Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Feature Listing

For about nine months, I've avoided announcing our impending move to Pennsylvania, as if avoidance might alter our destiny and allow us to stay in this town that we've all come to love so much. But time marches on, and as spring drew near, we knew we'd have to list our house (which officially went on the market last Friday).

My realtor asked for a list of features, but honestly, I think the features we're interested in are completely different. I couldn't care less about the shutters or stove or fridge. I'm more interested in other things like how we live in the space we have. So I when I handed her a list, I slipped in a few oddball descriptors like "Surprising number of toilets, sinks, and outlets" just to see if she was paying attention. (She was.) My listing ended up looking like every other listing on the market, which didn't seem right. This house (which my DH and I have fondly described as being "designed by Dr. Seuss, built by The Cat in the Hat, and occupied by Thing 1 & Thing 2) should have a listing as unique as it is. Hence, today's post. This is what I think should really appear on Zillow.


As you walk up to this center-hall colonial, you'll notice the garden is looking pretty blah. Partly because this picture was taken on an overcast, still-wintery day. Partly because the front yard has a weird hot, dry micro-climate. Finally, last year, I hit on the idea of growing lavender there. It seemed to be doing alright whereas everything else sort of petered out after a few months, but now I'll never know. If you buy this house, I hope you'll give me an update.

Of course, since this is a center-hall colonial, you have to make a choice when you walk in the door. Turn left or turn right. Contrary to what you see on home improvement shows which seem to love open-concept floor plans, this is kind of a benefit for families with small kids. With open-floor plans, your mess is all hanging out in plain sight as soon as you walk in the door. Separate rooms allow for private spaces, spaces that are easier to close off and keep clean for an unexpected visitor. My house can be in shambles, but the living room is generally guest-friendly at all times.

Let's turn in there where a fireplace and comfy sitting make this the perfect spot to sit and read or listen to music on a chilly winter evening. Or if you're under 10, it's a great place to roast marshmallows.

Passing through the living room, we enter The West Wing. I think this used to be a sunroom before some additional rooms were added onto the house. This hall provides a buffer zone between the living room and the downstairs office/library & guest suite.

What most people don't realize is that the closets in here are not just storage. One of them contains a secret sink! Most people would never think they'd need a secret sink, but they would be wrong, so wrong.

As we step into the office that started out as mine, but which was quickly assumed by my DH only to be claimed in turn by my kids, you'll notice that the photographer took a photo of only one angle. Maybe she didn't like the desk view, which is too bad because that's would've been a view of the lovely bay windows. However, you do get to see my "magic stairs" leading up to the loft.

Here's the loft where we keep our books. Or if you're my middle child playing with his friends, you try to be the first to run up here with a Nerf gun and blast everyone who walks in the room.

The bookcase appears to be overflowing, but that's not my fault. Ever since we learned 9 months ago that we'd have to move, I've been culling things for the library. At last count, we had donated about 300 books, not to mention CDs, DVDs, puzzles, etc. We're down to the essentials -- I swear!

We use the first-floor master as a guest suite because I felt it was too far away from the kids in case they got sick or scared in the middle of the night. It's a good place for guests, though, because they get a little privacy.

I haven't done much with this room because we don't use it often, but with all the windows and skylights, it's so bright and cheery that it's hard not to like.

We have to backtrack back to the front door to see the rest of the first floor.

If you head down a hall, there's a half bath, but I don't see a photo of it in the listing. That's ok. I never hardly ever go in there either. It looks ok since we had it updated in 2014; I just don't use it.

Oh wait, never mind. I did find one after all. The round silver thing hanging on the wall makes me happy. My mother-in-law brought it from Turkey. On one side, it's a hanging decorative piece. On the other, it's a mirror, but since I'm keeping it, I guess that's not really a feature.

There is also a dining room on the east side of the house, which gets used for everything except dining. Potterheads that we are, we call it "The Room of Requirement" and have utilized it for everything from starting seeds and raising chicks to rollerskating. Last year, my daughter had a friend over, and I received the best compliment ever. Livva took one look around at the chicks and plants and exclaimed, "I love this room! It's so full of life! It's like you can just feel everything growing in here!"

