House: Wallpaper?

The minute Dad walked into the house, he studied the ceiling.

“Is that wallpaper on the ceiling?”

“I think so, yeah,” I said.

“Who wallpapers the ceiling?”

“I don’t know. I wonder if they’re trying to hide something.”

***

Turns out the wallpaper is some sort of…covering? Coating on drywall? Bridging material? After trying to remove a bit of the Whatever, we realized we were going to have to rehang the entire house if we went after the Whatever. Dad also pointed out the nails pops that Good Man and I never noticed.

Instead of rehanging drywall, Dad attacked at the walls and ceilings.

He fixed a missing patch of something in the dining room.

Missing Patch in the Dining Room

Post-Dad Patch

He fixed peeling, unmudded drywall tape all over the house. It was in the dining room closet, the main floor bedroom (office) closet, the hall ceiling, and so on.

He also removed the old shelf supports from the dining room closet. The dining room used to be a bedroom, and we won’t reinstall the shelves.

He took down the tracks for the closet doors in the office and dining room since we don’t have the doors and will never hunt down matching doors.

Peeling, Unmudded Drywall Tape in the Corners

Mudding

Smooth Walls

Finally, Dad smoothed out the door frame in the dining room where the hinges and strike plate had been. We’re not going to put a door on the dining room, so he made it look like there was never a door there.

***

He also noticed that nails were working themselves out of the drywall at certain points (nail pops). Turns out whoever put the drywall up used the wrong nails. He went around the house, screwing the drywall into place. Of course, one fixed nail pop caused three more to appear…

He also remudded some poorly done drywall seams in the ceiling.

Since nobody will notice this work after the walls are painted, here is proof of what was done!

Fixed Pop

Wall Spackle

Ceiling Spackle

New Mud

Luckily, the upstairs bedroom walls are almost entirely plaster. There is one crack that needs to be repaired (although it will crack again), but very few nail pops!

***

While Dad was fixing nail pops, I removed screws, nails, and doors. I dug anchors out of the walls, took down ugly square clothing rods, removed a mirror, and cursed the previous neighbors for painting over everything.

In short: I learned to love a painter’s 5-in-1 tool.

This Had to Go

I also learned to love my pry bar.

The house was built in 1950. The doorways are narrow. The hall is narrow. The stairs are narrow. And the basement stairs have no banister.

The basement stairs did, however, have this lovely death-trip-inducing threshold. I feared trying to navigate these stairs with an armful of laundry.

So I killed the threshold with my pry bar.

I Will Kill You

Drats, You Killed Me

Before We Started Ripping Things Out…

My dad offered to come help out with the house when we closed on it. My dad has painted tens of thousands of gallons of paint. He’s done electrical work and plumbing. Has has hung sheet rock, and he can go into great detail about different finishes and paints.

We jumped at the opportunity to get some help in our house even though it’s not a fixer-upper.

Before Work

Living Room

Main Floor Bedroom

Dining Room

Kitchen

Upstairs Bedroom I

Upstairs Bedroom II

Backyard

Outdoor BBQ

Key(s) in Hand

“OK,” said our settlement (closing) officer, “now we’re going to start the signing for the actual mortgage, so you need to sign it exactly as it is on your mortgage application.”

I stared at her. “So I need to sign my full name?”

“Yes, and [Good Man] needs to sign his first and last name, with no middle name or initials.”

Good Man said, “But in Korean, my name is all together, so my signature is all together.”

“Oh no, don’t sign it in Korean.”

It didn’t seem worth it to argue about what a signature is.

We both practiced our names on an envelope. I always sign my name Amanda CLastname, so every time I hit the C, I struggled to form the rest of my middle name. Good Man had a much easier time.

***

***

Our settlement was a little odd.

During the walk through, none of the stuff that should have been in the house (full set of keys, receipts for work done from the inspection, etc) was there and one (minor) thing that should have been fixed was obviously not.

Our agent was worried that they hadn’t done the major fix we needed (grounding the outlets) since the receipts were missing. And of course, the listing agent didn’t answer her phone. (The listing agent has been entirely…unimpressive.)

Realtor had forgotten his outlet tester at home. He ran to Home Depot for a tester, and we tested the outlets. One remained ungrounded, but the rest were done. We decided we’d call the electrician who did the work and see if he could come back.

A gutter was nicked during the recent storms, and a handyman is coming Saturday to fix it, so we added the other minor repair to his list of things to do, and headed off to settle.

At settlement, we were the only ones there. The seller settled at a different office at a different time, and the receipts and keys would be couriered to us. So it felt a bit unreal to leave with only one key when there are four locks at the house. (Actually, five if you count the mailbox. Six if you count the door in the basement.)

Later, while we were out for a very late lunch/early dinner, the keys, deed, copies of the amortization schedule, our plat map, and 53 other things were couriered to us.

And now we really own a house! Or, rather, we owe a small part of the house and our mortgage company owns the rest.

American Dream Tears

Our banker rattled off the amount of money she was making our cashier’s check for. “OK, and I’ll use your names and new address for the memo… Right?”

I started crying. “Oh God,” I said, “That’s a lot of money.”

