A Good Dose of Reality….and sarcasm….lots of sarcasm

reality

Every year a friend of mine and a team of other women put together an online store to raise funds for a needy family.  They ask for and receive donations of crafts, baking, gifts, candles, gift certificates and jewelry and then sell them through a private on-line “store”.  It is a great way to get into the spirit of the season and give back to some people who really need it.  People who are struggling financially and perhaps emotionally.

This year we are the needy family.  I would like to take a few minutes to tell you why we are struggling.  Here goes.

In August my husband and I made the decision to cancel our planned two-week Christmas vacation in Hawaii.  His work contract would be ending in December and while we had no reason to think he wouldn’t get another contract, we both felt it was the financially responsible thing to do.  Still, it was a dark day when I emailed the agent and told her to cancel our condo reservations and the flights we had booked on points.  I was the one who had to tell the kids that despite just spending three weeks in Southern California we would not be flying to Maui in December.  They were real troopers.

It’s been almost eighteen months since I quit my job.  It did take me a few months to get used to being at home during the day while our daughter was at school, but I think I adjusted well.  Yoga had never really been my thing but I learnt to embrace it as it helped stretch out the muscles I was now stressing on longer daily runs in the woods with my friends.  Now that my husband isn’t traveling as much there really isn’t any reason for me not to return to work.  I’m going to have to adjust my running schedule and won’t be able to help out at school hot lunch days but I know it needs to be done.  My yoga instructor will miss me, but I’m sure with some serious meditation she will be okay.

Public transit may well become a part of our future.  One of our SUVs has decided that it is tired and after fifteen years it has become…..temperamental.  So that leaves us with just the one truck.  My husband has been great about walking the half mile up to Starbucks in the mornings to get his morning mocha and we have been able to coordinate our schedules so that when he needs to get to the gym I can go with him and get the shopping done.  Fortunately Whole Food is only a few block away.  We have been researching bus route on our iPads and we think we can make it work.  Have you ever looked at a bus schedule though?  Super confusing.

Earlier this summer we had the kids bathroom renovated.  It had been stuck in the eighties and was looking a little um…..yellow.  A friend of ours helped out with the design and after a month or so my vision became reality.  But now the other two bathrooms in our house look a little shabby.  I’ve been forced to take my bath in their bathroom as the tub is deeper and well, the floor is heated.  Our bathroom does not have radiant heating.  Or a toilet seat that closes itself.  Or drawers that hold plush towels.  It’s sad really.  Doesn’t everyone deserve a nice bathroom?

So there you have it.  It’s been a rough couple of months but we are staying strong and hoping that with a little help we will see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Or maybe a Hawaiian sunset.

The Best Thing in Life is a good dose of reality.

Five Things I’ve Learned So Far About Renovating a Bathroom

bathroom

I’m getting a new bathroom. Well, actually my kids are getting a new bathroom. (Not the bathroom above, that is way too fancy for them) Our house is over thirty years old and I’m guessing that the second bathroom upstairs has never been renovated. While the lovely yellowish linoleum has been easy to care for through two young kids, it is time for a fresh new look.

The problem is that I know zero about renovations and my husband is knee-deep in organizing an international sporting event, so he is no help. This is just one of the many times that I am grateful to know somebody. When I talked in my first blog post about knowing so many passionate and talented people, I didn’t realize how handy it might be.

My friend is an interior designer. She and her husband designed and built the house they now live in. My project isn’t quite as involved or expensive as that. It’s only a small bathroom. Basic vanity, toilet and tub. How hard could it be? Apparently pretty hard because I didn’t seem to be able to get it done on my own. We are still in the early stages of planning and ordering but here is what I have learned so far:

1.  If they tell you it’s going to cost x amount of dollars, you can pretty much add 20%-30% on top of that when all is said and done. Not because they don’t know what they are doing or are trying to rip you off. It just happens. You suddenly realize that your 30-year-old window will look like crap with your new bathroom. Add $. If you are ripping up the floor anyway shouldn’t you put in radiant heating now? Add $. Yes, the cheaper vanity is okay but the more expensive one will last longer. Add lots of $$.

2.  There are a LOT of different toilets to choose from. “I just want it to flush” I naively said. I didn’t know how many different types of toilets there are. Floating toilets are very popular right now for example. Somehow I narrowed it down to two or three and then I was stumped. I had already picked a rectangular sink so my friend pointed out that two of the toilets had rounder tanks. I should choose the one with the more square-shaped tank so that it continued the shape of the sink. That is the kind of thing I am paying her for.

3.  Colours come in many colours. White tile is never just “white”. It’s cloud or ecru or steel or egg. Grey slate flooring comes in many shades and can range in price from reasonable to ridiculous. Of course the one that is exactly what you want is always the ridiculously priced one. And the colour you choose is usually the one that was discontinued last year.   There may come a point where I just close my eyes and point.

4.  Interior designers are not all created equally. One of the many advantages of using a designer is that they receive discounts from the suppliers you will be using. The discounts can range from 25-60%. Some designers keep that discount quiet and you pay the full price while they keep the difference. Think of it as their insurance in case anything goes wrong. Others take a portion of it. Others (like mine) pass the entire discount on to you.  Love that.

5.  Contractors don’t have to be crooks. Contractors scare me. I will admit that right from the start. You hear so many horror stories about contractors that seem legit or even are legit and then totally screw you. And there you are stuck with a half done project and a huge bill. Knowing that my friend has used this contractor before to build two houses is a huge relief. They actually went to high school together so they have a history and a trust that I would never be able to reproduce with a complete stranger.

I’m sure that there will be more to learn in the month ahead as we rip everything out and see what is underneath. The whole process is a bit of an experiment for me really. A testing ground, if you will, for the rest of the house that is also stuck in the ’80s. The Best Thing in Life is learning from a pro….who is also a friend.