#Write31Days 05: Our First Finished Project

We have a friend Justine who means the world to us. She’s a better friend than anyone could possibly deserve, so you never stop trying. Everyone who knows her will tell you she’s a living contradiction: both fiercely intimidating and captivatingly friendly; smarter, harder working, and more dedicated than the rest of us in this generation, even my niece wants to be her!

She gave us a fire pit for a wedding present 6 years ago, which we were super excited about! Except that Jack was sleeping in his car at the time and Emily had a condo – with no yard! Brand new and boxed up, it traveled over mountains and was squirreled away in basements, storage rooms, and eventually became a night stand in our last apartment. It went unused for over half a decade, despite the fact that we both LOVE bonfires!

We both grew up rich: name brand cereals, new clothes every year for school, and single-family homes with a yard! As a kid, a yard is such a large play space for swinging, climbing trees, and playing hide and seek with friends, but later becomes less fun as a teenager when you are tasked with chores of mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, or picking up dog droppings. Yet, as we grew older, we began again to long for a yard to care for; a quiet space outside to enjoy nature.

We loved our last apartment (we super lucked out with the best management and maintenance in the business), but we were increasingly jealous of friends who could have bonfires whenever they wanted. It became a real motivation to buy our own place! And once we moved into our Yellow Rose, the very first 90 minutes of yard work we did was to clear a space for our new fire pit!

We got a little carried away and tried to have two at once :p

We take it as a sign of support to have loved ones contribute to our home, and we’re the most proud of the parts of our home with sentimental value. As we plan and renovate, we long to invite friends over to enjoy this with us, too!

As summer temps turn to fall, we look forward to enjoying more bonfires in our yard. And as we do, we toast (our s’mores) to the loved ones who continue to support us!

#Write31Days 04: It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

One of my favorite parts of our new home and the community that we live in is that we know the names of our neighbors and we greet each other.

I know this sounds really basic and simple, but it’s been since my childhood that I have truly felt part of a community in the place I live (the wonderful world of college does not count).

Since the beginning of adulthood, I have lived in a variety of settings. Apartment living makes it difficult to get to know your neighbors unless you are already outgoing, and even so, there aren’t many opportunities to be outdoors together. Many of the places I lived weren’t long-term so I never really spent the time getting to know those around me.

Emily: As an introvert, it’s even easier to find it normal to keep to myself. After a day at work around people (all people are exhausting), I just want to run into my home, put on my pj’s and hang out by myself.

But I married an extrovert who has taught me about what it means to be a neighbor. Saying hello to everyone comes naturally to him. Starting up a conversation with people he doesn’t know is easy. Connecting in a way that encourages repeated interactions is a way of life for him. Jack also moved around way more than I did, so he grew accustomed to getting to know people in each new place.

Jack: I ride a Harley, which is super loud and super easy to steal. Since 1999, I’ve moved at least once a year, and I know that if the first time you speak to a neighbor it’s about a conflict, then you’re both at a disadvantage. I want to be approachable about noise! I want nosey neighbors that notice when someone’s loading a motorcycle in the back of their truck!  

Last weekend we watched the documentary about Mister Rogers titled, “Won’t You Be My Neighborhood.” We learned much about the inner workings of that popular TV show and the man behind it, but it was also a good reminder about how we should treat others.

We live in a world where neighborhood, skin color, sexual orientation, gender and many other factors somehow make you lesser than someone else.  

 

We’re now part owners of Baltimore, and we’re a part of this neighborhood. No matter what, we’ll be a part of this town growing, or we’ll be part of what’s tearing it apart. We’ll be a part of what makes this neighborhood welcoming and beautiful, or we’ll be a problem for other people to deal with. At times we will probably be both, but our plan is to remember the basic principles of respect and decency that Mr. Rogers showed us as kids and see how far that gets us.

#Write31Days 03: Four Bedrooms

Emily says she always imagined the home we would move into would be quaint and cozy. Jack says we could live in a giant garage and he’d be pleased. We wanted more space than an apartment, but we’ve never dreamed of anything this extravagant and spacious! With three levels and a yard, it has a massive first-floor living area and upstairs there are four bedrooms.

After we bought the house, I remember getting some bold reactions when I shared that last detail in particular

“Is there some OTHER news you want to share with us??”

If you are a newly-married woman or if you are a woman who doesn’t have kids, you have probably had this experience as well.

