Ninth in a series. At this point in the renovation, we’ve moved all of our belongings at least once. From room to room. Downstairs. Back up. Back down.

Renovation preparation began in June 2014 with protecting our artwork by moving it from the great room into the second bedroom, which serves as my man’s dressing room. Living without art sucks, so this interim gallery (which only shows part of our collection) kept us from completely freaking out.

Renovation preparation began in June 2014 with protecting our artwork by moving it from the great room into the second bedroom, which serves as my man’s dressing room. Living without art sucks, so this interim gallery (which only shows part of our collection) kept us from completely freaking out.

The upstairs bathroom is not quite complete. Soon it will become inaccessible as progress is made on the hardwood floors, which have been laid. Sanding, staining and sealing has begun in the bedrooms. We’ve kinda sorta moved downstairs, into what we call the hotel suite. 

Our clothes are in boxes and bags stashed hither and yon. Rustling through plastic sacks generates static electricity, which leads to unruly hair and the occasional zap. Items meant to cover unrelated body parts commingle in the chaos. Which explains the panties in the sock bin.

Items we can live without are bagged, boxed and stacked in the mid-level utility room.  Stuff we need regularly is scattered across the lowest level.

Items we can live without are bagged, boxed and stacked in the mid-level utility room. Stuff we need regularly is scattered across the lowest level.

The other morning, I stubbed my pinky toe on a plastic box placed in that spot by none other than me. I cussed and hopped and kicked the damn thing again in retaliation and cussed and hopped some more. Poor little piggy still hurts. At least I had the sense to stack the boxes, trading convenience for relative safety.

This type of bedlam can lead to questions. Questions like, “Will this project ever end?” And, “How much more will I have to spend?” And, “Where is my deodorant?”

My love and I huddle in a queen-sized bed, a downgrade from the king that had been in the master bedroom but now leans against a wall of windows in the great room. My husband tosses, turns, bumps into me, dreams there’s a monster in his bed, wakes up, settles back to sleep and snores. I teeter on the edge of my side of the mattress.

The king mattress is in the great room and we’re downstairs with some essential stuff.

The king mattress is in the great room and we’re downstairs with some essential stuff.

The hotel suite is a walk-out basement. Without the heated floors—the numbers all go to eleven—the space would maintain a steady temperature perfect for cave-aged blue cheese. The outdoor temperatures have been low. Single-digit low. Negative integer low. Record-breaking low. Wear socks to bed low.

A hot tub is conveniently located on the lower deck. A few steps from the bed. Fewer steps from the bathroom. Cool, right? In this weather, rather than recharging from a relaxing soak, we’d end up as spouse-cicles. Finns, we are not. Joining the polar bear club is not on my bucket list.

Warmed by my husband-made coffee, trusty iPad at my side, I gaze out at the hot tub and yearn for a more manageable 32 degrees fahrenheit. Outside, the rain chain catches rays from the sun, but refuses to release its icy coating. 

Warmed by my husband-made coffee, trusty iPad at my side, I gaze out at the hot tub and yearn for a more manageable 32 degrees fahrenheit. Outside, the rain chain catches rays from the sun, but refuses to release its icy coating. 

Seeing the sunrise while huddled under the featherbed reminds me why I am an enthusiastic morning person. Even when I’m displaced. Confused. And cold. Very cold.

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AuthorVeronika Roo

Eighth in a series. My husband is a foot and an inch taller than me. One of my marital missions has been to ensure his home life is scaled to give him a sense of space. 

Our pink bathtub looked larger than it felt. The jets didn’t work. The hand shower didn’t work. Did I mention it was pink?

When we learn a leak necessitates the gutting of our bathroom, I initiate Project Large Tub. 

This stage of gutting the bathroom on October 5, 2014, will soon rid us of the problematic pink tub.

This stage of gutting the bathroom on October 5, 2014, will soon rid us of the problematic pink tub.

Little did I know how challenging it is to find a soaker for somebody six-foot-four. We go to the local showroom. Flip-flip-flip through catalogs. 

Reviewing catalogues on September 27.

Reviewing catalogues on September 27.

We go to showrooms in Manhattan. Find what we believe to be the ideal solution. Put in the order. Learn it will take thirteen weeks for the tub to arrive. Oh, and it will cost more than originally estimated. A lot more. We cancel the order. 

