DIY #9: HOW WE MADE OUR OWN WALKWAY…

Well here we go! If you’ve been following my blog, (which you SHOULD of course!!! 🙂 ) you know that my family and I had a home built in the North Georgia mountains about 2 years ago. We had an awesome builder, however, he did not include a walkway that led from our driveway to the front door. For a while that had been fine, however, after a very rainy season, and the grass not quite growing in yet, the water began to wash the dirt from the mountain onto our “rock” walkway. Of course, this meant that my kids, my dog and everyone else that came over were dragging mud or dirt ALL over the house!!! Uuuggghhh!!! We immediately contacted our builder who gave us a price ($3000-$3500) to complete the task. Though this seemed to be a bit steep, we set up a budget, a date and were excited to get underway.  Unfortunately, we waited, and waited and waited to no avail. DOUBLE UUUGGGGHHH!!!! Sooooo, I sat with a couple girlfriends one afternoon, and during our “girl talk” (if you could ever imagine) we discussed the idea and the “ease” of using pavers to create a beautiful walkway. “THAT’S IT!!!!!” I thought!!! I could go to Home Depot and price out some super pavers and as always… DO IT MYSELF!!!!

Though Home Depot offered an amazing variety of paver options, I counted up the cost, and it was waaaaaaaay too high. So, after searching on Amazon, I found the Quikrete Brick Walk Maker!!! It was PERFECT!!! Now this was something I could do! Use the molding to create a pathway!!! I ordered the mold for $24.99 and while waiting the couple days it took to get here, I looked on YouTube and studied the materials I needed and created a configuration that would work best for us. Simple right????? UUUMMMM…. NOT QUITE!!! Considering the area we had to cover, this was quite an adventure, and after 3 months, our walkway is finally complete. While we are certainly LOVING the results, I decided to put this blog together to help guide you through our personal process to help avoid the bumps along the way. Here are the 3 steps we took:

  1. The first step was to use the mold to create the bricks. We used a 60lb bag of quikrete. I bought an $8 mixing tub for mixing and an $8 trowel to level the mix and of course kept my hose very close to make the necessary consistency. It would seem you should over fill the mold with mix in order to create a thick/strong brick. That is not true. Fill the mold, but don’t over-stuff it. This will make the top of the brick uneven. Some people rent a concrete mixer for this part. Though that would come in SUPER handy, we did it the old-fashioned way, with a shovel. Let each mixture set for 5-10 minutes and carefully remove the mold. We proceeded to mix the next bag of concrete while the current one was setting. That helped keep the pace going smoothly. Repeat this process for each brick. Be sure to line the mold next to the prior brick in order to accomplish a patterned walk. Don’t be afraid to add curves as long as the distance isn’t too far from the adjoining brick.

2.  Once you have designed your configured path or patio, you can prepare to prime and stain your bricks. I love this part of the project, because there is a super selection of colors and shades you can select from. Go to the paint/stain section of your local Home Depot to choose the color that works best for your space. Many people add dye to the bricks while mixing the concrete. I like staining afterwards because it is MUCH more cost effective and gives you a greater selection. The prime and stain manufacturers advise you to wait 30 days until your concrete has cured before starting this process. We didn’t quite wait the full 30 days, but perhaps at least 15 worked for us. We primed first and stained it a charcoal color one day later. The prime goes on easy. I used a paint brush, but you can use a roller as well. You really can’t mess this part up, so enjoy this opportunity to be creative.

3.  Finally, once the stain is the shade/tint you like, you can add the SAKRETE PermaSand for a “grout” effect. We found this item at Home Depot as well, however, it was quite costly at $20 per container. Because we had so many bricks to fill, I could have easily used 8-10 of these. However, I decided to buy Quikrete sand topping mix for the bottom portion as a filler. I poured the sand in the grooves of the bricks to about half way. And THEN added the Permasand as a sealer on the top portion. I then swept it into the cracks. The directions will tell you to use a leaf blower to remove all excess sand from the surface. We did that and lightly watered the sand and watched it harden. This was a great part of the process because you can see the contrast of the grout and the color of the bricks. It is a great signal that the project is almost complete.

Once the grout has dried, you can enjoy your paver patio/walkway etc… Contrary to my initial plan, this is not an overnight project. It is indeed labor intensive, but I admit that most of the job was done by me and my 14 year old daughter in 90 degree temperatures. If we can do it, surely you can. The key is making sure you take your time. Do not rush this process. Loading the quikrete concrete itself has to be done in stages (depending what car/truck you have) because you don’t want to ruin your struts. Mixing that mix is tough and doing too much in one day, can put undo strain on your back. TAKE IT SLOW. When done well, it will be a super cool project you can enjoy and reflect on for years to come!!!!

