Saturday, June 29, 2013

Good Reads

Obviously I haven't done a whole lot of blog reading this summer, but I have had a chance to skim through my reading list. Here are a few I've wanted to share with you from the past few weeks.

First, OH. MY. WORD. Ann Voskamp and her daughter, Hope, were in Africa last week visiting their Compassion child (how amazing would that be?!), and while they were there they also met up with Katie Davis (Kisses from Katie). Cool, huh?! Anyway, I'm going to list some of Ann's posts from her trip because each one is so moving and poignant and they will make you cry. 

Take the time to read these carefully, quietly, and allow yourself to be moved.

Alright, moving on. Here are a few more posts that also spoke to me recently.

I may not be the "est," but I am the "only" :: Kat at Inspired to Action. What a great way to look at our roles as moms.

Quit Pointing Your Avocado at Me :: Momastery. Oh boy, did I need this one. If you tend to fall into the comparison trap, you might want to read this one too.

Perspectives on Our Children's Education: Going Public :: The Gospel Coalition. Wow. The Gospel Coalition decided to take on one of those "hot topics" among Christian parents: education. This is one of a three-part series--parents who have chosen private, Christian school and homeschooling wrote the others, but since we put our kids in public school I found this one to be especially interesting. And the comments! Whoo doggie! Why, oh why, do we feel we need to belittle someone else's choices? Come on, people! (Still, the comments are fascinating.)

Would You Steal This Mommy Blogger Photo? :: The Velveteen Mind. A good reminder to all of us to be careful about how we use photos on our blogs. 

Well, I'm off. French Market this morning (if it doesn't rain), then more of the same

Have a great weekend, everyone!!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Great Townhouse Project of 2013 - Week 5

First, let me apologize for the quality of the photos I've been using for this series. I'm basically grabbing my phone at the end of each day, snapping a few shots of the work I've done, and heading home. It's really just to help me remember. Even with that, I don't remember exactly what I did when. Hopefully, one of these days when the project is finished (Lordwilling!) I'll remember to bring a "real" camera with me and take some decent photos. 

Until then, please bear with me.


So, in preparation for writing this post, I decided to jot down everything I did each day this week.

It's no wonder I'm tired! My goodness! As I looked through the list, I could not believe how much I got done this week.

Let's just say I'm motivated.

But the week was not without some breakdowns. I'm ashamed to say, I had some moments I'd rather not repeat this week.


After Glenda's help on Friday, I returned to a sparkly-clean kitchen and a renewed motivation. My reward is looming (I'll tell you about that one day soon)--July 18 is coming!--and I felt like I could plow through the next four weeks.

So on Monday, since there was very little I could do upstairs, I decided it was time to tackle the living room. I started with primer.


Have I mentioned how much I hate primer?

Thank goodness I was motivated because I finished priming the living room (which was painted a shade I like to call Almost-Vomit), the small bathroom

(lovely green and gold sponge painting from the '90s),

and the basement stairwell (a shade of green that harkened back to the 1950s that the builder must have had left over).

I went home with a headache, but happy to have started on the first floor . . . finally.

[Monday also required a bit of a sad detour as I had to go over to the missionary furlough homes to check out our current residents. They have lived in our unit for three years, and I'm so sad to see them go, but wish them the Lord's richest blessings as they head back to the mission field this fall.]

[And, yes, for those of you at home keeping score, I now have two units to prepare for new tenants over the next three and a half weeks.]

[Yes, I think I'm crazy, too.]


On Tuesday I moved on to ceilings. Ceilings are hard. They give you a stiff neck, an aching back, and sore arms.

Ceilings are especially hard when the lighting isn't very good.

When I went back to survey my work the next day I found a 2'x2' section that I had completely missed in the living room. That's what bad lighting will do for you.

The good news is, I finished the living room, kitchen, half bath, and basement stairwell.

And I have no pictures to show for it because who wants to look at a plain, white ceiling?

I came home exhausted, made dinner (don't ask me what we ate, I don't remember), and then made a critical tactical error: I went back to the townhouse with B after dinner.

