Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How Do I Love Thee? Part 2

I've related the fateful meeting and courtship. I've shared photos of some of this house's charms. Now, let's continue the story to the part where it gets real.

As usual, first I fell in love, seeing all the sparkly attributes and the amazing things in common. The circumstances were magical. We seemed made for each other. I felt, when I walked into this house, as if I already knew it. You've heard it all before, and probably experienced it, too. Then we moved in and, like newlyweds, we encountered some bumps in the road.

First let me state that, as stressful as moving is all by itself, it was worse for me this time. I finished twelve weeks of an internship that was the culmination of 33 months of culinary school, with a considerable commute each way, on June 25. We began moving in on June 28. On top of that, living with the in-laws had been a constant strain for seven months. To say that I was stressed out was to put it mildly. It would be three weeks after we began moving in before my stress-induced chest pain and heart palpitations would subside. I was deeply hoping to settle into my Country Living dream-home-come-true and live happily ever after.

It didn't quite work out that way. Almost on the day we began moving in, the air conditioning condensation drain backed up into the basement. Then I noticed for the first time that there were no central heating and cooling vents on the upper half story. (Apparently we missed that in all the romance.) I also noticed that the "flooring" in our bedroom wasn't proper flooring at all, just contractor grade pine boards top-nailed to the floor, some with lumber yard stamps visible. Then the first big storm blew through, and I heard a truly disturbing dripping sound. The roof was leaking around the no-longer-used wood stove pipe. All this while we were surrounded by boxes and trying to eat with only a microwave for cooking. The honeymoon was abruptly over, and all the warts were visible.

Mostly because of my stressed out state and my own high-drama tendencies, I was livid. This was supposed to be my Country Living dream house, a gift from God to begin to make up for all sorts of previous domestic deficiencies, the house that maybe wouldn't need more done than I would ever have money to do, the place that I might actually get to decorate and not just keep barely maintained! I was pretty sure that Country Living dream houses did not have leaking roofs!! And wasn't this what I had paid hundreds of dollars in inspection fees to avoid? We did try to be smart, even though we were in love and eager to be united with our very own home.

Part of me knew that I was over reacting. Nothing is perfect, after all. These were just problems to solve. In fact, the inspectors had noted that the flashing around the former wood stove pipe would need to be redone. I just needed to calm down, and surely it would get better.

But every time it stormed--and storm season had apparently decided to begin--that dripping made me furious. At least it was going into the pipe and not the house, but I was deeply affronted that it was happening at all. Yes, I'm that pathetic.

But it gets better. It took me two weeks or so to find anyone who would work on the roof. When that nice man and his assistant took a look at the job, the new flashing diagnosis we expected became a recommendation to remove the wood stove pipe and replace an entire sheet of the metal roofing, since that was the only way to ensure that it wouldn't leak again. And, oh by the way, there was no guttering on the deck roof and the house roof guttering on one side was too short, leaving a corner dangerously exposed to the water coursing down it. The job had now ballooned to an estimate of $1400.00 to $1800.00, which was most of the chunk of money we hadn't had to spend on closing costs and that I had hoped to use to buy furniture. I tried resolutely to maintain my usual position in these circumstances: I was grateful that at least we had the money to do what needed to be done.

But of course the problem wasn't solved then. Two weeks of waiting were required for the new metal to be ordered and shipped, during which I prayed that it wouldn't rain too much.

Not that it was that bad. There weren't torrents of rain pouring into our house. There were just drips into the capped wood stove pipe when it truly stormed. Not a big deal to ANYONE BUT ME!

Adding to the big deal was my lack of success in finding anyone to fix the AC drain problem or to install a gas line from our meter to the cook top of my now installed dual fuel range. But at least I now had a microwave, a crock pot, and an oven. I did a lot of roasting during one of the hottest summers in years. But hey, we had central air! (Well, downstairs.)

When friends would ask me "Are you loving it?" it was all I could do not to wail "No!" There were moments when I swore that I would never buy another "charming" house again. I would find the safest, most boring ranch house in the county, and never have to deal with such disappointments again!

Then my husband would remind me that there is no such thing as a perfect house and detail some of the "problems" his parents have had to solve over the years in the house that they built brand new. I've had friends myself who went through similar travails after a love purchase, and it's all good now. I also reread one of my books that I just "happened to find" (I think not), in which I was reminded by a successful decorator that no house is perfect but needs our love anyway. So I went on unpacking and situating and antiquing...and it did get better.

The AC drain problem was at least diagnosed, if not completely fixed. The plumber hasn't yet returned to replace the busted pipe out in the yard that was the source of the problem, but the basement is dry. My gas line was finally run by the last company in the phone book that I called, so I have full culinary faculties now. And we've done more antiquing (another dream of mine), finding affordable items to solve most of our furnishing woes. Only four visibly cheap items and one stack of boxes left to replace with more intentional choices.

While I don't think Country Living's editors will be emailing me any time soon, I still have hope that we can get our little barn/house looking mostly like we meant to do that by the time I start paying the student loan piper in December and figuring out what to do in the next phase of my life. The traumatic adjustment phase is over, and, yes, I'm loving it now--for just what it is and for what it will become as we experiment and play and love it up. And that's real love.

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