Tag Archives: redecorating


I realize that my recent foray into having the house redecorated was symbolic of getting through becoming divorced.

This is the first time that I’ve ever done anything like this. I mean, I choke a little every time I think of the money I spent (and, of course, start to think of all the other things I could’ve done with that money…), but the payoff is pretty good.

First there were the “have-tos.” Ceilings HAD to be fixed, and, unfortunately, in some cases they had to be completely replaced (yikes). Door frames had to be repaired.

Then there were the “really need-to-dos.” Walls to be repainted. Shelves taken down. TV moved.

Finally, there were the “nice-to-dos,” the “since you’re spending money anyway…why nots?” That includes the new light switches and the new stair rail (which necessitated the new carpet on the stairs…).

So, after about three weeks (which, in retrospect seems like no time at all, but while it was going on seemed like decades), I have a new looking house, with brand new ceilings that DON’T have acoustical tile glued to them (yes, that is what we lived with for 17 years), pretty things and a more minimalist look (because my contractor REFUSED to put the pot rack and book shelves back up).

(me) But I like my pot rack. I have lots of pots.

(him) You want a pot rack or do you want to sell your house?

Just like getting divorced, there are the things you have to do, the things you should do, and the things you want to do.

And sometimes it takes you a little while to get around to doing them all. But that’s okay. I did this in my own time (and, for the first time in my life, my own way).

And, now… the pictures have to go back up, the furniture can be rearranged, and, maybe… new drapes?



Filed under Creating a new life

Furniture shopping

A first: going into a furniture store alone

After a lovely happy hour with a friend yesterday, I decided to brave a new frontier – the furniture store. I only had one glass of wine so I figured it was safe.

Now, these can be pretty intimidating, even with a spouse. Not to mention overwhelming – the choices, the styles, the prices, the salespeople.

And, boy, there’s nothing that makes you feel quite so alone as the realization that the choice of couch color and style is completely up to you.

I circled the entire showroom twice, maybe three times. I pictured myself sitting on the couches, the dogs lying on the couches. I envisioned vacuuming behind them, moving them. I took down measurements. I bought nothing. Of course, I didn’t expect to really buy anything. This is a major purchase, and I refuse to make it standing on one foot. I felt no pressure. I took photos of stuff I liked, but that’s all I walked out with.

I looked at the only other customers in the store: a young couple with a new baby. I remember those days. It seems like it was both yesterday and a lifetime ago. They were excited to be making a purchase, heads together, whispering, no doubt, about how they could afford the purchase, would it survive their children (answer: no), would it fit in the living room… It’s almost hard to believe that they and I are in the same universe sometimes. If this was a movie, the scene would flip from the young couple to Mr. Ex and me 30 years ago. That scene would be faded-looking, clearly the 70’s (elephant bell bottoms, anyone?), but we would be just as hopeful, just as clearly children playing at being grownups. The first furniture purchase – the upgrade from hand-me-downs, college-era, potchkeyed-together stuff.

The following scenes, of course, would show the transitions – sitting on the couch as we held the first baby, cleaning up the spit-up, discovering the cushion that oldest had flipped over after spilling milk on it, waking Mr. Ex at 2:00 am after he would fall asleep watching TV. Arguing after he told me he wanted a divorce.

Wow. You can go through a lot while shopping for furniture. Today I’m looking at what I have to see if any of it will work – maybe I don’t have to buy something else after all.

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Filed under Haven for one, Transition

Toward inspiration

I was just watching something about how survivors of an airplane crash have this new attitude toward life and what’s important. About how they have this “second chance” approach now.

In some ways, that’s how this divorce after a long marriage thing works, too. At least in my case.

