Wednesday, December 31, 2014

reflections on 2014


10 Highlights, Accomplishments, Best Memories:
1. Niagara Falls trip with Mr. Gryce
2. Watching my brother cut, rake and bale his first crop of hay
3. Tons of tutoring work
4. Summer walks with Mr. Gryce
5. Time spent with Kristin and Tanya
6. Hosting our first family dinner since we got married
7. Seeing my niece 3 evenings a week
8. Seeing Mr. Gryce and my brother continue to bond
9. Finishing the downstairs renos
10. Being happily married after all these years of renovations

10 Disappointments, Failures, Missed Opportunities:
1. Not exercising like I wanted to
2. Working with our contractor(s)
3. Not getting the job I wanted
4. Going over-budget on our renos
5. Not selling as much online as I hoped
6. Watching someone close to me get taken advantage of
7. Not being able to continue with counselling due to my crazy work schedule
8. Still not having a plan confirmed for next year's renovation project
9. Drifting apart from longtime friends
10. Not feeling connected at church

8 Things I've Learned
1. Take time to take care of yourself--physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Take a nap, go out for dinner, have a phone date, go to counselling, join a small group, go to church.
2. Contractors are a dime a dozen but it's really hard to find a good one. Do your homework and don't settle for a half-ass job. Don't sign the check until you're not completely satisfied.
3. Never underestimate the power of social media. Can't get a big company or business to listen to you or take you seriously? Take it to Facebook! 
4. Don't underestimate the importance of family. Proud of how my family has rallied and taken care of each other this year. Nobody messes with my family and gets away with it.
5.  There are some perfectly rotten kids out there that make a teacher's life hell.
6. There are some really amazing kids (and a hefty paycheck) that can make it worth it.
7.  Narcissists are dangerous; they will manipulate you, stab you in the back, and suck you dry. In the end, they will destroy you if you let them. Stay away from them at all costs.
8.  I love Mr. Gryce more every day. We're almost 5 years into this relationship, and I can't imagine my life without him.

3 Things I Focused On:
1. Family
2. Finishing the inside of the house
3. Building my tutoring business

3 Things Forgotten or Not Gotten Around to:
1. Eating better and exercising more
2. Writing/blogging more
3. Keeping the house clean

Thanks for stopping by...I'm thrilled to have blog readers representing 10 different countries--that's 8 more than I've traveled to! It's been a busy year for us and we're glad to be able to share it with you all. Wishing you and yours an awesome 2015! The best is yet to come.

Friday, December 12, 2014

christmas greetings 2014

Dear Friends and Family and Blog Readers,

It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again! Where does the time go?! It’s been another eventful year in our household, filled with renovations, renovations, and more renovations! We are finally enjoying some “down time” as the winter season approaches. Here’s a look at our year:

This past spring, we finished renovating our downstairs bathroom, and then launched into a full-scale renovation of the kitchen and living room. We set up our living quarters in the partially-renovated downstairs office where we worked, lived, and cooked for nearly 4 months! During this time, we had no floor in the kitchen or living room, which meant no way to get to the upstairs; we resorted to climbing in and out of the upstairs window for over a week! Once the new floor went in, we were still climbing ladders for several more months before the new staircase was built. We are thankful that this stressful time is finally over, and that we can finally enjoy the fruit of our labours. Aside from a few minor details (and some new furniture), we are happy to say that the entire interior of our house has now been fully renovated!!!

Mr. Gryce is still working as a Senior Software Developer. Last month, he started his 5th year with the company.  In addition to updating all the plumbing downstairs, Mr. Gryce spent many hours installing all new electrical wiring, outlets, and light fixtures downstairs. He’s proven to be quite the handyman! Mr. Gryce attended the annual Promise Keeper’s men’s conference in Toronto this fall. He continues to meet with Mrs. Gryce’s brother for their Friday night men’s group. In the New Year, he hopes to get involved with the men’s group at our church as well.

Mrs. Gryce continues to work as an emergency supply teacher with the local public school board. She has been working 2-4 days per week, in addition to tutoring 8 different students in the evenings.  She tutored from home all summer (or rather, from her mom’s home, due to our renovations). Mrs. Gryce enjoys visiting thrift stores and still sells all sorts of items online, including her homemade jam and preserves.

