new place while they were home over winter break and then I’d hire movers to handle the big furniture. But, as you may have heard, the best laid plans are often shot to shit during the execution of such and, alas, our closing was delayed for weeks and my strong daughters returned to school in January without moving nary a box.


One of the things that held me back for a long time from ending my marriage was the prospect of being alone. I worried I’d never find someone else. That I’d end up by myself surrounded by stacks of books and cats. And for the most part, so far that’s kinda what’s happened. I mean, the books are all in boxes now and I only have one cat, but it’s been about seven years since my ex-husband moved out and I haven’t really found anyone to share my life with. I guess you could say that in a way, my worst fears have been realized.

Yet strangely, I’ve never felt less alone.

Since my divorce, I’ve made some really wonderful friends and deepened friendships that already existed. One reason might be that I have more time for friends. I don’t have to worry about making a partner jealous of time spent with others. But I think what separates my friendships now versus when I was married is that these relationships are much more authentic than before. I am much more honest – whether through my writing or in person – about things in my life being frankly less-than-perfect. There’s a lot less bullshit now.

Had it not been for the strong group of friends who surrounded and supported me during my divorce – who called me on their way to work each morning or ran by my side through the woods along icy trails and listened to me spill out the latest atrocity or let me lie on their couch and cry while feeding me tea and wine – I don’t know if I’d have come out the other end with my wits about me. I don’t know how strong I would have ended up becoming.

“The middle years are the loneliest period of life,” I heard reported the other day on my radio while listening to a story on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” The piece on how essential friendships are in midlife shared that “friends are key to our survival not only emotionally but biologically.”

Amen to that.

The segment continued, “Those with a network of friends live longer, recover faster from cancer and even preserve their memories better than those with few or no friends.”

I’m not so sure about the memory part – because I am lucky I remember to put on underwear lately which I totally attribute to old age – but am certain they should have added divorce to that list of life’s challenges made just a little easier by having a strong network of friends.


My movers were scheduled to come on a Thursday in mid-February and at the beginning of that week, an army of mommies arrived on a cold, wet snowy morning to move boxes to my new house. This is the group of friends I have taken to referring to, with great affection, as my “Little Mommies.” They’re the girls whose oldest kids are my youngest child’s age and with whom I sit on the beach in the summer and drink margaritas and watch our boys bob for hours in the ocean atop their boogie boards as we discuss pressing issues like Botox and our periods.

That morning their army of minivans and SUVs pulled up and the Little Moms piled out and started hauling my belongings to the new house. In a couple of hours they’d moved a majority of the boxes that had filled most of the den and deposited them in their color-coded areas in my new place.

“Looks like the cavalry is here,” I overheard one of the electricians working in my new kitchen say to a coworker as he watched about 10 women unloading boxes and lamps from the line of vehicles parked in front of the house.

The Cavalry has arrived.

The Cavalry has arrived.

On Tuesday, my friend Janine came over in the morning and helped me remove swinging lamps from the walls and pack up all the Fios cable boxes and wrapped the cords so efficiently that I tasked her with making all the cords in the house neat and tidy. My friend Dan, the famous Girl Whisperer, came over in the afternoon and he and my oldest son – who’d taken the day off from work to finish packing – hauled some larger items over to the new house in his pickup. He helped find a new home for my big, round table I use for parties and six folding chairs and tried valiantly to help me get a set of wire shelves down the stairs to use in the basement (we failed).

On Wednesday, The Knitters arrived with coffee and donuts instead of needles and yarn and pretty much moved everything else that wasn’t nailed down. That morning, instead of sitting around someone’s kitchen table gabbing and eating yogurt and granola and pretending to knit while talking about life – as we have two Wednesdays a month for the last 6 or 7 years – The Knitters opted to pack table lamps and flat-screen televisions into their cars and carry them into my new house.

Listen, I know it’s kinda trite to say that it takes the proverbial village to do anything nowadays but, man, it really did take a small community of people to help get us out of our old house and into the new one. Friends who just showed up, sometimes unannounced and sometimes bearing donuts, to lend a hand.

And then the movers came on Thursday and I kind of fell apart.

