The Heart of the Home


They say that good things are worth the wait, and it's been a long haul. We are not quite there yet, but the

end is in sight. I never would have expected this to turn into a two year, inside/outside venture, but it has. The algebraic variables are endless. Budget. Timely respect. And, simply taking the necessary alone moments to make good mature decisions that will mold the remainder of my time on this magnificent planet.

My Dad was here the other day and in another of our many one on one's concerning life, murder and all of the Swiss cheese in between, we discussed the reasons. At some point one needs to be realistic about where you are in your own personal three score and ten If I were Erik Northman, I could look into a timeline and laugh, but we are human and a couple of crowns and root canals are biting me in the ass and reminding me that I am getting a little longer in the tooth. Just as Monty Python said in a chipper English twist, "I'm not dead yet"........I still have important life to live and I must choose where and how to do it.

Therein, once again, lies the search for the WHY.

Dad comes by often, but not often enough. Last year it was almost daily, but this year it has been much less as pesky health issues, family responsibilities, personal home, car, pet and body repairs have kept him busy on his own life.

Just another one of Dad's many helpful projects. His talents are endless and works tirelessly. He' sees the possibility in everything and has the talent, experience and vision to follow through. There is nothing that he won't attempt and failure is not in his vocabulary.

I've been so overwhelmed in my bubble that I haven't even taken the time to break bread with He and my stepmom Rita in their own digs, and that is truly unacceptable. Dad is my heart and I'm not sure He knows just how much that I cherish him, not just now but for every year. Every day. Every second. The focus has been so much on Mom, that I feel that I don't sing enough praises for my Father.

Kenneth Edward is an amazing man. One of a kind. A larger than life presence who's shoes I would be proud to fill. We wear the same size loafers and that gives me hope.

Rita has graciously played second fiddle through all of this, and without question has allowed Dad to "come home" to me and step once again into a previous relationship, and his past to help with my present and ensuing future that will affect us all. It takes a strong woman and a special kind of understanding and self awareness to do that. Second marriages and blended siblings don't create families, but the years of history, holidays, family dinners, weddings, births, deaths, sad times and laughs make a timeline of coexistence, empathy, commonality and finally LOVE. As we all have a story, She has helped write many chapters of mine. I am grateful.. I am now sure in a strange way that even after strained moments and often hard feelings, my Mom is as well. None of us are perfect, and time and life soften our edges, toughen our resolve and give us a view into our own souls that make us human and not just bodies in a soap opera. They are more alike than they probably would have ever liked to admit. I have never called her Mother out of respect for Charlene, but she has been my friend, my timeline...............and too has been my parent.

I can be honest with Dad in a way that I can't with anyone else. He is my oldest relationship and friend. He knows the history. He understands me as I am Him. He is me. We don't always agree, but we give each other the respect to be our own man.in a way that our minds are parallel yet our hearts are one singular point. House or no house, He is my home.

Dad knows I've busted the budget on this one. But, in his words, "You are making it your own and it will probably be the last home that you live in". As frightened as I am of limitations and finality, he is probably absolutely correct. This house works for many of my needs and plans for tomorrow. The hardest part for me is just accepting the fact and allowing myself to go forward with that realization. A Peter Pan to the core, my motto usually leans toward "when you walk through a door, you close it for the other options.". I like options. I like an escape clause. I like a trap door and hidden compartment. This has also reared it's ugly head in my fear of relationship, career, and car commitment. Sometimes you circle so long and feverishly that you do nothing but dig your hole deeper and deeper. Half of my roots are firm and perennial, while the other half have rotted in indecision. Staying put, pruning the trees and fertilizing the earth, can still bear healthy fruit. I'm ready to give myself the backyard cherry and place it upon the weekend " Sundae" of my life, well maybe Saturday as I do still love Captain Crunch and Scooby Doo.

In another time and situation I would never have considered spending more on a house than it can feasibly garner in the current market. I am involved in real estate, renovations, staging and all the reasons WHY, but my direction has evolved into something a little more personally sophisticated. A moderate life insurance policy graciously protected my own investments and cash flow. It paid for funeral expenses, legal fees, outstanding bills, taxes, insurance and I justified using the remainder without question for the neglected necessary repairs on the house that quickly absorbed a mid 5 digit bank account. A new roof was installed on the house, garage, tool shed and gazebo . While doing so, I changed the roof line a bit to allow for an over hang and recessed lighting to the front and back porches to give cover for rain, and of course a nice dry spot for backyard work shoes, pets and deliveries. Function has been the driving force for most of the form decisions of the house. I appreciate the convenience now and will even more so as I get older.

The septic needed repair and while doing so, replaced and upgrade 80% of the homes plumbing.and drainage issues.

The wiring had been stressed and overwrought and with a cosmetic reno as the final goal, wiring, lighting, outlets, switches, as well as gas lines repaired, moved or improved. Every change kept future needs and desires in mind and took advantage of open walls, floors and ceilings to avoid a more costly venture later for a less obtrusive bite now. I am thinking ahead and spending on tomorrow's problem today as peace of mind and time will be what I most cherish later.

I then quickly drove through 25-30k of my own savings just demo-ing, buying supplies and paying contractors for the first phase that included the bedrooms, main bathroom, moving the laundry and relocating and completing the gazebo and deck from behind the garage to flank the house connecting it to the main living space. Believe it or not, we accomplished a great deal for the money. It could have easily cost twice that without the help of friends, family and a frugal workforce.

