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Sister Your Studs

Sister Your Studs

In some book somewhere, someone at some point wrote the line, "It didn't matter how it was rebuilt, the house would always wear scars."

I've blocked out the title and author of the book because it's such a good line that applies so directly to who I am as a person that I'm genuinely mad I didn't think of it myself.

We all wear scars, no matter how much we rebuild ourselves, don't we?

Those scars, while deep and apparent, can be painted over with things like haircuts and weight loss and yoga teacher training and nights out with the girls and texting exes and blog writing, but they're still scars.  Sometimes those scars have a name.  Sometimes those scars call for an explanation to anyone who visits us.

Sometimes our scars on the outside get a new layer of siding with a new relationships, and it seems to cover everything up for a while.  Things are so fresh and the curb appeal is so inviting.  Everything smells like fresh paint and warm cookies.  The Zillow page on that bad boy is something else in those early months.  

Being in property insurance for a grand total of thirteen years (my career is celebrating her Bat Mitzvah - mazel tov!) this October, I've learned a few things about repairing damage, which draws surprising parallels to the relationships in my life.  

Just hold on.  Never let go, Jack.

First Rule of Thumb (that saying is sexist...Google it) - Your homeowner's insurance is for catastrophes and does not cover wear and tear.  Your insurance company doesn't care about all of your scars, I promise.  They'll carry you anyway.  In related metaphor news, your new relationship is not necessarily designed to fix the peeling paint in your mind; that's for you to maintain as to avoid premiums rising.  However, you can (and should) count on your carrier to be there in a heartbeat when the storm hits.  They should be there, holding your hand, as you pick up the pieces.

Second Tip (just the tip) - Never hook up with someone out of state.  Roofers swoop in after a bad storm from all over the damn place and offer you the moon.  They are appealing with their gallantry, and often come with gifts.  I've done an awful lot for a branded coozie, and even more for someone who tells me that I don't have to worry, they'll fix all of my damage.  The problem is, they skip town they second they get what they came for, which is usually the very last of your reserves, and they move on to the next hot mess of a storm.

The Third Gift (probably myrrh) - Sister your studs.

Stay with me now.

So behind your walls, right now, wherever you are, are studs - long boards of wood that are placed a foot and a half or two feet apart, and go floor to ceiling (or tip to taint, as my grandfather once said, which scarred me for life).  These studs hold up the drywall which is covering all of the wires and mouse turds and insulation that's keeping the facade of your life together.

<Quick mid-blog check in:  You're, like, getting this metaphor, right?  Generally speaking?  Cool.>

So when something pretty catastrophic happens, say a fire, studs can be compromised.  They get charred and lose their integrity on their own.  Sometimes a particular stud is so integral to the wall, that it can't necessarily be replaced, but left on it's own, it won't hold up.  

This is when we do something called Sistering.  When you sister a stud, you put a new stud right against the damaged one, nail that betch in place, and it actually makes everything twice as strong as the first one.

It's a whole thing, don't ask questions.

If I had a fourth tip, it would be that scraping off mold and covering up blemishes in your house with a new coat of paint won't hide a damaged stud for long.  

It's a real bummer, but sometimes you just have to get into those dark and cobwebbed places and really work on the damage from the inside.  And although throwing someone else's love on yourself like a new coat of paint will hide some of those scars, you'll always see a crack unless that person is able to get behind the wall with you and lean up against your damaged insides. 

You need some soul sistering, y'all.  Trust me.  I'm writing this from the inside of my walls as we speak.  It's gross in here.

They just don't build them like they used to, you know?  This new crap out here was built in a hurry, and if we're honest with ourselves, did we create the supply with our demand of moving into things so quickly?

What happened to enjoying the process of looking around and checking things out thoroughly?  Not to long ago, we wanted to move into things and stay there.  Now, we can't stand the discomfort of being displaced for even a day, so we jump into the first warm bed we see.

I speak from experience.

You see, I've noticed a trend with myself.  I want The Life.  I want the Instagram posts with the perfect person in the perfect place and the perfect foreseeable future.  I want security and I want the equity of investing in something.  I want to plant a tree and I want to stick around to watch it grow.  I want something to hang my little lesbian tool belt on.  I want to imagine what my kitchen will smell like someday.  Meatballs and sauce?  Pierogies?  Corned beef and Guiness?

But none of it matters if the studs are all cracked.  None of the paint matters.  The new siding fades away.  The shingles curl.  All of it isn't real unless the walls stay standing.  

It seems the more I look in the walls of my mind, I find stud after stud that needs reinforcing.  I'm lucky to be alive in that way.  All of this home improvement in my brain gives me something to do with my hands, so to speak.  What I lack in a HGTV budget, I make up for in fortune for finding people in my life who have sistered me up, and who have allowed me to do the same for them. 

Its work to allow someone to see the gross parts of you. Behind all of the paint, it isn’t pretty, but it’s just as much of a disaster for everyone, so don’t worry you’re not alone.  It’s just so important that we know the difference between the people that are willing and able to help us from the inside out, and those that are only able - often because of their own scars - to paint things over.  That might just be all their able to do.  Give those folks some DeFazio’s and thank them for their efforts.  Then spend the time looking for your stud finder.

I'm thankful every day for someone whose love has found me and is willing to come all the way from exit 23 to check my insulation (only half a euphemism) and who is willing to try looking at a few of my charred studs.  We're still in the inspection stage of things, but it takes months sometimes to find all the cracks and crevices before knowing whether the neighborhood is the right fit.  It's worth the investment while we keep checking for mold in the basement (that absolutely is a euphemism).

And that's the thing about homeownership and all the above aforementioned allusions to things that probably don't make sense: There are few guarantees, and much that can and will go tits up.  But it all comes down to what you want your kitchen to smell like.  It's worth the pain, if you do the work, isn't it?  There's always a reward with doing the work. 

But here's the deal with choosing an insurance carrier, ask yourself a few things:  Who is it that has inspected your scars and carried you anyway?  Who has sistered your studs?  Who is it that's there for you in a heartbeat?  That's who I want to give my premium to.

Baseline Road

Baseline Road

Shame (or, How Jonathan Pryce Ruins Everything)

Shame (or, How Jonathan Pryce Ruins Everything)