This past April, we attended Jon & Veronica’s wedding in Hamilton and had the opportunity for a short visit with several of Mrs. Gryce’s university friends as well. In August, we celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary. We spent a weekend in Niagara Falls (first time for both of us), with our friends Jon & Mel.  It was great to get away from renovations and see the sights, as well as spend some quality time with great friends.

We are currently part of a small group that meets on Thursday nights at our church. It’s been a great opportunity to learn as well as meet new people and get more connected with our church family.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and many blessings for 2015.

Love, Mr & Mrs Gryce

(To read last year's greeting, go here.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

living room renovations - part 2

And the long-awaited part two! (Please read part one first.) Here's where we left off:

The new floor had just been put in, and then renovations ground to a halt when we experienced a 3+ week delay due to building permits and inspections. It was extremely stressful, but the building inspector that we worked with was very accommodating and each inspection went off without a hitch. 

Without further ado, here's a look at the final leg of the journey from August onward:

extra ceiling joists

new window header (the old one had to be removed because it was warped and could crack our window)

framed walls


first pine going up
the new long-awaited staircase
lighting installation

the central light

and potlights

wood stove surround

new railing

post was designed to look similar to the original

custom blinds

custom closet doors built by our talented neighbour

and the new coffee table that we designed (also built by our neighbour)

In my opinion, the photos below don't do the finished product any justice; however, here's the new living room, designed by my amazing hubby (with thanks to Uncle Glenn who originally did this in his own home 20 years ago):

South-east wall

with a nook above--perfect for collectables!
west wall

north wall with pocket door and built-in book shelves (also built by our neighbour)

south wall

The bullet casings on the blind strings-just one of the unique features
And then there's a gun vault...

...with bull skull...

And let's not forget the long-awaited deer head!

And last, but certainly not least...the custom TV stand built by our neighbour.

We've certainly come a long way, but the end result is totally worth it!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

when love is not enough

Once upon a time, I wrote a post about the power of love in relationships, which was all well and good. Love is extremely powerful. It can do wonders for body, mind and soul. The Bible says that love can cover over a multitude of wrongs. Yet, while love can completely transform someone and make them blossom and bloom, what do you do with that one person for whom all the love in the world isn't ever going to be enough?

The Bible tells us that with God, all things are possible. But I also know there are people who are never, ever going to change. They are so messed up, so irreparably damaged, that barring a miracle from God Himself, they will never be healthy enough to do a real relationship. You can love on them 24/7, but it will never, ever be enough. 

People who are this broken believe that the world revolves around them, and they desire to keep the focus on themselves at all times. They are arrogant, manipulative, and unable to empathize with others. They are extremely insecure and are compelled by their constant need for constant admiration. In their quest for protecting their fragile egos at all costs, they end up pushing away the very ones who can help them. By constantly demanding more than anyone could ever give, they will suck others dry--spiritually, emotionally, financially--all the while oblivious to the carnage they leave behind. 

In my lifetime, I have met several of these people. At first glance, they seem fairly normal; however, if by chance you happen to read people very well and are able to see through their facade, they will do everything in their power to make you look like the crazy one. They will gossip and spread lies about you, and basically do everything in their power to assassinate your character and destroy your credibility at all costs. And for a time, most people without discernment will absolutely believe them and take their side.

But give it enough time, don't meet all their needs (good luck trying!), and eventually, all hell will break loose. The true condition of their broken, hurting hearts will be revealed. All the ugliness and poison will be unleashed, and most of the people around them won't know what hit them. 

At this point, several things can happen. First, they will try to find another broken person to enable their bad choices and destructive behaviour. If they cannot find anyone, they may high-tail it out of town and start all over again in another place where no one knows them, and thus, the cycle will begin again. In both cases, nothing will ever change because there will always be someone around to validate their victim-playing mentality.

It's a terrible predicament. The people they most want to surround themselves with, are the very people that will destroy their chances of finding healing and engaging in meaningful relationship. And the people they most fear, are the ones who would most be able to help. By demanding attention and validation, they push away the ones who actually do care for them. By demanding love, they lose all chance of ever having the real thing. 

