Settling In: 11/1 – 12/07/2015

Posted on December 17, 2015 by

I guess once a month is a good enough goal for photoblog posts. This one is from a pretty hectic/stressful time, just after closing on our house and trying to get moved, getting the house ready to live in, and moving forward after the loss of Rover.

We closed on our house just before November started. As part of our negotiations, the seller agreed to pay for the removal of all the knob and tube wiring in our house, the installation of a radon mitigation system, and fixing the cracked sewer line in the basement. The first week and a half of our home ownership, we didn’t go to the house much except to move loads of things because the electrician was there rewiring half of the house and making it like new and the electricity was off in a lot of the house. We did spend one marathon weekend painting most of the house so that it wasn’t all beige. A lot of these photos are from that.

Rover had been fighting a cough for the month of October. After sending a video to the vet, we decided it was probably allergy related because it started out sounding like a reverse sneeze, but after it turned into a dry cough, I brought him back in for a check up because I’m a paranoid dog mom. They took xrays and our vet didn’t see anything, but after showing it to a specialist, they found little nodules in his lungs that signified cancer that had spread from somewhere else. It was very faint and easy to miss, so they said there was a possibility it could be a throat issue instead if the nodules were benign. So we took him in for an ultrasound a week later which confirmed that it wasn’t cancer probably because it didn’t show anything. They didn’t find anything that looked like cancer and couldn’t feel any tumors anywhere on him. If it had spread to his lungs from somewhere (which is what it looked like), they expected to see an obvious tumor in his abdominal which would show in an ultrasound. He did get this cool haircut as a result.

We were relieved about Rover’s lack of cancer for about a week until we brought him in again. We were given instructions to schedule him for a surgical consult to look into this throat or do a CT scan to see if there was a something else causing his cough. We did that on the day we closed on our house. That day, we had to decide between 3k worth of relatively invasive testing, or doing an xray again even though it had only been two weeks just in case anything more obvious appeared. We did the xray just in case, knowing that we would then do the testing if nothing showed up in the xray. Unfortunately, it had gotten worse in two weeks and it became obvious that Rover did, in fact, have cancer, even though they still didn’t know where the main tumor was. Once it has already spread to the lungs, though, there isn’t much by way of treatment (except a pill that costs $1000 a month) so all we could do was treat the symptoms with a cough suppressant and wait it out. We were given a prognosis of a few weeks to a few months. We continued working on the house with that looming in the back of our heads. Everything started to feel like a race so that Rover would get to enjoy it while he could. Rover hung out at the house while we had a grueling time painting every room, including all the ceilings.

But progress was made and it started to feel more like a house we would live in. Dark beige isn’t really our thing. We wanted to emphasize how much light our new house had and we wanted it all to be bright white, at least for now. We can always add color later if we need a change of pace.

The french doors, one of my favorite things about our new house, was the perfect sitting spot for Rover. While we worked, he sat contentedly watching the street – his favorite pastime.

A break to make some cranberry cake and coffee, an attempt to get the house smelling lived in instead of like a stale old house/paint. No one has lived in the house for several years prior to us. The owner had lived there with his wife, but when she passed away he moved out but kept the house pretty meticulously maintained as a sentimental gesture, I assume. He didn’t put it on the market until several years later, when we ended up buying it.



I don’t remember these slices at all. I assume it was a much earned reward for our painting, but I can’t remember where we were or when it was. That weekend was a haze of painting.

We were still living at our old house for the first week or two of November until the electrician was done, but since we planned to wake up early and go back to finish painting, we slept over one night on the couch. Both of us, on one couch. It was the most uncomfortable night of sleep, especially since our bodies were already so sore from painting. Add it to the list of ways you know you’re not in your twenties anymore.

Bright light!

This was a pretty stressful time because we didn’t feel settled anywhere. We weren’t sleeping at our new house and it was in disarray, and we were in boxes at our old house and not able to get any work done outside of things related to moving. We were totally frazzled, and also just low level sad all the time about Rover.

But slowly but surely we made progress.

We bought really simple light fixtures to replace all the old ones the electrician had to take down when he was doing work. We had planned to wait a little while to do stuff like that, but it seemed silly for him to put the old ones back up if we were going to have to replace them all ourselves a few months down the line anyway. So we bought new fixtures and he put those back up in place of the old ones. Suddenly the house felt much newer/cleaner.

