Options, Choices, Decisions, Part II

Change always comes bearing gifts. ~Price Pritchett

Awwww, spring! The time of growth. The time of change. The time for taxes. (Yuck! We could do without that one!)

Several monumental happenings occurred during the spring of 2012:

  • We got a nice tax refund.
  • We bought appliances for the new house with that refund (well, the refund paid for part of the purchase).
  • I finally learned to drive our zero-turn lawn mower.
  • Jill volunteered Jim to professionally draw up our house plans.

The tax refund was a blessing. I think part of it was based on my retirement the year before since I only worked half the year. The other was from all the charitable donations to Goodwill. I’ve never had such a stack of receipts with attached inventory lists in all the years we’ve been married. I sure de-cluttered!

Since we were working on house plans and Bill was starting to build cabinets based on those house plans, he needed measurements of the appliances we planned to use. Bill said we might as well buy as much as we could for the new house while he was still working. Besides, why include those items into a home loan and pay on them for years. So we started shopping around. I’m going to publicly confess that Bill and I became stalkers at Lowe’s and Menards. We stopped in at least twice a week. We wandered the aisles looking at their cabinets and trim and appliances and sinks and faucets and anything else we could use for the new house. We were always on the look-out for bargains or clearance. This was a common sight when we went to either of these stores.

Checking out cabinets

Checking out cabinets

After much research we finally decided on purchasing some Bosch appliances for the kitchen: five-burner gas cooktop, convection microwave, single electric wall oven, and dishwasher. Because we weren’t going to use them for a couple of years, we purchased 4 year warranties on all of them. Better safe than sorry. We decided we would wait on buying our refrigerator, trash compactor, and washer/dryer until later.

We also bought out two Menards stores for our cabinet hardware. I wanted something rustic. When I saw these, I knew they were the ones. The icing on the cake . . .Ā  they were on clearance. Woohoo!

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Cabinet handles and knobs

Now, about that zero-turn lawn mower. I’ve always said that the zero-turns were created for men. They are like toy sports cars that have blades under them. You can run them as fast as you like and turn on a dime. Since I don’t like to drive fast or turn on a dime, the zero-turn did not appeal to me. But, I love to cut grass. Always have as long as it’s on a riding mower. We have 2-1/2 acres to cut. I use to cut grass with my John Deere riding lawn mower. I loved that mower. It was so easy to run. We sold it later in the summer on Craig’s List for more money than we paid for it used!

Cutting grass

The John Deere mower

We really didn’t need two lawn mowers. When Bill cut using the zero-turn he could cut our grass in about half the time as it took me to cut with the JD. In 2012 we started cutting grass in March and it needed to be cut about twice a week for months until we hit the drought. So, since Bill was so busy making cabinets he asked if I could start cutting grass. I put on my big girl panties and said I would if he’d help me conquer my fear of driving the Exmark zero-turn. He had tried teaching me the year before but IĀ  jumped off of it. Yes, literally, I did while it was moving. It scared me. šŸ˜¦ As a public service announcement, I don’t recommend anyone doing that. EVER!

Bill used a different technique in training me this time around. If you don’t know what a zero-turn mower is – all your controls are in the hand levers. You don’t have a gas pedal or a brake or reverse gear. It’s all controlled by the hand levers. And, of course, you have to push one lever one way and the other lever another way when you want to make turns. Yeah, my brain does not naturally understand that and I would turn the levers in the opposite way. It did not come natural to me like riding a bike. We took baby steps. Bill showed me how to go forward, backward and stop. Then he made me drive the mower up and down row after row over and over until I felt comfortable. Next he showed me how to maneuver the hand levers to go around things. That was harder, but I eventually got the hang of it – slow and a little choppy, but could get the job done. The last thing he showed me was how to go faster! I was on my way. I did end up cutting grass most of the year. The only area I still refuse to cut is a small hill with four trees behind the pole barn. I don’t like the feeling of being slanted on that zero-turn.

Back to house plans . . . Once we had decided on a final house plan and I had worked on it for months, some things started to bother me. I didn’t have the vaulted ceiling in the family room showing correctly and I didn’t know how to fix it without destroying the roof lines. Then, I started to play with the roof lines and make gables. I messed it up big time. I was getting so stressed that I couldn’t get the plans correct. I kept worrying how would we ever be able to use these plans to send out for bid. We thought when we purchased the software that we could create those documents. I finally posted a question on the software tech help forum. Two people answered that I really needed to work with an architect to draw up our plans from my drawings or I could contract someone from the software company to do that.

