Thursday, September 29, 2011

Home Owning, Home Improving and Just Plain Homely


1. (of a person) Unattractive in appearance.
2. (of a place or surroundings) Simple but cozy and comfortable, as in one's own home.

I'm wondering if the first definition might also apply to a "place or surroundings" in certain cases?  If so, these two seemingly distinct definitions seem to be working in tandem to form a perfectly complete and accurate description of our current situation.  Homely: the current state of life on Genoa Court.  

We are homeowners.  We became homeowners in the late spring of 2007, closing on our first ranch-style residence in Southeast Aurora while the ground around us was thawing, and final  preparations for our upcoming nuptials were coming together in what would be the perfect mid-June wedding -- and the beginning of the rest of our lives.

Since then, we've settled in and pieced together furniture over time to create a flow from room to room; we've gradually used all of our wedding gifts and appliances and watched our hardwood floors dull from the daily traffic of two humans and three four-legged canines traveling the path from study to master bedroom to kitchen and back again (lots of muddy paws and dusty feet).  We've had our sprinkler system winterized and brought back to life, and we've watched our front and backyard lawns brown and green and brown and green again with each turning season. 

Indeed, we've settled in.  We've lived in our home long enough to know it's quirks and creaks, the things we love about it and the things we want to change someday...someday far away when we're not hopelessly upside down on our mortgage and our property value and savings both resemble something recognizable and respectable.  Yes...we own a home in zip code 80013 - the highest foreclosed zip code area in the state of Colorado since the dismal turn of the economy.  Heavy sigh.  

But, for the most part, we love our home and we love being homeowners.  Some days we romanticize about life in a loft downtown or in a cabin in the mountains, but truth be told if we had to do it over again, we probably would pick something very much like our current house in size and shape and location.  And we have no intention of moving anytime soon...moving is perhaps the only thing worse than living in a home improvement messy pile of rubble and dust.

You see, we've lived in our house just long enough that we thought it time to tackle a home improvement project.  You know, something small and manageable, something we could "do ourselves" in a couple of weekends.  And from this optimistic and naive notion sprang our current homeliness: a garage full of brick pavers, bags of gravel and sand and retaining wall rock, and a backyard pit - a pile of dirt and broken up concrete where previously stood a small, dilapidated wooden deck.  Our vision: a sunken patio big enough for entertaining -- summer book club barbecues, fall wine tastings, and spring "we're not having a baby" showers.  And perhaps, by spring, we will indeed have a patio...and a party to christen it.  But right now...we have a mess.  And a lot of materials occupying our garage.  The days are getting shorter and crisper and we're left wondering -- what will come first -- our initial frost or our first completed home improvement project?

We've learned that simple projects are never simple -- they're complicated and costly.  And the satisfaction of "doing it yourself" doesn't quite counter the back pain, blood blisters and stress.  My husband is looking thinner these days -- nearly a week of manual labor, dehydration and skipped meals is proving to be a heck of a crash diet.    

Everything is dusty.  The outside, the inside, the "clean" laundry folded on the kitchen table.  The windowsills, the dishes in the sink.  Dusty, cluttered, messy, stressful, over-budget, back-breaking work.  Tomorrow, the day laborers come to (hopefully) help us finish the job by Sunday.  The grand total for the "simple" project is still being calculated.  Oh, it's a homely state all right.

And yet, as the evenings get cooler and the turning of the season begins to whisper in doorways, dawns and dusks, I can't help but think -- no matter how dusty, dirty, messy, pricey, inconvenient, and stressful our current situation's still ours.  Our home.  A roof over our heads, bare essentials in the refrigerator, a place where we're greeted by stubby tails wagging vigorously, lolling tongues and chirpy barks every time the garage door signals our homecoming.  Our home.  

This morning I drove by another home two blocks from our own.  There were multiple notices duct taped to the door and a pile of belongings heaped in the doorway.  Another foreclosure.  A family's life unclaimed in an unkempt pile sitting in what used to be their driveway.  Their home.  Now...they are home-less.  What rented or borrowed space do they call their own?  

And just like that....the film of dust lining every surface of our interior, the patchy soil and roped off pit that sits in our beautiful.  Is perfect.  Is ours.  Is homely as in definition #2 - "simple, but cozy and comfortable."