One Full Year as a Homeowner

One Full Year as a Homeowner

On August 17, 2016, Frank and I closed on our first home. It’s in Richmondtown, a beautiful and historic neighborhood of Staten Island. It has three bedrooms, one of which we converted into our lab/office, the other is a hodge-podge of a guest room-meets-storage, and the third is our bedroom. One and a half bathrooms, with the full bathroom having a very annoying separate tub and shower (my Mom loves this, I hate it, Frank couldn’t care less).  We have all the necessary amenities like a super-advanced washer and dryer who sing to us when finishing a load, dishwasher, full eat-in kitchen, dining room, living room, lots of closet space. We live in a community so there is a pool, people to mow our lawn and shovel our snow. The biggest drawback is no backyard.

In the past year, I thought it would feel more like my home at this point, but there is this eerie sense of impermanence and silent fear of something catastrophic breaking. We have filled the house with decorations and photographs, an electric fireplace, all new flooring, freshly painted walls, a whole new outdoor landscape, but it always feels unfinished.

I kid you not, I spent 7 hours painting the very tiny front gate last year. I was so meticulous not to spill one drop of paint on the ground. It was cathartic – covering up the rust of the house’s past, a fresh coat of white symbolizing our fresh start, and by April of this year, it was completely rusted again. Our hose has nowhere to go so it lays sloppily right in our front walkway. Instead of buying one of those springy hoses, or trying to roll it up, I just walk over it – I don’t know why I just don’t fix it, but looking at it makes me feel exhausted and exasperated.

The house always feels dirty to me. It didn’t feel like this in the apartment. Maybe it’s because we have Lucy now and my attention is elsewhere, or maybe cleaning just feels like one of those uphill battles. I know, why don’t I just hire someone, but it’s as simple as now we have a mortgage payment, double the electric bill, and so much insurance for so many things I don’t even know what’s covered.

The closet doors constantly break off. The doors in the lab are off the hinges and instead of fixing the closet, I have to physically move the door out of the way anytime I need access to the closet. The closet doors holding the washer and dryer fell off right into my toilet paper holder, so now they have a giant, gaping hole.

Having a home has made me feel so inadequate. I don’t know how to fix anything. I am consciously aware of how much of a Xennial I am. I am still calling my Dad to help me fix everything. I think this bothers Frank even more than it bothers me. But I have been wanting an extra shelf in the bathroom for so long, and I don’t know how to anchor screws to do that. If it weren’t for my Dad, I wouldn’t even know I had to anchor screws. I still have the shelf, but it’s not up on the wall…it sits on another shelf somewhere else.

Our couch rubs up against the wall and cuts a hole right through it. I’ve patched it twice already. I’m actually really good at wall patches. I fill with plaster and smooth it over, plaster again if needed, sand, and paint. I love the feeling of filling an empty space. I hate when the empty space keeps returning.

Still, with all of the idiosyncracies, it’s peachy-keen compared to the apartment we were in. We were rained on…for four months. The hot water heater broke at least a dozen times in the two years we were there. We were breathing in mold. We had drain flies. The tiles were falling off the bathroom walls. We had a ghost.

I actually think we still have a ghost.

In the apartment, the hallway lights would turn on and off by themselves. I would joke that we had a ghost, but in my gut, I figured all the roof leaking and being rained on probably damaged the wiring. That’s until we moved into the new house where the hallway lights turn on and off by themselves. Now I somewhat believe we may have a ghost. I don’t mind him/her, I just wish he/she would help us lower the electric bill.

Household maintenance is seriously annoying. As I write this, I am reminded that I should make an appointment to have the dryer vents cleaned out, check the fire and CO2 alarms, fire extinguisher, pour some drain cleaner down just to keep it all flowing.

Plus, there’s never enough money to actually fix anything. People tell me to give it time since we just bought the place, but it’s seriously overdue for new windows. And that bathroom. Eek. Can Bath Fitters drop a whole new bathroom in? How much does that cost?

