Veronica Bale

AND HER LITTLE WRITING LIFE

Fixer UpperI have bought a house. Such a small paragraph for such a profound, life-altering responsibility, isn’t it? Home ownership takes many forms and has many motivators. For me, it’s all about the fixer upper.

Here is where my head was at when I started this process. I was going to find a place that needed me, and I was going to make it my own. All it would need was a little love, a little patience and a little TLC. Me and my home were going to travel on a journey together. I would do the updates, and it would allow me the opportunity to build my (currently non-existent) home improvement skills. In my DIY Utopia, my little house would be an oasis of craftsmanship, and I would be the next Nicole Curtis… complete with bad-ass tool belt and smoking hot body.

Nicole Curtis

Well, step one: Check. I’ve bought myself a beauty of a fixer-upper. Built in 1976, my little raised bungalow has a liveable layout, a good-sized yard, no major structural urgencies, and a swimming pool for my wee man and his friends. And hey, some of the original features are even charming. The yellowing pendant hanging lamp in the foyer, the avocado door handles with the sunburst pattern on the face, the brass door chimes with plastic mount that looks kind of like wood if you squint and don’t look directly at it…

Ah, the joys of nostalgia. Or at least that’s what I told myself when I signed the papers.

Living here, however, seems to have taken the shine off my rose-coloured safety lenses. You see, at some point within the last ten or fifteen years this house has been subjected to (“been subjected to”… I say that deliberately) a partial renovation. The kitchen was updated, the basement was re-finished, the shag carpeting was torn up and laminate flooring put down, the old-fashioned baseboards were replaced and the retro popcorn ceiling was scraped.

Sounds like a good update, right? Unfortunately not, because whoever did the work was the laziest, most un-detailed craftsman or craftswoman to ever pick up a hammer and nail. There are gouges in the ceiling from where the popcorn was scraped from a dry state. The baseboards were nailed into the drywall randomly without the studs having been located, and are now popping back out. And instead of caulking the edge of the kitchen counter where it meets the wall, someone nailed down untreated quarter-rounds so that they do not sit flush and the nails stick out from the wood.

Darned things tear up my fingers right good every time I wipe the counters – a bit of a debilitating injury in my line of work since I need my fingers to type.

There is a laundry list of shoddy craftsmanship here. I found I was growing angry with myself for having gotten in so deep, and angry at my house and its previous occupants for the carelessness with which these updates were done.

It was about this time that my overactive writer’s imagination kicked in. I’m too creative for my own good sometimes. I started feeling guilty for blaming my house for the state it was in. My house didn’t ask for this, it didn’t have any control over what happened to it.

I started to get an idea in my head of who my little fixer upper was. Who it had been. I saw my house as an attractive young woman back in her day. Not beautiful, but handsome in a feminine way. She had good bone structure, she’d age well with proper care, and although she wasn’t fancily adorned or dressed in expensive trimmings, she was classy. She wore what she had well. As time went on and my classy lady grew older, however, like any woman she needed a bit of cosmetic “freshening.” Not much, but just enough to keep her classy. To keep her fashionable.

Hot on the heels of this image of my little fixer upper came the image of her previous owner (again, remember, I am too creative for my own good). I pictured him as a burly, beer-bellied, unshaven gentleman in a stained sleeveless undershirt. When my little fixer upper started to show her age, started to desire to be refreshed and made beautiful again, the burly man slapped some garish blue eyeshadow and smeared some tacky pink lipstick on her, and said (maybe with a stogie clenched between his teeth), “There, Princess. You’re beautiful now. Live it up, heh, heh, heh.”

Ever see A League of Their Own? Remember the guy at the beginning: “Hey Kit. What’re you swingin’ at them high ones for? Heh, heh.”? Yeah. Him.

So here’s my little fixer upper, violated and neglected. She’s sobbing in anguish over what has been done to her. “This is not what I meant,” she cries. “This is not beautiful.”

Enter Veronica. A woman who is too creative for her own good, and who sees her classy fixer upper as a fellow woman in need, despite the fact that said fixer upper is just a structure of brick, wood, siding and drywall. Veronica is a woman who is as devoid of practicality as she is full of hopes and dreams and high expectations of herself and everything she does.

Veronica is also a woman who is too stubborn to admit she is wrong, and to let herself fail.

Don’t you worry, my little house. I know who you are, and I know who you can be. I got your back. We are in this together!

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