That morning, four very large men arrived at my door that morning and started taking apart beds and wrapping side tables in plastic and every time I resumed packing up my bathroom – all the Band Aids and hair ties and dental floss – I’d hear one of them yell, “Amy!” and suddenly, I felt very alone and overwhelmed by the entire undertaking. Even though I’d had SO MUCH HELP in the days leading up to the move, there were still SO many last minute things that needed to happen to make a clean exit from the place we called home for 13 years. Our stuff just oozed into every corner of the place. There was still a giant, red lacrosse net in the backyard and my bathroom drawers were filled with a decade’s-worth of Laura Mercier products and Q-tips and – just when I thought the kitchen was empty – I discovered the dishwasher was full of dirty dishes.

But it was my youngest child’s room that really did me in. That pushed me over that teary-eyed ledge I’d been teetering on for days into full-sob mode. Ugly cry galore.

Thirteen years earlier I’d moved in and painted the smallest of our four bedrooms yellow to welcome my fourth baby. I’d bought new bumpers for the old white crib used by all of my babies and put the old glider – that I’d gotten as a gift from my husband for my 26th birthday right before the birth of our first child – in a corner of the room. It’s where I spent many nights nursing that baby while the rest of the house slept and rocked him to sleep, feeling the pressure of his tiny head on my shoulder.

That baby, that room, that house. They were everything I’d wanted in my mid-30s. I wanted all of the trimmings of a certain kind of life and thought that those were the ingredients for happiness. I pinned a lot of hopes and dreams on the family that I’d created and moving out of that house was the final nail in the coffin of those dreams. It was time to officially close that chapter of my life.

And that’s when the sob that had been simmering in my chest for days burbled up my throat and came out as a gasp that echoed in the empty room.

“AMY!” yelled one of the men from downstairs, and that’s when I knew I needed help. I couldn’t do it alone. At that moment, I needed someone to hold my hand.

And in no time, two dear friends arrived and started packing up all my shoes and cleaning the crumbs out of the bottom of my toaster oven. They accompanied me to the new house later as the movers began cramming all the big stuff into the rooms already filled with the boxes moved earlier in the week. As many of my best-laid plans began to fall apart – the furniture I was going to use for my youngest son was way too big for his new room and those iron beds I couldn’t part with a few months earlier needed to find a home in my storage-challenged new home – my friends helped me make quick decisions and then move on.


I’ve learned to do a lot of things by myself since my marriage ended. I’ve had to figure out how to dispose of dead critters in my pool and shovel snow from my driveway. I comfortably navigate gatherings of couples as a single person and even sailed around Greece on my own. And it was just me standing alongside the man I’d married almost 20 years before in front of a judge on a hot day in July when we ended our marriage for good.

It’s good to know you can handle things on your own. To know you are capable of tackling whatever life throws your way. But it’s also good to know that you have a couple of people quietly cheering for you from the sidelines and will be at your side in a flash should the need arise.

I think a lot of my strength has come from knowing I have people in my life who I can count on. Folks who have my back. And probably, that’s what I really needed all along. I didn’t need someone to celebrate Valentine’s Day with or be my de facto plus-one. What I really needed was someone who was on my side.

What I really needed, it turns out, was a friend.

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Home Sweet Home

IMG_1033It’s 10:00 on a Tuesday morning and I am hiding off in a side room that will some day be my office trying to concentrate on writing this while a man in a nearby room is working with a power drill. Or a saw. Just know it’s something very loud.

I’m surrounded by stacks of boxes filled with God-only-knows-what at this stage of the game and everything – the boxes, the wall moulding and even the palms of my hands as I type this – is covered in a fine layer dust.

Welcome to Week 7 of my new house renovation — or what I fondly refer to as “hell” — which has spiraled into something way more than I’d anticipated and confirming the assertion I’d made the day I moved out of my old house that I am never –ever — doing any of this again. They are taking me out of here in a bag.

And to be honest with you – TBH to the kids – I can think of worse places to drop dead. When it’s done and all the men and their filthy work boots are no longer stomping through here, my new house will be everything I wanted it to be. It will be a cozy and welcoming place for my children to visit and some day for my grandchildren to come stay with me and learn how to bake and read books together. There’s even room for a new Mr. Amy when he finally makes an appearance.

But it’s been an undertaking. As one of the guys who’s been here sawing and drilling most days said this morning, it’s not like the work has been relegated to just a room or two. My whole house, he observed, was under siege.