Unfortunately, I wasn't in the best frame of mind to work after the day I had already put in, and, well, let's just call it like it was--I was crabby. I didn't want to be there, but I also didn't want to refuse my husband's offer to help, so I went.

Big mistake. And I'll leave it at that.

One awesome thing happened though--B tackled a job I was just too scared to do: he moved the refrigerator.

**Squeemish alert: look away if you don't want to see what was behind the refrigerator.**

Many kudos to my dearest for cleaning behind the refrigerator.


Wednesday was a big day because I finally got to put a new color on the living room walls. I was so ready to close the chapter on the Almost-Vomit and turn a new page in the life of our townhouse.

Seems Manchester Tan was just the ticket. I painted and painted and painted some more and got the living room done.

As well as the basement stairwell.

Another productive day in the neighborhood!


Continuing with the Manchester Tan theme (and because I had bought a 5-gallon bucket of the stuff), I headed down to the basement and made the quick, executive decision that the basement would be the same color as the living room.

And the basement was finished fairly quickly.

I sure like the Manchester Tan a whole lot better than the Lemon Yellow that was down there before.

Lemon Yellow

Manchester Tan

What do you think?

That evening B headed over to get some things done, but I made the mistake of sitting down after dinner. Once I did that, it was all over. I couldn't move.

I begged off on Thursday.


By Friday I was getting pretty tired (sensing a theme here?), but I carried on. Thank the Lord, my motivation was continuing.

Since most of the walls were done, and because I needed a break from the paint roller, I decided to work on trim. There was still a little trim work that needed to be finished upstairs, so I worked on that, then moved into the living room.

Good progress on trim on Friday.

And I'm thrilled to report that the upstairs is almost done. (I just need to get up the courage to face a sort-of-halfway-nasty bathroom that isn't quite there yet. All will be well.)


By Saturday my own motivation was lagging, so it took my husband to grab me by the hand and get me going again. We decided to put in a few hours on Saturday morning/afternoon.

I had not yet painted the windows in the living room--I guess I was putting them off because windows are tedious and difficult--so I decided I'd do those on Saturday morning.

Check the windows off the list!

Lunchtime came and I was starving. This is where I tell you about the best new booth at the French Market this year: The Jolly Posh. They serve up traditional banger sandwiches just like they make in England, and they are so delicious! B and I had shared a banger sandwich earlier this summer, and we loved it, so we decided to make that our lunch.

A delicious reward.

After lunch, I was pretty much ready to pack it in, but B was still going strong. When I started to suggest that we be finished for the day, he said, "Really? I thought we could work for another hour or so."

That was just the kick in the pants I needed.

After that I collapsed in a heap and B had to drag me home.

Funny thing was, we had tickets to the theater on Saturday night, so I had to scrape a week's worth of paint off my fingernails before we left.

(Seriously, that is so embarrassing. I've been walking around like that all week.)

So let's summarize, shall we?

On Monday morning, I had not yet started on the first floor or basement. By Saturday, the first floor was finished (except for the kitchen) and the basement more than halfway done.

I really have to give credit to my helpers. As you already know, B has given this as much time as he can. And Julia has given me a few hours almost every day--she's becoming a great painter!

Next week is going to show huge changes. I can't wait! Hopefully by the next post I'll really feel like we're nearing the end.


And in the meantime . . .

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Great Townhouse Project of 2013 - Week 4

My sister texted me this morning and said, "Your fans want an update on the townhouse." After I picked myself up from the floor laughing, I thought I probably should update, well, her anyway.

Jenn, this is for you!


After ending Week 3 so discouraged, I decided that Week 4 needed to be productive.

Really productive.

I still had bathrooms that needed to be painted, so I took a deep breath and headed in. I wasn't entirely sure I would survive those bathrooms, but, good news!, I did.

I started out on Monday with the primer. I have discovered that primer gives me a wicked headache, especially in small, enclosed spaces, like bathrooms, but the job needed to be done. There was no way I was going to be able to cover the pukey brown color with a sweet shade of light gray without primer.

So Monday was priming day.

Tuesday was painting day.

