August 31, 2021 – Full Circle

When I collapsed (from exhaustion) onto my ‘not half bad’ air mattress last night, I thought about how much my present life resembles life seven years ago (this month). During the month of August, 2014, we purchased our home. On the day of the closing, it was over 105 degrees and ash fell from the brown sky. My husband seriously questioned our whereabouts, suspecting we had taken a wrong turn along the way and wound up in “H, E, Double Hockey Sticks.” We had no idea when we made an offer on our home that wildfires were even a ‘thing’. However, I learned quickly that in addition to the seasons of spring, summer, winter, and fall, that there is a season dedicated to wildfires, too. At the time we moved into our newly acquired ‘whopper of a fixer-upper’ seven years ago, all we brought with us was enough to get by on. We had an air mattress with linens (for sleeping), a card table with folding chairs (for dining), a laptop (for viewing), some assorted dishes and pots and pans (for eating/cooking), a lamp (for seeing), and a couple of weeks worth of clothes and shoes (for wearing).

Aside from those items, we had little else. Most of our possessions were in crates and in the process of being shipped over, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force. Due to the ‘state’ of our home and the fact that it needed a great deal of work before it was even livable, we decided to temporarily ‘camp out’ in the sunken living room while we focused our efforts on rehabilitating the rest of it. Let me tell you, that was some ‘rehabilitation’! During the first two months of our efforts, my bones felt tired. We began by stripping out most of the paneling and that in itself was a job and a half! Every single room was paneled, including the kitchen and bathrooms. Not only were the walls paneled, but the cabinets were as well (at least in the bathrooms). Someone must have purchased a glut of it and didn’t want to waste a single sheet, so they glued it on to practically everything. Once we started removing it, we learned why ‘they’ used so much of it, it’s a great way to cover things up or get around doing things properly.

To my disappointment, we never found money or jewels or anything remotely valuable or interesting, but we did find lots of ‘surprises’. Behind the paneling in the kitchen, we found oodles of dry rot. The paneling was fastened directly to two-by-fours which framed the outer wall, and when we removed it, in addition to the dry rot, we also (to our dismay) discovered that a header was never installed above the slider. I thought removing the paneling would require some minimal wall repair afterward and that we could knock it out in a couple of days, but I was SO WRONG! It turned into a huge project that lasted weeks! Unfortunately, that was just a ‘taste’ of things to come. In the regular livingroom, the paneling hid the former entrance to a room. In the art studio, it hid mold. In the gym, it hid huge holes in the sheetrock as well as literal ‘hot’ wires. In the guest rooms, it hid ‘squarish’ holes that were formerly occupied by windows. I never knew what to expect as we yanked sheet after sheet from the interior of the house.

On top of the ‘surprises’, what lurked behind each sheet was a mystery, too. Sometimes we’d come across sheetrock. Other times, we’d come across plaster. Many times, the paneling was fastened to three-quarter-inch plywood. And on occasion, it was nailed or glued directly to two-by-fours. I never ventured a guess as to what I would find behind each panel other than it would be something ‘not good’. Needless to say, once all of the paneling was ‘no more’, we had to hire a ‘professional’ to help us with all of the sheetrock installation and repairs. It took some doing to make it all look seamless but it eventually got done. While all of this was going on, we continued to ‘camp out’ in the sunken livingroom. While the ceilings and walls were being worked on, we breathed in sheetrock dust. When the oak floors were sanded and prepared for ‘Swedish finish’, we breathed in saw dust, and when the ‘Swedish finish’ was applied, we breathed in overpowering, toxic fumes. It wasn’t fun but we toughed it out because paying for a hotel was out of the question.

For well over two months, we lived this way. During the day, my husband would work himself numb by installing baseboards, trim, flooring, windows, doors, sinks, faucets, lights, or plumbing, or by completing any number of home-improvement related tasks or projects. While he’d work himself numb, I would generally paint and paint and paint some more. I painted so much that my right hand would lock up and stay that way for about 15 minutes. It’s really bizarre because right about now, I feel like I’m experiencing deja vu, except in reverse. Instead of killing ourselves to prepare the home to move into, we are killing ourselves preparing the home to move out of (and sell). When the decision was made to move, we dedicated 16 days to ‘finishing all the things we started’. Even though we thought we’d completed just about everything, after close inspection, we realized that every single room in the house needed something done. The master bedroom, by far, required the most time and effort. After putting a list together of all that we had yet to do, I was flabbergasted!

The worst part about the master bedroom was that most of the work involved painting. My husband hadn’t finished installing the light fixture in the closet or the trim around the doorway, but that was nothing compared to what I never got around to. Somehow I managed to ‘overlook’ all of the nail holes and gaps (which required caulking) or bare wood (which required paint). I could not believe how much I had missed! Maybe it’s because most of the time I was actually in my bedroom, I was in a horizontal position (get your mind out of the gutter!) with my eyes closed, and I was ‘sawing logs’, so I never noticed all of the unfinished work. After much dedication and many long days, I did manage to get it all done. In fact, I finished the day before the house went on the market. Once the house went on the market, my focus shifted to cleaning. Good grief! Trying to keep a ‘spotless’ home is a full-time job, especially with a hairy dog. Suffice to say, once the house was ‘under contract’, my focus went to downsizing and packing. With 3 days remaining until U-Haul picks up our crates (U-Boxes), we are once again ‘camping out’ in the sunken livingroom.

It’s all way too familiar! We are back to the same air mattress, the same card table and chairs, the lamp, the laptop…virtually the same ‘essentials’ we utilized in the beginning. We have sold nearly every piece of furniture we acquired throughout the years (the livingroom couch sets, the dining room tables and chairs, the master bedroom set, etc.) and have little else. Life has come ‘full circle’. What I find really fascinating is the ‘living arrangement’ we had prior to moving in, and how closely it resembles what we have arranged once we move out. Before we were able to move into our home, we lived with my mother for just over a month. Now that we are leaving, we are going to (temporarily) live with my husband’s father. Life is so strange! And I have no clue what it has in store for us. If we survive living in my father-in-law’s basement, I hope that good things lie ahead. I still have dreams of writing a book someday and possibly reimmersing myself in art and putting together enough pieces to have a show. My husband wants to build metal sculptures and create beautiful, functional furniture pieces. Neither of us has much interest in working full-time but I might need to do something part-time to keep what remains of my sanity.

I have no doubt that we’ll be ‘busy’ for a long time, whether or not we seek or find employment. If we’re not making improvements to our new home, we’ll be scouring Craigslist for furniture items, or we’ll be (hopefully) travelling and having some adventures. I’ve also thought about doing volunteer work or something to help my community. One thing’s for sure, there’s always something to do in this lifetime! In the immediate future (5 hours from now), I’ve got to wake up to vacuum the master bedroom (to ready it for the carpet cleaners) and then I’ve got a guy coming over to look at the entertainment center. After that, it’s back to packing up the house and doing all that’s necessary to ‘finish up this chapter’ before we start another. Because I’ve got to get an early start tomorrow, I’d better make my way towards that air mattress. What a great invention, by the way! For around $75, you get a bed-in-a-box or a bed-in-a-bag. It’ll never replace a ‘real’ bed but it’s the next best thing, and it sure beats sleeping on the ground! Alright, I’d better run. Have a fabulous day!!

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