You don’t even want to know what the state of this bathroom was before I took it back from the workers. #ew

As a result, the boxes that an army of mommies helped me cart out of my old house in the days before the movers arrived remain piled throughout the house.


Behold, the view I enjoy when I open my eyes each morning.

My bed is in a pile of frames and box springs in the middle of my bedroom covered in a plastic tarp along with assorted other pieces of furniture and my kitchen consists of a toaster oven and microwave propped on a former end table in my future office. The upside is that I find myself getting into the shower immediately nowadays so I’m ready for the onslaught of workers each day brings and the downside is that my favored uniform of black and gray garb is no match for all the dust the workers produce each day. I always seemed to be smudged with dirt.

During the first few weeks of construction following the closing on the house, I was able to rent our old house back from my buyers while we packed up 13 years of our lives. But then our buyers needed us out so they could get going on work they had planned on that house so by mid-February we were looking for some place to stay while the new house was in the early stages of construction. The taking apart stage, rather than the putting back together stage. There was no way we could live in the middle of that.

Ultimately, my two boys moved in with their dad for a few weeks and I began my life as a nomad. I stayed at my sister’s for a bit and cat sat for friends over the long Presidents’ Day weekend. I drifted to a couple of other friends’ and back to my sister’s and occasionally took the boys out for a meal. It was like I’d become a divorced dad.

During my two-week odyssey I found myself going to sleep most nights in somebody’s son’s room. I slept on Star Wars sheets surrounded by a room full of Marvel Comics characters and a teen boy’s surfer-inspired platform bed. But my longest stint was back at my sister’s in her 5-month-old baby’s room. With the baby. I went to bed each night nestled under pirate-themed sheets and feeling as if i was about to be engulfed by a giant wave courtesy of the sound machine my sister uses to help the baby fall asleep. I wish I could report my dreams were filled with Pirates of the Caribbean-type adventures with me carousing with Captain Jack – or even better, Orlando Bloom – but instead my nightly musings focused more on backspashes and paint colors.

But last week, my little guy and I slept in the new house for the first time. It was weird that first night, sitting in the office/kitchen on stools from our old house and enjoying what my son refers to as a “freezer dinner” (thank you, Trader Joe’s). As I filled his plastic cup with the milk we keep in the handy basement frig we inherited, I told him I thought it was just like camping.

“It’s really not,” he shot back.

It was quiet without the drone of the nightly news that’s usually accompanying our dinners and after we’d thrown all our plates away we retreated to chairs set up in the future family room and sat side-by-side wearing headphones and watching our laptops. Nothing like bonding with a 13yo boy.

My college daughter arrived home for Spring Break at the end of the week and was aghast at the prospect of a whole week of freezer dinners. She was hoping for more of a “real meal.” So we ordered Chinese food on Friday night. I did, however, buy the girl a power screwdriver after she complained her hands hurt from putting together all the Ikea furniture we bought last week for my son’s bedroom. Never let it be said I don’t take care of my girl.


The one room in the house that’s somewhat put together, ironically for the one person who probably could care less.

But despite the boxes and the workers and the never-ending dust, it’s good to be home. I missed my children and being in our own space and believe it or not, I even kind of missed our cat (we shipped her down in Virginia to stay with my daughter and is enjoying spring semester). It’s good to have at least some of us under one roof again. And some day – much like childbirth or previous home renovation projects – this whole period will seem like one big blur. All the trips down to the basement frig to get milk for my coffee and drifting off all those nights to the sounds of crashing waves will begin to fade from my memory, much like the endless rounds of baths and bedtime stories with little ones all those years ago.

Like most everything else, it will be over in a blink.

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Take a Peek Inside My New House

IMG_0490When we last spoke, I was telling you about the house I just bought. You know the one, the Not-Too-Big, Not-Too-Small, Just-Right-House? The one with personality to spare?

Anyway, since then I’ve had a bunch of people tell me they’d love to get a virtual tour of the joint, and as all I really think about these days is the house – from paint colors to appliances to exactly where my daughter’s giant, queen-sized Ikea bed is going – I thought this would be an easy thing for me to start to share. Please note that all “before” photos I swiped off Zillow and are courtesy of the former owners and their realtor.

