Sunday, August 30, 2020

Construction Complete... except for the ten million things left to do

19 weeks ago, we embarked upon an epic quest to transform our home.  It's been a summer of dirt and dust and noise and giant trucks and scads of strangers traipsing around and through our home. It's been a TON of work (even though we paid people to do the real work). And it's been a joy to invest in this home we love so much and to add space and functionality and a look that we will enjoy for decades. Because after this, Lord knows I'm not moving again!

Here's the "before" photo - your multipurpose 1960s split-level. For many years, we've praised the functionality of our home - there aren't many floorplans that would allow 6 people to live in (comparative) harmony for almost 20 years. It's so dang functional. 

But it lacked a few things we really wanted: 

  1. Curb Appeal (let's face it, it's your multipurpose 1960s split level)
  2. Gear Storage (we have so. much. gear.)
  3. Office Space (we decided a while ago that we didn't need more bedroom space. After all, our children may eventually vacated their bedrooms. But we did want more multipurpose/family space. This need has been dramatically underscored by our COVID-19 experience with all of us at home for work, school, and EVERYTHING ELSE)

We knew what we wanted (sort of) thanks to the list above and the Pinterest skills of several friends. About a year ago, we started shopping for architects and builders who we could partner with to bring our concepts to life. 

We were especially blessed to sign with a builder who was meticulous, funny, and has become a dear friend to us. In this season of social isolation, it's been so fun to have somebody at our house every day who is making our home a better place and will enthusiastically consume anything we put in front of him.

By late January we had all of the permits necessary to realize our plans, and in early April, demolition began! Our removal and construction plans didn't enter the footprint of our home, which was a blessing because it meant that we could still live in our house while all of this was going on.

We still haven't snapped our "official after" photos. We really want to get the ski lift chair into place in the front yard. And the sheds aren't in yet, so there's still "shed stuff" all over our back yard. And the front gardens aren't planted yet. And the sod is still rooting. And our skis and gear are still in storage. And the new chair hasn't come for the sunroom.

There's no such thing as done! 

But not-done as it all still feels, we did get our final inspection complete last week, so it seems like a good time to celebrate all that's been done!

Thanks to everybody who has been watching our Insta posts and dropping by the house to say hi and cheering along this project. It feels great to be this far and to have this much done. We love the space we've created and the updated look of our home.

Now... to work on the ten million things left to do!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

We love ourselves a good vacation, and we try to camp as much as we reasonably can (no small feat given our summer of construction plus, of course Coronavirus!). 

A few weeks ago we headed out to Dinosaur National Monument for a camping + rafting adventure and learned some good lessons about community and interdependence. 

As you know, we faithfully camp in our 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon, Rainy. This is equal parts deeply cool and notoriously unreliable. We always say that we feel bad for folks who load up into a car just assuming they’ll end up where they intended to go when they intended to get there. The Morningstars live under no such delusions, and we’ve both enjoyed and endured many unexpected adventures as a result. 

Our first two days at Dinosaur were hot and uneventful (as camping trips should be!). We drove the back roads, we waded in the Green River, we took some short hikes and checked out the petroglyphs and, of course, the fossils for which the park is well-named.

Day three was our rafting day, and we had a blast on the Green River. It was one of our best family memories in a long time - light and fun and out in nature and adventurous and just perfect.

And then we got back to the rafting company's parking lot, and Steve started Rainy and then Rainy stopped. We were about 10 miles from the campground, and while Steve spent hours working on the van before ultimately surrendering to the help of a tow truck and 3-hour tow truck ride, the kids and I hitched a ride back to the campground with new friends (that is, strangers who were also headed to the campground and had spare seats in their vehicle). The lovely rafting folks gave him a ride into town for some auto supplies. My parents offered to drive out to help us out. Our camping neighbors loaned us a broom so we could sweep up before packing up. We were surrounded by the help of those around us.

And the next morning, Steve drove a different car the three hours back to pick us up and we headed home. And you know what? Our auto insurance even picked up the $800 tow truck bill!

Without a community of people around us willing to help, our camping trip would have ended with  us being stuck and hot and hungry and unhappy. But because of the kindness of both strangers and family, what could have been a disaster ended up being a family adventure and a fun night of junk food and sleeping out under the stars. And I am simply grateful.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

So, What's a Person to Do?

This blog post contains personal musings on race, racism, equity, and inclusion prompted by my own thinking and continual education and especially How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. This is written with the primary purpose of working through my own thoughts and learnings, but if it's helpful to you in some way, all the better!

These past few months have brought recognition of my own privilege, bias, and racism in new and dramatic ways (for examples see these posts: How I'm Learning from Black Lives MatterOn Representativeness). I've been reading both fiction and non-fiction about the Black experience (lots of great resources in this Qualtrics blog) and I find myself returning back to where I started, with questions of what to do and how to help.

I do believe the change has to start with me. Thoughtfully choosing new voices to hear, voices that come from experiences well outside of my own, and voices that are often suppressed or dismissed continues to be illuminating and challenges my assumptions. Learning about definitions of racism and finding vocabulary and voice to some of the swirling questions within me matures my own thinking.

But I also believe that suasion (my own or even that of large portions of society) is insufficient to create lasting change. I have become newly committed to choosing a side in the battle of racism, and I'm firmly on the anti-racist side. There's no neutral in this battle - we are each either creating or dismantling racism.

In How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X Kendi says that, "Changing minds is not activism" - instead, activism is power and policy change. It also means that the most lasting investment we can make in this very moment is in funding and advocating for policy and power change instead of programs that touch and enrich the individual lives of oppressed or suppressed people. True, this isn't an either-or scenario - we can invest in enriching individual lives, changing individual minds, and changing power and policy. But think that when investing with limited resources, this is the time to create policies that actively create equity.

And (stepping in a minefield here, but it's worth it because important to work these things through), to me that's the difference between something like Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. Do police lives matter? Yes! Police do a hard and dangerous job with lots of baggage and little recognition. The difference is that, in general, the safety and security of individual officers is not suppressed by power and policies. Police safety is endangered by the actions of individuals, not government-created and funded laws and systems. Black lives are endangered, shortened, violated and suppressed by government-created and funded laws and systems.

There's so much I'm still working through on this - for example, how do economic systems and capitalism fit into this mesh of racism? I don't have answers there. 

But I do know the system is rigged and it's predominantly rigged in my favor. And I get to be a part of changing those power structures and policies that created and perpetuate a racist America. 


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