For nearly 30 years I was in this life where I did what I had to do; I responded to what was right in front of me. When Mr. Ex lost one more job, I decided that I had to put younger daughter in full time day care, find after-school day care for older daughter, and get a job. I did that. When it became apparent that without more income we wouldn’t be able to pay for school supplies, camp, after-school activities, or bat mitzvah celebrations, I found it. When I was offered an opportunity to take on more work at my full time job – an offer that I knew would bring us just a little more security – I grabbed it (by the way, when Mr. Ex left, this was one of the things he threw in my face: that late at night he would beg me to close the laptop and I insisted on working until the wee hours. It occurred to me that was like a wife who sits home doing her nails all day yelling at her husband for working too hard).

My home was never a sanctuary. Never an inspiration. Never my muse. It was filled with hand-me-down, dog-eared (literally), bought-because-it-was-cheap furniture. I dreaded coming home when he wasn’t working and seeing the house look just like it looked when I left – couldn’t he do something? In the days when he was playing at becoming a cantor I would come home and say “what did you do all day?” and his answer was always, “studying.” I guess – because he certainly wasn’t cleaning, straightening or throwing away.

Okay, okay. I can’t write those things without thinking, “WTF? Why on earth did I put up with that for 30 years?” Enough – I could be in therapy for the rest of my life (and I imagine I will be) and I can’t come up with a better answer than I did what I thought was best for my children. And then, when they weren’t an issue, I guess I figured we’d make it work since it was just the two of us. Whatever.

But now I have this chance to remake my home into a muse.

I want to come home and breathe. I want to come home and fee like I’m being hugged. I want to come home and feel like I’m in this nurturing and inspirational environment.

And all in a space that I may still want to sell, so it can’t be anything weird or too “out there.” Luckily I’m not “out there,” so I can probably make it happen.

I’ve already started with the purging. Not only was it cathartic to get rid of all of Mr. Ex’s things, it’s been incredible to just be able to see the floors, not have stuff on every surface, and to be able to walk into a room without picking my way through piles. After I put those bookcases up in the office I went in there at least five times just to admire how it was so neat and tidy and all the books were on shelves just like they’re supposed to be.

But it’s got to be more than that. I need to be surrounded by the things I love and be able to put away the things I need to keep but don’t have to have in my face all the time. I need colors that speak to me and textures that inspire.

I need the flaws fixed. The water-damaged ceilings need to be fixed, the leak in the roof needs to be fixed, the downstairs bathroom needs to be – yeesh, I have no clue what THAT needs – I just know it needs something . . . And it all needs to feel pulled together.

Ironically, I can afford it, too. I have some money from my mom – not a lot, but certainly enough to do some of this. I don’t have to have anyone else agree with me; I can whatever I want, wherever I want to do it, and however I want it done.

It’s almost overwhelming. That’s the problem. I have too many choices. I’m not used to options. I’m used to settling. And now I don’t have to, and it’s almost paralyzing.

Step one: verbalizing the problem. Step two: making a plan.

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Filed under Creating a new life, Haven for one

I am woman . . .

So this week I finally decided to keep my art/craft workspace (studio just sounds so, eh, pretentious) downstairs as part of the dining room/family room L. Sidenote: is it a family room if there is no family to sit in it? Should I call it the den now? But den sounds so wood paneled, and my family room/den/TV space is bright and airy and open.

Anyway, the choice was whether to leave the artspace (I like that) downstairs, where it’s open to the dining room/family room, or move it upstairs to the office. Now, office is a bit of a misnomer (I have this problem with misnamed rooms, I guess), because all it does is house a couple of printers and a computer that I never use. Never. Well, except for when I have to scan because the scanner is hooked up to it. But I do all my work on a laptop, generally in the bedroom. So the office turned into this, well, storage space with a couple of printers and a computer. When Mr. Ex lived here, it was virtually unusable because he had crap all over it. A mere 10 months after his departure, it’s getting a little bit better, but it still was this hodge-podge of big bulky shelves and, well, junk. A certain daughter who just left for Israel also used it as her junk spot so it took on that neglected, filled-with-important-stuff-that-doesn’t-go-anywhere-else space.