The banker looked at me, “I know, but it’s OK! You are building a future for yourself, you are going to own your home.”

Good Man looked at me, “Why are you crying?”

***

A few years ago, during preplanning, we were doing some sort of rah-rah-teacher team-building activity. Dozens of photos were on the floor, and we had to choose one that represented “teaching.”

I chose a picture of money.

When it came my turn to explain why I chose money, people laughed. Teaching, money?

“Growing up, my family didn’t have much money. I knew my family didn’t have money like my classmates did. But my parents always taught me that education was the way to a better life. I went to college because I knew college could give me opportunities. Teaching has opened up a whole new world to me. I want to work with gifted kids in Title I [disadvantaged] schools because I was that kid. I want to be a role model so students can see how education gives them options.”

The room was silent, and the teachers who had laughed were nodding.

***

When I was growing up, my parents made decisions I didn’t understand. (Shocking, right?) As an adult, I’ve become more aware of why they made decisions they made. And I’ve come to understand that every decision they made was done with us kids in mind. Every major decision I didn’t understand at the time was made to provide more opportunities for us.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself—Well…How did I get here?

Talking Heads

All of the sacrifices my parents made for me sent me down a long and winding road.

I left Minnesota to attend college in Atlanta. A failed engagement in Atlanta sent me to a more exciting life in Korea—a life only made possible by the fact that I had a college education. Bad luck in the form of a Labor Board visit in Korea made my relationship with Good Man possible. And he brought me back to America when he was chasing his own American Dream.

I never made any decisions for my parents. All three of my parents always gave me room to make my own adventures, fix my own mistakes, and build my own independent life.

I have a job I love. I have an amazing marriage with a really good man. And although I never bought the “graduate, get married, buy a house” dream? Here we are, about to buy a home. I have all of these things because of what my parents gave me: hope, confidence, support, and dreams of an education.

Sitting in that chair, I wasn’t crying over money. I was crying in deep, soul-washing gratitude.

“But We’re Renovating!”

Today one of my co-worker pals came over to help me pack. By that I mean she chatted with me while I cleaned and packed, to help keep me on track.

When she arrived, she said, “Whose dog is that?”

I looked into the building’s shared hallway and found a small mutt. “I have no idea. I’ve never seen that dog before.” We looked for his owners and he growled at us. Eventually, we let him be. He barked occasionally and never left the stairwell.

About 30 minutes later, he started barking incessantly.

I opened my door. Someone bought the condo two units over, and they were gutting it. The door was wide open, trash and debris was all over the hallway, and the dog was peeing on the brand new carpet. (I’ve lived here four years and the carpet was replaced for the first time last month.)

My friend said, “What in the world? Where is his owner?”

We watched him for about ten minutes. He just barked and growled and peed. We debated letting him out, but we were afraid he’d get hit by a car. He wasn’t letting us get close enough to pick him up or check his tags. When he called him, he started to come over, but then he would just snarl and growl.

A neighbor who speaks very little English came by and said he belonged to the unit that was open. “Was he abandoned? Where are the owners?”

“Yes, yes.”

We gave him some water and he scarfed it down extremely quickly. At this point, my friend stomped into the unit (the door was wide open) and called for anyone. Nobody appeared. The dog growled and growled.

“That’s it,” I said, “I’m calling the site manager.”

I called the site manager and told her that the dog has been loose for over 30 minutes, he was peeing in the hallway, he didn’t have any water, and his owners were nowhere to be found.

While I was on the phone, a family of approximately eight people showed us. “Is this your dog?” my friend demanded to know.

“Yeah,” said their middle-school aged daughter.

“Why are you letting him loose? He needs to be secured, he needs water, and he needs to go to the bathroom!”

She copped an attitude. “We’re renovating!”

“Yes, I know that, so what?”

She sighed only the way a teenager can and used Teenager Logic. “But we’re renovating!”

My friend did dog shows as a teenager, and her family is involved in dog rescues. She was pissed. “I don’t care what you’re doing! You need to take care of your dog!”

“We were only got a few minutes!”

“Forty-five minutes is not a few minutes!”

She spun on her heel and came into my place. “The site manager is here,” I said nodding toward the window, where I could see her. We eavesdropped from my closed door.

“Yeah, I know you’re new here, but you need to keep your dog secured. You can be fined if your dog is not secured properly, and I will call animal control.”

My friend high-fived me and said, “Yeah, it’s time for you to move.”

Good Man Disagrees With Me

“I’m going to buy this house one day,” I said, pointing to a house while we were taking a walk. “It’s in a trust right now.”

“How do you know that?”

“I looked up the tax records.”

“Stalker,” he said, shaking his head.

“Or the one the sex offender lives in near the school. That’s a great house.”

“Oh my God. You are like a Lifetime movie.”

***

Good Man and I just got back from a trip to the Badlands/Black Hills. We drove there. It was my idea…

“I hate driving. Why is Ohio so wide? This was not my best idea, but I wanted you to see how big America is,” I said while rocking back and forth in my seat.

Good Man nodded, “I knew it was not your greatest idea. A good one, but not the greatest.”

“Then why didn’t you argue with me? Why didn’t you talk me into flying and renting a car?”

“Sometimes you win by losing.”