The only way to stop the cycle is for these people to face one of their greatest fears and to be completely and utterly alone. Not in the sense that we write them off as hopeless and stop believing that God has the power to intervene. We never stop praying for that! But we do set firm boundaries to protect our hearts, our reputations, our families (and yes, even our finances!) because these individuals are not safe. We don't stay friends with them. We don't stay married to them. We don't engage in relationship with them because we cannot trust them. 

This may seem overly harsh. This may seem cruel. But it's the only way. Unless they can recognize and acknowledge the severity of their condition, there will be no room for healing and growth. Until they recognize how broken they are, they can never start the journey of becoming whole. It will be incredibly difficult, uncomfortable, and painful. It will not be pretty. Things may get much, much worse before they seem to get any better. It will take years. A lifetime of unhealthy coping mechanisms cannot be unlearned overnight. Poor choices cannot be undone. Consequences to actions will not magically disappear. Not all relationships will be repaired. But until they examine and acknowledge the root of their brokenness, they can never grow into the healthy individual they were intended to be.

For many severely broken people, the journey will be too hard. They will quit and go back to their old, familiar, more comfortable ways. But we serve a big God. And where there is God, there is hope. There is forgiveness. There is healing. I will never stop believing that He has the power to change someone, no matter how far gone they may be. But I also recognize that it is only His love that has the power to transform such broken lives. My love alone is not enough.

****This post has been swirling in my head for several months. Now that I have finally been able to get it down, I am indebted to both my discerning hubby as well as my wise pastor, who have both taught me so much about the human heart and it's need for healing and redemption.****

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

contractors: the good, bad, and ugly

As we are nearing the completion of our interior renovations, we have a fairly good idea of who we would hire again and who we wouldn't. So, to promote deserving businesses, and to make sure others don't have to experience the headaches we've had to, here's my honest evaluation of some of the many businesses and contractors we've dealt with over the past four years:

Tim Bakker - Plumbing (Picton)
Formerly of Veenstra Plumbing, Tim is experienced and knowledgeable. Good service. Works hard to get things done on-time and on-budget.

Verkuyl Construction (Picton)
Terrible customer service. Little regard for details, building codes, and workmanship. Had to pay someone else to re-do most of the work, and still got billed for the full price. A close friend also had a bad experience.

Carpet One (Belleville)
Decent selection and service. Prices are steep but their Beautiful Guarantee is legit. However, beware of one of their sub-contractors, Kirkland's, who does the carpet installation.  Not only did they arrive late, they were very sloppy and marked up doors, walls, and crushed one of our outdoor planters. Because they were late on the job, they had to return in the evening of the next day just to complete our job. Also, do not have them install anything marble or granite as they are only knowledgeable when it comes to ceramic.

Wilson's Flooring (Belleville)
We dealt directly with Jim & Janneke Smardenkas, who took care of the ordering and installation of our new upstairs carpets. Their prices were comparable, and the installation was very professional. 

Beyond Marble & Tile (Mississauga)
Carried the incredibly-hard-to-find dark green tile we wanted. Just make sure you check over every.single.tile you get, especially if they are end-of-the-line seconds. The second time we ordered from them, all of the tiles were etched. They offered to do an exchange, but the ones they had left were also quite bad. I would say that overall their customer service was quite good.

Top Notch Drywall (Picton)
Very approachable, accommodating, and respectful of your home. Work quickly and efficiently and clean up after themselves. Satisfaction is guaranteed and there are no hidden costs. Customer service far exceeded our expectations.

Chris DeMille Excavating (Picton)
Great customer service. Fair prices.

William Design Company (Hillier)
Excellent workmanship and design. Just don't expect phone messages to be returned, or for the project to be completed in a timely manner. Get a written contract for everything or the final bill will be an unpleasant surprise.

John Vanderloon Construction (Roslin)
Capable of very good craftsmanship and would recommend him for fine carpentry projects. If you have a large project, this would not be a good fit, as he takes his time and does his best work alone. Be sure to get a written estimate for everything, bearing in mind that it is only an estimate. The final bill will more than likely have unexpected additional costs tacked on.

dTb Heating Services (Toronto)
Experienced and knowledgeable. Excellent pricing. Customer service was above and beyond our expectations.

GRT Electric (Belleville)
Experienced and knowledgeable. Excellent customer service and D.I.Y. support. Extremely reasonable prices. 

