Work in Progress

You know that Home Depot commercial, or maybe it’s Lowes, with the young couple flirting their way through painting a room in their half furnished house? The woman’s hair is pushed into one of those unattainable messy pony tails, the sprigs of hair perfectly framing her face, while the man’s navy shirt accentuates his nice muscles as he applies paint to a wall with a roller. As he writes a love note on the wall with a nice ocher color, she basks in his cleverness. Joyful music plays and the advertisement laughingly suggests, ‘Oh if you only buy from us, how blissful this process of home improvement can be.’

That was us this weekend! My hair perfectly poised atop my head as we worked as a team to start the process of repainting our multi-colored house. Not.

There were no love notes rolled onto the wall, no drama either, but instead the shocking realization that, dang it, the color Dylan wanted is way more, well….white, than previously anticipated. Two coats of Behr Ultra paint and $30 in and we are probably going to start over.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon at around 3 pm. I am yelling instructions off of the online manual from inside our kitchen through the space in the sliding door as Dylan crouches under our deck, attempting to drain the hot tub we inherited in the move (long story – I’d be happy to share if you are interested). “Pull the black plug towards you and attach it to the hose,” I yell. “There is no black plug Katie,” he responds. “Find the number to the Aqua Spas place!”

Five hours, lots of gallons of water thrown on our lawn from a bucket, a headlamp, teamwork, and $70 of hot tub chemicals later the silly machine has been drained and the water replaced.  The pH strips tell us we are ready to enjoy our spa without the harrowing effects of well, too much acid to soak in. Good to go for the next six months.

This weekend our projects felt like works in progress. I am a finisher, according to all the personality tests out there, and so these open ended projects drive me nuts! I want deadlines and to wipe my hands on my dirty paint stained pants and to look at the wall and say, “All in a day’s work.” It’s going to take us longer than that. As I sit and write this, I stare lovingly at a lemon yellow wall in our den, windows without coverings, and I can peek into the half finished room of white white white. I have to remind myself that this adventure we just embarked on is a continuous journey in improvement.

Life. Is. A. Work. In. Progress.

It took the blessing of homeownership and the last eight weeks for me to realize I am, in no way, going to figure out this thing called life in a weekend. I can set goals and learn as I go, and call and ask for help but the beauty is in the progress. I am thrilled we chose to steer away from a “fixer-uper”. I would have gone crazy.

I love this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote. It’s going to be my mantra for the rest of the year.


I can’t function any other way and their is beauty in that. Too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. Progress, not perfection.

Nails are a mess and biscotti has been non-existent for months. Progress, not perfection.

Mark the Wall


Look closely. I know this photo is hard to see. If you squint and focus on the textured wall, shaky lines of pencil graphite mark the height of three boys from the year 1994 – 2000. I took this shot of charted growth in the closet in our new second bedroom. Tic marks on the wall capture not only little guys’ height, but imagined stories of lives well lived. I’m not sure who Todd, or Bryan, or Kegan are, but they lived where I now live and created their stories before we lived here. This sweet indicator of presence and progress is too much to paint over. We can’t. I won’t erase the truth that other people have grown where I am about to experience significant personal growth.

Dylan and I have been on a whirlwind ride these last few months, and have chosen to buy a house. It was one of those experiences in life where you pray to the universe for guidance, and all the sudden your prayers are answered at a pace much more quickly than imagined. After tears in the rented kitchen, blubbering through snot and confusion saying, “I don’t know what escrow means and how the hell am I supposed to understand this mortgage paperwork” to reassuring calls with my dad who happens to sell insurance and general contractor father in law, we made it. We’ve been guided to this point, and for the most part homeownership feels good. It also feels very adult, surreal, exciting and a bit risky. I suppose it is a complicated, beautiful mess of all of the above. I was shocked, however, how easy it is once you’ve proven your income and your stability, and your birth certificate, that you just sign a stack of papers and then wham, you own a home.  “Millions of people all over the world own homes Kate. You can too.” At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself. I’m happy the boxes are emptied, and our organization has begun, and my husband enjoys fixing things.

IMG_2954There has been immense beauty in this process, as doors I thought would never open have swung gracefully, accepting my presence. Through prayer I’ve experienced a beautiful peace to know that we continue to make changes that are beneficial to confidence building, and generate a comfort in place, and creative potential in projects. So many projects. I think picking colors for our new living room will be a bigger test on our marriage than choosing to co-sign on a mortgage. Side note – I was listed as “co-buyer” on our new purchase. Patriarchy be damned.

When I think back to those lines on the wall left behind in our closet, I wonder where those kids are now. I wonder if they have been experiencing the same growing pains that I have. I’m reminded to be proud of the little me that continues to get bigger. That growth is not something you ever really “achieve” and say “Ok enough of that, I’m done growing now.” I’m reminded too, to be introspective and spend time thinking about how I’ve grown in less obvious ways. On the outside our choices reflect many of the values of success that America strives for. In that, I am proud. This journey holds more truth than those standards. I am also proud of the beautiful process that lies in the self-examination through all of these big changes. The incremental leaps and bounds taken in the same amount of time that it takes a child to grow just a few inches at a time. I hope we can be in this place for awhile, continuing to stretch and assess who we want to be in this world.

If you are good at picking color samples, I need your help. If you want a coat rack, we have one for sale. I also need some sort of book – homeownership for women – that can teach me about pipes and washer/dryer hook ups, and how to make my house look like a picture from Real Simple Magazine. The pressure is beginning. All tips and tricks are welcome.

Biscotti – umm locate where the flour jar is and you got it girl

Essie Nail Polish – Material Girl – manicured hands do make you feel so much better