The True Test of a Relationship

Have you ever remodeled the only bathroom in your house?

Have you ever remodeled the only bathroom in your house? I’ve done it twice with mixed results. The most valuable thing that you get out of the experience, aside from a hopefully much-improved bathroom, is learning who your partner really is.

Fortunately in both cases, we were able to agree on colors and designs and such. But I learned a great deal from the first remodel that I never want to repeat. It was a freakin’ nightmare. This time around has been stressful, but ultimately a lot more pleasant.

For starters, We ripped the first bathroom all the way down to the studs, including removing the floor. This meant a makeshift bathroom in the back yard for what seemed like an eternity. If at all possible, avoid this. If you can do parts of the remodel with long extended breaks in between, your relationship will remain on a much sturdier foundation.

For example, we focused on the walls this time. We removed some horrendous wallpaper, did some wall repair, and primed and painted. We replaced the light. And we recessed the medicine cabinet. We did not deal with the floor or the tub or the surround, or the paneling on the lower half of the wall. These are future projects. The counter will be replaced eventually, too. The toilet is staying put, so there was no need to do our business in the out of doors, which, believe me, gets old quickly.

In the first remodel, I would work the graveyard shift, then come home and work on the bathroom for another 8 hours for weeks on end. My boyfriend would come home to find me fast asleep. He would never see me working, and therefore insisted he was doing all he work. Granted, he would work super hard on it on the weekends, on the plumbing and flooring. But jeez, this became a gigantic bone of contention.

Sledge hammering the tiled shower stall was actually cleansing amongst all this tension. But the insulation, dry wall, paint, glass block window, and the custom made and stained cabinets didn’t appear as if by magic. It still stuns me that anyone would think that they did.

Doing this type of thing also teaches you, rather quickly, that no two people have the same skill sets. If you can identify those skill sets, it’s a lot easier to divide up the labor. You also have different energy and patience levels. There’s nothing wrong with that if you are aware of those differences and are willing to accommodate them.

But it never occurred to me, the first time around, that a plumber wouldn’t realize that a toilet shouldn’t be right up against a wall so you’d get to rub your shoulder against someone’s urine splatter for the rest of your life. Another common sense thing, in my opinion, is to realize that if you break something, you should own up to it and repair it, not leave it for someone else to do. That’s called integrity. These are challenges I did not have to face this time.

Remodeling a bathroom teaches you about commitment levels, respect, patience, skill, critical thinking, taste, and integrity. Who’d have thought? Not me.

But in both projects, no one committed murder and the bathrooms were much nicer when all was said and done. It’s really wonderful to be able to sit on the toilet with a smile upon one’s face. It’s very satisfying.

If your relationship survives a single bathroom remodel unscathed, you can pretty much count on happily ever after, as far as I’m concerned. I think the key to this is spacing the project out, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, but ultimately it’s more about choosing the right partner.

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Our freshly painted walls with our brand new light, before the cabinets went back up.

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Finely (Finally) Finished Fun

It took a pandemic to get us off our behinds.

We had never liked the bedroom wallpaper, with its stripes and flowers, hearkening back to the 1950’s. But it had come with the house, and it didn’t seem like a high enough priority to bother with. Home ownership comes with a never-ending list of projects, and this particular one kept getting pushed back behind more pressing ones.

But then one day about a year ago, we couldn’t take it anymore, and peeled off a loose bit of wallpaper. It was our way of committing to this undertaking. Surely neither of us would be able to tolerate a wall with a ripped out spot for long.

Months passed.

Then, in August of 2019, we started removing the wallpaper in earnest. This is not a job for sissies. It takes a lot of effort to remove this sticky, clinging stuff from any surface, let alone a slightly bumpy one. We had to buy special equipment to score holes in it, and a special liquid to loosen the glue, and then we had to slough this muck off the walls. Yuck. I’ll never have wallpaper again, if it’s up to me.

Bedroom Wall 1

So anyway, then we had a blank, white wall, with areas that we patched quite expertly, if I do say so myself. But we didn’t want to stop there. We had plans for this wall. It was to be a unique work of art. No one else in the world would go to sleep or wake up to a wall such as this. It was time to get creative.

And yet we didn’t. Another 6 weeks passed. Then we finally got some orange paint, called “heirloom tomato”, and some white paint to mix in for variety, and we painted the sunset. I was so proud of that sunset, with its variations in color!

We stared at that sunset, hovering over a white lower wall, for another 6 weeks.

Then, in November, a very artistic friend of ours came along, and after we showed him a picture of what we planned to loosely base our mural on, he helped us out by penciling it in on the wall, and showing us how to tape off the various sections. He then demonstrated how to paint, using a variety of colors on a palette, and he painted the topmost row of mountains for us. (Thanks, Mike!)

