So, it’s been 13 weeks since I passed papers on Ashmonticello, and it’s finally kind of starting to look like a home, by which I mean there are walls, but that’s pretty much it. Having only ever lived in place that required nothing more than paint, this is all new. When I bought it, I really didn’t intend to do a complete renovation, but as demo started, it became apparent that the house was in rougher shape than originally thought, and we (and by we I mean someone else) ended up taking it down to the studs on all three floors. As we began to tear down walls and ceilings, we found long-forgotten nooks and crannies and doors and windows, seemingly recapturing some of the house’s personality, lost over the years as the place was spilt up, patched and reconfigured by people who seem to have considered themselves handy (wrongly).

We’ll see. It’s not enough that we’re beholden to any sense of historical preservation (thank God) in this 1880 house, but it is enough to build on. I am especially excited about the planned Charlie Ashmont window seat, now that we found windows on either side of the windows that were there. He’ll have a 180-ish view outside, which is important for being ready to scare the crap out of the UPS guy.

Then, I decided the outside work should also be done this year, because 1) the inside is going to be so nice that it would be a shame if the outside isn’t and 2) who needs a retirement fund? (I am currently taking work for 2032, if you have any projects.) So as I write, vinyl siding, brick facing and stone façade (yes, all three) are being torn off, to be replaced with shingles and clapboard. (Also, I apologize to the neighbors on either side, but promised I’ll be the best neighbor you've ever had once I get there.)

A couple of days after the papers were passed, I stood in the house with the renovation team and told them I wanted to move in September 1, and they essentially laughed at me. They were correct. I now have my hopes pinned on just after the election.

So, what have I learned? Many things. You know that cliché about everything taking twice as long and costing three times as much as you expect? Truer words were never spoken. Lighting is REALLY expensive. But, I keep looking back and forth between the pictures of nice lighting on my laptop screen and the charming-but-not-practical light fixture in my current kitchen left behind by the fabled “marble lady,” and tell myself it will be worth it. Also, though THIS belongs at Ashmonticello, I should probably face the fact that I can't afford it.

Exterior doors are INSANELY expensive, and not terribly attractive from what I’ve seen so far. Anyone want to build a couple for me? I am now conversant in unfinished vs. pre-finished solid vs. pre-finished engineered flooring, though that still hasn’t helped me arrive at a decision. I know where to find the hardware to build dining room tables that expand from teeny-tiny objects to furniture that seats 20. (If it comes out nice, I’m thinking of starting a little side business with guy who is going to build two of these for me! We might be selling them by this time next year!) I’ve also learned something about myself and how my brain is wired. To wit, if you give me ten songs or ten movies or ten television shows or ten pieces of political propaganda, and ask me to deconstruct them, identifying common themes and placing them in social context, I can do that quickly and efficiently and have time left over to blog about my findings. However, if you ask me to choose between ten different kinds of tile or flooring or paint colors, I get to about the fourth choice, and then my brain explodes, at which point I stick everything in a folder other than my inbox and ignore that it’s there.

I’ve also learned a lot about buying and selling houses, which isn’t a very pleasant experience. The process of trying to sell my house was so unpleasant in fact, I decided to keep and rent the property instead. I accepted a considerably-lower-than-asking-price offer just because showing it was so inconvenient, and the buyer came back with a list of inspection points that would cost about $3000 to fix, asking for $20,000 off the price. It also turned out in the end, that most of the things on that list didn’t actually need repair. My Irish temper prevailed there, but I believe it is all working out for the best. This is a nice house, and I found some nice friends who want to rent it. Again, who needs a retirement fund?

So, onward! I’m looking forward to tax free weekend in Massachusetts August 11 and 12. Though I have openly mocked this practice in years past, I will be eating lots and lots of crow, and saving lots and lots of money. I haven’t started packing yet. Every few days, I stand in the middle of some room in the house, look around and want to cry when I think about all the packing and moving I have ahead of me. But, I am so looking forward to living at Ashmonticello one of these days.