A Breath of Fresh Air

I should start with a fair warning – this is a fairly text-heavy post that has very little to do with actual costuming. I’m in the process of expanding this blog from primarily Disney costuming to something I’ve always wanted to do – writing about all of the things I modify and create. I’m not just a seamstress or cosplayer, I’m also a DIY artist.

After my last entry in September 2015, I stopped writing. In fact, I gave up on this blog. For the longest time it seemed like there was no time in my post-divorce life for blogging about the things I loved. I stopped volunteering as Elsa after the Christmas parade in Victoria in 2015, and when 2016 began I felt like I started fresh all over again. 2016 brought a new me – a me that had learned that I could exist independent of a marriage, and that I had an identity beyond that of a navy wife. Up until that point it had seemed like my entire existence in this province was dependent on someone else and their title to justify my own existence, so when I was in the middle of making over the apartment I’d lived in for nearly 6 years I suddenly had an epiphany – after 5 years of that marriage and the heartbreak that followed, I had emerged on the other side victorious and re-discovered all the things about myself that I had always loved and been proud of.

It started with the apartment makeover. I was living by myself and working a decent job, and stuck in a city where the housing situation had gotten incredibly out of hand. Rent had increased substantially on new leases, and I was fortunate enough that my landlords loved me and had no interest in increasing the rent. I was staying in that apartment because it was affordable and convenient, even though it wasn’t where I wanted to be.

I woke up one day and decided I’d had enough. The majority of the living space was a light blue grey, but both the bedroom and living room had horrendous brown accent walls. I’d hated them the entire time I’d lived in the apartment, and had many times brought up the subject of painting them. Clearly, that never happened. Those brown walls were the tipping point, and after a trip to Home Depot they were charcoal grey.

Believe it or not, I’d made it to 29 years old and had never actually painted a wall in my life. I’d done minor touch up jobs here and there but never an entire wall, and never an entire textured wall at that. And wouldn’t you know it, because I was painting this wall a dark charcoal grey without any supervision, despite all of my drop clothes I managed to spill a large quantity of paint on the beige carpet in the bedroom.

Cue my instant panic, ugly crying, and promptly sending a picture of the spill to a few friends with the word ‘HELP?!’

Fortunately R and her partner came to my rescue with a carpet shampooer at the unreasonable hour of 11pm, and I managed to actually suck all the paint out of the carpet as if it never happened.

You’d think that I would’ve learned at this point. To paint those accent walls, I had to take down a couple of floating shelves that were mounted into the studs and also detach and safely neutralize some hard-wired wall lamps. Somehow the paint spill wasn’t a deterrent, and I decided to keep going.

I got a new couch and changed up my living room furniture, hung a giant Banksy print, picked up some faux fur for an area rug and got some extra lighting from Ikea (from amazing trip to Ikea with K in which we discovered THEY SERVE BEER!). I lucked into a French Provincial style bedroom set meant for a teenage girl (twin headboard/footboard combo and all) and discovered the magic of chalk paint and its ability to adhere to any surface. I re-wired a hard-wired chandelier into a plug in and hung it in the bedroom, built and upholstered a headboard, and also upholstered a boxspring and attached new legs to it with the help of R and her other half. I found an old farmhouse style kitchen table, picked up the chairs from someone else, and built a new tabletop (again with the help of R and her partner) and refinished the entire thing.

I got rid of all the furniture that I hadn’t chosen for myself but was left with, and re-made that apartment into something of my own. The apartment became both an ongoing DIY project to keep myself busy, and also turned into a shining reminder of the fact that I am capable of anything I put my mind to.

Shortly after this grand makeover that I poured (literal) blood, sweat and tears into, I did the unthinkable.

I sold the majority of it, quit my job, and moved.