I can't even.

All that ivy and the copper bay window? Sigh. I can’t even.

First of all, the house was built around 1929 by someone – one of my friends joked he had to be Italian – who was freaked out by fire as no wood was employed in its construction. Instead, both the exterior AND INTERIOR walls were built of bricks and cement block and the floors (both first and second ) sit on top of steel, like, girders and a layer of concrete. I mean, it’s nuts and something – I’ve come to learn – you don’t really see in suburban New Jersey houses. Apparently this type of construction is seen more in city brownstones and the few houses in town that this guy built — including the house next door to me — are kinda anomalies.

“It’s tornado-proof,” my builder told me the first time he came to look at the house, and while his head shaking made me a little wary, it also made me feel kinda safe. I mean, even though it will probably prove challenging nailing stuff to its walls, I can rest easy knowing no Big Bad Wolf will ever be able to blow my house down. I am legit bullet proof now.

I’d also like to note that the house was beautifully cared for by its former owners, who made super-smart additions and improvements to it in the almost-40 years that they lived there. I keep discovering all sorts of wonderful features, from lights in closets to beautiful ceiling molding throughout the house that make me appreciate their attention to detail.

One of the things I like most about the house is that, unlike many more modern houses that embrace the “open floor plan,” my house boasts many smaller rooms. Lots of nooks and crannies to go off and, say read a book or write a blog post (or when it comes to my kids, watch Netflix).

When my youngest sister – who’s in her mid-30’s with two little kids – first came to check out the house, she only saw walls she wanted to knock down. “I’d open this whole thing up,” she said, pointing to the wall that separates my living room and sun porch.

See that wall behind the couch in the living room? The one with the giant mirror (it's not a doorway)? That's what separates me from the inmates.

See that wall behind the couch in the living room? The one with the giant mirror (it’s not a doorway)? That’s what separates me from the inmates.

I promptly told her she was crazy.

But when I was her age, that’s exactly what I did to the house we were living in. We knocked the wall down between the dining room and kitchen and widened the doorways of our living room and den, thus opening up the whole first floor.

Here’s what parents of young children – who want to be able to monitor their little ones toddling around while they make dinner and make sure that their 9-year-olds aren’t watching Family Guy – don’t understand: there will come a day when all that togetherness will get kinda old. They’ll want walls – ones made of brick and cement – between them and their increasingly-surly-faced children. While it seems a good idea early on to bring the family-bed concept downstairs to the living area, there comes a time when you just want to watch the evening news without Lester Holt being drowned out by the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars or work on your laptop without someone frying an egg five feet away. Some day Family Guy will be the lest of your concerns, I’d like to tell them.

That wall between my new living room and sunporch will give me space to set up my desk to write in my own private office space and no longer have to squeeze clever thoughts in while sitting at my kitchen table and telling people where to find more milk. I will be blissfully unaware of frying eggs and what Leslie Knope is up to in Season 5 of Parks and Rec.

I'll set my desk and books up in this room, that seems to stay bright at all hours of the day and has enough windows to provide hours of distraction from Facebook.

I’ll set my desk and books up in this room, that seems to stay bright at all hours of the day and has enough windows to provide hours of distraction from Facebook.


Window treatments down and ready for painting.

Window treatments down and ready for painting.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the things about the new house that turned me off early on was its small, dated kitchen. But I’m a spoiled brat. We redid our kitchen about 10 years ago with lots of bells and whistles and it still felt new to me. I still loved being greeted by all those creamy cabinets reaching to the ceiling and shiny granite countertops when I came downstairs each morning. And we lived at our island, where we hang out and eat most of our meals. It’s a big part of our day-to-day.

In contrast, the kitchen in the new house was small and had soffits between the cabinets and the ceiling, with limited cabinet space and nowhere to sit and eat your cereal.

I would have loved this kitchen back when I first married with its painted white cabinets and Hunter green counters.

This kitchen would have made me swoon back when I first married with its painted white cabinets and Hunter green counters.


There was only one solution: the wall between the kitchen and the dining room had to go.

The kitchen is to the left of the dining room in this photo.

The kitchen is to the left of the dining room in this photo. Check out the parquet wood flooring that runs throughout the house.

