Our Renovation Feels Like Camping With Chaos (Thank Goodness for Starry Skies)

The fact I can even sit my self down and string words together about the pitfalls of real life renovating signals change is in the air. I mean. Good gracious. What a flurry of labor the past few months have been! I know I have been quiet.

Foyer under construction at Georgian renovation
A view through foyer into the under construction dining room where we sanded floor (original cherry finish was still on flooring in foyer).

But admitting how difficult and slow the progress is here is truly the last thing I feel like posting when I’m not schlepping for the reno or sleeping. These are challenging days for the two of us. Once again, we’re doing all the work ourselves us as we still work our day jobs. (I’m lookin’ at YOU, retirement date shifting with the 401K).

Dining room during Georgian renovation - built in china cabinet removal
Detail of raw sanded floor and part of built-in removed from dining room.

Fun fact: I can barely snap a photo. This is not solely because my fingers are inside gloves or covered in paint, but because it feels distressing to view the chaos up close and preserve it.

Plastic tarps in dining room during hardwood refinishing
Plastic sheets to contain dust while husband sanded floors

There’s this lingering dread that we are destined to camp out on half-demo’d floors with our blue Solo cups and crockpot dinners for eternity. I know, I know, not a real problem. In fact, it’s a privilege to own a house and have the resources to make it a home.

Dining room during Georgian renovation - fireplace
Gas fireplace in and framing happening in niche where the china cabinet was

My bones are lacy old bones now (that is not a typo – I’m not lazy; my bones resemble lace from osteoporosis). When they stop moving, they stiffen and get stuck. So there’s daily resistance to get still enough to document such unphotogenic, slow to improve dwellings.

During dining room renovation at Georgian home - gas fireplace going in

And I know you get it and would never judge all the in-between dismantling before the pretty is in bloom.

Dining room at Georgian renovation - hardwood floor refinishing
Dining room before walls constructed

In fact, blog traffic surges with any hint at all of progress or “before’ glimpses. Insta-perfect is sooooo very 2015. But I’m an indoorsy kind of human with juuuuuust the teeny tiniest need for order and a preference for skipping right over all this camping, s’il vous plait.

Foyer at Georgian renovation- hardwood floor refinishing
Foyer hardwoods during sanding – this also shows the steps we painted white

During our last renovation seven years ago, I posted consistently and mostly with a sense of humor. However, I was blogging for pleasure then. I was 49 and in remission from disease. Who WAS that small strange woman with endless energy and toned triceps?

Dining room fireplace during Georgian renovation - reclaimed mantel surround
Drywall and fitting the surround around fireplace in dining room

You might suspect that at 56, I’m just warrior-ing through with: deep elevens, a host of autoimmune and BRCA2 issues, diminishing brain cells, and a yellow hard hat of salvation firmly in place. I am. Kind of.

Foyer wall during construction at Georgian renovation
Framing wall between foyer and living room – enclosing existing skinny columns within

Warrioring and fighting are not buzzwords that fit my journey. “Muddling through” used to fit better. But now I just wanna flow and grow without any kickboxing. Even if violence is happening at the cellular level in my body, a militant response from me still feels wrong.

Foyer wall under construction during Georgian renovation
Not work for the weak!

My perspective? It’s a mystery to even me these days. I’m just going with it. What I’m noticing lately is how I am BECOMING. Isn’t “becoming” a glorious alternative to “aging?”

Foyer and living room during Georgian renovation
This is the wall between foyer and living room

BECOMING WHO? WHAT? Who knows? I’m a mystic! But what springs to mind…wait for it…is maybe…a VULNERABLY AMAZING creature.

Living room under construction during Georgian renovation
Living room under construction

Right where I am, I’m learning in a deeper way to allow reality to be fully, radically, beautifully real. Ya know?

Foyer wall during construction of Georgian renovation arch opening for window
An arched opening for an antique arched window going in the foyer

LIFE: You need to experience excruciating spasms in your feet and ongoing burdens of neuropathy at a juncture you’ll climb ladders daily.

