Sunday, June 03, 2007
The Renovation of Us - a clear new day
I picked up a book a few weeks ago called "Gringos in Paradise" by Barry Golson. Golson wrote an enchanting article for AARP about the many boomers who are moving to Mexico where their retirement dollars handily provide for a much richer lifestyle in a laid back, climate friendly area. Golson and his wife fell in love with a little village on the Pacific coast of Mexico while doing the research and ended up moving there in their own journey of reinvention.
The book appealed to me because I'd read Golson's AARP article and was intrigued that so many fellow boomers, now in their fifties, were on a quest for a simpler lifestyle, re-inventing themselves, so to speak. It's a topic Mike and I have discussed repeatedly over the last few months.
We've really struggled with finding a new home; one with ample space and at least some character. We're hopelessly addicted to home renovation so if it needed work and the price was right, all the better! However, in our part of Texas, everything in our price range needed a fair amount of work and the price was never all that great. The payments and reno costs were manageable on our income but only if we kept up our current workload so we could afford it long term.
One morning a few weeks ago, our discussion came down to the bottom line. What, exactly, did we each want in a lifestyle. After a contemplative silence, our unrehearsed and candid answers surprised us both. It was an epiphany, of sorts.
We admitted that we wanted a nice home with room for visiting friends and grandchildren sleepovers and one with ample space for each of us to work. But the prospect of taking on another long term mortgage, not to mention the ever escalating Texas property taxes, was daunting. Stifling and stagnating, actually. The more we talked, the more we realized we needed to make a major change in our home search.
We both longed for more time to stretch ourselves creatively and tackle projects we'd stuffed away, shoved to the back burner for lack of time. For instance, Mike has some awesome outdoor sculpture designs that live in his sketch book for lack of time to do them. He's also been dreaming of painting a few oversized, really large paintings and has great ideas for some innovative home decor lines he'd like to develop.
I have all kinds of articles and book ideas shoved to the back of my brain like a squeezed shut accordion just waiting to be released. So many that it would take me a week of frantic pondering to figure out where to start if I actually had a week to ponder.
Mike has written a wonderful children's book, "Gimli," about a young Canadian goose with a broken wing who is cared for by a multitude of delightful farm animals over the winter. It sits waiting for me to edit and for Mike to illustrate - for several years now.
The reality is, right now we must commit to a certain amount of commissioned work in order to pay the mortgage, the utilities and property taxes, which leaves no time for the heartfelt creative work we long to do. Make no mistake - we're both enormously grateful we have the long standing, active contracts that do pay the bulk of the bills. However, what time is left from those commitments ends up dedicated to other jobs, both large and small, to supplement our income.
Suddenly, it seemed so clear to us; we're actively selling ou r house so moving on is a given. But, we don't have to jump right back into the same situation we're in now -a big mortgage and high maintenance house. We started rethinking our strategy and ended up with a major overhaul. A reinventing of us with new priorities . First, we would look for a place with lower property taxes, lower monthly maintenance (payments, insurance and utilities) and something reasonably near family. Because I was raised in a children's home, having a home, not a mansion or a castle, but a nice home is important to me. A fixer upper is fine as long as it can honestly be fixed up!
So okay . . . I think we found it. Or actually, it found us. It's a lovely old Spanish house (which was secretly what I had been hoping for), complete with a red tile roof, a large courtyard, an extra building for a studio and a detached garage. It's been vacant for a few years so it's in dire need of serious fixin' up but that's okay. It's so affordable, we should have enough left over from the sale of our current house to totally gut and renovate this place with very good quality materials. It's 2200 sq. ft with an additional 918 sq. ft. basement (wine cellar) AND even with our modified, conservative housing budget, we can pay it off entirely in 7 years.
We're headed out Tuesday to take a look see in person - and no, it's not in Mexico, but this photo of it sure makes it look that way. We also have photos of the ceiling falling in, the wood floors buckling and a ton of peeling plaster - but I'll save those for a renovation blog post, should this all work out. It's bad but believe it or not, we've renovated much worse.
We're excited - every bit as excited as we were about the Mullin place. And that feels so good.