Tuesday, September 13, 2016

First House! And What I've Learned So Far.

It's time for a major life event random blog update! 

Isaac and I bought a house! For those who didn't see that coming, we didn't either. ;) We'd been looking on Zillow for quite a while but were "waiting," and at the end of June we realized there wasn't really a good reason to wait, and within a few days of talking with a real estate agent, we had found a house and put in an offer. That was followed by a month and a half of inspections, back-and-forth between parties, and awkward pauses when we thought things might fall through. They didn't, amazingly, and we closed August 15 and moved in 3 weeks ago. What a whirlwind!

We decided to do some major projects right away. Here are some pictures of those projects, which are very much still in progress.

 Before--the turquoise wall with the door is going away.


After--looking the opposite direction, from kitchen into dining room into living room.

Getting rid of ridges where the kitchen cabinets were.

Removing shower sliding doors.

Taking out the bathroom vanity and fixing the wall.

Bare little bathroom!

I've learned quite a bit over the last couple months. Some takeaways:
  • Diving into something this big this quickly is not how I typically make decisions (I agonize over pros and cons FOREVER), but it has been healthy for me. I have felt open-handed and at peace for the most part, even though I'll panic occasionally. I've seen a lot of God's faithfulness in moving us forward into a new season.
  • "Home" is a painful concept for me, even 17 years after leaving Kenya. I've been feeling pretty content and settled in Spokane, and suddenly in leaving our apartment and moving to a strange new house with its strange smells and new neighbors and new responsibilities, I've been overwhelmed by the same feelings I had when we left Kenya--rootless, out of control, profoundly sad. Every time I walked back into our apartment to move something out or clean, I cried and couldn't imagine being safe or comfortable anywhere else, ever. This summer my parents also moved out of their house in Minnesota, the one I spent my high school years and college summers in, and that felt like a final closed chapter of life there, too--all contributing to these feelings of loss of home.
  • As I mentioned, it was a miracle that the house didn't fall through, for a lot of reasons (e.g. a VA loan, if anyone has had experience with those). Our realtor even said something to that effect when we signed the closing papers. We hear endless stories of frustrating or dead-end house buying processes, and we can't believe how smoothly our process went--totally a blessing, nothing we did or deserved.
  • We have to prioritize needs over wants. We need to stop pipes from leaking onto our kitchen floor and to make sure the furnace doesn't vent carbon monoxide into the house through the chimney. I want to buy an adorable loveseat from World Market and tablecloths and towels that don't clash with the colors of the walls. It's not "fair" or fun to spend money on the essentials, but it's just reality. And just being able to own a house is an incredible privilege. 
  • Though I have grand landscaping visions--replacing the lawn with a wide paver walkway and a xeriscape of local grasses and brush, putting in raised beds, building a compost bin, and decorating with patio furniture, lights, outdoor rug, windchimes, and a firepit--this first year I have to settle for simply not killing the plants. This is a huge task on its own, and within the first few days we already had wilted roses, bolted lettuce, weeds weeds weeds, and patchy overgrown grass. 
  • Every project is a million projects. "Taking down a wall" also includes moving electric wires and patching and finishing the ceiling, walls, and floor. It leaves a gap in the baseboards, two different ceiling textures, and a need to repaint everything. The bulky ugly cabinets that were partially attached to the now-gone wall might as well come down too. And by the way, now there's molding only in the kitchen, which is weird, so we need to take it out, patch the holes, and sand. And the tile backsplash thing has a cracked upper edge, so now we're learning how to do tiling. Finally, we're drilling a huge hole all the way through the siding and installing a range hood and then putting up new shelves. All because we took down a wall. These are things Fixer Upper didn't quite prepare us for.
  • I have learned how to replace a deadbolt, remove sliding glass shower doors, mud and sand drywall, use a drill, reprogram a garage door opener, reseed a lawn, and keep spiders out of the basement--that doesn't include all the stuff I've learned about and just helped with. When Isaac is at work (I'm off for Eastern's summer break), stuff is still getting done!
  • It is also good to know when to let an electrician, plumber, contractor, or chimney repair person do the work. Though even coordinating those schedules and having strangers in and out of your home every few days is exhausting.
  • Finally, I have learned that there are centipedes in Washington state. I won't tell you how I know this, because I still want you to visit us. ;) They don't bite like centipedes in Kenya or Hawaii! And they eat other bugs! Hooray for centipedes!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Multipurpose Travel Journal

I love things that are multipurpose. For example: benches with storage space; sleeper sofas and futons; shoes that look nice, match everything, and that I can walk in for hours; and African kangas, bolts of fabric that you can wear, use as tablecloths, or carry babies in.