Somehow, this is never asked with a tone appropriate for just how personal of a question it is.

In a guest post on an infertility blog, a woman published a letter she had written to her husband:

“At first it was numbness, then profound sadness. I blamed myself for my body’s inability to sustain our baby. I carried the guilt of depriving you, the man I love, a family.” (Infertility and Miscarriage: A Letter to My Husband).

She goes on to acknowledge some of the ways that their struggle had come to poison her psyche and her marriage. Women often struggle with embarrassment, a crushing fear of judgement, and shame for how envious they become of other new mothers around them. “It felt like I was alone, despite all the support I had among family and friends. None of them truly understood what it felt like to go through this. The two-year mark passed, and I lost my job, unable to function to the point that I could work anymore,writes Anna from mybabycare.org.

We could be doing so much more to help. Every childfree woman can tell you anecdotally what we see in the research (Ashburn-Nardo, Leslie. Parenthood as a Moral Imperative? Moral Outrage and the Stigmatization of Voluntarily Childfree Women and Men. Sex Roles, Vol. 76, No. 5-6. March 2016; h/t Unladylike podcast Episode 22: How to Be a Bad Mom); we’ve turned motherhood into some weird moral issue, where those who cannot or those who are uninterested are judged as having some defect in their womanhood.

Why, when someone hears that our house has four bedrooms, would thoughts immediately jump to possible human additions to our family? Why don’t we ask women other questions?

  • Four bedrooms, eh? Guess someone’s getting a pool table!
  • Whoa, are you guys gonna get a hedgehog??
  • Emily won’t have to put up with motorcycle parts in the living room now!
A couple years ago Emily came home to Jack’s front motorcycle wheel in the living room. It took 3 days to fix and reassemble, but the chillest of wives didn’t seem to mind, making Jack the luckiest of husbands 😀

People set up their homes in all sorts of ways! Watch, like, “House Hunters” and you’ll notice that rooms laid out as “bedrooms” are often used for other reasons: home offices, exercise rooms, etc.

Have you seen the show, “Amazing Interiors”? Many of these houses look ordinary on the outside, but homeowners have gotten super creative with their layout and decorations to make it their unique vision of “home”.

First of all, Emily gets two “bedrooms” all to herself. One will be a craft corner/workshop and the other will be converted into a walk-in closet. Much of our space will be for others; we’re adding an entirely new bathroom just for guests! Our nieces said they would rather visit us than Disney World (quick brag), so we’re specifically building room to host visitors as often as we can!

We do our best to be purposeful when planning our life together, and we have brought that same strategy to the layout of our home. We know what we want to make room for, and chances are, Dear Reader, that includes you!

#Write31Days 02: Thankfulness

It’s proper Tuesday. My Monday really begins on Tuesday, since I take the first day of the work week off. As a church professional, Sabbath is not on Sunday, but rather on Monday (or whatever day you can manage to take off). I am the morning person of the couple, but we are definitely both coffee people!

My car needs a tire rotation, and I’ll have to go to our shed for the jack stands and tire iron. I’ll wear contacts today, and when I do I’ll have to grab them from the bathroom. Today is trash day, so I’ll have to grab the garbage from the kitchen. Then go into the office, the grocery store, and probably Home Depot to get what I need before there’s no more Tuesday.

But first, and most importantly: to the porch! That is where I go when what I need to do is nothing, especially first thing in the morning. It’s the ideal place to accomplish nothing, especially if you’re sipping coffee while you do it.  I’m not the type to sleep through my alarm and then have to rush to work. I need time to savor the morning light and the thankfulness for a new day.

I brew a carafe and slip out the front door. The front porch on this house looks out onto a quiet neighborhood. It’s my favorite part of this new home because of everything it doesn’t have: noise, clutter, or unfinished projects. Sometimes I just sit, sometimes I write, sometimes I read, but whatever I do on the porch, there’s no deadline.

We ran a marathon in 2012 after training for 20 weeks. Over that period, we had less and less time on our Saturdays for anything not related to a 4 or 5 hour run. Little projects that fell off of the bottom of our to-do lists started to add up. “I’ll do it after the race” became pretty frequent, and so after the run we got absurdly busy. It’s difficult when you have a thousand things to do, and they all need to be done at once!