That row of mountains, floating all alone, with the sunset above and the taped areas below, were what we went to bed to every night for another 5 months. I began to despair that we’d never get around to it once spring rolled around, because we like to get out and enjoy the sunshine and the wonderful weather.

It took a quarantine and its attendant suffocating boredom to get us off our behinds. My husband tackled the rows of mountains, and some of the photos below show the amazing detail in each one. I did the lake, with glittery turquoise paint which these photos don’t do justice. And I added more detail to the sky.

So there you have it. The project took about a year to complete, but we love how it turned out. And it really was fun, when we weren’t actively procrastinating. Now that it’s done, we can’t imagine how we lived without it for so long.

It took a pandemic, but we’re finished. Finally. Finely. Now we get to figure out what to do next.

Bedroom wall 6

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Recyclart

I love the idea of combining two passions: art and recycling.

Every once in a while I have to do something creative. I wish I could engage in artistic pursuits more often, because it makes me feel alive and whole. Every time I make something, I wonder why I let so much time pass between projects. The experience is so fulfilling. But, you know, there’s so little time…

I am in the middle of a project that I’ve been working on sporadically for a few months now, and I guarantee that I’ll be blogging about it when it’s done. But in the meantime, with a little help from Lyn, a friend I’ve made through this blog, I’ve stumbled upon an incredible website that I’ll definitely be consulting before all future endeavors. It’s called www.recyclart.org.

This website is a treasure trove of exciting ideas. On its home page, it describes itself as “Creative ideas based on repurposed, recycled, reused, reclaimed, upcycled and restored things!” I’m getting excited just by browsing. I especially love the idea of combining two of my passions: art and recycling. I suspect it’s going to be my source of inspiration for Christmas gifts for years to come.

The website itself is a cool set up, because not only can you search by categories, such as clothes, garden ideas, and home décor, but you can also search by materials. For example, I looked up projects that you can make out of old books, and I found instructions for making clocks, Christmas ornaments, origami wall art like the kind shown below, a stool, a floating book wall, and a bed frame. How cool is that?

From this site you can learn how to make a pendant lamp from lace doilies, furniture from pallets, planters from license plates, benches from truck tailgates. You can even make baskets out of old t-shirts.

Okay, I need to back away from my computer before I get so jazzed up that I commit myself to about a decade of creativity. I tell you what, though, I’ll never settle for something mundane and off the shelf again.

Recyclart

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The Importance of Including Stakeholders

I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with hundreds of other City of Seattle employees in which one of the many goals was coming up with ways to get the community involved in the decision-making process for city projects. Anyone who has been to Seattle knows that it’s a beehive of activity. Something is always under construction. Roads are being repaved. New transit opportunities are being launched. And all of these things, while being created, have an impact on the neighborhoods in which they’re located.

Sadly, the impact on minority neighborhoods is often more severe. When you cut off traffic flow to mom and pop businesses it can kill them, whereas a Starbucks chain can most likely weather the storm. And there could be cultural and language barrier impacts that you aren’t even aware of. In the past, the predominantly white male administrators of this city did not take these matters into account.

This reminded me of a cartoon I saw many years ago (which I desperately wish I could find on line so I could post it at work, but no luck so far): It shows a bridge submerged in a river, with only the spires sticking up, and on the bank there’s a guy in a suit, jumping up and down in frustration, and a construction guy is saying to him, “If you want one of those over-water thingies, you got to specify.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray spoke at the meeting I attended, and he had a lot to say on the subject. Fortunately, he was humble. He admitted that mistakes have been made, and he took responsibility for them. One of the more notorious city mistakes was the treatment of hookah lounges.

There are 11 such lounges in the city, and some people feel they are hubs of violence. People have been shot dead in front of hookah lounges. Surrounding businesses have been impacted. People started approaching the mayor and begging him to do something. So he came up with a plan to shut them all down. Read more about that here.

To say this caused a ruckus is putting it mildly. Many members of the East African and Middle Eastern communities protested loudly. These establishments are meeting places for them, and places to celebrate their cultural identity. And in truth, they can’t be held responsible for criminal acts that take place outside their walls. That’s a law enforcement issue. That’s a gang violence issue. Having some white men in suits barge in, thinking they have all the answers, without even discussing it with those people who would be most impacted by their decisions was offensive to say the least. The mayor had to back down on that one.

Now Seattle is one of the first cities in the country to employ RETs, or Racial Equity Toolkits. And it’s the only city in the country that requires that such a toolkit be used at least 4 times a year in every city department. This toolkit is a series of steps that get the community stakeholders involved in the planning process for city projects. It requires that planners view their projects through a racial equity lens. How will our actions impact this particular community? What can we do to reduce or prevent negative impacts? What important things might we be overlooking?

I left this meeting feeling rather proud of my new city. We may not always get things right, but by God we try. That a very important start, and it counts for a lot.

GARE-Racial_Equity_Toolkit