A (kind of) Concrete Plan… and practicing patience.

As Christmas was approaching, I got to thinking about the practice of patience, the the feeling of anticipation, waiting, and hope.  The season of Advent is all about these things; the anticipation of the birth of Jesus, and the waiting with hope of his second coming.  Children practice patience as they count down the days for Christmas for Santa to come and bring them gifts.  As the days get closer, the anticipation and excitement grows with hope for what’s to come.  We can all relate to how much sweeter it is to experience something good when it required a period of waiting and a bit of heartache to get there.

“Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten.  Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting – that is, of hopefully doing without – will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.  Those who do not know how it feels to anxiously struggle with the deepest questions of life, of their life, and to patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed, cannot even dream of the splendor of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them… For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait.”   – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Now, while a house project is not an example of life’s deepest questions, it does make me reflect, and has caused me to practice being patient.  I can only dream of how much sweeter this journey and home must taste when we finally get to live in it after a year of anticipation and excitement that has been a struggle (at times) along the way.

Below is our video of the concrete process.  This was back in spring, mind you, when the grass was green and the rain never stopped.  Kansas City had two huge storms with major downpours, flooding, and high-winds while we were trying to get our foundation down!

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My Concrete-phase Hiatus

I’ve been a bit deflated and irritable during the last 2 months.  I haven’t posted anything on here for a while due to a slow-moving process during that time.  It’s funny how excited you are when the smallest thing is changed when you stop by the house on your way home from work.  Things as little as new tools delivered to the site, dirt scooped back into a hole, or a dumpster delivered make you feel like there is forward movement no matter how small.  Compared to how bummed you can be when you drive by and nothing has been touched.  You feel stagnant.

It’s not like I think the world revolves around me, or my house.  I understand many have multiple projects that overlap, and heavy rain storms played a big part in our delays.  But some professionals aren’t the best at setting up your expectations accurately through communication.  I’ve learned it is so much better to tell clients something is going to take longer than I think, or cost more with the hopes of being able to out-perform those goals.  Rather than tell them something to keep them happy at the moment such as, “I’ll be there tomorrow to work on it,” and then not show up for another 3 days.  It feels deflating in the end.  It’s almost better to hear bad news letting your head wrap around it and soak it in with time, rather than to have high hopes and expectations based on what you’re told then to have nothing fall in line with those.  It makes you feel less in control, more chaotic, and less trustworthy of others.

The footings were poured first.

The slab form-work was done and plumbing was ran to specific locations.

Re-bar was added and ready for the final pour.

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Concrete was poured into a buggy and taken around back rather than having the large truck with a hose over our house to save us some money.

The slab is poured!

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The kids loved watching the concrete pour.

It’s a weird feeling to have the hopes that the people working on your home care about it as much as you do. Because that’s not realistic.  They have their own homes, own families, own schedules, and life outside of working on your house.  But don’t we all just want people to love and care about it with the intensity and passion that we do?  That’s what makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside.  We always want an advocate.  I do have an advocate in my contractor, but it’s hard balancing the extreme yearnings I have with the reality of life.

Last concrete project was the patios.  There is a small patio to the side of the house that will have a fence built for privacy.  In the back, we have two sections designed so we can plant a tree in-between for needed shade around 10-2.  We will later add a flush deck between the concrete pads like drawn below:

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I am well familiar with studying the emotional rollercoaster journey that remodeling (especially an addition) can take homeowners on.  I researched it, saw it first hand for the last 10 years, and am now experiencing it fully.  Any of the slower-moving parts of the process (or moments where bad news is delivered; usually referring to money) are typically where people feel disappointed.  When you see quick changes (such as in demolition, framing, and drywall) you feel a bigger sense of progress happening.  If anything, this experience is teaching me a deeper level of empathy for the emotions my clients go through.  I found a couple of graphics to better demonstrate what I’m talking about.  They vary a bit, but have the same general idea.

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The one below is pretty funny when you take into account the children and dog line:

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Correctly shown in the above images in absolute full bliss is the elation at the end of the project where you want to throw a party!  That spot is higher than all of the other happy points; even higher than when the project began or when you dreamt of it.  This is because you just saw and experienced a dream becoming built-reality.  Not many people get to experience this.  It is euphoric when you have a design and then see it come to life.  Any child that has seen their drawing become a mural, or a long goal of yours finally gets conquered, or the music you worked so hard to create gets played on the radio…

This is the moment it’s all worth the dirty, emotional, crazy.

This is when the open heart surgery becomes life-saving.

This is the moment that I tell clients to keep a hold of when they aren’t sure they ever want to remodel.  The end result is worth it!  Good design makes your life better.

This is why I will probably never be able to stop improving spaces; even my own.  No matter how hard the process is.  That vision I can’t help but see in a sad space, of the potential, the possible, the what could be is way too enticing to ever make me quit.  It motivates me more than most things in life.

I guess I’m right where I should be… (among the crazy)

The 1-Year Mark

It’s been one year since we sold and moved out of our old house (sold in July, moved in August 2016).  I’ve been a little nostalgic lately because of it.  Missing our old house all over again and the memories there.  I never thought I’d be one to put so much emphasis on an object (caring more about people), but now that we have kids and put so much sweat equity and love into that house… it’s harder to let go.