Committing to running a race together were the first long-term plans we made when we were still dating and getting a little serious. Now we’re committing to an even bigger project together, and while we welcome the challenges, we also make sure to spend time savoring what we already have.

This chair is from my alma mater in the midwest. It’s shaped funny and the cushion is improbably soft. Something about it makes it especially difficult to get out of, so I’ll need to finish this coffee before I even try.

Jack has a relative who is struggling with alcoholism and the newest situation still needs attention. It’s not clear that she remembers the last conversation they had or how their next one will go, but right now the only communicating is between me and this mug that reads “Reading is No Bologna” from a public library fundraiser from Jack’s hometown.

Our renovation plans are ambitious, and some parts of this house are going to undergo a major transformation. Most of our time, effort, and energy is going into preparing for the work, but we haven’t forgotten the time, effort, and energy it took just to get here! Thus this porch: our oasis, our Eden, our paradise! We want so much more than what we have right now, but we want the remaining Write 31 Days posts to be read in the context that we spend part of each day enjoying what we already have.

 

Introducing the Yellow Rose Chronicles: a #Write31Days challenge

Write 31 Days is a writer’s challenge to pick a topic and publish a blog post every day in October. This year, Emily is writing with her spouse, Jack, for a new blog they totally meant to start, like, years ago.

The topic for this month? Well, we bought a house!

We wanted 2018 to be a big year for us, so we committed to making some major changes in our lives. The curious reader will learn about the parts of our lives, relationships, and selves that we needed to fix, needed to get rid of, or needed to strengthen.

Every effort we have made can be reflected in the plans we have for this new house, from the spare bedrooms meant especially for two special nieces to visit, to the wedding present we finally got to open after 6 years!

Our first tale is about a lonely yellow rose bush in Baltimore that bloomed in very late May of this year:

After Memorial Day, we somehow found ourselves house hunting? Until then, we didn’t believe we could own a home in this part of the country. When discussing where we wanted to commit, we agreed that finances, local culture, and support networks were all crucial factors that made Baltimore an unlikely choice.

Yet, we were cautiously optimistic that if we knew what we wanted, we could figure out what it would take to make it happen.

Within a week,  Emily realized we found the home of our dreams (Jack quickly caught up). In a town lousy with rowhomes, we found a detached home with curb appeal and very few improvements needed. It was even close to our budget!

The rest of our house hunting was ruined. Despite our careful planning, we couldn’t help but compare all of the lesser houses with the one we had grown unexpectedly attached to. The house with the giant garage? Pass. The one with a finished basement? Nope. The home listed for half as much? It just… didn’t “feel” like the one with the yellow rose bush out front!

Every time we spoke about houses, we described our favorite as having an indescribable advantage. Every other option made sense, but this house with the yellow roses really intoxicated us somehow. We had to have it!

Our realtor encouraged us to write a love letter to the previous owner. What did we love about the house? What did we dream for life in this home? What made our hearts beat for this place? We searched for the words, trying to illustrate (within Fair Housing practices, as best we understood them) the vision we had of the life that we wanted.

Emily says that writing the letter made her realize just how quickly she had fallen in love. We had no way to know if the seller would also find it persuasive:

We fell in love with a wonderful house today, so much so, we went back a second time to absorb it all. For the first time in our house hunting adventure, we both had an emotional connection to what we were seeing and experiencing. It’s so clear to us that this home has been well-loved.

From the moment we saw the house in the pictures online, we knew it had charm, which is so appropriate in our Charm city of Baltimore. When we stepped out of the car the blooming flowers on a quiet street drew me in. The yellow roses by the mailbox were a favorite, a symbol of friendship.

Our six year wedding anniversary is this month, and we are really looking forward to buying our first house together! We have been ready to make Maryland our home for some time now, and we hope this is a major step in putting down more roots here.

We have always wanted a dog, but have only lived in tiny apartments. When we married, we were given a fire pit to warm the many upcoming evenings with friends. It has never been unboxed! For years we have dreamt of a home with a yard. Maybe we could find one with a porch that could fit a swing? Ideally with some exposed brick inside and plenty of natural light?

We have envisioned what we wanted our ideal “someday” home would look like for so long, and we have already got our hopes up that this could be our dream house! We eagerly look forward to caring for this house and taking joy in making memories here.

Warmly,
Emily & Jack Phoenix

Would you have sold to us? Find out what happens as October continues!