Over the last several days, your kindness was, and still is, overwhelming. After a medical emergency for our Maddie girl, we had to make the heartbreaking, yet compassionate, decision to allow her go to a pain-free place on Saturday. She was thirteen. It was the absolute worst, but we know it was the right choice, something I’m only able to admit days later (although still struggling with all at once). She was the queen of our entire household and deserves a million tributes in her name; I’ll do my best to start right now.
I adopted Maddie when I was in college. Growing up in a full pet household, this felt momentous, as she was the first pet I brought home on my own as an adult. I bargained with my landlord – who had a no pet policy – that I would clean the common hallway and move the building’s trash to the curb every week if he could make just one exception on his strict rule. I’m sure he thought he had struck gold with my proposition, but really, I felt like I’d won that game. The shelter told me that they estimated her to be around 9 or 10 weeks old, and I was drawn to her low-key mellow attitude. She fell asleep in my hand, I paid the $60 adoption fee (draining my entire college-day checking account!), and together with my roommate, we brought her right to the pet supply store where we picked up the essentials – toys, a tiny bed, cat nip, and oh yeah, food and litter.
Almost immediately, she fell ill. She was already scheduled for her first post-adoption check up, and when I brought her in, the veterinarian told me I had a barely 3-week-old little lady on my hands! She was weak and needed nutritious, fatty food. For a month, I stirred high protein wet sludge with dry kitty kibble, adding drops of water and nuking it all in the microwave to keep it extra soft and manageable. I fed her from my finger, and I used a syringe to shoot water into her mouth. She made a full and fast recovery, and as a result, she became fiercely loyal to me.
During the course of her younger years, she saw several roommates come and go, but she took to me, her mom, more than anyone. Whereas I could scoop her up, rub her belly and stroke the top of her head whenever, wherever, she loved Scott on her terms only. She chirped when he came near, and she put on airs as he pet her, despite her loud telltale purrs. Maddie was just this way, not only with Scott, but with most. She was sassy, but she kept my head warm (and my hair tangled) during the night. She could mean mug like no other, but she smiled and kneaded all the biscuits while she slept. She protected her kitty sister, Libby, from the pups, but if she suspected we saw her being sweet, she’d flip up her tail and sashay away.
We’ve been watching Libby to make sure she’s okay with the loss, too. She appears to be… fine. Jack forces himself into her cat bed, which besides not being physically possible, is both hilarious and gut wrenching. We find ourselves annoyed that the toilet paper has been staying perfectly raveled on its roll, and all of these deep window sills we’ve built – just for her! – are irritatingly bare.
Our house is six pounds lighter, although it feels like a thousand. In our minds, she’s curled up next to TP mountain, with all the window sills and all the sun. We can’t thank you enough for your generous and comforting comments, texts and emails. On a daily basis, it fills my heart to know that I’ve painted the pets that have left lasting impressions on your lives, too. Losing a pet is immensely difficult, and we know we’re not in this alone. We want to tell you, you’ve made us smile with the warmth you’ve sent our way.
One of the biggest perks we get from writing about our home renovation is connecting with like-minded people – you know, you. We receive emails on anything from where we like to shop to who we’d recommend for plumbing and electrical and whole-house-gutting, from paint color favorites to suggestions on Chicago pet rescues. It’s obvious we love discussing all things home + pets, and recently, I found myself in an email thread with reader, Rachael (hi, Rachael!), who was in the midst of a whole home refresh. Every wall, piece of trim and kitchen cabinet was getting the Light and Bright treatment, and by project’s end, I was just as invested in the final product as she was! Having hired out the work, she writes:
We took a few days to get out of dodge while the heavy lifting was taking place this week, and I haven’t slept a good night since! I keep second guessing all of my choices. Will the gray be too dark? Will the white be too white? Is matte the right finish choice for the walls? […] I don’t know how you take on these projects all the time. This is a serious strain on my sanity! Can you write a blog post on how you cope with the challenges of indecision and heartache and the voodoo tactics you employ to sleep at night while in the heart of the process?
I shared our conversation with Scott, and he responded with a yup!, as in, Rachael, we get you. Whether hired or DIY, both options can be a mental drain. When hired (aka, not in total control), we find ourselves more anxious about the final results, whereas DIY (aka, all the control we could ask for) is not always the fastest or, sometimes, even the most cost effective solution. I want to start by saying that, yes, we do have heartache when things break bad, we do lie awake at night overthinking super white versus bright white, and although we’ve yet to try voodoo tactics, we do smudge.
I’m an over-analyzer and planner by nature, and as a result, we do our best to start every project with a purpose and loose timeline. (I say loose because larger projects that need hired contract work can – and have! – gone off course in the past.) Before beginning our three-room-triple-threat at the end of last year, we gave ourselves a pep talk. We said, these are some of the last rooms in our house that require big time demolition. Let’s promise to have fun with it. Saying these things aloud help us to conquer any fears we might individually have about what’s to come, what decisions are yet to be made and what problems – if any, but likely – will arise. It lets us know we’re starting any project, large or small, on the same page. While crossing that finish line is a great feeling, we should have fun doing it, too.
