Balance

Hi. It’s JUNE. Let’s chat. Or skip to the middle to find the house content.

It has been almost a half a year since I have written a blog post. I will be honest (vulnerable?) and say that there were times this school year that I thought I would stop blogging. Instagram is quicker, and takes less energy. Because that’s what I don’t have : Energy. I needed to take things off my plate and the house came off the plate. And with it, blogging.

But I don’t like the house coming off the plate. I hate it. It is my escape from teaching. I love restoring this house with all of my heart. I love walking into a room we’ve finished and the feel of peace that brings. But the problem is, that education is hard. It’s SO HARD right now. If you are a teacher or love a teacher, you get it. More absences from teachers, jobs not filled, less subs, more people quitting the profession that ever. GOOD teachers who love what they do, but can’t take the mountains of new work that’s been thrown at them, all while never having a planning period because everyone helps to sub for everyone else. The state constantly telling us we aren’t good enough (we are, actually). I spent my whole school year trying to figure out if I had a chronic illness, if I was getting old, or if teacher burnout this year was really that bad (it is that bad). Each Monday, I made a list for myself. I THRIVE on lists. I have LISTS OF LISTS. And every Monday I would make a list of house things I wanted to do. And just looking at the list gave me energy and hope and joy and I COULD NOT WAIT to get home and get started. And then, I would get home, and be asleep by 4:30. I’d wake up for dinner, and got right back to sleep. And for some reason, I’d still make a new list the next Monday, and the process would start all over again.

Even though this school year was more normal and back to in-person, it was still hard. So much harder than any other year. My students were great. My band program thrived. Conducting a full group again was amazing. Construction began on a new Performing Arts Hall at my school. But it was still harder than any other year. Did I consider quitting? Not really. I flirted with the idea, but I love my students too much. But the whole year was just…. heavy.

So that’s where I’ve been. Trying to get get through. And there have been so many tears of frustration because I don’t WANT to be getting extra rest. I want to create and build and work on this house. And as a band director, summer is long enough for SOME things, but not everything. I kept thinking that this summer was about finishing (errrr….. starting) my Studio. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a space that you design and create just for you. I can’t imagine how that will make me feel, to have a place that’s truly for me. I NEED that. So, even though I want to get a lot done this summer, I’ve decided my main goal is BALANCE. I need to figure out how to make next year better. I need to figure out how to keep kicking ass at my career that I love so much, while also loving this house as much as I want to. If you’ve been through this, tell me your advice and your encouragement. I would love to read it!

I know I always say that I’m going to be more regular with my posts, but then I don’t feel like do that and I get even more stressed. So, no more promises or heaviness on myself. I am hoping to write more often. I am hoping to have REAL PROGRESS to write about. But it’ll happen when it happens. Okay – life rant done.

MY STUDIO! 

I am so, SO excited to have a space JUST for me. Here are the befores and the plan. This is a bedroom on the second floor.

Calling it a “Studio” and not an “office” is a very conscious choice : this is going to be a room where I can create, imagine, design, plan, and practice music and conducting. An Office is where you WORK. A Studio is where you CREATE.

This wall has the brunt of the water damage from when the house was vacant, and the roof had failed with rain (and the occasional birds and raccoons) coming inside. This corner of the room is the wildcard – the thing we don’t know how long it will take to fix. Under that panel is a giant hole from water damage, and the walls and plaster are rough, too. Fixing the ceiling is the part of the project we’ve not done before – the rest of the room is pretty straightforward. Hooray!!!

Here’s a picture from before we sealed it up. It’s TERRIFYING.

The ceiling in the center of the room is intact. I’ll add a medallion and a chandelier, and paint the whole thing!

More water damage.

I made some sketches of my plan for the room. Here is the East Wall, which is the longest wall in the room. The room is deliciously not square, so this wall has more length to it that the opposite wall.

Here’s the plan for this wall. Though this isn’t going to function as a bedroom, it still can be one. The window nook is the size of a twin bed horizontally. So it will slide in like a daybed, with added sconces above. This room is going to function as my migraine safe-space, so I will have black out curtains in here, and will be able to make it pitch black if I need to! The whole room will get picture rail and wallpaper. The nook on the left is going to be my sewing station. Right now, to make drapes for any room I have to take the machine to the dining room. Now, I won’t have to – there will be SO MUCH SPACE in here.

The North Wall at present. Its main feature is an added closet / wardrobe that my friend Stephen has dubbed a “portal to hell” and so it must be eliminated.

The cabinet that will go away (we will keep the doors for something else – I actually just got an idea typing this sentence) because the top and sides are so water damaged and warped.

Oakley is checking it out!

This is going to be my main desk (a secondary desk will float in the center of the room). Artwork, bulletin boards, and other fun things will grace the walls. I CANNOT WAIT to build and move into this space!

Here’s the South Wall that faces the street.

I’m going to put a little reading nook in the window, with a chair that needs upholstering. The wall on the left will host a hutch that was handed down from my grandmother. It’s a perfect fit in that spot.

The West Wall holds the cabinet that we moved up form the Laundry Room. It’s not original to the house, but it’s old. And I will need all the storage – so here it is!

We will build the cabinet into the wall and up to the ceiling, and add shelves to the left, and a bookshelf (turns to the side) on the right. It will be an immense amount of storage! And then I’ll add a mirror to the right behind the door, both for guests and for practicing conducting.

Here are some of the cabinet details!

It’s really big. When the movers moved it upstairs, I hid on the third floor and asked Doug to tell me when it was over. To this day, I don’t really know how they did it, but we had to sign a waiver because they (and we) were worried about the staircase. It IS in two pieces – a top and a bottom – but still.