Moving all my art/craft stuff up to the office didn’t exactly appeal to me. First of all, the moving part didn’t. But I also grappled with the space itself. The upstairs office (which at one time was a bedroom – and at one time or another each of the girls used it) is tiny, tiny, tiny. When it was a bedroom it essentially housed a bed, a dresser and a desk. And no more. It’s also hot. I don’t know why, but that room never cools off. It faces southeast and has two windows, but never ever cools off. In the winter I never even open the vent.

I just couldn’t see myself sitting in there. I would also have to put a TV in there (I need the news and views for a muse, I guess). And I would have had to move these 7-feet tall cabinets up from the artspace. Two of those suckers.

The other issue is the space downstairs is adjacent to my laundry room, which means I have ready access to the laundry tub for cleaning off paint brushes, etc.

So, after about two weeks of consideration I decided to (a) keep the artspace downstairs and (b) clean out the rest of the junk from the office and move books into it. There are books everywhere – the family room, the art cabinets – everywhere.

In order to create a nice book space in the office I had to clean it up. First the items placed there by my youngest had to be neatened up and put in the closet. That was easy. Then there was the issue of the bookcase. There was a bookcase in that office that matches the 7-foot cabinets in the artspace. 7 feet high and about 2-feet wide. And 16 inches deep. It’s a big sucker. I didn’t want it in the office. It dwarfs the space and, since it matches the cabinets downstairs, I figured it would make more sense to move it down there, and get rid of a smaller bookcase in the artspace.

Follow me so far?

So I had to move the monster bookcase out of the office. By myself. Using a shift, push, tilt maneuver, I got it out of the office, around the corner and down the stairs. I have discovered that by carefully tilting large furniture you can kind of slide it down the stairs. Without killing yourself or breaking the furniture. I got it into the artspace and replaced the existing bookcase with the monster one. Then I moved the smaller bookcase into the garage (which actually was harder because I did it by moving it over the patio, which is a bumpy aggregate of some sort, so dragging it wasn’t really an option). This stuff is heavy – it’s fiberboard or laminate or whatever, and it’s heavy.

Then it was time to figure out what to do in the office. After I cleaned it out I figured out I needed two smaller bookcases – no more than 4 feet high. I don’t own those, so I had to buy a couple. The last time I needed bookcases (which was right after Mr. Ex moved out), I went online and found the magic words “no assembly required,” but I didn’t want to spend that much money this time.

Of to my friend Target to find some.

Sometimes you just live right, I guess. Or, it was because I was buying small bookcases during “get ready for college” time. At any rate, I found exactly what I was looking for – at $20 each to boot.

I pulled them off the shelf. Put them in the cart. Bought them. Got them out of the cart, into the car, out of the car, into the house, up the stairs. Put them together. I rock.

Things I learned:

If a nice lady offers to help you get the bookcases out of the cart and into your car, tell her yes. And offer to buy her dinner if she follows you home and helps you unload them too.

Don’t try to put them together on the bed. it doesn’t work. You need the floor or a desk.

Don’t pull the identifying stickers off the pieces until you know it’s all put together properly.

Keep the cordless screwdriver charged.

If the house is hot, it will be especially hot while you’re shlepping bookcases and putting them together. If ever there was a time for air conditioning, that is it.

Oh – and I did it all without breaking a nail OR messing up my fresh manicure. Life is good.


Filed under Haven for one, Things I never did before

And she lived . . .

andshelivedSo, having decided to stay in the house, I’ve started making changes and planning changes that will truly make it mine. I gathered up all my courage and ventured into the garage to see what really is in there, and rescued some items to remake. I found a huge mirror that used to belong to my inlaws and a dark picture frame. More on them later. I also spotted this chippy, dingy piece of wood.

I decided to start with the end of my story, so I painted this little saying on it. I’m not sure if I’ll keep it this way – after all, it’s just paint, but for now it makes me smile.


Filed under Creating a new life, Moving on, Singleness


I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my home lately. Well, you know.

First I was going to put it on the market and buy something that has always been just mine. But the realities of the current real estate market and the fact that we refinanced and pulled out equity within the last few years has pretty much convinced me that now is not the time to try to sell. While I may really want to live somewhere else, it’s probably just not the smartest thing for me to do. And, to be honest, I’m not at all upset to remove that potential source of stress from my life right now.