I remember the day clearly that I had a conversation with Jill about how stressed I was. I was in the dog food aisle at Wal-Mart almost in tears relaying to her via phone that after all the work I had done and all the work she and Jim had helped me in changing things on the house plans, we could not use them in the format they were in. Jill had worried about that, too, as she said that our software plan showed thick exterior and interior walls that had all the inside components of a wall. Official blueprint/Auto-cad drawings of house plans do not show walls like that. Then, she told me that it was always in the back of their minds that Jim would draw up our plans before we bid out the house to contractors. It was???? Really? What a relief for me. šŸ™‚ What a headache for Jim. šŸ˜¦

The next trip we made down to Jill and Jim’s we arranged to work on house plans. How many computers does it take to do this? Obviously, on this trip, it took four laptops!

By the time we left that weekend, I was so sick of house plans, answering questions I hadn’t even thought about before, and making more decisions. How in the world did I ever think I was going to be the General Contractor while building this house? Wait, did I ever mention that before? Yes, that had been the idea. We’d put the house on the market; we’d sell our house and I’d move down with Jill and Jim. Then with their help, we’d start building the house. All the while Bill would stay up here, continue to work but would have to move to an apartment. We must have been delusional! I had even bought three different books on how to build your own home and about being your own general contractor. I read them all. They scared me to death! Terms like footings, drain tiles, O.S.B, gypsum board were foreign to me. Oh, I could look up the terms but I was so over my head. But, Bill kept saying I was going to have to be the general contractor because he was going to be working. šŸ˜• The seriousness of this delusional thinking was addressed later in the summer.

One of the great things about our trip down to Jill and Jim’s that weekend was feeling the peacefulness of our surroundings. We love this property. Bill and I would wake up early and look out those wall of windows in the family room and watch the deer. We’d look at each other and say, “I cannot wait until we move down here!” Here is a short video to give you an idea why we feel the way we feel. And, you also get a look of what part of the 18 acres of grass looks like.

While we turned all the plans over to Jim, that relieved us to do research for materials and furnishings we could buy for the house. And, purchase we did. Every time I would call Jill and tell her what new thing we had bought, she kept laughing and saying why are you buying it now! Soon our running joke became, “Just wait until we start buying drywall!” šŸ˜€ This was the start of our spending spree:

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FYI: That dining set may or may not ever end up in the house. The style really doesn’t go with our house, but it was a great price off Craig’s List and we knew we needed something until Bill has time to make our new dining table. Yes, that’s on his list, too! He’s even bought the thick wood for it. Also, that ice maker Bill bought will be a built-in under the counter in the laundry room next to the sink. An interesting fact about the icemaker: the guy Bill bought it from told him it originally was owned by Peyton Manning. It broke down, they decided they would purchase a new one, and gave the old one to the service guy. He repaired it and put it on Craig’s List. By the way, it was never advertised as owned by Manning and the guy never told him that until after he paid for it. So, now we have a Peyton Manning souvenir. šŸ™‚

Our garage was filling up with all these purchases. Bill even built a crate for that huge bed.

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The rest of the summer, Bill spent most of his time in the pole barn building cabinets for the laundry/pantry room. Once he got past building that large pantry cabinet, he knocked out all the rest of the laundry cabinets. He decided he would wait until spring 2013 to stain all the rest of these cabinets and finish them.

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Next up: The mother of all mother decision-making!

The year of options, choices, decisons, selections . . .

Remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons. Love yourself, trust your choices, and everything is possible. ~Cherie Carter-Scott

Let’s see, where did we leave off from this back story? Oh yes, we closed out 2011. Did we? I’m sure I forgot some things, like. . . Jill and Jim planting grass seed on their 18+ acres in late fall. And, us piggy-backing on that and planting grass along the area where we improved the slope of the land. And, prior to planting the grass, picking up rock after rock after rock for days to prepare for seeding. And, sharing in Jill and Jim’s first Christmas in their new house. Yeah, stuff like that. šŸ™‚

It’s time to move on to 2012 . . . the year of options, decisions, choices, selections, commitment, resolution . . .Ā  Thesaurus summed it all up! Designing and building a custom home is not for the weak of heart. Definitely not for those who are indecisive. Add to that, we’ve never done it before. If that isn’t enough, I have found through the years that I cannot conceptualize an idea in my mind unless I can see it. Always have been a visual learner. That is why it was so important for me to have that 3D house design software. My engineer husband and engineer daughter and engineer son-in-law can look at a flat house plan and immediately see what it would look like in their mind. I cannot do that. My brain does not work like that. Just ask Bill how I am. The many times I’ve said, “Oh, I didn’t realize what I drew in the floor plan was gonna be that big!” Bill was not happy when I made that comment after he built this gorgeous pantry cabinet. šŸ™„

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I have learned to appreciate all the intricacies of a flat floor plan. But, found that I need the added visual of what it will look like in imaginary real life – is there such a thing? Meaning, I really love having a 3D visual in addition to the flat plans. For example, here’s the flat floor plan of our purposed kitchen.