And, lo and behold, I got one of the upstairs bathrooms painted.

Here are the before and after photos of the "master" bathroom.

I also painted the other upstairs bathroom, but didn't think you needed to see a picture of another bathroom painted the exact same color. Needless to say, things are definitely freshened up in the bathroom areas.

My helper came, too, last week, and worked on doors and trim. Julia is becoming a pro painter!

I also worked on the hallway--priming (why, oh why, did I decide to cover all darker colors with lighter ones?), painting, and trim.

Because I'm terrified of ladders and had no way to reach the highest parts of the staircase, I let my friend, Ken, who's been helping me with some repairs, take care of that.

These pictures show just the beginning stages--it's all done now--but you get the idea.

Week 4 ended completely differently from Week 3. I was so discouraged the week before, but at the end of Week 4, look who showed up again!

Dear Glenda. Bless her.

Really, bless her. She is amazing.

This week she told me she'd help me tackle the kitchen, so, after traveling about an hour and a half on the El and the Metra, she grabbed a bucket and got to work.

Have I mentioned how much I love her?

Speaking of love, I think I'm developing a crush on this product.

My sister introduced me to Simple Green when she was here, and I'm pretty sure it has changed my life forever. Just look what it did to these nasty cabinets!

Glenda was impressed, too. She's pretty much a pro-cleaner and she said it was great stuff. Somehow I believe her.

While Glenda was working on the cabinets, I tackled the half bath on the first floor. Seriously, this bathroom is probably 3' x 3' but still it took me an hour and a half to clean it.

I'm shuddering just thinking about it. (And wondering for the millionth time how--oh, how?--did those tenants live there like that?)

I feel like such a grownup because I am now the proud owner of a grout brush. This little tool only cost me a buck and it is totally worth every one of those 100 pennies.

Just look at this picture (turn away if you want--it's gross). The grout at the bottom of the photo hadn't been cleaned yet, but the grout at the top had been cleaned with the brush. What an amazing difference!

(Seriously, how did they deal with the filth?)

Even after a full day of scrubbing, Glenda had a little bit of goodness left in her. Since she still had some time before she had to catch her train, she decided to tackle the stove. Honestly, I don't think the thing had been cleaned, like, ever.

Now, if you're not feeling great, you really might want to turn away because what I'm about to show you will truly make you sick.

You know how you can lift the top of the stove to clean underneath the burners? Yeah, well, you can. (Apparently our previous tenants didn't know that either.) When we lifted the top of the stove we found about a quarter of an inch of grease, along with lots of popcorn kernels, M&Ms, pasta, and crumbs of various sizes.

The good news is that, as you can see from the picture on the right, we were able to clean out all of the crud. It's a miracle that the place didn't burn down, don't you think?

All-in-all I'd say that Week 4 was a very good week. I still have a ton of painting to do, but I'll get there. I'm starting to see a tiny pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel.

So tell me, what have YOU been up to?? I miss you all.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Great Townhouse Project of 2013 - Week 3

Thanks for hanging in here with me as I process this townhouse renovation. I promise I'll write about other stuff this summer, but for now, I want to record my progress. This seems as good a place as any to do that.


Remember how I said the garage at the townhouse was full of miscellaneous "stuff"? And when I say "full" I mean stuffedcrammedpacked. I'd like to call the "stuff" something else because it truly was a bunch of trash, but since I'm a lady I'll keep those words to myself.

Let's just say I wasn't reeeaaal happy with the previous renters who left that little "problem" to me. Oh, they tried. They called the Salvation Army who came one day and took five straight-backed chairs exactly. 

Didn't even make a dent.

It made me want to cry.

So, when Jenn was here, she encouraged me to call 1-800-GotJunk to come take the "stuff" away. Those dear boys showed up early Monday morning and left me with this.

Isn't it beautiful?

Week 3 was off to a good start.

After my heroes left I got going on the second bedroom, which was painted a kind of brownish-tan color. Ugh. Even the ceiling was that color--particularly bad because it took two coats to cover the ceiling. 

