About the last few weeks…

WOW, ok I did not realize I’d be taking this long to get back to the blog after my holiday break. Looking back, this might be the longest I’ve ever gone without posting here since I launched in 2012! Bananas. But I guess that’s what happens when a whole lotta life happens all at once on top of a major case of burnout. Since this is my first post of the new year, I wanted to take the time to share a bit of what’s been happening and why I’ve been MIA so long.

Spending the holidays in the cabin for the first time was great. Sean was able to take time off from work and be home for an extended period of time. He was supposed to only be here 2 weeks, but that actually became 4 weeks due to some renovation projects that totally spiraled out of control. Before the holidays, we had a plan in place on how to tackle the projects… especially because we also wanted to tackle our main bedroom suite.

Initially, the plan was to spend 4 days powering through an overhaul of our bedroom suite including installing paneling, trimming windows, closet fixtures, paint, putting down a temporary floor, and decorating. Then after that, we’d focus on the rest of our renovation projects and be all wrapped up by January 3 so Sean could go back to work. But that very quickly turned out to be insanely aggressive. So we switched gears to focus on our OTHER project which was part of a contract with a brand partner… meaning it would bring in income and therefore be a higher priority for our time and energy!

So we committed to a makeover that would affect half of our house: entryway, living room, dining room, laundry closet, stairs/landing, and the catwalk hallway upstairs (to better understand the floor plan of our cabin, watch the video in this post).

Basically, because the main space of our cabin is so open, when I committed to working with a brand partner to do a reveal of the living room, I tacked on the rest of the spaces as well… after all, they open to each other! I literally could not figure out a reasonable place to ‘stop’ the fresh paint. And, honestly, with everything we’ve gone through with moving here, we both knew it would help us feel more settled if the main spaces were finished.

So we proceeded with paint prep, patching dings and holes in the walls, planning new lighting, removing carpet, etc etc (I will go into everything we’ve done when I reveal the space). And then… A TREE FELL ON OUR HOUSE THE SAME DAY PEOPLE TRIED TO OVERTHROW OUR GOVERNMENT. It was already an incredibly emotional, frightening, and shocking day, but to then face a personal natural disaster at the same time???

all about the tree falling on our cabin in the North Cascades after a wind storm

Basically, we had a major wind storm one night. We knew that it would be windy, but assumed it would be 20 mph max. And we were so wrapped up in the project that we weren’t really on top of keeping informed about the weather. That night, I woke up around 1:30 am because the hardware in my leg started aching so badly (more on why I have hardware here). Once awake, I realized how hard it was raining and that the power had gone out, so I woke up Sean. We’d been awake for about 10 minutes, listening to the wind blow branches against the house, knock over our outdoor umbrella… nothing too alarming. You could literally hear the wind roaring through the valley, sounding like a locomotive. It was something we observed in a sleepy, fascinated sort of way. Until we hard a crazy loud CRACK and then BOOM directly above our heads. That was when we quickly got dressed, grabbed the dogs and headed to a more sheltered area of the house to ride out the storm.

all about the tree falling on our cabin in the North Cascades after a wind storm

On my way down the stairs, my headlamp illuminated the big picture window to show me that there were tons of branches pressed up against it. And that is when it really sunk in that a tree literally came down over our heads. The storm settled after about an hour, so we went outside to inspect the damage. Basically, the top of a tree GLANCED the house about 2’ from where we were sleeping. The branches on it were the only part that hit the house, thankfully, and most of them hit the eaves that overhang about 4 feet. It didn’t even hit our hot tub! Instead, the tree itself landed in a 6’ gap between our house and hot tub, meaning that branches as long as 15’ were pressed up against our house, windows, etc.

The clean up is still ongoing, but we cleared most of the branches in a day. Thankfully, only a few shingles were broken and the eave is slightly bent. But overall we got SO LUCKY. It could have been so much worse, especially since a few other trees fell on our property at the same time. As a result of the storm, we were without electricity, WiFi, and plumbing for about 4 days… in the middle of spraying paint and finishing a huge, all-consuming paint project. WOOF.

We got our generator up and running for the first time and it was GREAT. Such a good investment. Because the pump house for our well is somewhat far from the house, we couldn’t run power out to it… which meant we didn’t have running water during that time and relied on jugs of water left behind by the previous owners. We relied solely on our wood stove for heat, until it came time to paint. Then we simply had to make do without heat since we didn’t want to get paint on the stove. Keep in mind this also mean our entire house was wrapped up in plastic and paper, taped up, etc. Like I didn’t even have a couch to hang out on! Instead, we used camp chairs and ate meals by candlelight.

And yet we kept going with our renovation plans because we were already behind schedule. So we ran the generator during the day so we could spray paint and used jugs of water to clean up. Most nights, we stayed up until 2 am working on the space… only to get up again at 7 to do it all over again. Not to mention that lighting was a challenge. Because we don’t have light pollution or street lights, it is VERY dark here at night. So when we were working, we relied primarily on one work lamp, one of my photography lights, and headlamps.

all about the tree falling on our cabin in the North Cascades after a wind storm

During this time, I texted my best friends a LOT once the cell towers were back up and seemingly more reliable. I’ve been through a LOT of really, really shitty situations. I wouldn’t call this the worst thing I’ve been through, but it was definitely up there on the list. I’m not gonna lie, these past few weeks have been HARD. Hard on my body, my mind, my business. The silver lining is that I am even more grateful for how well Sean and I work together. We were each there to pick up the slack if the other needed a break, to bring in the belly laughs, and to just have a good cry together.

The power was restored eventually, which meant we could really dial in and get the project done. So as of right now, the paint is finished save for a few touch ups. Now it’s time for finishing touches like installing shades and lighting, cleaning up the floors, and decorating! My hope is to finally share the reveal with you this week and I literally CANNOT WAIT to show you. After everything we’ve been through to get to this point, I know in my heart it is all worth it and the results are stunning (IMHO).

So that’s where I’ve been for the past few weeks! Wild, huh?? I really appreciate your understanding, encouragement, advice and even cute dog photos along the way. I mean it when I say this: I truly have the best blog readers and social media followers. Stay tuned for more!

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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