Kitchen floor plan

And, here is my 3D imaginary real-life picture.

Kitchen 3D

See, it helps, right?

The Indianapolis Home Show was scheduled 394058_353979954631950_137517519611529_1222070_31298405_nfor January last year. Bill and I were hoping to see various material choices for the new house all in one location. I’m not sure the home show helped us that much. We did collect bags of literature which eventually found its way into the recycle bin. However, I did fall in love with the craftsman home that was showcased. I wanted our house to look just like it, but as a one-story home. You will find out later, that’s not happening!

We did eventually decide on a house plan. This is what it looked like in spring of 2012. It has since gone through many revisions.

House plan

Back to getting our present home prepared for selling, we needed to do something about our windows. After having them professionally cleaned inside and out (thanks to an Angie’s List Big Deal), we discovered that it wasn’t dirt clouding up our bedroom window. It was a broken seal. Well, actually we knew about the seal, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until we removed all the old blinds and had the windows cleaned. We knew we would never pass inspection like this.

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There was no easy fix. The decision came down whether we wanted to replace all the windows (except the front bay) with wooden casement (like we had) or use vinyl windows. We had three different companies give us estimates. Bill and I decided we couldn’t put vinyl windows in this house. It would change the whole look of the place. This house has all stained wood trim. It just wouldn’t look right to go vinyl. Of course, we paid out our ears and worked our behinds off by making that decision. We chose Precision Windows to install our Andersen 400 windows. Loved these guys! To save us money, Bill and I decided to stain and finish all of the components of the inside of the windows ourselves. Bill devised a plan. The windows were delivered to our house on Good Friday. Don from Precision Windows came out and helped us unbox all the windows and showed us how to take all the components apart. We sorted, we stacked, we set up everything in the garage and the pole barn. I had never stained or applied finish before. I became a quick learner. We put in many hours Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday. Sunday evening we called Precision Windows and told them we were ready for them to install. They could not believe we had gotten it all done. Here’s a slide show showing before and after pixs.

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Anyone want to buy a house with updated kitchen cabinets and countertops, a new high efficiency HVAC plus new wooden casement windows?

And, if that’s not enough . . . wait until you hear what else we had to replace later in 2012.

Retired but still working hard!

The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off ~Abe Lemons

Most people who are very close to me know that I have a horrible memory. I rely heavily on pictures and data to jog my memory and that helps me tell my stories. That is another reason I should have started this blog back in 2008. šŸ™‚ Disclaimer: To the best of my knowledge, everything I post to this blog is true. As I told my daughter . . . at least it is true in my mind!

So, why do I bring up this memory problem I have? Well, turns out we bought that Gator in 2011 instead of 2010. Just noticed the date in my iPhoto picture events. Sorry!

Now, let’s move along, okay?

Turns out 2010 was not only a year of a lot of travel and busyness for Bill and I, it turned out to be a year of multiple moves for Jill and Jim. That nice big rental home they were renting while their house was being built . . . yep, it sold! If memory serves me correct on this one, I think they ended up moving in with Jim’s parents around Thanksgiving. Poor things. Everything had to be re-packed and moved AGAIN. They so wanted to be able to move into their new home by Christmas 2010, but that didn’t happen.

However, they did finally move into their new home before spring 2011. They were determined to move in whether everything was complete or not. In fact, I think the painter spent many many weeks with them after move-in day. It was during the spring of that year I realized how much dirt, mud and dust a new construction build generates. And, when you don’t have grass yet and you are surrounded by 18 acres of dirt – YIKES! That’s another thing I’m not looking forward to in the future. I think Jim’s parents moved into their new home in late May or early June.Ā  All Bill and I could do was dream of the day when we would be joining the other two families down on the compound. Here are a few pictures of Jill and Jim’s home that year before planting grass.

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During the spring of 2011, I was trying to figure out what was going to happen about my job with the school district. Thanks to the district embarking on the International Baccalaureate (IB) program two years earlier, one generous district administrator and one ingenious media specialist, and some stimulus money, I had worked half-time as the district IB technical support person and half-time as my elementary school’s tech assistant. Since the stimulus money was only guaranteed for two years, I knew something was going to change for me at the end of the 2010-11 school year. I started to ask about possibilities for the following school year. In April I was offered a half-time position with no benefits as the elementary school tech assistant for the following year.

