On 2012 & The House’s Post Break-Up Haircut

2012 was a difficult year. Most of 2010 & 2011 weren’t exactly a walk in the park but I still made half an attempt at blogging. But 2012… 2012 was different. 2012 was coming to terms with the finality of ending the longest relationship of my life, dealing with & removing a c-word of a housemate (sorry Mom but she was) and – perhaps the most complicated – trying to figure out what the house is now.

Of course the house is still a house. But it’s different. My relationship with it is different.

The house was bought in 2009 as a home. A home full of hopes & dreams & a future. It was a project Rob (my former husband & best friend) & I were going to do together. Make “ours.” There were plans for what each room would be – the 2nd floor back bedroom was to be a den/music/TV room; it’s now a guest room & full of displaced kitchen stuff. It was so natural for “us” to have projects and talk about what “we” were going to do to X, Y, or Z. Dream. Plan. Do together.

That’s all changed. From “us” & “we” to “me” & “I”. And that’s been hard.

It changed my relationship with these 4 walls. It went from being “our home” to “my house.” I live here but it didn’t feel so much like home.

Keeping the house has never been a question. I am keeping the house.

But what is our future – the house & I? That’s what I’m struggling with.

Am I renovating to live here fulltime? Alone? With housemates? Will I move out and rent it fulltime? Live here fulltime and raise kids here?

The answers to those questions affect how to renovate. Case in point – I’m renovating the kitchen (yes; still). I LOVE the idea of a pot filler. I think it would be handy and easy. If I live here forever, I’d love to have one.

But, if I end up renting it out to a bunch of college students (the local demographic), I wouldn’t want them accidentally leaving the pot filler running and flood the kitchen.

I’m not putting in a pot filler. And that’s just the superficial, easy stuff.

The bedroom at the back of the 3rd floor, right off the master bedroom was going to be saved and used for nursery. Womp womp. Won’t be needing that anytime soon.

Inherently, I’m a partner person. Try as I might to fight it (and I fight it hard), I need a partner. And maybe that’s what makes everything with the house so hard. I don’t have a partner. It’s MY house. It’s MY call.

That’s not to say I don’t have help with the house. I’m blessed to have lots of help (Thankfully! Gratefully!). Lots of help but, at the end of the day, it’s still only mine.

I used to think, “Whatever you want. It’s your house,” would be liberating and empowering.

I want it to be liberating and empowering. I’m working towards making it liberating and empowering.

But it’s not. Not yet.

“Whatever you want. It’s your house,” is heavy and sad. It’s full of responsibility and obligation. So many “have to’s” instead of “want to’s”.

  • I have to fix the iron railing & newel posts out front.
  • I have to replace the rotted wood arch above the stoop.
  • I have to scrape the peeling paint from the stoop surround and above the front windows and around the windows.
  • I have to repaint everything.
  • I have to fix the hole in the cement at the bottom of steps.

These “have to’s” are coming from the city. The City of Newark is taking me to court because they don’t like the way the front of my house looks. Well, to be specific, I’ve already been to court. I have to go back at the end of February to show I’m making progress.

I – apparently – “live in a nice area” of the city and the way it currently looks is unacceptable to the powers that be. Never mind the dilapidated, bombed-out-looking buildings that I can see from my bedroom window. My peeling paint is a blight on the neighborhood. /sarcasm

(seen here back in summer 2012)

Which means that the front of my house is taking priority over not having a kitchen. Yes. The city is putting my peeling paint over not having a dishwasher. And we all know how I feel about having a dishwasher.

But some “have to’s” are just because I “have to.”

  • I have to fix the roof so it stops leaking around the skylight. The plaster is falling off the ceiling.
  • I have to make sure I’ve actually gotten rid of the rats that used to keep my Garden Unit tenant awake at night. (True story. Yuck.)
  • I have to finally find time to work on and finish my kitchen. Which I demoed in June. Of 2012.

To be clear, 2012 wasn’t all bad. I traveled a lot. I worked a lot. I’m trying to be a better friend to the few friends I have left. But the house took a back seat while I tried to figure out where we were going. We’re on weird ground, the house & I.

I only completed 1 major house project in 2012 and that was the 2nd floor bathroom of last January. That renovation started as a futile attempt at making the housemate thing work out. While having a housemate didn’t work out, I’m glad to have a beautiful bathroom. Even if it is still sandwiched between awful blood-red walls and yellow trim.


So. I’ve been moving on. Slowly working my way toward liberation and empowerment.

I’m choosing to see a city-mandated reshuffling of priorities as a good thing. It took me a long time to come to that realization. In fact, I only got there as I’m writing this post.

And you know what I JUST realized?

The house won’t look the same as it did in 2009. It will look better.

  • The newel posts won’t dangle.
  • The rust & paint won’t be flaking off.
  • There will be a gate. A real gate, down to the Garden Unit!
  • Rotten wood will be replaced and things will be rebuilt.
  • There will be fresh paint and a whole new look.

Perhaps all of these imposed “have to’s” are really just the universe giving the house it’s break-up haircut. That visual change signaling a new beginning. The radical difference people notice and comment on. (For the record, I’m a fan of the post break-up haircut. I went with a cropped pixie cut in 2010.)

I was feeling forced, obligated, annoyed, and a little resentful towards all of these things I “have to” do. But, ok House, I get it. A fresh look to start our next chapter. I think it’s a great idea.

This is my house. This is my home. And I want to.

Out front

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24 Responses to On 2012 & The House’s Post Break-Up Haircut

  1. Anne says:

    I love you and your house! Should I ever make it back to Jersey, I’d love to give you a hand! Alternately, should you continue to be bitten or smitten by the travel bug, there is always a spot for you in Hawaii.

