Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pain: Part 2. Renovation Begins

I'm now in so much back pain that every step hurts.  Each step sends an intensified jolt of pain into my lower back and, oddly, to my gut as well.  I have gall stones that have been asymptomatic so far, but now I'm wondering if this pain could be related.  I have a doctor appointment Thursday.  I'm making notes and writing down questions.

When I left you at the end of the first chapter in my pain saga, I had dug a utility trench, leveled an area for a gazebo, and then mixed the cement for the floor of the gazebo wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow.

 Once the garage had been emptied of all it's stored furniture and antique wood working tools, I started making measurements and drawings of what I wanted.  The garage itself is just 20 by 20.  But the ceiling/roof is made up of four triangles which make the interior space seen airy and bigger than it actually is.  The ceiling is pyramidal.  I love it.  The one thing I didn't remove from the garage the first couple of years was the army camp stove that sat in the west quadrant of the room and had a chimney that exited the roof in the west triangle.  And in the coldest days, the camp stove warmed the space in minutes once a crackling fire was going.  I could also use the flat top of the camp stove to heat water for coffee or tea, I could cook on it.  And in the beginning it was very helpful.  Plus I liked the primitive quality of it.  I liked waking up to stir the coals and stoke the fire and go back to bed to wait for the room to become toasty warm.

Once I had my drawings of the things I wanted to do to garage to turn it into a cottage, I had to find someone willing to do the construction and do it without permits.  The garage was so far at the back of the property and construction was not going to be the kind that neighbors or anyone driving by the property in the front would notice.  But I did need someone with good enough contacts that we could get the concrete guys to pour the foundation for the bathroom/solarium addition.  Amazingly I found two guy with just those qualifications.  What I didn't want to pay them for was the work I could do. So before the foundation could be poured, I did the digging out and leveling the earth.  More backbreaking hard labor.  I had to dig up the root system for a big wild yellow rose bush probably as old as the garage.  I was amazed at the rocks I found in my digging.  I found more slate as well as big chunks of coal buried in the hard clay dirt on the south side of the garage.  I found big round river rocks. I found blue glass bottles and shards of china.  I found ancient marbles that I have kept as trophies of that work.  This site must have been the old garbage dump for the main house in its early days.

While I was digging out the foundation for the extension, the two guys I hired were taking out the garage door and putting in a wall with a window.  They knocked out a door that would lead to the new room where only a window had existed.  They framed the interior, insulated, built a largish walk-in closet for my massive wardrobe and a small utility closet for the water heater.

So all the first spring and summer I dug and moved stones while the two guys worked inside.  At the end of that season I had the foundation poured for the extension and the interior was sheet-rocked and ready for the kitchen to go in.  The 400 sq ft interior was now not just a big square.  It was still open but for the two closets.  That fall I had the exterior cement block sides of the structure stuccoed.  I had a tool shed built along the exterior north wall and a deck built across the west wall that wraps around the cottage.  By the end of that season I had a toilet, tub, and sink in the bathroom portion of the addition.  Once that was in, I laid the tile floor myself.  I was very proud of all the labor I contributed to making the cottage not only livable but lovely.  I did all of this while still working as a model and department manager at Nordstroms.  I had never been in better shape.  I was muscled and strong.  I think the word is not just toned, but ripped.  I was stronger than I'd ever been and I was in my forties.  And I thought I was invincible.

All that first winter living in the cottage I woke up at 5 AM to stoke the fire and got back in bed for a delicious half hour of drifting in and out of sleep.  When I came home from work in the dark I chopped kindling.  I didn't have a fridge that first winter so I kept a cooler on the porch and kept milk, cheese, and eggs there.  I was living like a pioneer at home and a fashionista at work.  It was an intersting year.