Staircase in foyer during Georgian renovation
Lots of primer had to go on those steps before they could be painted

ME: Whoa, okay – it’s hot AF this summer, but here, let me move at a Mrs. Wiggins pace in shearling-lined magic boots that steady me as I climb. (If you need to Google “Mrs. Wiggins,” you may be quite young and should add Carol Burnett to the search. And the boots? My own version of orthopedic shoes, the UGGs are worn with a toasty double layer of socks.)

Foyer and living room wall construction during Georgian renovation
A beautiful antique window we collected found a home!

Does this exchange sound made up? Because summer sock-layering with shearling magic has been instrumental as I paint trim and do the impossible here at the renovation.

Living room wall and arch window during Georgian renovation
Living room side with window

Do the impossible? Is that a brag? I mean, it requires one to be vulnerably amazing for SURE. Which I most definitely am. Probably. And house renovation can feel like an EVEREST when you’re in the throes of it.

Powder room dismantling during Georgian renovation
Powder room had to come apart for hardwood floor refinishing

If only you could see the number of challenges set before us. See the brute strength, artistry, and talents of my husband at work creating beauty. DAMN STRAIGHT WE’RE DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE.

Powder room hardwood floor sanded for refinishing during Georgian renovation
Powder room wood floor sanded in prep for refinishing

Here’s more real-life absurd dialogue:

REALITY: A nasty single-celled archaea bacteria which is technically not even bacteria totally wants to proliferate, camp out, and essentially host Woodstock in your small intestine for at least a few months while you camp out at the new house…and it’s gon’ hurt, baby girl.

Kitchen pantry demo during Georgian renovation
View to dining room from kitchen

ME: Crap, I mean, I love it when you call me baby girl, reality. New symptoms, malabsorption and hair loss as I camp out? Kayyyyy. And no s’mores? Kay, let’s find a gut clinic in the UK on the internet with all this free time. All we need is an antimicrobial treatment plan, a diet overhaul, and plans B and C in case Woodstock is still raging in October.

Kitchen pantry demo during Georgian renovation
Kitchen pantry doorway demo’d in order to install cabinetry

Look. We’re all moving through assorted trauma and chaos. Whether it is a house renovation, chronic illness, addiction, loss, or grief, it takes courage to be vulnerably amazing. It takes grit to get free. And new eyes to see starry skies above holy campground wilderness.

Kitchen pantry demo during Georgian renovation
Things shifting and being repurposed in the kitchen renovation

What reality keeps teaching me about life and this renovation is how every bit is sacred. It’s all spiritual. It’s an invitation to feel all the feelings, to embody love.

Becca Stevens quote about seeing small things as critical for change - Hello Lovely Studio. #spiritualityquotes #faithquotes #contemplativequotes

Uncertainty and pain will arrive.

But small miracles appear too.

Kitchen during Georgian renovation
Once I started priming those breakfast nook windows, there was no turning back!

Second winds and love affairs stretching four decades and healing herbs come. Even new VULNERABLY AMAZING identities come on the way to BECOMING.

Kitchen during construction and Georgian renovation
Brown, brown, and the story here is red and brown (incidentally, brown is not the story I plan to tell).

So I’ll keep getting cozy with reality (we’re exchanging friendship bracelets and plan to see “Moulin Rouge” on the stage very soon).

Kitchen during Georgian renovation
Buh-bye 1992.

I’ll trust reality which is to say, I’ll trust God. Not fearfully, but as a rather wild, relentlessly curious child climbing her ladder in magic boots.

Sunset through arched window in foyer during Georgian renovation
View as I sat on stairs in foyer.

P.S.

Bet you have a few questions about the chaotic mysteries you see above! Feel free to ask. I probably didn’t need any commentary at all to accompany all the unsightly photos in order for you to understand how camping in chaos feels…especially since things were fine, if not outdated, when we began.

We’re hoping to bring gentleness and calm to these interiors while honoring the bones. We’re not opening the place up because it’s not that kind of house. And we’re not filling a landfill with perfectly good materials. Instead, we’re giving them fresh purpose.

If you read all the way to here…I just love you.

Peace to you right where you are.