While concerns of my depleting bank accounts and liquid emergency cash reserves plagued my sleep, my very dear friend Jill, branch manager at Mutual Savings, suggested a home equity line of credit. Funny how I often suggest it for others and hadn't even considered it for myself while being so busy stressing and pinching pennies. The process was painless and once again gave me new hope to drive forward. Probably more important than the additional funds at my disposal was a noticeable turn in my thinking that somehow gave me ownership in the house as the true financial keeper. The home was now mine, house payment and all. I don't mind the monthly burden, as it is nominal in the big picture, and I believe that the responsibility of it is a step that I needed to move forward. It became less of a sad investment by default, but a gift of my home that I was respectfully giving a face lift to enjoy and share with friends and family. The river was still behind me, but the tides had turned. These moments in our lives generally happen organically and the sin is not recognizing the ah-ha right in front of you.

The remaining equity also gave potential for future properties, investment, and all around options. I have my eye on a piece of property that will help with passive income in my retirement. This is not for everyone, but rental property is always a steady flow. It takes commitment and a few headaches, but is an investment that you can closely monitor and have an active hand in. It's empowering. Think ahead and diversify. This is a conversation that we will visit later as it is worthy of time and thought.

As I have said before, while you are doing it, do it right. Most will say that whatever your budget, add 10% and 20 for the timeline. That's being conservative and usually only works for a flip property or rental because when doing your own home, emotions get involved. The cost of installation remains relatively constant, so a few extra bucks on the finishes makes the difference. Of course, this is where the budget usually begins to blow up. I'm not going bat shit crazy, and while trying to play my own general contractor, painter, cleaner, designer, and all around gopher, having Mack as the most incredible "do everything" guy has been a blessing that will become a very lengthy and heartfelt blog of it's own. He is..............well, words fail me as my eyes start to tear up. As tired as he is of this project that has been far too much to ask of one man, I'm not actually sure what me and the Puss Patrol are going to do without his daily visits. I am beginning to think that the gift in the entire project has been Mack.

In many ways he has saved my life. He understands me. He understands my vision and is able to bring it to fruition with his talent in a way that is my Dad in his youth. Dad would have loved a son like Mack as he is so much more adept at the practical side of things than I was at that time. I think it often skips a generation as Granddad Ellis was not as able. Dad is, and I'm not. Mack jokes how his Dad is not as adept at such things as his Grandfather ans so on. One generation uses specific tools well, and the other uses duct tape and a hammer, and when that fails......... a bigger hammer, and since we are generally the more artistic, emotional type, well chosen words. Mack's four letter words are normally "nail" it. Mine however is something more colorful.

Macks,s beautiful Mom and my childhood friend Catrena has helped me paint and tackle commercial wallpaper. She kept my attitude and mouth in check by being my own little personal Snickers bar. A little sugar from a sweet soul help you to keep your priorities in check. It's such a pleasure in my life to have Mom and son working side by side and feeling the friendhip and great love that they have for each other. A couple times a week Mack goes to Grandma Jean's down the road for lunch. Sometimes I am lucky enough to score some "carry out" from the kitchen of one of the greatest ladies of Waverly. Now that's livin'..................

In Waverly I see the stars every night from back porch. We don't have to face it here!

Dad loves the changes, and rarely questions my motives and decisions, but did have a fairly strong opinion

about one thing. I had decided to not do a full on bath in the family room and Dad thought that was a bad choice. He said you will regret that later. I was just going to put in some new flooring and slap on some paint and call it a day. I'm tired. The bills are piling up and I'm ready for a break. He said that in a few short years I may not have the inclination or energy to make those changes and I would probably use this area even more than the other as I use this large room as my bedroom much of the year. He said that you are young enough to absorb the extra cost and stress better now than later. As usual, He is right. So as I said before and as a matter of practicality, we had already upgraded the connective plumbing in preparation and the demo is 60% complete, so as soon as the main part of the house is finished, which I am estimating no more than a month when the counters are installed in the kitchen, so starts another bathroom. I don't foresee this being much more than a couple of weeks and in the big picture............an expensive piece of cake.

With that being said, every surface touched. Every corner re-squared. Every memory polished. But, is it finished? Ninja PLZ. Then comes the chimney and fireplace repair and complete painting of the exterior to include house, gazebo, deck, garage, tool and wood sheds and barn. Funny though, as daunting as that sounds, that's a walk in the park compared to the marathon we've just run.

I suppose the key is to keep challenging yourself. Give yourself goals and timelines. Create a dream and sleep on it. You may shoot for the stars and just reach the moon, but there's only a dark side if you choose to only evolve halfway and stay there.. You may in the journey find some new wonderful Who's. Say a lot of What the What's". Find or revisit a lot of Where's. But, you will never be disappointed challenging yourself, achieving a goal and in the end, finding your own personal WHY?

Still to go: Painting, lighting, staining, landscaping. Next...........company and good times.

The kitchen will garner a post all of it's own as the heart has driven the majority of my posts, but there is a lot of pragmatic information concerning renovation between the lines.. I want to pay plenty of respect to the idea of a kitchen renovation as not just the heart of the home, but the best place to spend, save and truly make a livable and financial impact with your decisions. Here is a preview of where we were and where we are going. Soon I will give all of the reasons WHY.