SUPER UN-SIZE ME!!!! Retired by 37… Catalogue of the Downsize…

The American order of operations: graduate high school, go to college, meet your potential mate, start an awesome career, work, work, work, get a new car, a super apartment, an awesome wardrobe, get married, buy a new house, start a family, get a master’s degree, get a promotion, upgrade to a bigger house, have more children, get a bigger car… (out of breath) WHEW!!!!! Work, work, work. Get more and bigger and better and higher and more and more and… (PANTING…)

Maybe not in that exact order, but it seems the pot of gold at the end of the of the rainbow is the biggest house, with the nicest car in the driveway, the highest level of employment, with a wardrobe filled to overflow. Often times it comes at any expense.

The Rat Race

I admit, and for no selfish or keeping up with the standard type of reasons… I genuinely couldn’t wait to graduate high school and complete the necessary requirements for becoming a high school English teacher. The year was 1999. I graduated college, got married, started my first teaching job, bought my first house all by the age of 22!!! I was ready to GOOOO!!! I started having kids; an awesome boy and two years later, our sweet girl!!! (CHECK!!!) I got my Master’s Degree AND earned a 4.0 GPA.  (CHECK!!!!) I became lead teacher and soon after named Teacher of the Year. (DOUBLE CHECK!!!!) We built and bought houses, had 3 cars to fill our 3 car garage, sunny vacations etc… By all typical standards, after 15 years, I was fairing pretty well in the race to “the great.”

However, I found out pretty quickly that as I was conquering my checklist, I was missing out on the elements of this life that really brought me joy. At least at it’s true depth.

Contrary to popular standards, after careful prayer and consideration, my family and I made the decision to downsize. I completed my final year of teaching. We put our beloved 5 bedroom 5 bathroom home in the suburbs up for sale. Sold all of our furniture, donated most of our clothing and accessories. And prepared for a totally new life.

The Great Downsize

Less than a year ago, we had a home built in the Northern mountains of Georgia. It was a place we vacationed regularly. It was a place where we found peace. A place we could be free of the rat race and enjoy the most important things in life. I must say, it has been a major change, but the greatest promotion of our lives.

First of all, though I miss teaching a TON, I now have time to put my family FIRST. My days are filled with peace. Instead of working hard to build another man’s industry/visions and dreams, I am helping to build my own legacy right in my own home.

We start our days off pretty calmly. My husband makes breakfast for the whole crew. Thereafter, I take the kids to school while calling him on speaker phone for our family morning prayer. After dropping the kids off, I am able to read my bible, pray and get before the Lord uninterruptedly. I get to exercise, enjoy lunch or short shopping dates out. A couple weeks ago, I spent my entire afternoon planting new flowers and grass for the backyard. I am able to volunteer at church, school or wherever is necessary. I have time to plan and prepare healthy meals for our family. Thankfully, we never have to eat fast food, school lunch, microwave or prepared meals. We grocery shop each Sunday based on the food we will cook for the week. I am available to help with projects and homework, practices, performances, fieldtrips and games. I am so much calmer than when I was attempting to juggle it all before. Not to mention the time, love, energy I am able to devote to my marriage.

As for the kids, they attend the public high and middle schools in our county. Both schools have less than 700 students, which allows for smaller class sizes and a more personalized education. Our town is small and yes, it takes 15 minutes to get to the grocery store, but the pressure to wear name brand clothes and perform, compete, or exist in a crowded school or town where you are a merely a number, has been eliminated. We all are forming meaningful relationships and exchanges. People value each other and family is a priority.

Financially, though we decreased our income by eliminating my salary, our needs and desires have been recalibrated and our plight for “MORE” decreased right along with it. Of the 6500sq ft of house we sold, I think we truly only occupied 1,500 of it. It was unnecessary and wasted space that cost more to heat, furnish, clean etc… So, our new home is indeed smaller, but it is a little slice of heaven for us and we use and enjoy every inch of it daily. We have 2 cars that we own outright and refuse to acquire debt of any kind.

True Abundance

I could go on and on. But overall, the clichéd idea of quality over quantity reigns supreme in our home. I plan to stay happily married to the same man that I made a promise to God on my wedding day. I only have one chance to raise and enjoy the time I have with my children. I can’t think of anything more meaningful or worthy of my devotion than that.  Ultimately, I wouldn’t change a thing. Who knows, I may go back to teaching someday, however, I am open to the ways God will allow me to use my teaching gifts in greater capacities. Recently, my husband and I had breakfast one morning in the middle of the week. I couldn’t help but notice the restaurant filled with senior couples and friends there enjoying themselves.  I noted then, that no matter what, I refuse to wait until I am 65 years old to take time to enjoy this life… and at age 39… and one year in, that is precisely what I am doing… enjoying every moment of this incredible, once in a lifetime journey…

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John 10:10 “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”