-michele

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24 Comments

  1. July 21, 2022 / 8:39 am

    Michelle you always inspire me. We are in the midst of a small Reno ourselves and I know how sometimes you just want to walk away but then something you do is finally “just right” it’s those moments you keep waiting for and when they come it helps you to power thru to the other side. Know you are loved and appreciated.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 21, 2022 / 2:36 pm

      YES! You’ve described it perfectly! And the walking away – amen. The chaos is tough for me. I feel like I’m fairly mature when my house is together, and then in the midst of all the disorder, I feel like I regress and all of this OCD surfaces. Then I feel shame about the OCD even though I have every reason to feel all the feelings! Good luck to you on your own projects. Hopefully you can laugh at moments that don’t go exactly as planned. Thanks so much for the love.

  2. Marlene Ciborowski
    July 21, 2022 / 8:55 am

    You meet your health challenges with grace and humor, despite your pain. I am awed, but will keep you in my prayers so that you can continue to find strength for the impossible days.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 21, 2022 / 2:31 pm

      Thanks so much for those kind words of encouragement, Marlene. I love prayers for strength, and even though I’m always saying I believe in prayer, I am still always awed when I can actually feel the effects from others lifting my name to God. There’s a buoyancy almost like wind that arrives to my spirit – a freshness that energizes my will to move through each episode. What I think it means is we are truly all part of a body, and when one part is unwell, the other parts bring healing by drawing from a Source of Love. Peace to you.

  3. Lauralee Boling
    July 21, 2022 / 9:41 am

    That is an enormous undertaking! Your husband is a trooper to work his job and then do all this “brute strength” work afterwards. And you are truly amazing to be doing maybe not “brute strength” jobs but plain old “strength” jobs! It is going to be so beautiful and serene when you finish. It may seem like forever to get to the end but you two are really racing along. Praying for your healing, sweet friend. (I say that even though we haven’t met in person! 🙂 )

    • Michele
      Author
      July 21, 2022 / 2:27 pm

      We ARE friends, and I refuse to think otherwise! hahahaha. I hope we can get to that finish line and feel gratified and as if all of this is not just post-pandemic crazytown! My husband took the day off today, and we’re working on the kitchen, and I was just like WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE? And neither of us even know. Still. We just are in this mode of “yielding” and listening. The more I live in this spirit, the more I see it as adventure. Some folks have to travel far for it, and some of us need not. 🙂 Thank you for your prayers. I need em. We need em. We covet them. Peace to you.

  4. Amy
    July 21, 2022 / 10:29 am

    So much to love here! These are my favorites…when you share your heart & life wisdom as you share you interiors & design wisdom! You have ALOT of wisdom in both areas that we can all benefit & learn from! I laughed out loud several times! Especially the Mrs. Wiggins comment…U watched the Carol Burnett Show religiously & Tim Conway was my fav!! (It always sounded like to me he was saying Mrs. A-Wiggins! 😂) We are truly kindred spirits…or more like soul sistas…even though we’ve never met! And I love your term ….Becoming!! Becoming a verbally amazing creature…fearlessly trusting God as we climb our own ladders of life with childlike faith in our magic boots! 🥰I will keep you in my prayers as I pray for my own daughter’s health issues that God would grant healing, comfort, wisdom, & encouragement along the way as only He can. You’re perseverance & attitude in the midst if multiple simultaneous challenges is more than amazing…it’s an inspiration!

    • Amy
      July 21, 2022 / 10:36 am

      Ugh…sorry for so many typos in my response above!

      *your interiors
      *I watched
      *a vulnerably
      *of multiple

      • Michele
        Author
        July 21, 2022 / 2:22 pm

        Never saw a single error. I hope you aren’t seeing mine! 🙂

    • Michele
      Author
      July 21, 2022 / 2:22 pm

      You are my sister for sure, Amy!!! I googled “Mrs. A-Wiggins” before I typed Wiggins because I assumed it was as Tim Conway says it! Hahahahaha. All I have to do is hear his voice saying A-Wiggins, and I am grinning ear to ear. Just the best show! Thank you for your friendship, encouragement, faithful words of hope, prayers, and mostly for your heartful energy which always finds me when I need it. xox

  5. Suzie
    July 21, 2022 / 10:42 am

    Your home is lovely, amidst some chaos. Focus on that glorious sunset in the last picture, and the view from your breakfast nook. Nature refreshes the soul if we sit for a few minutes to slow our minds down and take it all in. I know you and your husband will create a peaceful refuge. Can’t wait for you to share. Wishing you all the best.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 21, 2022 / 2:19 pm

      Thanks so much, Suzie. That is perfect advice for me to take to heart…thank you! xox And Thanks for joining us on the journey.