Not only would that brighten the kitchen up a bit but would also give us a place to pull up some stools.

So a few days after I bought the house, this happened.

Here's the view from dining room into kitchen. Please enjoy the extremely sturdy walls, cement floor and hapless radiator.

Here’s the view from dining room into kitchen. Please enjoy the extremely sturdy walls, cement floor and hapless radiator.


And the view towards the dining room:

The kitchen will now benefit for the two casement windows in the dining room and the deep bay window as a focal point.

The kitchen will now benefit from the two casement windows in the dining room and have the deep bay window as a focal point.

The sink will now be centered under the pretty kitchen window flanked by a dishwasher and pull out trash bin.

The sink will now be centered under the pretty kitchen window flanked by a dishwasher and pull out trash bin, with a peninsula running between the kitchen and eating area with plenty of room for a few stools so I can resume my role as short-order cook.


My mom and sister would have liked to see more walls go down or doorways moved to accommodate a better layout and make the kitchen a little less choppy, the way they do in magazines and on HOUZZ. But in the end, because I didn’t really want to spend any more money and was wary of the challenges presented by those brick and cement walls, I decided to work with what I had and consider the choppy new layout part of the house’s many charms. I can live without perfect.

So, with about nine days before all of our belongings are moved into this chaos, some things are moving pretty quickly. Wallpaper has come down from the hallways throughout the first and second floors and the painters are painting every inch of the interior — even closets and ceilings. I’m staying in this house forever so I’m hoping this is one and done in that department.

I also hired someone to refinish the floors throughout the house and replace the white tiles in the kitchen and back hall with the same parquet design in the rest of the house. I am thrilled with the results thus far.

I was very tempted to go with Ebony or Jacobean stains but am glad in the end I went with the slightly lighter Dark Walnut. Anything else would have been too dark in my house.

Darker stains, like Ebony or Jacobean, tempted me but am glad in the end I went with the slightly lighter Dark Walnut. Anything else would have been too dark in my house.


So that’s where we are with the downstairs right now. Pretty much, there are a whole lotta dudes traipsing in and out of my sweet house doing unmentionable things in my potty and leaving cigarette butts on my lawn. But it is what it is and I know it will all be worth it in the end.

I’ll share what’s going on upstairs with you soon. And if you have tips — for moving, renovating or surviving said renovation — by all means, share.

I could use all the help I can get.

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In Which I’ve Become Goldilocks Or: Everything is Just Right


Be still, my heart.

Lo and behold, I bought a house. Well, first I sold my old house, and then I bought the new one. And on a scale of 1 to 10, if we had to rate the events in our lives that caused us the most amount of stress – with divorce being a full-on 10 and middle school basketball games clocking in at about an 8.5 – I’d put real estate transactions right up there at around a 7 and change.

Seriously, what’s really going to do me in is the packing up my home of 13 years to move – which I’d peg at around Stress Level 8.5 – and trying to fix up my new home prior to the movers getting here. In other words, I need to get it from the war-torn state it’s currently in into something that at least we can stack boxes and furniture (but more about that another day). I’d pin that at a solid 9.5 on the Life Richter Scale.

So I’ve been busy and have a lot to tell you about, especially since I hadn’t felt comfortable publicly discussing any of my real estate transactions as they transpired throughout the fall. First of all, I didn’t want to jinx the deals and secondly, I didn’t want anything that I wrote to be misconstrued by either my buyers or my sellers because – unlike other real estate transactions I’d been involved in in the past — everyone played very nice. And I’ve come to the conclusion over the last few months, after tons of phone conversations, texts, Facebook messages and emails, that this was because all parties involved were basically very nice people.

We live in a small town of about 6,000 people, so you kind of have to be nice. Or at least it’s really in your best interest. At some point, you’re going to be standing on line with them at the deli counter or getting your nails done at the next manicure station and probably you want to avoid those awkward moments. Plus, not being an asshole is so much easier than the alternative.

I put my house up for sale by owner in July and after some initial excitement and a bustling first open house that brought a lot of looky-loos, interest kind of petered off. I mean, the house had never been cleaner or looked better, but the kids got kind of sick of having to go out to my car – which is where I shoved any signs that 5 people actually lived in my house, like dirty laundry and piles of bills and magazines – to find anything. At one point my younger daughter came in and said, “Mom, there are literally spider webs growing in the back seat.”