Knowing how difficult it was going to be to cover that brown color, I decided to prime the walls. Good move. The priming wasn't that hard (although it did leave me with a nasty headache), and the paint covered just fine in one coat. 

So here's what happened in Week 3.

"Master" bedroom got primed and painted, including the trim.

 And the closet.

And this sweetie showed up one day. 

Do you know Glenda? Do you read Glenda's blog

You should, on both counts. This dear friend is so amazing and sweet and full of energy and laughter and I just love her. 

She called one day to ask if I needed help--um, yeah!--and, since her husband was coming to town for a meeting one day last week, she tagged along. 

Glenda told me that she's not a great painter, but she really likes to clean. Was there something she could clean in the house? Again, yeah

Who does that? Who volunteers to clean the filthiest piece of college housing on the planet?

Glenda does. And, boy, does she do great work. She went to town on one of the bathrooms that, frankly, I was kind of scared to even go into. And by the end of the afternoon, the place wasn't quite so scary.

I truly think there are not enough jewels to put in that woman's crown for what she did for me.

And the encouragement she brought at just the right time was incredible since I wasn't quite sure how I was going to work on the black abyss that was that bathroom. 


The next day I got out the primer again and started to take care of that scary bathroom. (Here's a picture of the brownish color that covered not only the walls--oh no!--but also the ceiling.)

Oh, and B replaced a lightbulb in the overhead fan. You'd be amazed at what a huge difference a little light makes. That bathroom is really coming along now--my goal is to finish painting it this week.

The week seemed to be moving along pretty well, and I was feeling kinda sassy about the progress I was making, until I walked in on Friday morning and found this.

Our friend and handyman, Ken, had been repairing some drywall and ceilings and had come over to do the sanding. When I walked in and found a thick coating of dust all over everything, I just about had a breakdown.

But I took a deep breath (not too deep), grabbed a broom, and started sweeping. I probably should have worn a mask, and if I have lung problems ten years from now you'll know why. The dust! Oh my goodness. The dust.

I knew it would be bad--I had lived through remodeling before--but I just wasn't prepared for how discouraged it would make me. I mean, I thought we were making progress, but this seemed to be a huge setback.

(Don't you love the beautiful '80s chandelier? It's going. One of these days.)

(And notice all the spackle marks on the wall behind the lamp. The living room is a disaster.)

The worst part is that Ken isn't even finished with the sanding he has to do! In the end I decided to just sweep the floor and wait until Ken was finished before I actually wipe down the walls and everything else. (Crossing my fingers that he will finish sanding today.)

I felt like the dust was a small setback, but I couldn't let it get me down for long--there was just too much to do. So on Saturday I grabbed a paint roller again and kept moving. 

Kate came over to help me with the ceiling on the "master" bathroom while I primed the hallway and staircase. (Another potential setback--I can't reach the highest point of the staircase because I don't have a scaffold and I'm terrified of ladders, but Ken says he can help me with that. I'm choosing not to focus on the setbacks right now.)

So on Saturday I was back to feeling good about things. Obviously, it's a roller coaster, this project. One day I'm feeling good, the next I walk in and find dust everywhere. But what I know is that I can't quit. Girls are coming to live there in August, and I need it to be ready for them.

Not just ready, but beautiful

So let's recap everything that happened during Week 3:

- Garage emptied (woo hoo!).

- Master bedroom primed. 

- Master bedroom painted, including the trim.

- Master bathroom cleaned (by the darling Glenda).

- Master bathroom primed and ceiling painted (by my dear Kate). 

- Living room ceiling sanded.

- Upstairs hallway primed.

What I haven't even mentioned yet is all the work that B and the girls have done in the basement. Since I'm mainly working upstairs, I haven't really been down in the basement that much, but let's just say his work has involved mouse poop, dryer lint, and stray thongs.

Yes, you read that right.

It's funny, when I list it all out like that I can see that progress is really happening. Real progress. It might not be as quick as I'd like it to be, but as long as I keep working and don't let the setbacks get to me, things will move along.

And I can't discount the help I'm getting from others, which is so critical because I could not do this on my own.