I like journals to be multipurpose as well. I'm sporadic with writing in a journal, but I do tend to fill up and treasure travel journals. They're packed with all kinds of things--chronicles of events, in-depth descriptions, prayers, photos, ticket stubs, bits of napkins with hotel or coffee shop logos, postcards, poem ideas. I'm scrappy, and I like to collect small, pretty, free things.

For our upcoming trip, I enhanced a journal I got as a gift a couple years back so that I can use it for many different things. As you can see, it's a bit random:

 The front. In case I forget (though I won't).


The back. Turns out the days in 2011 line up with the days in 2016, so I am reusing this March calendar that I've saved for 5 years.


Each city has a checklist page so I can note the things we do there.


I tucked in some coloring pages.


 Inside the front and back cover there are pockets for loose bits of things, like crossword puzzles.


I wrote poems on some pages, a few favorites and these haiku-like Japanese ones.


Here are frames I'll add once I print pictures.

Here's to mixed media travel journaling. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Gradibirthary Asia Trip

This year, Isaac and I will celebrate his graduation from EWU, our 5th anniversary, and my 30th birthday. (It's our Gradibirthary, get it?) His graduation in particular feels momentous, since he has been working hard on his bachelor's and master's for the last 6 years straight. It's hard to believe this season is drawing to a close - exciting and also scary.

So, to celebrate the blessings of 2016 (a bit prematurely, I suppose), we are taking a trip to Korea and Japan this spring! After a lot of dreaming and saving for an international trip, it finally seems like good timing.

Planning for this trip makes me think of the first and only time I traveled overseas for vacation (i.e. not for furlough, school, etc.). My dear friends Martha and Cassandra and I went to France, Italy, and Greece our junior year of college, 9 years ago. It's fun to reflect on the differences between that trip and this upcoming one. As a 20-year-old, I was willing to forgo almost all comfort for the sake of saving money. We picked cheap, red-eye flights and overnight trains (fighting to stay awake the following day); stayed in hostels crowded with noisy young backpackers and slept in beds that only sometimes had sheets; ate bread and fruit and had one real restaurant meal in each country (and one time carried a pizza with us from one city to the next, eating it over a few hot days. I still remember the slimy lukewarm taste of that thing). It was gritty, tough, tiring, the perfect adventure for that stage of life.

For this trip, though still on a limited budget, Isaac and I are booking private rooms with our very own bathrooms; we're planning to eat as much delicious food as possible; we have normal flights and arrival times, and at least 3 nights in each city. I get to travel with my sweetie to a country that played a significant role in his life. It's a new kind of trip for a new season.

But many things, I imagine, won't be too different between the two trips: Walking, walking, everywhere. Journaling, taking pictures, writing poetry. Limiting the touristy sites in favor of just wandering, finding local spots. Puzzling over train schedules. And, of course, there's the anxiety.

Traveling with Martha and Cassandra was the first time I discovered how much I try to control situations and how awful I can be when I feel out of control, an anxiety that's magnified by travel. The conflicts we had on our trip and the gentle but frank words from my friends helped me understand myself and the impact my need to have things my way has on others. Marriage has made that even more clear, and I anticipate that this trip will continue to test it.

On the first page of my journal in 2007, the day we left on our trip, I wrote, "I'm trying to talk myself out of nervousness and force myself to be laid-back." I've realized over time how ridiculous that approach is, how stuffing the fear doesn't work even a tiny bit. Though the anxiety may never go away, I'm learning to face it with grace and trust that God is taking care of me. It is freeing to go into our travels with a deeper awareness of my tendencies and a partner who reminds me that true comfort and security doesn't always look the way I expect, who's committed to working through the hard stuff with me and celebrating along the way.