But, aside from one offer early on, that wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be but gave me good negotiating experience, couples – husbands and wives, moms and daughters – came and went. They oohed and aahed and told me how gorgeous the house was, and then I never heard from them again.

It was actually a lot like dating.

But by September I had very interested buyers and we began the whole real estate dance, which was interesting because they had also chosen to forgo using a realtor. And that right there makes you have to be a little nicer throughout the process. You have nobody to hide behind because you have to talk to these people face to face. And man, I’m way too lazy to be unreasonable. It’s just easier when you’re willing to make compromises in order to seal the deal.

The one interesting wrinkle was that English is not my buyers’ first language as they moved here from a European country. So I really had to make sure during our negotiations that we were on the same page and saying the same things. I found myself often repeating what they’d said or saying things like, “Okay, what I’m hearing you say is blah, blah, blah.” And we’ve done great – other than when I took their use of the word “free” to mean what “free” means in English, in that there was no money involved, but they meant something entirely different. But by mid-fall we were under contract and ready to roll.

That’s when I needed to find myself a new place to live.

Here again is where buying and selling a house is a lot like dating. When I first saw the house I ended up buying, I was like, “Meh.” I couldn’t see past the small, dated kitchen and lack of a garage. I was too busy being enamored with little capes in town with fancy stoves. I was totally ready to pull down my pants and throw all my money at those shiny little houses with Wolf gas ranges.

But right before I did that, I went back out to look at all the homes in town in my price range but this time, I brought my very smart friend who saw my new-house-to-be with much clearer eyes. Instead of being snagged by wallpaper and paint colors, she pointed out the casement windows surrounded by thick glossy trim and the giant master bedroom. The house was built in 1929 and is unlike many of the homes in our town and while it lacked a shiny new kitchen, it burst with character. But most importantly, the family that had lived there for almost 40 years had taken impeccable care of the house and it boasts a fairly new roof and super-smart additions they built over the years. It might not have a garage but in its place is a nice sized family room and second fireplace.

And so I went from feeling really blasé about that brick house on the corner to getting a little tingly every time I thought about it, which is the way I believe all good romances should begin. Beware, I say, of shiny strangers dazzling you with Viking stoves so that you don’t notice the dearth of bedrooms or lack of a basement. Focus then instead on something that’s solid with a good foundation, that’s oozing with charm and could use just a little updating. The smart and funny, say, over the good looking and athletic.

But always keep your pants on because that never solves anything.

So I scooped up that adorable brick house on the corner and ever since, many people I’ve run into have told me it’s one of their favorite houses in town. It’s in a great neighborhood that’s filled with kids for my 13yo to play with and a quick walk to school and the local pizza place. I could even walk to the liquor store in a pinch.

After the flurry of excitement of the home inspection and bringing my mom and sister through to get their seal of approval, I was relegated to looking at pictures of the house on Zillow throughout the holidays while we waited to close. Closing dates came and went while I spent hours slipping down Pinterest wormholes to find just the right color for my bedroom or wood floor stain.

In fact, if anyone was a dick throughout the real estate process, it was me. My mortgage got held up in the end, causing my sellers a delay on their own new home purchase, so I was hesitant to see them at my walk through on the day I bought the house. But I walked through the front door, in the midst of movers carting out all of their belongings from the home they’d lived in for almost 40 years, and was promptly embraced by one of its owners. She told me she was glad I was buying it and when I came back to the house as its new owner a few hours later, I found a Hallmark card that they’d left atop a pile of booklets for the various appliances congratulating me and wishing my family and me many happy years there along with all their contact info, just in case.

And for the first time in my adult life, I find myself packing up for a move and not wondering where I’ll move next. Already mentally pulling up stakes for something bigger or better. I remember being annoyed when my former husband announced that he was planning to die in the second of three housese we’d bought together. I didn’t understand back then why someone wouldn’t want to keep reaching for the next thing.

But now I get it. Now I am kind of in the same boat. After years of thinking I wanted the bigger and the better – at first the house and later perhaps moving some place entirely different – I find myself exactly where I am supposed to be.

And it feels just right.

Never fear! Even though I’m moving you can always find me here! Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. [wysija_form id=”1″]