Hmmmm. I think there might be a pretty big spiritual lesson in there somewhere.

Mulling it all over today. 

While I paint.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Great Townhouse Project of 2013 - Week 2

God bless my sisters.

One had a really cute baby whom I've gotten to squeeze twice since April.

And my other sister actually drove home with us on Memorial Day in order to spend the week with me. Silly girl actually offered to help with The Great Townhouse Project of 2013.

She had no idea what she was getting herself into.

So Week 2 was spent with my sister, Jenn, of whom, I regret very deeply, I did not get a single picture. She was an such a trooper and an incredible encouragement to me.

See, I know what I like when it comes to decorating, but, as a Words of Affirmation girl, I need someone to just say, "Yes! That's it! You're on the right track." And that's just what my sister provided.

She liked the paint colors I had chosen. She helped me pick one more important color that I couldn't figure out. She did some particularly nasty cleaning (one cupboard actually made her gag!). She dug in and painted like a pro.

But most importantly she kept telling me, "It's not so bad."

Week 2 was a week in which I really needed to hear, "It's not so bad," because during Week 1 I was having some serious stomach issues, and those of you who know me well know that stomach issues are NOT what I need. Ever. Again.

So having Jenn here was a blessing I needed in more ways than one. She made me feel good about my selections, but she also made me feel good about The Great Townhouse Project of 2013.

Here's just a bit of what we accomplished during Week 2.

We painted a bedroom!

I painted the ceilings of both bedrooms while Jenn did something else (I can't even remember now what that was--I have tunnel vision, remember?).

Then we painted the walls and the trim. By the time she left on Saturday we pretty much had one bedroom completely finished.

It felt SO GOOD!

(By the way, the room started out yellow. I have nothing against the color yellow--yellow is sunny and nice--but it's just not that "in" right now. I'm updating the bedrooms with a lovely shade of gray. It's an Ace paint called "Chelsea by the Sea" and I love it.)

And here's the best part . . .

Remember those totally nasty ceiling fans? The ones I was ready to take down and throw away on the very first day?

Look at what my sister did!

She went to town with the Simple Green (oh my heavens, that stuff is AMAZING!) and cleaned those suckers until they shined. She even took off the old glass lampshades so I can replace them with some updated ones. Obviously we have a couple of things to take care of, but the point is, the ceiling fans are CLEAN!

Glory halleluja!

One other thing we did when Jenn was at my house was hit a couple of garage sales. (Yes, not only am I painting and updating the place, I'm also furnishing it.) One day I got a beautiful, solid oak table with six chairs for $200--score! And the next day we went to an estate sale and picked up a box full of kitchen stuff, a desk, and a dresser WITH a mirror for $150.

Jenn helped me load up the car, then unload it into my own garage at home, which has become a storage locker because the garage at the townhouse was full--FULL, I tell you--of miscellaneous furniture and other whatnot.

(And that's a story for Week 3.)

Anyway, the garage/estate sales made me very happy. Who doesn't love getting a good deal?

Having my sister here made me even happier.

Thanks, Jenn!

The Great Townhouse Project of 2013 - Week 1

So on Monday I introduced you all to pretty much the entire content of my brain right now: The Great Townhouse Project of 2013. It has consumed me. Sadly, it's the last thing I think about when I close my eyes at night and the first thing that's on my mind when I wake up in the morning.

I'm obsessed.

But with reason: I'm on a timeline. This thing HAS to be done by July 18 when I fly out of the country for two weeks.

Or maybe by August 12 when our first renter arrives.


What I mean is that my thoughts have been completely consumed by this project. As I've said here before, I'm not a great multitasker. When I'm teaching, that's pretty much all I can concentrate on. When I'm writing, that's all I can do (much to the dismay of my family who likes to eat). When I'm renovating a townhouse, it's all I can think about.

Sad, I know.

(When I shared this revelation with B this morning, bless his heart, he turned it into a Good Thing by telling me that by being focused it ensures that the job will get finished. Isn't he sweet?)

(Or deluded?)

Anyway, in order to make myself feel better about what feels like a seriously huge mistake right now, I thought I'd track my progress here. Hope you don't mind.