I love the doorknob.

I am so excited to make this space into reality! We will see how much we get done this summer – I hope it’s a good chunk!

Wish us luck – both with the room and the balance thing!

29 comments

  1. Oh Amy the past year or so has been heavy- so heavy. Thank you for a lovely post and all the pictures. I think it’s been hard to get things done too. Hang in there. Peggy R.

  2. Welcome Back! I’ve not commented before, but have been reading and finally getting to this post for a couple of months (I did the same with Restoring Ross blog!). Your work on the house is wonderful. Historic, but fun and totally your own! You give me inspiration on our home from 1870 that has seem a few changes (1890 redo) that we are keeping to that year. But like you, making the home ours and fun.

    Life can be difficult and get in the way of the things we plan and want to do. Unfortunately I know of no special way to deal with it. I plod through the rough areas while my mind works ahead on projects. I love the idea of the Studio and not Office. I am currently repainting our 4th bedroom to make it a Studio (now).

    I will continue to look forward to your posts! BTW, I did realize in my issues of Old House Journal, the tile company uses you fireplace!

    Keep you head above water and continue to enjoy teaching and the work on the house. They are both very important and much needed in these days!

    Matt

  3. Fellow teacher here… and it really has been SOOO hard. One of the hardest of my almost 20 year career. Everything outside of school has been put on hold and it’s so… uninspiring… sometimes. I love your plans for your studio (and that you are calling it that rather than an office!). I hope your summer break is everything you want/need it to be and that you make some progress on this space! Can’t wait to see the finished product :).

  4. I think most of us have had a difficult year or years since the pandemic started …. I too have struggled to stay on track restoring our 1929 home. Your house is amazing and I look forward to your blog. Glad to see your studio plans. Take care and good luck!

  5. I found a huge tin wall hanging at a yard sale. It had a tag on it from Hobby Lobby. (It had my name written all over it). However, I thought of your home and thought it would make a lovely medallion for an over head light in a Victorian home. Just thought I would share in case you were looking around Hobby Lobby.

  6. You are not alone in your exhaustion. Give yourself time to recover and don’t feel guilty about it. You have been working at school and at home, never stopping and it takes a toll after a while. Everything is hard right now and Covid has interfered with everyone’s life in some way. I think sometimes, as we work on our houses, we forget how much we have accomplished. If you can’t afford a vacation, pick a finished room you love and use that as your vacation. Eat, watch a movie and relish what you have accomplished there.

  7. I appreciate your honesty, Amy. I just retired in May after working in education, the last 22 years in Higher Ed, the first 9 in 7-12. I am going to rest and then move on to something else. I can’t imagine how hard it has been for you and all K-12 educators over the last 2.5 years. My hat goes off to you and my heart extends to you, as well. Use the summer to do WHATEVER it takes to re-energize and restore your body and mind.

    I’ve done about 4 ceiling jobs in my house: 3 total tear-downs and one sheet rock screwed to existing ceiling. You may be able to take the tiles down and then use the 1×2 strips that hold it up to screw sheet rock to it. Either way, I’m sure it will be a room you love when you’re done. :-0

  8. Hi Amy, so glad to see you again! Please, please don’t add to your stress by assuming any kind of blogging schedule. We’re right here, patiently anticipating your lovely posts, whenever you’re ready to send them our way. And yes, all of my teacher friends and family have had a similar type of year. Rest and rejuvenate over the summer — refill your reservoir! And thank you, for the entertainment, the vicarious satisfaction of watching you accomplish so much, and for your amazing dedication to teaching.

    [also, hi Matt! from a fellow Restoring Ross fan]

  9. Not a teacher, (but my twin brother and his husband are… and my mom is a retired teacher)… but teacher adjacent. I’m a university librarian. It’s hard. we aren’t as badly hit as k-12 schools, but we lost a lot of staff to retirements and the students we have started their college experience online. They don’t know what to do on campus or how to interact with anyone.. it’s hard to take. we have to rebuild our campus culture. Heavy is the perfect adjective. mental hugs to you.

  10. I am so thankful to see you back here. I retired (at 67) from our school district in 2020 but remain connected thru many teachers. I know how hard this has been. I am so excited for your studio. I love the ins and outs of your room and all that you have planned. I have my own “studio” in our home, where I am surrounded by sewing space, a design wall covered in flannel, the perfect height worktable to cut fabrics for quilting, etc. and a small desk w/computer where I can design quilt patterns and floorplans for future room layouts using Excel. And I can’t say enough about your cabinet…it is everything! It’s totally my happy place! Can’t wait to see your beautiful room!

  11. Amy, the plans for your studio are fantastic and I so look forward to seeing you bring it to life! But you are so wise to adjust expectations. Your mind and body clearly need rest right now and lots of it. I have a chronic illness and know how challenging it is when energy is impacted like this.

  12. I LOVE the intentionality behind the choice of Studio (creative) versus Office (work). It’s going to be GREAT!

  13. I am aways happy to see a post from you no matter when it arrives. My own blog has been neglected for over a year — priorities include self care. I can’t wait to see what you do with this space though.

  14. I appreciate your description of the 21-22 school year. Same here! Bizarre that conditions at different schools 600 miles apart could be so similar.

      1. I’m a nurse (12 years) that lives in an old house around the corner from you (brick street) and I can relate. My bosses even told me to medicate. I am very glad you are back. Depression and grieving for the loss of what you thought your life and career would be like is real. I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. Im just trying to go back to appreciating the little things in life. So much is out of our control.

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