I’d had enough of the city, and while I’d miss my friends and my job, I knew it was time to move on. I’d realized, during this grand apartment makeover, that I was still me. For the first time in years I did something entirely for myself, with ideas of my own choosing, with no one to tell me it was too silly or outlandish, and it helped remind me of who I really am and that who I really am is actually pretty awesome. My parents also made the big cross-country move from Ontario to Vancouver Island last summer, and since they were willing to move several thousand miles to be closer to me, a fresh start in a new city seemed like an entirely reasonable idea.

2016 brought a lot of change. I found myself in a serious relationship that had apparently been sneaking up on me for months without my realizing it. A friendship turned into significantly more; it seemed like it happened overnight and yet now, looking back, I wonder how it wasn’t so blatantly obvious to me (since it seemed everyone else knew) that it was just a matter of time. J has been an incredible partner, and I don’t use the term partner lightly. He actually treats me as an equal partner in our relationship. We have a relationship, not a dictatorship, and it’s been such a breath of fresh air experiencing this together.

Conveniently he already lived close to where my parents were moving, so the inevitable happened. We live together. A year and a half later we have an amazing home (that is still in the process of a full-blown makeover), different career paths than when we started, and the best yellow lab puppy we ever could have asked for. Our parents are nearby, we have the island at our disposal, and we make the most of the time we have together.

Since moving into the house last summer, it’s been an ongoing project. I’ve always heard that home ownership is the to-do list that never ends, and I’m learning first hand just how harsh a reality that is. There’s always something. Dishwasher breaks? Can’t call the landlord to have it fixed, as that is now our responsibility. Dog knocks stuff over and puts a hole in the wall? Better pull out the drywall compound and the paint, and be prepared for the exact same paint we put on everything months ago to no longer be a perfect match as the paint on the walls has aged. Roof starts to resemble a living carpet? Better be prepared to shell out a ton of money to get it replaced.

There are the practical things that need to be done, and they’re often where we don’t skimp. Appliances, a roof, those are the things that need to be done right. We leave the important (and risky) stuff to the professionals. But there are things that we can do ourselves (or more accurately, if you were to ask J, things that I think we can do ourselves and inform him that it is happening) and those are the things I enjoy. Those are the things I want to write about.

There will still be sewing and costuming on this blog – after all, it is my specialty. But I’m also branching out. I’ve always been more into DIY than ‘pay people to do it for me’. My parents are the same, and where I learned it from. My mother is very artsy (and has successfully been selling her chocolate and stained glass creations for years) and my father is an incredible woodworker. They took their house in Ontario that they bought in 1999, put in an insane amount of work themselves to make it over, and then sold it for nearly triple what they paid for it (thank you, makeover and housing market) and moved out here. They know what they’re doing and I’m very much my parents’ daughter. (For about 5 years, it feels like I forgot that fact.)

I plan to write about everything in my life that is DIY – sewing, costumes, my in-progress sewing room makeover, the DIY projects we do around the house, the antique Singer sewing machines I’ve started to collect and refurbish, the crazy projects I take on – you name it, and it’ll probably happen. I don’t do the princess thing anymore – my posts on those costumes will remain but aside from Halloween and possible conventions in the future, I am done with being a Disney Princess. I loved it – it was an amazing ~3 years, I met so many wonderful people and had incredible experiences, but I feel like I’ve grown out of it. The Disney parks cut off their princesses at age 26, according to the internet. I started being a princess at 26 and gave it all up at 29. I turned 30 this year, and that number seems to come with a sense of overbearing adulthood. I still dress up from time to time (J and I pulled off an impressive rendition of Bert and Mary Poppins for Halloween 2016) but I also enjoy putting my time and money into other projects with satisfactory endings like the multiple furniture makeovers we’ve done. I’m about to start work on an antique Singer model 127 treadle cabinet (from 1926!)- the machine is mostly cleaned and just needs to be re-assembled but the cabinet needs refinishing. There will be a little bit of everything here, and I plan to keep it interesting.

I’m back, and while it’s not necessarily in the way I used to be, I plan for it to be better than ever. I hope you’ll join me for this adventure.