Protecting This House

Last weekend, [REDACTED] and I had my parents up for a visit to celebrate my dad’s birthday.

It was their first time seeing the house with all of our things moved in and (almost) all of our boxes unpacked.

While they were both enthusiastic and encouraging about the life goal we had unlocked by becoming homeowners, having them stay with us made me realize just how little experience we have in maintaining a property.

Having only ever rented property as a married couple, our forte tends to be in small aesthetic fixes. [REDACTED] has made a point to replace knobs on cabinets and simple hanging fixtures to make each apartment feel more “ours.” I love scouring thrift stores for the perfect accent piece for the mantle or frame for a family photo to be hung on our walls.

We haven’t had to worry about preventative upkeep because apartments tend to be designed with a revolving door of tenants in mind. It can feel a little daunting when every inch of your home is in your control – and therefore, is your responsibility to adjust, maintain, fix, protect, the list goes on and on!

Luckily, our list is fairly short for now.

I say “for now” because we don’t really know what might need to be fixed or could be fixed to make our home easier to care for and maintain.

A great example of this – our butcher block countertops.

Before we moved in – pristine raw wood countertops

A google search led me to invest in two bottles of Butcher Block Conditioner. YouTubers assured me that this would be a good way to keep the raw wooden plank in our kitchen from absorbing the worst of our wear and tear.

Maybe I didn’t apply it often enough, or should have given the counter tops a thick layer of the beeswax-based conditioner and let that sink in before we went about normal living in our kitchen. Either way, the protective layer was no match for life.

Within the first week of our home ownership, the counters had suffered two rings, a smattering of water spots, and a large abstract splotch where a forgotten packet of frozen berries thawed and stained our pale beige wood a deep purple.

I take full responsibility for the berries.

When my parents came to visit, I shared our bumbled attempt at protecting our countertops and lamented the inevitable aesthetic demise of our poor butcher block.

My father, experienced homeowner and creative problem-solver extraordinaire performed a much more thorough google search and forwarded me his findings.

The answer to our problems, he thought, might be a primer/sealer/finishing substance called Waterlox.

I had never heard of Waterlox, but agreed to give it a try for the sake of our poor, defenseless countertops.

My dad (being the awesome parental figure he is) helped [REDACTED] and I pick out a good quality paintbrush, some sandpaper, a tack cloth, mineral spirits (to clean up our mess), and treated us to a quart of the Waterlox.

As mom and dad packed up for the drive home, both of my parents wished us well in our new home-improvement project and offered to plan another visit soon to help us check off our growing list of to-dos.

With that, [REDACTED] returned to his studying (he is currently in the midst of finals – I’ll get to that next week), and I set my sights on sealing our kitchen countertops. I was determined to make this home ours – not just with accent knobs and decor, but with hard work, dedication, and (if necessary) my blood, sweat, and tears.

Waterlox requires 24 hours to dry between coats and recommends three coats on the surface of your choice.

Since we use our kitchen every day, I decided to tackle one half of our counter space at a time, which meant that applying three coats of Waterlox took six days. SIX. DAYS.

I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. (It was)

My proud home improvement post-Waterlox (and move-in) photo

Not only do I now feel that I made a home improvement equal to installing a driveway, but our countertops look amazing.

You can still see some stains, and we may need to apply an extra coat or two in the course of our time here, but overall I’m thrilled.

Plus, having all of our counters fully useable again has made the kitchen feel so spacious!

There is no question – homeownership is a heck of a lot more responsibility than renting.

Driving home from running errands the other night, my thoughts centered on the notion of being “settled.”

Part of me felt a twinge of sadness – some people take time to travel the world and pick up odd jobs in remote places in their twenties. That is something I will never do.

The sadness was short-lived. The thought barely crossed my mind before a flood of good things that come from being settled took its place.

I would rather spend a night curled up with a book and a cat on my lap than out in a bar full of strangers. I don’t wish for hikes on remote mountain tops, I am perfectly happy taking our dog on walks to the dog park and watching the sun rise over the trees.

I like to travel and experience new things, but I really love being surrounded by familiar places, and people, and things.

I am finally starting to feel like our new home is familiar. I am building connections and making plans with new friends. Tomorrow, we are hosting our neighbors for a holiday cookie party/housewarming.

Law school hasn’t changed my relationship with [REDACTED] as much as the articles and terrifying statistics said it would. So many sources of advice for newly married law students cautioned that law school is a pervasive weed that will reap havoc on your relationship. Statistically, there is a higher divorce rate for couples with one partner in law school.

So far, we’re beating the odds! And I think this whole experience – of moving, of pushing to expand comfort zones, of meeting new people and trying new things – has helped us both grow.

I am feeling really hopeful, and that feels really good.

A beautifully frosty leaf at the dog park.

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