Me and a   Philippe Starck cut-out   in the Duravit showroom   in Manhattan   on October 3. We decided against getting his tub.

Me and a Philippe Starck cut-out in the Duravit showroom in Manhattan on October 3. We decided against getting his tub.

On to the Blackman showroom in New Jersey. At last, the solution presents itself. A tub made of volcanic limestone by Victoria + Albert. The catalogue describes the tub as 70 1/4 inches long and 34 1/4 inches wide. Its name? Barcelona. 

We order the tub on October 11, based on another Victoria + Albert soaker in the showroom and schematics in a catalogue. 

We order the tub on October 11, based on another Victoria + Albert soaker in the showroom and schematics in a catalogue. 

“That settles it.” My mouth waters with the memory of my brief, busy stay in this Spanish city filled with beautiful, doe-eyed, long-lashed men. The obscenely handsome boy assigned to our conference room saw how I liked my coffee and noticed when I served myself a downright gluttonous helping of anchovies from the breakfast buffet, as well as an equally memorable apple tart. 

The following morning, as I hunched over my laptop, he served me coffee, enhanced with the perfect balance of cream. Next to it, a plate of anchovies artfully arranged in a starburst patten, just like the apples on the tart he brought for me as well. 

The name is a sign that this tub surely is the right choice. 

During the March 2005 business trip to Barcelona, I get ready to consume the day’s third helping of anchovies.

During the March 2005 business trip to Barcelona, I get ready to consume the day’s third helping of anchovies.

Our home is below street level. Parking on our steep driveway takes bravery. Doing so gets delivery near the house, not to the house. Getting to the front door requires walking downhill, taking stairs, making a sharp turn, walking down a ramp, making another sharp turn, taking stairs, yet another sharp turn, maneuvering around a choke point and stepping up into the house. 

The stairs down to our home also serve as a water feature during storms.

The stairs down to our home also serve as a water feature during storms.

Delivery day comes and my beloved helps the contractor, his assistant and the delivery guy (shhh! don’t tell anyone—he isn’t supposed to do more than leave the box on the driveway) get the 192 pound tub into the great room. Where it sat, as seductive as those beautiful boys in Barcelona, from October 28 to January 14, 2015. Unlike the Catalonians, however, I can run my fingers across the tub’s smooth, warm surface. 

Here’s what I learned: I couldn’t find a larger tub for my love because even a tad deeper than twenty-one inches would have necessitated taking the front door off the hinges and perhaps even removing the frame. 

The bathroom nears completion. I visit the tub, caress its rim and daydream about our eventual rendezvous. The steamy moment comes after my husband asks me to help him carry a leather recliner back upstairs—against gravity—to prepare the nearly done great room for a small gathering. It’s so heavy, I shriek, cry and kvetch. My husband prods me into getting the job done. I do.

“That’s it. Today, I am soaking my tired bones in the tub,” I say.

He fills it with nice, hot water and sprinkles in salts blended with essential oils to alleviate aches and pains and scented with lavender, my favorite fragrance.

I hop in.

How many inches am I? I always had trouble with my gazintas (translation: this goes into that), that’s why I make my living arranging words. Oh, wait, multiplication... Twelve times five equals ... No, wait, break it down.. Two times five ... Carry the one ... Okay, okay ... Got it: sixty. Plus three is sixty-three. About seven inches shorter than the tub.

“Why don’t you fill the tub some more and stretch out?” my husband asks, checking on me as as I splash around.

“Because I’ll drown.”

Holding on for dear life during my first soak in the tub. On order? A tub pillow.

Holding on for dear life during my first soak in the tub. On order? A tub pillow.

That’s the problem with being blinded by love and terrible at math. I fixated on my husband’s luxurious proportions and forgot to calculate how meeting his needs would relate to my height-challenged self.

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AuthorVeronika Roo
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Seventh in a series. My contractor, Frank K, gave me a Happy New Year kiss on December 31, 2014. Good thing we like each other. The relationship that began with our first meeting on January 26 will stretch well into 2015.

Project creep? The domino effect? A slow and steady wins the race approach to renovation? A preference for dust and upheaval? 

