Monday, August 26, 2013

On Scaling Back & Fixing Up

I made myself sick this summer looking for property on which to build a house.  Not that we’re going to build a house tomorrow, but we thought that it would be a good idea to find the ideal property this summer, while interest rates were low (they’re already much higher… if we had bought in January, we could have really gotten a deal), then we could slowly clear the property and prepare it for building, camp on it for a few summers, and break ground after Tony finishes his Master’s degree in a couple of years.


I was nuts.  And to this day, I do not know if my husband humored me in my irrational pursuit of this dream, all the while knowing that I might eventually abandon it for a more realistic view on our circumstances, or if he was equally taken in by the allure of building our dream house.  Either way, I got over it and Tony didn’t bat an eye at my suggestion that we pull back, regroup, and focus on the house we own rather than the house we don’t.


I woke up one day and realized that, with Tony’s school and the kids’ childcare and my business (small businesses are great… but for a few years, one puts in so much more than one gets out) and the desire to have another child and the knowledge that we really can’t afford to build anything yet and that in fact a loan payment on a piece of property would well and truly overextend us (not to mention a down payment), well, looking for property was just crazy.  And there’s the added stress that we would very much like our kids to be a part of the dual-language program in the school down the street and if we moved, what would that mean?  I could really do without waiving my kids in and out of various school districts for the next 16 years, assuming we even get Charles into the program in the first place which, let me tell you, kindergarten might be a full year away but I am totally freaking out about it now. 


That day, I stopped looking at property.  The next day, we scheduled a new roof to be put on our house, our home, the only place our boys have every lived.  We are replacing fascia and gutters, doorknobs and trim.  We have garden work to do and some interior remodeling and bottom line?  Good enough is just going to have to be good enough for awhile.  Lord knows we have plenty to do here and maybe I’ll even enjoy being here more with it all fixed up and nice.


Being okay with staying where we are doesn’t alleviate the jealousy (my own worst personal demon) and the what-ifs.  Other people I know can afford their dream houses, some of them on only one salary, and yet we are (in my opinion) quite frugal and still struggling.  I am happy for their beautiful spaces that they can design any way they see fit… but I am also sorry for me, in the stupidest, most pitiful way.  I want to design a nice kitchen, too.  I want to have enough storage.  I want nice furniture.  I want a safer street for my kids and dog.  If only we hadn’t bought our house when we did.  What if we had lived in an apartment for those first five years in this town?  We would be in that dream home now.


But then, maybe we wouldn’t have Charles and Jamie and Buster.  And any amount of financial burden and feeling cramped and uncomfortable is worth it for them.


I’ll post photos of what we’ve done soon, more to glorify the work we’ve put into these renovations than anything else.  There’s been a lot of sweat and a little blood, but thankfully, no tears.  Plenty of booze, though, and a rather disgusting amount of chocolate.


Here’s to letting go of dreams when they’re just not right.  Here’s to being hopeful about the future and hopeful that new dreams will grow to fill the void left by the old ones.  Here’s to learning to love what we have and not pine for what we don’t.


Megan and Jeff Vogel said...

We are in a similar boat, only on the other side of the “let’s buy property” fence. While we have the land (with a dumpy house where we live) the prospect of ever building something new seems like an insurmountable feat. Construction loans are insanely difficult to get unless you have a huge amount of down payment or lots of equity in your land. Because of the drop in value of our place since we bought it, we’d pretty much have to save up 100K to build just a garage with a 2BR apartment above it… I don’t know how people do it.

Amelia said...

I think a person might just have to be lucky, you know? We make the best decision we can with the information available, and for some people, those decisions seem to end up being the best possible decision in hindsight. For others, the decisions might have made sense at the time but landed us in a worse position later.