Decisions, decisions. I had worked full-time for the school district for 26 years! I always said I wanted to retire when I felt good about that decision. I wanted to leave when I felt I had given all that I could give. A retired principal who was working in our building during that time told me that I would know when it was time. Bill and I talked it over and over and I weighed working part-time versus calling it quits. The decision that haunted me actually became clear in my mind as I drove into work on May 17. As I normally did every day as I drove to work, I prayed the whole way in. That morning I added a prayer asking God to guide me in making a decision. Something happened as I entered the school building. I felt relief. I walked into my room at school, turned on my computer, and immediately wrote my resignation letter to be effective on my last workday for the school year – June 2. It was the right time and the right decision.

Saying goodbye to my school family was hard. Saying goodbye to the actual work and all the stress that went with it was not hard. It was not hard at all. Actually, I have not missed working one iota since I retired. šŸ™‚ Plus, I’ve had way too much to do to occupy my time.

One thing that kept me extremely busy was de-cluttering this house. I am a list maker – so, I made a list for every room in this house. I started the de-cluttering and organizing in late June. And, we invested into many many plastic bins to pack things away. We even emptied our attic and cleaned out the shed and pole barn! We’ve never made so many trips to Goodwill in one year. I won’t show before pictures but will share some afters.

The other major thing that kept me busy (and still keeps me busy today) is house plans. Picture me holding my head as I type this. Earlier in 2011 Bill and I purchased some new 3D software, Home Designer Pro, and a new laptop to run the software. The software required a computer with a separate video card with lots of memory. We thought it would be cheaper to buy the computer and software than to buy full house plans from online companies. Some of that idea didn’t pan out. But, since my job with the school district for many years was to learn new software and then train teachers on how to use it, I decided I would use that same technique and teach myself how to use this house designing software. I must have watched at least 60 online training videos, participated in five or more how-to webinars and joined the software forums for other technical support. Even though I’ve used the software going on two years, I still feel I’ve only scratched the surface of it.

I cannot tell you how many plans I drew in that software. I’d find a plan online, take a snapshot of it, and then import it into the software. Then, I would basically trace the shape of the house into the software using all the outside and inside wall tools. Once the shape was in place, I would delete the snapshot and start to work re-configuring the house plan and sometimes putting furniture in it. Let me tell you, there is no perfect house plan out there. There is always something you want changed from expanding or decreasing the square footage, to adding a window here, to making the hallways and doorways bigger in case one of us is ever in a wheelchair, to moving a room from one area of the house to another. All along I believed that if I created the house in the software, it could be built. That was flawed thinking.

Here are just a few of the house plans we considered building. None of these ended up as our final plan.

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After a quick trip out to Virginia for our granddaughter Alaini’s high school graduation in June, we returned to Indiana and spent a week down at Jim and Jill’s house watching the grandkids while they went on a cruise for their 15th wedding anniversary. Bill had already started building a tree house for the grandkids. He spent most of his week working on it. It’s huge! The kids have had fun playing in it.

Anchoring the base

Anchoring the base

Adding the stairs

Adding the stairs

Almost complete

Almost complete

And, we never passed up a time to fish in our lake.

Staying the week down in Jill and Jim’s house really helped us in making decisions for our new house. I found that I really liked their dish drawers instead of stacking dishes in upper cabinets. I found I did not like a stackable washer/dryer since I could not reach the dryer controls on top. I loved the quiet new dishwasher but it was so quiet I never knew when it was running. We really liked the large walk-in shower. We liked having an island in the kitchen with an area to sit on stools. We found the garage keyless entry openers so handy. I found myself constantly going through the house with a tape measure and taking notes. We laugh because I say our house plans now are a mini one-story Jill and Jim house.

IMG_0497The year ended on a sad note for Bill and a change in when we were going to put the house on the market. I had planned that we would list our house in spring of 2012. With the housing market still depressed in 2011, we thought it might take up to a year to sell the house. Bill had originally said he was going to work until 2014 when he turned 66. If we sold the house, I would move down south and start building the house while Bill stayed up here in an apartment and continued to work.

Well, you know what they say about people who make plans and God laughs. Turns out Bill had to have some surgery on his arm in November. That put a halt in his ability to make cabinets. Now, you could ask, What’s the problem? Just purchase cabinets for the new house instead of building them. Yea, you could say that. But, we’re talking about Bill here. He knew he could eventually make those custom cabinets and he’d make them better than any we could buy. And, he’d save us lots of money in the long run. In addition, he could make anything I found in my hundreds of inspiration photos from houzz.com. Oh, how Bill hates me looking at houzz.com. šŸ™‚

So, our plans changed. We decided to wait a year to list the house therefore giving Bill another year to complete building the cabinets and me a reprieve from de-cluttering for a while.

Surely by the end of 2012 we would have all our ducks in a row and be ready to start our dream. Hahahahahahahahaha . . .