We still need to paint the kitchen, even now. In our painting frenzy we didn’t get to the kitchen or the hallway, but we did everything else.

My studio, one of the three bedrooms upstairs. Our house is a three bedroom house with an accessible attic we can eventually convert to an additional guest room or living space. So for now, Mikey and I each have our own studios to do creative work in and we have a shared bedroom obviously. It’s just the right amount of space.

Our bedroom, one of the last rooms we spent any time working on. We did have that ceiling fan installed though. My nanny family has these really good ceiling fans. I don’t think I’d ever made note of a ceiling fan before, but when I started working for them I did! They’re so powerful and still quiet. So when we bought this house I knew I was going to ask where they got their fans, and it ended up being one of the first things we put in because the electrician was there and could put them up for us at no additional cost. So much better than the wobbly gold and brown one that was up there before.

Mikey’s studio (is huge!) He got a major upgrade for his work space. The work I do is solitary and can be done at a desk. I don’t move around much. But Mikey has a lot of gear, pedals, needs to stand up to record, and collaborates with other people sometimes, so it made way more sense for him to have the big space. I’m excited for him to actually have proper space to do what he does and can’t wait to see what will come out of there, music-wise.

Our bathroom, which was also painted beige. I HATED this thing when we first bought the house, but after painting the non-tiled walls white, switching out the shower curtain and light fixture, it feels a lot better and I don’t really think twice about it anymore. This is on the list of rooms we will update eventually, though, along with the kitchen.

Ahhh. The kind of thing that makes a neurotic brain feel calm. I love seeing tangible progress on a project.

The view out our bathroom window. So many trees.

In the midst of all of this was Mikey’s 30th birthday. A few days beforehand, while at our old house making dinner, I noticed Rover was suddenly breathing funny. He was fine when I got home from work, but two hours later he had labored breathing. My heart sank to my stomach. I tried to get him to calm down, to lay on the couch, to take treats, and he wouldn’t do any of that. He was just breathing hard and pacing and seemed confused. I ran upstairs to get Mikey, and after frantically sending texts/videos to my vet tech friend (thanks, Melanie. She was so helpful throughout the whole process of Rover being sick), we took him in to the emergency vet at 10pm to see what was going on. He was symptom free at 5pm, and at 9pm it was like he was shutting down. They told us it had to be related to the cancer, and all we could do was try to make him comfortable but that ‘he wasn’t going to go on his own and we would have to make that decision for him.’ The vet was actually kind of cold about it and it made us both feel weird. I told her since he was totally fine that morning I wanted to wait and see if a night of sleep would make him feel better. We took him home with painkillers and tried to go to sleep, but it wasn’t happening for Rover. He couldn’t get to sleep and was becoming more and more disoriented and was still breathing so heavily. We basically cried through the night, trying to get him calm with no luck, and brought him back in the morning at 5am to be put to sleep. In a way, I’m glad it happened so suddenly, but that we had warning about him being sick. It felt sudden but didn’t feel shocking. And it was very clear that we needed to make that decision. I always thought it would be hard to know when, but it happened so quickly and drastically that it was clear. By the morning he could hardly walk on his own. I’m glad he didn’t have a single day more of that. The vet said that it’s likely the cancer was in his brain and a blood clot moved which is why he deteriorated so suddenly.

Needless to say, everything was sad. We wanted to do something for Mikey’s birthday a few days later, but it just felt weird and neither of us could really rally for it.

I did find him the perfect gift, though, earlier that week. Mikey had been talking about wanting to get a radio for the kitchen because we had had one at our old house, and he had been to a friends house that had this big vintage radio that was on the whole time and it felt really warm and nostalgic. Literally the day after he told me that, I walked into a little resale shop to ask about a clock I saw in the window, thinking of getting it for Mikey’s birthday. The clock didn’t work but right next to it was this beautiful mid-century modern radio that would fit perfectly in our kitchen. Fated! On the tag is a quote from the one love song Mikey ever wrote for me 😉

The next week, we had the fence put in at our new house. It had already been scheduled for a month. That date was the earliest the fence people could come. Even though it was exciting because it was the first major noticeable change we were making to our house, it felt like salt in a fresh wound since we were putting in the fence for Rover.