Still, the place is ours, overflowing with boxes from my daily supplies deliveries and from the things I ask Frank to carry upstairs for me since I have the strength of a 98-year-old. When did we accumulate so much…stuff? Sometimes the inner neat-freak in me (who hides deep within reality) has a breakdown and just wants to walk around with black garbage bags and dump everything.

I can’t believe it’s been only a year. In many ways, this year felt like it was 10. I don’t know if this makes sense, but the days are short and the year is long. I need to learn how to just relax and allow everything to happen in its own time, but I am always so anxious to be finished that having a house unravels me because it’s never done.

I think I need to light an Unstressed Candle and drop in a bath bomb...might as well, there will still be things to fix tomorrow.

 

Kristen Fusaro-PizzoPresident

Mindful Moments for the Overly Anxious

Mindful Moments for the Overly Anxious

I am an anxious person. I am consistently riddled with various anxieties. If someone were to open the door to my mind right now, this is what they would see:

  • Must write a blog post
  • Should get to sleep because it’s past 1am
  • Less than a month before school starts
  • Did you even think about your lessons for next year?
  • Did you review the summer reading?
  • Where is your summer reading book?
  • Are the clothes still in the wash – they’re going to smell and need to be rewashed…
  • The bath bombs aren’t drying
  • When does the dog need Heartguard again?
  • Why did I eat so much at dinner again?
  • Is dust waging a war against me?
  • The water bill is due this quarter
  • I should really just relax
  • Now it’s 1:15
  • Hellllloooooo…time to blog!

For me to write this post about being mindful is a bit paradoxical. I have to be mindful of my own thoughts in order to write, but I need to be cognizant of my crazy to write about regrouping to mindfulness. And people wonder why I’m anxious.

Anxiety comes from living in the future. We lose our sense of mindfulness when overrun with thoughts about the next moment(s). Of course, we need to plan for our future and consider different future results for our actions; however, the anxiety we feel is not for us to control. 

I have to repeat this to myself when trying to gain mindfulness. I cannot control the future, but I can control right now. Ultimately, if we look to control “right now,” we shape our future.  For example, I have anxiety about the upcoming school year, which I get every single August. I cannot control September and my new schedule, but right now I can review my “first-day-of-school” lesson.

Mindful Practices

  1. If you’re rattled about something, what can you say or do right now to make progress? This applies to almost every anxiety.
  2. Cut off every distractor, whether it’s the TV, radio, phone, other people, etc. and ask yourself: “How are you feeling? Why are you feeling this?” – Treat yourself like you would your best friend in crisis.
  3. Stop and listen to your body. Are you tired, hungry, dehydrated? Drink a tall glass of water before making a decision or taking the next step. Give yourself some breathing room.
  4. Meditate by immersing yourself in a hot bath with calming scents like lavender and chamomile. Feel the steam open up your pores. Pay attention to how the water feels between your fingers. Just rest in the tub without worrying about washing, rinsing – allow yourself to soak.
  5. Clear your space to clear your mind. Spend time to clean one room completely and stay in that room for 10 minutes to appreciate your work. Notice how your mind feels in a clean environment.
  6. When you begin to feel anxiety, stand up, stretch, and walk outside. Do not look at your phone or watch. Take a walk while breathing in fresh air. Be alone.
  7. Tilt your neck to the left so the left side of your face is touching your left shoulder. Place your left hand on your head above your right ear. Place your right hand on the right side of your neck. Gently stretch until you feel the tension release. Repeat on the opposite side, reversing left-to-right.
  8. Take a bottle of Rest Easy, shake, spray right above your head and let the droplets fall onto you. Spray as much as you like. Close your eyes and just take deep breaths – breathe in through your nose slowly, and exhale through your mouth slowly.

When it comes to mindful practices, it’s all about retraining your mind to focus on the here and now. It’s a necessary step towards stress reduction and building new, good habits. If you had a bad habit you would like to break, stop and be mindful of your behavior, try one of the steps above, and do the positive behavior instead.

This takes time and mindfulness doesn’t just happen overnight, but with a continued promise to yourself to be mindful, you can reduce your stress, anxiety, and change your habits.

Kristen Fusaro-PizzoPresident