Exterior Decor (Picton)
We had Exterior Decor out for a number of small projects over the years. In my opinion, they are overpriced; however, Dan's work is excellent. If price is an issue for you, (like it was for us), then I would recommend getting Dan to complete your project as a side-job. He installed our windows, doors, flashing, fascia and soffit, as well as the siding on our garage. He also fixed a 50-year old leak on one of our dormers that no one else could.

Home Hardware (Picton)
Knowledgeable staff. Excellent in-store customer service. Good quality products. Convenient location. The 3-D designer tool on their website was invaluable for deciding what we wanted our new kitchen to look like. Highly recommend their Kitchen design/installation team to make your dream a reality.

Chambers Roofing (Belleville)
These guys were sub-contracted through our main contractor. Their prices are competitive and their crew of 4 finished installing our shingles promptly. However, I was not impressed when they left all their personal garbage (and paint cans from another job) on our job site. 

Trimar Doors (Belleville)
I emailed Sean a photo of the garage doors I wanted and he was able to order and install them in less than 3 weeks. All my inquiries were addressed promptly. The price was reasonable. The installation was professional. When we had an accident with one of our doors, he was able to order the new part and install it quickly.

Alota Tile (Bloomfield)
These guys deserve a blog post of their own. Rusty has been extremely helpful in assisting us with a marble tile crisis, going above and beyond anything we'd expect for customer service. He has made countless trips to our home to go over things with us, has done hours of research, and has made numerous inquiries and phone calls on our behalf. The installation was prompt and the guys were very meticulous cleaning up and making sure it looked like they were never even here.

Walt Schaly Design/Build, Inc. (Plainfield)
After working with some average (and some below average) contractors in the past, we were pleasantly surprised by Walt.  Because he is also a designer, hiring him eliminated the need for us to hire a private designer. He was very easy to work with, listening to all our ideas and understanding our vision. Walt is one of the hardest working contractors we've met and is extremely knowledgeable. We had no problems with any inspections because everything was done right the first time. Not only did we find his initial estimate comparable (if not lower) than some of the other contractors, our new construction project was completed under budget (which allowed us to hire him for some "extras" afterwards). By having us pay most of the sub-contractors directly, he also saved us hundreds of dollars in HST. Our only regret is that he wasn't living in our area five years ago when we started renovating.

Dynamic Exteriors (Belleville)
Recommended by Walt, we had Mike from Dynamic replace all our remaining old eavestrough. He was a fraction of the price of anyone in the County, and we did not pay one cent more than his original quote. It took a while for him to get here to complete the project, but once we finally got a date locked down, the work was done quickly. Although the customer service aspect could have used some improvement, the end price and result more than made up for a few phone calls not being returned promptly.

Inline Fence, David Lindsay (Belleville)
We had David install our vinyl fence and were pleased with the end result. He was flexible with our schedule, even though it meant he had to work all day Saturday to complete the project. When we had an issue with how one of the gates was installed, he came back and corrected it. 

*** The opinions in this post are my own. I was in no way compensated by any company or business. I acknowledge that my experiences may not be the same as other clients; however, I have no qualms about recommending any of the businesses or companies that received a 5-star rating. ***

Saturday, September 27, 2014

kitchen renovations - before, during & after

This past May, we packed up our entire kitchen, and carted off all the non-essentials to my mom's basement. The necessary items (mircowave, hot plate, toaster oven, food, and lots & lots of paper plates) were crammed into our office--the only available living space downstairs. 

We decided to completely gut our old kitchen and start from scratch. Despite the fresh paint and new curtains, the floor was crooked, the cupboard doors didn't close properly, we had no ceiling (previous renovation), and it was always freezing cold in the winter. 

kitchen "BEFORE"

Here's a look at this long and stressful journey, that has finally come to an end:

gutting begins

cutting out the old crooked floor

view of the old cistern
new floor joists

updating the plumbing

fixing the rotten exterior wall

floor insulation

new subfloor and framed walls

new electrical

wall insulation
vinyl flooring
new cupboards
sink installation
dishwasher installation
light fixture installation

And here are the "AFTER" pictures for a look at the completed kitchen:

east wall
1950's - style cast-iron sink

with vintage-looking faucet

north wall
new stove

south wall
south wall

west wall