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Below is the photo of us packing everything into our POD like a tetris game.  There are so many times my kids have asked me about an old toy, a blanket, or forgotten object that’s packed in the POD, and I have to say, “we don’t have it right now, but we will when we can move into our new house.”  You have NO idea how much I can’t wait for the day that POD is delivered to our new driveway!  I will be happy to re-unite with our things, as well as getting rid of the monthly POD charge!

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Our old house had the main water pipes being replaced the week before we closed.  We had to call the foreman for the city project to make sure the section in front of our house would be done and filled in before we had to close so that the POD could be picked up.

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Our old house on Birch

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Our new house on Tomahawk

Now that things have gotten moving on the new project it’s finally the light at the end of the tunnel.  You can see and imagine the finished project, and it’s super exciting.  I’m not so sad now that I can look forward to us living here and making new memories.  I’m just extremely anxious and impatient now that it’s so close.

Here’s to hoping we aren’t completely broke after this!

I’m trapped in a glass case of eeemooootion!

To quote the uber-intelligent Ron burgundy in Anchor Man above, this process is quite the emotional journey… and we haven’t even broken ground yet!

It’s interesting to be on the client side of things.  I’m not sure I like it.  I mean, I like having my own project to make my own, but I’m so used to DIY in the past where we had complete control that this scale of a project using architects, engineers, and a contractor is totally out of my control.  I collaborate with these people all of the time, but now I depend on them.

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I tend to describe my job as 1 part designer and 1 part marital counselor.  Usually, I am talking my clients off the ledge when they are tired of delays, expenses, not having a working kitchen for 3 months, or just helping a husband and wife compromise on decisions.  I actually like that part of the job.  I definitely have empathy and the ability to relate with them during the stressful process that remodeling is.  No one ever said it was easy to beautify you home (except HGTV).  But the process of restoration and redemption is always hard, dirty, vulnerable, exposed, raw, and destructive work before it becomes neat, tidy, orderly, awe-inspiring, rejuvenating, and peacefully joyful in carefully designed spaces.  This is not a surprise to me.  I can handle the dirt and grime.  But right now there is no one to talk me off of my cliff.  I am that person. And I cannot talk myself down very well.

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Now that it’s MY money, MY time(line), MY family, MY aesthetic preferences, and MY expectations, which will always fight with one another, clearly I will be going on some emotional rollercoaster rides for a while.  I usually tell clients that these things will always be at odds with one another:

  • Budget
  • Scope (how much you want to do)
  • Quality/Craftsmanship
  • Timeline

Usually, it takes a bit of mental processing time for people to sift through their wants and needs before they can figure out which ones are most important to them, because you can’t have them all.  Period.

You can have high quality work, at a fast speed, for a large project, SURE, if you sacrifice lots of $$$.  You can have a quick turn-around on a tight budget, but usually sacrifice some quality.  Especially, when really talented tradesmen are in high demand and have their own schedules you have to work around.  Sometimes you might need to use a bit lower “attention-to-detail” trades.  Or in my case, I do not want to sacrifice quality or design detail, and I have a very limited budget, so I have to cut back on my scope and time-frame.

We started cutting back on things we could add later, parts we can DIY in the future, choosing some less expensive materials/products, and having to nix some ideas we really loved, but just didn’t fit in the budget.  A few of those things being: a concrete-encased master closet as a tornado shelter, the bar, high triangular angled windows under the roof eave that would’ve required metal structure, not replacing all of the windows now, using a typical water tank rather than tankless, leaving a powder bath unfinished that we can finish later on our own, etc…

I’m totally fine with these decisions.  They just don’t happen quickly or instinctively.  They come as you talk through pros and cons, as you try to imagine yourself living in the space in the future and wonder “what will I regret most?”  They are an up and down emotional process that is unavoidable, and a bit unpleasant.

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To be honest, the biggest emotional hit for me hasn’t been that process of cutting back for sake of budget so far.  The biggest wave was holding on too tight to a time frame.  It’s probably not a good choice to buy a house that needs work done everywhere before you can move in (while living with your parent’s for over 8 months).  I do not recommend that.  It’s much better to live in a space for a while and update it later in pieces, after you’ve stared at it, lived daily life through it, and slowly pondered the possibilities.  That’s when you learn where the sun hits through a window at just the wrong time of day, how air moves through the space inefficiently, or how a certain path you take through an exterior door and again through a screened-in porch door to get to the grill drives you crazy.  We do not have this option.

I longingly wanted the architectural process to be quick, the structural drawings to be fast, and the city to approve our permit in record time so we could get our little family out of my parent’s house and into our own before our Annual Oktoberfest party this year.  But instead, drawings take time and revisions, engineers go on vacations, multiple vacations, and the city doesn’t care how fast you want to start just the order of when your application hits the pile.

Don’t ever plan a finish date for a holiday or party.  I repeat: DON’T EVER PLAN A FINISH DATE FOR A HOLIDAY OR PARTY!

I’ve had so many clients do this and we try our best to accommodate, but it’s not always possible.  Many have wanted to be done to host Thanksgiving, to be done for graduation parties, Christmas, or even pregnant bellies about to pop before baby arrives.  Ok that one, you can’t really do anything about, but it seems to happen often.

 

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I regained happiness and got rid of stress and emotional lows when I finally gave up the idea of Oktoberfest in my brain.  When I let go of trying to hold onto the timeline myself, when I just let go of control!  That’s a hard thing for a designer to do, but I had to.  And now I am joyful, relaxed, and excited for this construction process to happen…

Until the next bump in the road when I go through the wave of emotions all over again!