Well, it ain’t a preference for dust an upheaval. At least not for my beloved. You’d think he’d be used to it by now, as demolition began on June 17.

This is our second reno rodeo. On January 1, 2009, my husband and I were on day eight of painting the interior. (Demolition, which we also handled ourselves, had begun in March 2008.)

Now we are paying to redo or fix a lot of what the crew did poorly during our previous renovation. For example, our metal roof should last for fifty years and never leak. So why did rain drip into our kitchen?

In June 2014, the nexus of a roof leak in the kitchen caused by our previous contractors is exposed by our current team.

In June 2014, the nexus of a roof leak in the kitchen caused by our previous contractors is exposed by our current team.

Three interconnected reasons. One: the vent for the kitchen sink was installed absurdly high. Two: the PVC pipe was not glued together. Three: turns out, the subcontractor who installed the roof was not an expert. He was a nincompoop. He did not put a gasket around the vent. 

Sunlight streams through the roof thanks to a badly installed vent. (Rolando’s ladder is on the right.)

Sunlight streams through the roof thanks to a badly installed vent. (Rolando’s ladder is on the right.)

November 2008, during the previous renovation project, the gasket-free vent for the kitchen sink pierces the metal roof.

November 2008, during the previous renovation project, the gasket-free vent for the kitchen sink pierces the metal roof.

Frank and Rolando moved the vent pipe down so that if it ever did fail—although they assured me it is installed correctly and won’t—any drips will end up outside the house in the soffit area.

The original hole is so well-patched, the fix is difficult to see.

The original hole is so well-patched, the fix is difficult to see.

Rolando installs the new vent in the proper place, in the proper way.

Rolando installs the new vent in the proper place, in the proper way.

With the roof repaired, the recessed lighting can be installed, celling insulated and drywall put in place by late July.

With the roof repaired, the recessed lighting can be installed, celling insulated and drywall put in place by late July.

As New Year’s Eve approaches, good friends decide it makes sense to party at our house. I am skeptical. The kitchen is fully functioning, yes. The upstairs bathroom is not. The nearest toilet—a handy gizmo on a night dedicated to champagne toasts—is downstairs. Down lots of stairs. The floor of the great room is unfinished and covered with boxes, bathroom tile and a bathtub. There’s also dust. Always. Everywhere. Dust.

Sitting next to a stack of floor tile, our tub bides its time in the great room, which my beloved decorated for the holidays.

Sitting next to a stack of floor tile, our tub bides its time in the great room, which my beloved decorated for the holidays.

Expecting guests is motivating and my sweet man snaps into action. Until he reclaims our home for living, I wasn’t even conscious of how much disarray had become the new normal.

Completing our lighting project on the bathroom wall above where our tub will one day reside is a critical party preparation project. A color-changing crystal ceiling kit by Universal Fiber Optic Lighting will illuminate our interpretation of the Pegasus constellation (with a nod to the Andromeda galaxy), which glowed above us the day we married. 

We print out and hang the Pegasus pattern for our accent lighting.

We print out and hang the Pegasus pattern for our accent lighting.

The pattern is transferred to bathroom-rated drywall on November 21, holes are drilled and the fiber optic lines are strategically strung through the framing in the wall. This is a nerve-wracking five-person job my husband and I help Dave, Frank and Rolando execute.

The pattern is transferred to bathroom-rated drywall on November 21, holes are drilled and the fiber optic lines are strategically strung through the framing in the wall. This is a nerve-wracking five-person job my husband and I help Dave, Frank and Rolando execute.

Frank is delighted to see glow tips on the twenty wires.

Frank is delighted to see glow tips on the twenty wires.

Before our party on December 31, my husband and I install the 14 small and six large crystals.

Before our party on December 31, my husband and I install the 14 small and six large crystals.

We take a party prep break to watch the lights change colors.

We take a party prep break to watch the lights change colors.

Revelers (that’s me in the middle) gather around the new kitchen island. The bathtub gleams in the background.

Revelers (that’s me in the middle) gather around the new kitchen island. The bathtub gleams in the background.

Handsome gentlemen crack lobsters for our first dinner party since we lost the upstairs bathroom.

Handsome gentlemen crack lobsters for our first dinner party since we lost the upstairs bathroom.