The kitchen is the heart of our house and the reason that we bought it. So it seems fitting that it should be featured closer toward the center of this listing. The spacious counter and double oven is perfect for baking Christmas cookies, a summer buffet or even a cub scout den cooking lesson.

And if you just want to hang out, there's lot's of space to do that, too. My DH made the couch and table when we first got married. It's a good spot to sit with a cup of tea and a garden catalogue watching the kids playing in the backyard. And when you see them starting for the house, you can head them off with popsicles.

So that's the first floor. By this time, most people need a map to find their way back. I actually had one overnight guest walk into a closet trying to find the guest suite, but after awhile, you figure your way around.

Let's peek at the second floor.  This is just the landing at the top of the stairs, but seeing the photos reminded me of a sort-of funny story about that painting in the picture below. About 10 years ago, I fell completely in love with a painting at a local junk shop in NJ. My DH thought it sweet, but he never really loved it like I did -- until we moved here. That's when he found out that the artist was actually fairly collectible, and my piece was worth about 10 times what I'd paid for it. Not a lot, but maybe a few hundred dollars. So then my DH got excited and bought another one. To be honest, I don't like the subject or colors in his as much as in mine, and I'm not keen on the framing either. But mostly it kind of bummed me out that mine wasn't the only one anymore, so I hung his painting upstairs where only we see it. Petty, I know, but now everyone can see it.

The master bedroom is mostly functional, but it has the best, most comfiest bed ever. The secret is to crawl in under the covers after my DH has been warming it up a bit.

We finished renovating the master bath only last spring. After installing glass shower doors from Home Depot in our last house, I learned a lesson and paid extra for a custom glass enclosure with streak-resistant coating this time. It makes all the difference in maintenance.

I was going to plant live moss in a frame and hang it and make a live moss bathmat, but I never got around to that before finding out we were moving. But the greenery would've been a great complement to the Asian-influenced choices of that room. Sigh. 

The upstairs hall bathroom is my daughter's. Since it shares a wall with our bathroom, we did them both at the same time. I love the color of these walls and the light fixture that looks like bubbles. Mermaids were the inspiration for this one, and I was going to stencil a huge fish-scale pattern in different colored scales like in Rainbow Fish all over the walls, but...

Here is the girl's room, which is NEVER, ever this tidy. Of course, our entire house has been groomed and liposuctioned for these photos. Still, I love her room. I love walking by in the morning and seeing her lost in dreamy slumber (which is a nice way of saying that she's sprawled out spread-eagle, upside-down, snoring, and completely out of it).

My office is part of a Jack & Jill suite. However, neither boy wanted this room, so we stuck them both in the other room. This used to be a game room for them with a couch & tv, but because they didn't use it often, I snagged it. I guess the photographer really does not like desks because you can't see mine either. I suppose the artwork on the easel is more interesting anyway. The girl likes to work alongside me, so there is space for her easel as well. My oldest son and I painted the table and chairs when he was 4. Even though the kids have all grown, I have trouble parting with them.

The boys' bath (and their bedroom) were next in line on our list of renovations, but it was in decent enough shape, so we were putting it off until next year or the year after. That's usually the case with us. Priority is determined by what is actively falling apart.

The boys have a ginormous room with a staircase to the outside (another reason why we put them both in the same room -- so there would be a narc in case of any funny business). Eventually, we wanted to replace the staircase with spiral stairs to reclaim floorspace. And maybe, when they were older, turn this into a studio apartment in case they came home after school. The best-laid plans of mice and men...

So that's the upstairs and ground floor. The basement is last. Wisely, our realtor skipped photos of the laundry room/pantry/mechanicals/storage/utility rooms. It's not pretty.

I do love the playroom. Most of the kids' toys are down here, so if it's cluttered (which it usually is) I just shut the door. Alternatively, I call this room "the booby-trap." There are usually so many Legos on the floor that if you were a housebreaker, you'd have to be crazy to try coming up through the basement.

Off to the side of the playroom, I have my own little sewing/craft space. When my littlest was a toddler, having it here let me keep an eye on her. Also, if I'm making something really crazy (like a chicken costume with feathers flying everywhere), no one even notices the mess.