  2. I always get excited when a post from you pops up in my reader. All things home have been out of my mind for the last year and I’m just trying to get my enthusiasm back for making improvements. There have been points when I’ve been ready to call a real estate agent and move on.

    Anyway, you know I’ll be here reading, no matter where this goes. 🙂

  3. kmliving says:

    Thoughtful and visionary…. On to a finished front porch!

  4. J-C says:

    Hey, nice to see an update, even if it’s a bit of a sad one. I didn’t know you and Rob had split. Sorry to hear things didn’t work out. I was wondering if your window tops were cast iron? You mention that the arch has rotted wood, and that also makes me wonder if the top of it is clad in metal (some usually are, when they’re wood, to prevent decay). It sucks about putting your kitchen “on the back burner for now” (pun intended), but your house facelift might brighten your mood each time you come home.

    • Above the front windows is metal, so that won’t get replaced. The arch above the stoop is wood though. The lead flashing is still there but it’s pretty rotted anyways. I think this diversion will ultimately be a great thing. Onward & upward!!

  5. eirinka says:

    I’m getting quite attached to those blood red walls. Full of history and vigor. New starts are so exciting!!! LOVE this!

  6. k :o) says:

    I’m glad you’re back! I’ve been checking in regularly for updates. I’m sorry for your news but I know in my heart of hearts that you are going to be just fine. ‘Just fine’ just takes a wee bit of time though. It doesn’t rush for anyone.

    I can’t wait to follow you courageously embracing all that is ahead of you. You rock! Hugs and tons of encouragement from way up here!

  7. madeline@FIX says:

    really enjoying reading your posts, and personal evolution. hang strong.

  8. From one single DIYer to another: chest bump. I can relate in so many ways. Only I was contacted about a toilet on my front lawn. Cuz I’m classy like that, and carrying a toilet down from an upstairs bathroom (even with help from Mom) warrants a rest sometimes.

    If I’m ever in your area, I’m going to be totally weird and give you a head’s up. If you need another helping hand in DIY – what better than someone who’s been (and still is) in your shoes?

    This house will be fab. It will be yours. It will be worth the effort. And you’ll love it more than my dog loves bacon.

  9. I think your ability to do these things on your own is amazing. If I were not several states away I would gladly help you scrape paint. I love reading your updates on the work you have done – it’s so interesting to follow your decisionmaking process on projects that are much more complicated than a coat of paint. It’s too bad you’re being forced to reprioritize, but I’m sure the front of the house will look amazing by the time you’re done with it.

  10. Susan Nelson says:

    I am brand new to your blog….got referred here from another one regarding your tufted headboard and was hooked…I went back to the beginning and have read all of your blog posts in just a couple of days. I’m so sorry your relationship ended-especially one that you grew up with, and spent so much of your life thus far on, but I am a firm believer that everything (including people) have a time, a reason, and a season for their happenings…that would include having to put your kitchen renovations on hold in order to take care of the front of your home to satisfy the city’s (seemingly) strange sense of urgency (when the surrounding area is so much worse. If you can get the front renovated by Spring, just think of how wonderful it will all look when you are ready to spend the majority of your time outdoors during the nice weather! You are truly a talented individual and I am simply, utterly, and unbelievably impressed with all that you’ve accomplished thus far in your DIY historical home renovation journey. Much like the rebirth you are now going through, you are giving the house a rebirth of its own to get it back to what it once was….a home-not a sort of dormitory home it seems to have existed as for these last years. The house is already so much better off than what it was with the previous owners. It’s nice to see how much you honor the history of your home, too, when it comes to the options you are considering with each of your projects….and just like any rebirth…it doesn’t happen over night. Keep on, keepin’ on, girlie!

  11. mandalynns698 says:

    Hi Carrie, Just thought of you today and popped by to catch up. I think your house is amazing and the work you’re doing is inspiring! I just added you to my reading list, so I’ll drop by once in a while to get encouraged to do my own renos!

  12. Love to see you back posting…as a fellow Newark resident constantly fixing his old house I can relate. Sorry about the ups and downs but glad to see a “Historic James St. District” resident plugging away.

  13. rareouldtimes says:

    Can I just say that you’re my Hero? I think it’s totally amazing and awesome that you’re continuing on with that incredible house of yours! I’m so excited to see everything that you do, and you’re a huge inspiration for when I finally manage to buy my own place (boo insane DC housing market!)

  14. Helen says:

    Carrie, your work on this house is truly amazing and inspiring. And your writing style and pix are great — keep up the wonderful work!

  15. Maureen says:

    Just found you through Ugly Duckling and your words hit home tonight:

    “Whatever you want. It’s your house,” is heavy and sad. It’s full of responsibility and obligation. So many “have to’s” instead of “want to’s”.

    Being a grown-up sucks sometimes! I don’t want to pay for the leaking pipe. I’d much rather buy the pretty crown molding or new carpet for the bedrooms. Glad to know I’m not the only one.
    Now, I’m going to get a cup of tea, go back and read all your posts and start again tomorrow.

  16. Kaela d. says:

    Just found your blog and I’m loving it! This post is really hitting home for me (pun not originally intended). I haven’t gone through a recent break up (thankfully) but I did buy a house by myself last year. It’s such a challenging and yet rewarding experience. It’s nice to know i’m not alone in the single female DIYer boat in that sea of have to’s and want to’s. Thanks for the inspiration and reminder that all things happen for a reason . Can’t wait to see your front porch after all of this is finished! 🙂

  17. What’s up, I log on to your blog on a regular basis.
    Your humoristic style is awesome, keep it up!

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