So now I’m looking at my house; the three-bedroom house with a two-car garage on a big suburban lot where we raised two kids and weathered 15 years of marriage . . . and then separated – and trying to figure out how to turn it into MY house. It feels decadent; to have all that space for just one person.

I started thinking about the word homemaker. I’ve never considered myself much of a homemaker. I think that word always just conjured up images of the mom in Leave it to Beaver with the skirt and apron, making dinner at all hours. And dusting. And flower arranging. And it implied, to me, that the home you were making was for someone else.

Been there done that (well, except for the dusting. And the skirt. And definitely the apron).

But now I really want to be a homemaker. I want to make the home; deliberately, with great intent, enjoying the process and the anticipating the destination.

But, homemaking for one? After thirty years of being a wife and mother, that just seems like such a hard concept for me to access.

I’m so lucky to have a home and to be able to afford to keep it – I know that makes me so different from many women in their 50’s who get divorced.

So where do I go from here?

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Filed under Creating a new life, Haven for one, Moving on, Singleness

More on moving or no moving . . .

I’ve spent a lot of time the past few days thinking about whether or not I want to put my house up for sale (and, well, I obviously haven’t been spending it blogging).

I have two really good reasons for wanting to move. The first is that I’d like to live closer to Eldest. I only live about 15-20 minutes away now, which certainly isn’t insurmountable, but I would like to live closer. That would also put me significantly closer to the synagogue, which would make a difference as well. The other reason is that I could probably save some money every month if I sell the house and buy something a little smaller and, hopefully, less expensive. And, of course, now is a good time to find a bargain.

There are quite a few downsides to selling right now, though. The first is that the current value of the home isn’t much more than what I owe. So in order to buy something else I would have to take money from my modest inheritance to buy something else. And that’s assuming that I can sell at all, of course. But before I could even sell the house there are numerous problems that need to be addressed. Mr. Ex has been promising me for years and years that he would fix the damage to the two ceilings from when our roof leaked and finish the floor and door molding that he never finished. And somewhere there’s a leak over Youngest’s bedroom. I don’t think it’s the roof, but I’m guessing that there’s a good chance that it’s from the attic fan that doesn’t work right now. Besides the necessary repairs, there’s the issue of the packed (and I mean packed) shed and the stuff that’s still filling up the garage.

And, my guess is that, if I am able to sell the house, I would end up buying another home and moving during the school year, which leaves me pretty cold.

And then there’s the stress. The stress of getting the house ready and keeping it in showing condition (and don’t forget I’ve got those dogs – how are they going to feel about having to keep the house clean?).

So, if I’m not going to sell, I have to like living here more. I can’t change where the house is, but I have to change the house. This house isn’t going to do anything to make me like it more, so I need to do it for both of us. Areas I need to address:

  • The repairs have to be made, whether I’m selling the house or not
  • I need to feel nurtured in the house
  • I need to be able to think “moving forward” when I’m in the house, not of what was

Plans I have:

  • Paint everywhere and take down the wallpaper in the front entry
  • get rid of the old Ikea chairs in the living room
  • get new drapes for the living room
  • take down the Ikea shelf in the living room
  • relocate the items in the filing cabinet in the kitchen and get rid of the cabinet
  • paint the table and chairs that are in the dining room
  • paint move the cabinet from the craft room to under the TV
  • new window treatments in the dining/family room
  • get rid of the medicine cabinet in the downstairs bath and replace it with a mirror; get rid of the large cabinet that’s in the bathroom. Do something with the shower to pretty it up. Paint or replace the utility closet doors
  • replace the family room couch with something friendlier
  • clean out the office
  • redo the upstairs bath to Paris apartment
  • new drapes for my bedroom

Possibilities, depending on how much I want to spend, are:

  • raise the ceiling over the living room, breakfast room and kitchen
  • add a sunroom


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Filed under Creating a new life, Moving on, Singleness