Actually, we have another secret sink in the craft area, which is cool because if I have to iron something or clean paint brushes, we've got water. When we first moved in, I used to laugh that we had this crazy house with sinks in closets, but now, that's one of the things I like best. It's sooooo convenient having a sink within 20 steps of wherever you are. However, because this space has plumbing and electricity, we had also considered converting it into a kitchenette/bar one day after the kids had outgrown their lovies and nerf guns.

The second room downstairs is our family room. I love this room because it has two walkouts to the backyard. In the winter, when I'm too cold to plod around the house to the compost pile, I just sneak through the house. 

My DH likes the sound system. He and my dad worked so hard installing the ceiling fan and in-wall speakers. It's going to be a sad day for my DH leaving those behind. :-(

My oldest kid likes this room because he never has just one friend over. There's always a herd of boys - like 8 or 10 of them - but they all seem to fit comfortably down here and stay pretty much the whole day. They leave a zillion crumbs in their wake, but it makes me happy to see my son with so many really nice friends. Besides, ever since my kids were little, I always said I wanted to have the house where kids go to hang out. 

This room even has space for exercise equipment, which is purely decorative since we never use it.

Finally, if you pass through the doors near the treadmill and turn the corner, there is the 6th and final bathroom. It's not exciting, but it does have a shower, which I always figured would be awesome when we finally put in a pool.

Oh, and here's the back of the house. From this angle, it's kind of a crazy house, but it's perfect inside.


Re-reading this, there is a theme emerging. The comments on the photos are not just the things about my house that I like, but all the things that it could be. That actually is the hardest part of moving -- missing out on the possibilities.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine and I were talking about our kids who have been each other's best friend since they were two. There were so many things that we were looking forward to -- them riding back and forth to each other's houses on their bikes, us taking photos of kids going to prom, watching them graduate.... As we teared up, that's when I realized what part of moving I was grieving the most -- the potential that this place had for us as a family, as friends, and as part of a larger community. I hope that the person who eventually buys this gloriously Seussian home sees that and experiences the same happiness that we've had here.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Resurrecting a Blog

Last week, my dear friend Sarah encouraged me to do something I haven't done in quite awhile. She told me to write. (Sarah, you wonderful woman, see? This is your doing.)

Truthfully, I've missed it. Though my bee blog fills a gap, it's not the same. That's more a list of observations. Exposing one's innermost being through words is riskier -- like public skinny dipping -- but more thrilling, too.

Seeing a years-long gap in blog entries saddens me a little, and I have to wonder why I stopped. In a past life, I'd thought to write poetry [fortunately I figured out I was far too happy and not nearly neurotic - or clever - enough before getting too far down that path (less traveled)], but prose... now that's a different story (literally & figuratively). I possess an ideal amount of angst for a prose-y post.

So maybe I'll breathe some new life into this blog & see where it goes. Maybe it will get up and run. Maybe it will shuffle along - an aimless, brainless zombie. Or maybe it will just stretch out on the nearest therapist's couch for some good old-fashioned catharsis.

There's only one way to find out.

Seeing how my office has been recently tidied and I have desk space again,
this seems as good a time as any to use it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Table Turned

Lately, I've been busy. Most recently, our basement flooded, and so we've been ripping out carpet, taking down wallpaper, etc. Plus, we've had tons of end-of-the-school-year stuff, dance recitals, actual paid work, etc.

To recharge from the stress of the day, I've been reading poetry at night, and I've discovered that I love Wordsworth. This has come as pleasant surprise. The last time I read any of his stuff must have been a score (a literal score) of years ago. At the time, I just couldn't get into him. In fact, with the exception of Byron, I couldn't bear any poetry from the late 1600's to the 1800's.

Tastes change, though, and I'm really digging Wordsworth now. The following poem, in particular, is one that speaks to me. Apparently, it was a great favorite with Quakers, too, though that tidbit has no bearing on anything.

The Table Turned
Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
 Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
 Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun, above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

 Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

 And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
 He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless--
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

William Wordsworth

I thought about offering commentary, but it seemed too close to "meddling intellect misshap[ing] the beauteous forms of things." Instead, I'll just let you enjoy it on your own and glean from it what you will.
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