We went ahead with it because we knew we would get another dog eventually – probably sooner rather than later. Being at the new house instead of the old one was actually exactly what we needed after Rover was gone. The old house had so many associations and routines set around Rover and everything reminded us that he was gone. The new house felt like a relief from the sad. But it also felt so much more quiet than we had anticipated, which just made me want a dog so much more. I didn’t think I would ever want a dog again so soon after losing Rover, but I’ve lived with a dog my whole life, except for three of the years I was in college. Having a dog around adds life and spontaneity to a place. It felt like our new house was missing something without one.

The Goodbye Party playing at the Pharmacy once night in late November.

Somehow I didn’t take any photos of Thanksgiving weekend. Here’s one from a vegan dessert potluck we went to after dinner with Mikey’s family. I stole this photo from the internet. You would think that Mikey drinks from the looks of this photo, but the joke is that he doesn’t. Aside from this, the rest of the weekend was pretty lowkey – we hung out with Mikey’s family in Bethesda and tried our hand at geocaching, because why not?

The first weekend of December was somehow our first full weekend at our new house. For the longest time it felt like we didn’t have any concrete time there to really work on things and get fully settled. That weekend felt great. I tied up so many loose ends, finally finished our dining table and reupholstered these chairs I had been hoarding for over a year. I also spent a full day doing little things like hanging up christmas lights, baking cookies, working on commissions, drinking a lot of coffee, moving plants around, and generally just living in our new house. It felt so needed.

I’d never reupholstered anything before. It was surprisingly easy, though I can see how it takes some finesse and experience to do it really well. I did a just ok job but probably only I would ever notice that.

For the month prior, this room was empty and just housed all the plants.

Ta-da! I suppose if you did it right you would know how not to have that rectangle edge showing within the black. It would appear rounded and seamless.

An actual dining room.

Replacing the light fixture in the bathroom. The former one was non-existent. It was a hole in the wall with a bulb sticking out. Wiring is one of those things that feels totally foreign but with a little demystifying is actually pretty simple. That vanity is on my short list of easy things to replace to make our house feel newer.

That weekend we met up with Jen and her household to get Christmas trees.

The Christmas tree spot is actually in the small town we moved to. When we went and got trees there last year, it was what put the first little kernel in my brain that maybe I thought that town would be an okay place to live. Who knew that a year later we would own a house there?

These people know their trees! They’re all Christmas enthusiasts so the spent some time picking the best one. Mikey and I essentially closed our eyes and pointed to pick ours out because they all sort of looked the same. It hadn’t dawned on me that Mikey didn’t grow up with a Christmas tree. Whoops.

Yet another thing this pickup truck has come in handy for.


Discovering the one good brunch spot in Lansdowne, The Avenue Delicatessen.

Putting up our tree while listening to a singing saw Christmas album. We also bought cedar incense at the tree farm so it was feeling very cozy in there.

Last year we had a Christmas party at our old group house so I made strings of popcorn and cranberries, and also made this funny Rover Christmas tree topper. I saved it all and we had a moment when we put the topper on the tree. The house was feeling like a home and Rover would have really liked it.

A visit from Joey. That week, several friends came out to the house and it felt really good. It was a reminder that we didn’t just move ourselves out to a little bubble. We hadn’t been having anyone over because it still needed a lot of work, so it started to feel really isolated and weird for a minute, especially without Rover or anyone else to share it all with. Having people over a bunch that week brought us back to reality. Like “oh yeah, this weird transitional flux period is over and now we can make this place feel however we want.” It felt good to turn that corner. We don’t have to think about what to do for the house anymore. We can just start living our normal lives there.

Posted in Philly Life | 5 Comments

5 Responses to Settling In: 11/1 – 12/07/2015

  1. Seb says:

    The loss of Rover is so heartbreaking. Your new home is looking amazing and all of the hard work has been paying off!

  2. Meade says:

    Oh I love your tree! Its awesome.

  3. RM says:

    I’ve followed your photo blog off and on for a while, and of course had fallen in love with Rover! The first dog I really owned as an adult died very suddenly and it was the biggest heartbreak I’ve ever felt. And I had to wake up my partner in the middle of the night to tell him. We got a new dog two weeks later. It feels so empty without their pitter patter around! I’m glad you had some warning and were able to give him such a wonderful life as long as you did.

  4. Athena says:

    This is a beautiful post! I’ve been reading your comics (online and in book form) for a couple years now, and love your work. It’s very sad to hear about Rover; he seemed like a king among dogs. But the house is lovely. Sooner or later a new dog is going to love the heck out of that fenced backyard.

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