The thing is, I just finished week 3, but rather than making this into a really long post, I think I'll just go ahead and write three separate posts, one for each week.

So, let's travel back in time, shall we? To mid-May when the keys to the townhouse were actually handed to me. And I cried huge, bitter, very-afraid-of-what-I've-gotten-myself-into tears.

Remember this?

Well, Week 1 mainly involved getting that ugly (and, may I add, greasy) shelf off the wall. Surprisingly (or not), it didn't take much to get it down.

The wallpaper, however, was another story. I think they must have used cement to stick those stupid apples up there!

Let's just say it took a while.

Week 1 mainly involved my getting my bearings, trying not to gag, and, of course, scraping wallpaper.

Oh, and being afraid. Very afraid.

We also removed every nail and screw from the walls. We filled holes. We sanded.

We took down the most beat-up blinds I've ever seen.

 And removed every switchplate from every electrical outlet in the house.

Our thought is that the simple change of fresh, white switchplates will make everything seem new.

One can only hope.

I only had a couple of days to work during Week 1 because of our little 1,800 mile jaunt to Dallas for Memorial Day weekend.

Up next . . . Week 2.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Catching Up and Introducing The Great Townhouse Project of 2013

Yep. Uh huh. Well over a week.

As you can probably tell, real life has taken its toll on me lately. Thought it might be a good idea to simply summarize my life of the past month. No deep thoughts here, really. Just a good old fashioned catch-up post.

So, since school ended for me in early May, here are a few things I have done:

1. Loaded up my car a few thousand times. Bringing girls home from college, even if it is only a few blocks, is exhausting. Plus, purchasing furniture for our newest "project" means loading up my van a LOT (see explanation below).

2. Had visitors three of the past four weekends.

3. On that one weekend, drove 1,800 miles to squeeze this cutie pie and to introduce my girls to their new cousin.

Side note: Also, over the weekend, got to visit the new George Bush Presidential Library. Oh my! The section about 9/11 is incredibly moving.

A couple of pieces of the original Twin Towers.

And the name of every person who was killed that day are listed on the wall.


Moving on . . .

4. Had a fantastic visit from my sister, Jenn, last week. Woot! (She really doesn't get up here enough.)

(And I can't believe I didn't get a single picture of her!)

5. Took possession of our latest "project."

6. Cried over said project.

7. Felt sick about said project.

8. Dug in and started to work on said project.

9. Started feeling a wee bit better about said project.

10. Celebrated 28 years of marriage.

What I have not done much of over the past month:

1. Cooking.

2. Cleaning.

3. Resting.

4. Exercising.


Now, about that "project." Oh my. Where to begin?

Last November, B and I purchased a townhouse which is really close to campus and will be used to house college students. Specifically, OUR college students, among others.

When we bought it, we knew it needed some cosmetic repairs, but not until our current tenants moved out two weeks ago and we actually took possession of the property did we actually see the extent of work that needs to be done.

Everything was covered with about a quarter inch of filth. And I do mean everything. (You might want to look away if you're squeemish.)

The day I got the keys, Julia and I walked around the place for a little bit, and then I went home and had a mini-breakdown. Or a big breakdown.

I cried.

Friends, we have an Extreme Makeover situation on our hands. 

Every square inch of this place needs cleaning or repair or . . . something. It's horrendous. I wouldn't let my girls live there right now, so my task this summer is to bring this place up to Wildman standards.

So here's the deal. I'm going to be over there most of the summer. I'll be painting the place from top to bottom (I'm on a very limited budget, so I'll be doing most of the work myself). I'll be scouting estate sales for furniture (we're going to furnish the place). I'll be schlepping supplies and furniture and paint back and forth all summer.

My van will be getting a workout, even if I'm not.

What I think I might do is post pictures once a week with the progress we've made. Are you interested? At all?

What else might you want to know about cleaning up and restoring a rental property? I'm probably needing the answers to those questions myself, so feel free to ask.

So here we go: The Great Townhouse Project of 2013. Grab a paintbrush and come on over!