Copper and ceramic

Slowly, in fits and starts, we’re turning our house into a home.

Renovating a house feels a lot like writing fiction, actually. You start with something raw and unfinished, and you slowly polish it until it shines, until it’s yours.

My house is starting to shine. The pieces are coming together: paint, new (and used, and refinished) furniture, new light fixtures, some new flooring.

It still needs quite a bit of paint and a good deep cleaning to get rid of all the leftover construction dust, but I can see it, there, my house, my home, exactly like I envisioned.

Photo of an old, tarnished copper mailbox

We found this buried in a pile of bricks in the back yard. I’m going to make it shine again.

We started a year and a half ago when we bought the house as a fixer-upper. It’s a 1920s wood frame. The original wood siding has been covered up (more than once), but many of the original interior features are intact: solid wood doors, glass door knobs, wood wainscoting, brick fireplace.

This past weekend I found what I believe to be light fixtures original to the house, as well as a copper mail box. Right now they are tarnished and brown, but I want to clean them up and make them shine.

History has always fascinated me, and I have a collection of objects from our renovations: ceramic pieces from the old knob and tube electrical wiring, a window weight (oh, if only I could afford to put in wood windows!), an old hinge, the transom from over the door that was just covered up when they put aluminum siding on the house.

I like that my house has character, even if that means it has flaws and weak points. That brings me back to my point about renovating being like writing. Flawed characters are what make fiction compelling.

There’s nothing interesting about a perfect, sterile environment. There’s no story there.

And I love my house—my home—the same way I love a good story.

2015 by the numbers



  • 4 stories accepted for publication (2 that were published this year were accepted in 2014)
  • 10 submissions withdrawn because of acceptances elsewhere
  • 73 total submissions to literary journals and chapbook presses


  • 118 total books read of my goal of 125
  • 20 of those were audio books
  • 8 of those were poetry (2 fewer than my goal of 10)
  • 20 of those were on writing, creativity, or blogging


  • 1 house purchased (my first!)
  • 1 floor of said house completely renovated
  • 1 promotion at work

Waking up in my new house

Today I am flying to Anaheim, California, for Star Wars Celebration Anaheim. I am writing this post from the past (meaning I wrote it Monday and scheduled it for Tuesday).

The chances of me being 500 percent excited for the con are so good making a bet on them would be foolish—unless you’re Han Solo.

On top of getting ready for Celebration, over the weekend my husband and a few friends moved all our belongings into our new house (I had to work). Sunday night was the first time I slept in my very own house that belongs to me because I bought it.

As I got ready for bed, I felt a sickening sense of dread because of the late-night campfire my neighbors were enjoying and the whine of motorcycles on the highway at the bottom of the hill. Laughter and bad country music drifted up to my third-floor window with the motorcycle noise.

I worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I worried this would happen every night. I worried I had made a fatal mistake in purchasing a house—well, this house, specifically. What was I thinking? This is a real neighborhood, with children and families and people whose families have lived in Pittsburgh for generations and generations. I worried I wouldn’t belong.

But my neighbors quieted down around eleven and I reminded myself that everyone I had seen outside had introduced themselves. They aren’t shunning me because I don’t have kids, and they will probably care more that I chose to live in Pittsburgh than that I’m from Philadelphia (ish).

I fell asleep quickly, and didn’t dream, or don’t remember my dreams.

I woke to the melody of birdsong: new notes mixed in among the familiar robins and sparrows. I’m not good at identifying birds by their songs, but I hope to get better. Once I get my bird feeders set up, I’ll get a look at the kinds of birds living in my neighborhood, and then start my birdsong education from there.

My new house is still a construction zone, and it seems like the work will never be finished. I know it will, though, and when it is, I will have a beautiful place that I can truly call home.