On New Year’s Day, Chef Husband completes the task of turning lobster shells into broth. He rocks—and so does the new kitchen!

On New Year’s Day, Chef Husband completes the task of turning lobster shells into broth. He rocks—and so does the new kitchen!

My husband was right: having a party in a construction zone was a good idea. Happy New Year!

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AuthorVeronika Roo
CategoriesRenovation

The day begins ominously. As I brush on mascara, the magnifying mirror pulls itself loose from the wall in my hotel bathroom. I text a photo to Amy, the proprietress of Mears Photography Studio, promising not to break the camera.

Mirror-Mirror_092214_0253.jpg

I also warn I may need wardrobe help. I’m not a glamour-puss. More like a glamour-possum. I tend to lose interest in shopping and head home with an empty pouch.

Before leaving New Jersey for Ohio, the planned photo shoot forces me into the high-end mall, filled with body-guard-at-the-door boutiques I’m afraid to enter. I opt for Nordstrom and walk in with “I will buy stuff” determination. 

What image should writer Veronika Roo project? Head bitch in charge? Mysterious vamp? Goofball-next-door? 

A lumpy middle-aged woman stares back at me in the dressing room mirror and says, “I’ll take it” several times. Let’s hope clothes make the ma’am.

I duck into the Macy’s, shriek and scurry away. The Tasmanian Devil, a carnivorous marsupial, must have been the last creature to shop there, leaving chaos in her wake. My on-hand purchases will have to do.

In her Chillicothe studio, Amy examines my six shirts—three new—and says, “I’ll loan you a sweater.”

Okay. Ready. The studio transports me to another world. Lights. Backdrops. Set design. Kevin, an award-winning photographer, tells me—repeatedly—to drop my chin. Um, you don’t want your pictures to feature my nostrils? If you say so...you’re the expert. 

Amy took the action shots with her mobile phone. 

Amy took the action shots with her mobile phone. 

Kevin has me laughing and feeling surprisingly unselfconscious. Rock music blares and the experience is utterly fun. Especially since I’m working with Amy.

I stop to switch from my new shirt to a borrowed V-neck sweater. Amy layers-up my make-up, until every hide-able facial flaw is concealed. That’s a lot of paint, I learn, when I wipe it all off moments after the shoot is done and examine the handful of paper towels covered in skin-colored smears.  

This is what happens when Kevin does not tell me to drop my chin: nostrils. 

This is what happens when Kevin does not tell me to drop my chin: nostrils. 

I’m posed in different vignette’s, on a purple chair and red velvet couch, under an enormous hat. I feel like a movie star.

Me trying to be sexy. As you can see, it does not go well.

Me trying to be sexy. As you can see, it does not go well.

Spending time trying to strike a pose gives me a whole new appreciation for models. That said, I thought this shot by Kevin was a keeper.

Spending time trying to strike a pose gives me a whole new appreciation for models. That said, I thought this shot by Kevin was a keeper.

I follow the Mears empire on Facebook. Week after week, they post photos of high school seniors who look like cinema icons and smiling families that appear genuinely happy. Kevin and Amy were the team I wanted when I needed a portrait for my author endeavors.

Back in New Jersey, I see a plethora of poses in three different shirts. The lighting of each shot is perfect, even if Kevin’s subject is not. I see from the file numbers just how many pictures had to be deleted. (Glad I was spared the grim reality of those shots.)

One of my favorites features me with my confidant from junior high. Amy remained my friend as I moved from a valley near Amish country to the suburbs of Columbus, got my journalism degree from Bowling Green State University, took off for New York City, transitioned to Pennsylvania and settled into married life with my Jersey boy. 

It takes me days to make the final selections. I worry about retouching. Will I look plastic? Will people who know me call me a fraud?

Nope. The images come back and I still look like me.

Three of the photos I selected, after retouching. 

Three of the photos I selected, after retouching. 

Now if only I could get retouched in real life… Thankfully, like me, most friends my age are losing their eyesight, so the people who love me most see me in soft focus.

The author’s shot now graces the front page of my website, replacing the original:

Before

Before

After

After

My Facebook page is finally set up. I occasionally tweet. I have Pinterest boards. Now all I need to do is finish drafting People in Charge: A Novel.  


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AuthorVeronika Roo
CategoriesNovel
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