  6. Sandy
    July 21, 2022 / 10:47 am

    I am in awe of the talent you & your husband possess! Thank you for sharing this journey! I can’t wait to see more.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 21, 2022 / 2:18 pm

      Thank you, Sandy. I am in awe of his ability to roll with all of the chaos AND me! Thanks for joining us – it’s so much more fun with you here. 🙂

  7. Karol
    July 21, 2022 / 2:13 pm

    I read all the way and I love you too.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 21, 2022 / 2:17 pm

      You’re the best. xox Thanks for being here.

  8. Reta Jankowski
    July 21, 2022 / 6:44 pm

    Wow! You are straight up my heroine and inspiration! As a fellow DIYer, I am in awe of your talents and determination.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 21, 2022 / 8:54 pm

      Oh, you’re too kind to me, Reta. I saw that you are working on a bath at your house, and you shared some awesome tips about the power of the right paint color with the stone! We all have to be half crazy to take on the stuff we do knowing it will never go exactly as planned. Thank you for your encouragement and support, friend.

  9. JoJo
    July 21, 2022 / 7:25 pm

    I finally sat down with my peanut butter and jelly toast dinner looking forward to reading and seeing all the pictures in this post. I have to say I’m a little irritated with you. I was waiting for the big beautiful reveal pics at the end so I could curse you and you’re genius husband. But no, you want to take your time.. I think you secretly like camping and eating crock pot fixings every night. You just have to keep me in suspense, don’t you?
    But, seriously, I adore you sis and love everything you’re doing! You guys are so creative and I love that you don’t follow any rules. I’m so jealous of your closet and may decide to camp out there a night or two. I’ll bring my own crockpot.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 21, 2022 / 8:48 pm

      Hahahaha – thank you for your solidarity eating that campout worthy pbj dinner, Jo. I hear you! I hate sharing so many awful photos with no relief! It had to be done though because this post is about allowing reality be reality. And reality includes all the chaos and dismantling. I’ll share pretty photos someday soon. Thank you for the constant support. Camping was fun the first two months but mama needs civilization now. Come camp out in the closet! xox

  10. July 22, 2022 / 7:50 am

    Your emails each morning is the first ones I look forward to reading and enjoying enormously! Thanks so much for you being you and all your sharing.

    • Michele
      Author
      July 22, 2022 / 8:50 am

      Awww – thank you, Carol. Thank you for making this a safe place for me to be me. I couldn’t ask for more. xox

  11. Deborah Turner
    July 23, 2022 / 9:18 am

    Your ending “peace be with you right where you are” always does just that. It gives me peace to face the day ahead. Unfortunately, I don’t always do it with the grace that I should but after reading your post, it has new meaning for me. I pray that your daily struggles become more bearable with grace, healing and peace. I know that you find joy in your daily pursuits and I pray that continues with each new day. I somehow feel less overwhelmed with life today and vow moving forward to find new joy in each new day. You inspire me and I know you will continue to do that. Peace be with you right where you are and I love you…

    • Michele
      Author
      July 24, 2022 / 3:05 pm

      Thank you for your gorgeous words of honey – they mean so much. I appreciate you joining me on this journey where not everything shared is rosy, polished up, and tidy. I don’t know much of anything, but I just want to keep staying open to see blessing not curse and beauty, not ashes. xox

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Deconstructed Wingback Bed
French Farmhouse Dining Table
Milagro Heart
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Edgecombe End Table
Parisian Style Iron Table Lamp  33.5″
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Round Farmhouse Dining Table
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Louis Upholstered Bench
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French Country Farmhouse Baskets
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White Charleston Sofa
Scrubbed Wood 5-Light Chandelier
Arched Champagne Wall Mirror
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Highback Armchair
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Round Woven Placemat Set
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Fireclay Farm Sink (Reinhard, 30″)
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Boheme Madera Bench
Belgian Linen Duvet Set
Round Marble Side Table
Rustic Pedestal Farm Table
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