Let’s say you’ve just started your project, and you’ve stated your happy mantras aloud, and then before you know it, you’re cursing the plumbing stack you didn’t know was behind that wall and is now causing you to re-think everything. There’s no downplaying how upsetting that can be, but in the grand scheme of things, is it really that serious? In most cases, probably not. Plans change. We press ‘reset’ on our brains, and we move towards a new plan. It’s not always easy (the kitchen door debacle immediately comes to mind!), but we force ourselves into a mental shift. We remind ourselves that everything will work out, because it has to.
Remember the day we smashed champagne on the side of this house? We had no idea what was to come. We didn’t know there would be endless lath behind the walls or that there would be a lack of insulation. But we also didn’t know we’d discover a hidden arch in the entryway or a chimney in the studio! We learned quickly that it would become a requirement to begin each and every project with a come-what-may attitude. Those curveballs don’t matter much when you’re kind-of-sort-of expecting them.
It’s frustrating (and somehow funny) how working towards a greater end goal can so easily begin to feel cumbersome when you’re in the thick of it. Do you ever question why in the world you’ve started such-and-such project and is it even worth it? We do. We do all the time! I really think that’s because anything that important to us will keep anyone awake at night. It’s a mix of excitement and the unknown, and even after almost 7(!) years of documenting our journey from our actual yellow brick home to this – our gray vinyl siding home (ha) – I still feel abuzz when I sit down to write. I want our decisions (and indecisions) to play a role before I hit ‘publish.’ Because when something is worth it, it’s rarely simple.
So, why do we renovate? We do it because we can’t imagine not doing it. It won’t always be this way, so we remind ourselves to embrace the experience right now. Throwing sledgehammers through these walls will go down as some of our favorite memories, and we still get a crazy jolt of energy when we finally find the perfect fabric for an upholstery project or mortar the last tile onto the floor. And when we write the story of this house, we make an effort to share the bad with the good, right here.
We’re rounding out 3 years in our current home, and we still have entire rooms – and a whole back yard! – we haven’t even touched. How cliché of me to say, but slow and steady wins the race. Same with renovation and all it entails: indecision and heartache and celebration and everything in-between. We’ll get there. You’ll get there. With time.
This weekend, Scott and I are headed to Mission Viejo, California, where we’ll be diving head first into Akiyo’s family room – with plenty of paint brushes, rollers, lots of lumber and tubes of caulk in tow! We can hardly contain how excited we are to get started. Since announcing the Lowe’s spring makeover campaign in February, we spent hours and hours (and hours) going over each and every application. Your families’ stories showed up in my dreams, your names were thrown around the dinner table as if we were BFFs, and not a day went by that we didn’t say to each other, I wish we could makeover ALL the homes. All of them! So, thank you for sharing your homes – and more importantly, your lives – with us. Thank you for injecting your personalities all over your submissions, and thank you to everyone who gave shout-outs to Jack and Chunk. They howl back at ya, arooo!
All that to say, we are so happy to have ‘met’ Akiyo and her family. Together with her 5-year-old son, husband and teeny pup, Katsu, they have recently moved in with her dad, back into the home she grew up in. This home, now her family’s forever home, has been mostly untouched for years, and they were stumped on where to start and how to make it work for everyone – dad/grandpa, their own trio and Katsu, too! It has become a multi-generational home full of silliness and laughter. The family room is where they secretly practice their dance moves (sorry, Akiyo!), sing karaoke and unwind at the end of a long work day. Coming in at 300 sq. ft., the space is so full of potential, and our minds raced with possibilities. Family room, there is so much in store for you!
Here’s what you see when you first walk in:
The room is flooded with natural light and an entire wall of windows(!), but almost every piece of furniture is pushed up against the remaining three walls (or under arrest as Scott would say!). Their biggest concern is making sure that there is sufficient seating for the entire family to gather together, snuggle up to a movie or work on crafts at the coffee table. With no central overhead fixture, there is a lack of ambient lighting in the evenings, and the mirror – although great for practicing those dance moves! – feels a bit dated. Katsu has created his own doggie door, i.e., there is a cartoonish puppy-shaped tear through the screen door. The beige walls and carpet could use a pick-me-up, and some extra storage would be nice! Let’s take in a 360-view:
We’ve been working behind the scenes on a design plan, and the last couple of months have been a blur of emails, texts and photos of paint swatches. But even more exciting? Progress is already being made! A ceiling junction box has since been installed, and the wall of mirrors, once adhered with liquid nails, has come down, revealing a sweet little note from the original homeowners. It reads: Wayne Davis | Louise Davis | 1974 | Our new home and mirrors. The message is complete with a sketch of an owl on his perch:
Also? New floors! You guys, we have new floors! (Okay, Akiyo + family have new floors, but we’re too invested at this point.) We chose this porcelain wood-look tile and had it installed in a random pattern with similarly colored grout. When Akiyo shot us this progress photo, our jaws dropped. The groundwork has been laid! All the celebratory emojis!
The in-person completion commences this weekend, and we’ll be sharing snaps on Instagram as we go. Follow along @yellowbrickhome! (By the way, did you catch Julia’s updates?! We cannot wait to see her makeover!)
This spring makeover project is a collaboration with Lowe’s. Lowe’s is providing all the materials necessary to complete this project, but the overuse of exclamation points(!) is all us.
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