Thursday, September 24, 2009

Checking in

So here's something new.

I'm happy.

Yup. I'm actually happy. I'm not thrilled, ecstatic, on Cloud 9, over the moon. But, I'm happy.

I know a happy blogger doesn't exactly make for the most interesting posts. Hope I don't sound like a blithering idiot. Maybe that's why I haven't written in my blog so much these past few months. I started my blog as an outlet, a place to put all the mental energy and dust that got kicked up during my divorce, the divorce that shook my world to pieces. I just don't have that much to kvetch about.

Scratch that. I actually have a lot to kvetch about. I need a job. I have a very small biological window left to have a baby and I'm worried sick about it. We're short on money. My move here was a nightmare. My mom and siblings are driving me crazy, crazy, crazy. My house is still not unpacked and in need of some major fixing up. My community needs money. I need to have some minor (very minor) surgery next week. One of our contractors stole money from us. My car is badly in need of some body work and we can't afford it. I'm middle aged. Etc. Etc.

But these problems are all just part of being awake every morning. I don't expect life to be free of problems. That doesn't happen till you're, well, dead.

Truth is, I greet every day astounded at my lack of unhappiness. I think I've been unhappy for so long, I didn't really recognize the feeling of being happy. My miserable marriage, followed by my sad divorce....nearly a decade spent steeped in unhappiness. No wonder. I'm flexing new muscles. I'm getting laugh lines.

Well, thank you, God. Seriously. Thanks for turning my dear husband around and showing him that if we each devote ourselves to making the other person happy, we will have a good life together, and we will build something. Thanks for helping me change. Thanks for giving me something to work with. Most of all, thanks for a second chance. I owe you one.

Shana tovah.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fixing up our little nest

We've spent the last few months doing stuff to our house. Starting off a new marriage in an old house can drag you down...we wanted our external environment to be as fresh and different as possible. We've done quite a lot on a very, very limited budget. Since money is tight for most people these days, I thought I'd share some stuff I've learned along the way:

1) the cheapest and most effective facelift you can give your home is a paint job. What a difference a little fresh paint makes. We used a painter, but if your funds are seriously tight, do it yourself.

2) paint all your ceilings white, no matter what.

3) use Facebook to get recommendations from friends on contractors. Get a million estimates before you hire someone. Estimates are free. You will eventually find someone who fits your budget and does good work.

4) Home Depot takes Lowe's coupons, expired or not. Lowes takes unexpired Home Depot coupons. Sears will usually match Lowe's and Home Depot prices on appliances...don't be afraid to bargain. Lowe's 10% off coupons are available at the post office, in change-of-address kits. Grab five of them at a time. I buy nothing at HD or Low's without a coupon.

5) Another way to do cheap updates that make a difference is to change doorknobs, drawer pulls, handles, switchplates, socket covers, toilet seats, towels, lighting fixtures. You can get much of this stuff very cheaply online.

6) when decorating, use odd numbers when displaying things. Put out five plates, not four. Put out three vases, not two.

7) Use Craigslist, but very, very carefully, because there are a lot of weirdos out there. Hire lawn guys from Craigslist, but don't necessarily hire contractors that need to come into your house. Never give a contractor money in advance, no matter how trustworthy they seem. If they need to buy supplies or paint at a store, have a store call you from the register for a credit card number. They do it all time.

8) Go on Freecycle.org and look for posts on people giving away painter's tape, ceiling paint, clean dropcloths, etc. And when you are done with your paint job, freecycle your stuff as well.

9) A good handyman is priceless. Get one through recommendations. Wait until you have at least five things he can do and have him come and fix/install it all at once...you'll save the multiple traveling costs and it's so nice to get a bunch of stuff fixed.

10) If you're doing ongoing renovations, go into home improvement stores periodically to check out the floor sales. I stopped in one day and got a Moen faucet for our sink for $50, just because they were on overstock sale. I got a stainless steel refrigerator for $400, because it was the floor model.

11) if you're painting and driving yourself crazy with color choices, rather than just choose a color and hope it works, invest $3 and buy a color sample and throw it up on the wall. We made one bad mistake in a bedroom and had to pay the painter to repaint it (and buy new paint). We should have bought five or six color samples instead.

12) do things in stages. Don't try to do everything at once. Get your floors done. Pause. Get your repairs done. Pause. Get your painting done. Take a breather. Then get your window treatments. Put up some shelves. Go slowly or you will make bad choices.

13) Nothing gives a house a quickie external face lift and curb appeal like painting the front door. Make sure to use a semi-gloss finish and exterior paint...the elements are tough on paint.

14) Another cheapola face lift that brightens everything...have your windows professionally cleaned. Suddenly, the sun will come in.

Feel free to post your home reno tips here. Could use some ideas about low-cost window treatments.