Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Tour

It's been three months, and we still think of this as The New House, but it's definitely home. Several of you have asked me to post pictures, and I'm finally getting around to it. In honor of Thanksgiving this week, I will share some things I'm thankful for as take you on a tour through our dream house.

We'll start in the front yard. See that giant brush pile? That is one of my unexpected blessings.

My friend Gentle once told me that being newly single gives me the opportunity to learn new things. I don't remember if I said it out loud, but my initial response was that I had enough things to do already and didn't care to learn any more, thank you! But she was right. Learning new things does give me a sense of satisfaction and makes me feel more confident.

A couple of weeks back, we had a lovely Saturday, and I decided it was tree trimming day. One of my two neighbors named Steve brought over a tree trimming pole that was literally about 15 feet tall. On the end there was a curved saw and a scissor-like appendage that you could close by pulling a string.

I loved the scissor thing for the smaller branches, but it took a long time to get the hang of sawing a branch 10 feet over my head. I just couldn't keep the saw in the groove, and Steve had to take over several times, which hurt my pride. When he left, Mom came out to help me, and together we sawed down several of the crepe myrtle branches that the home inspector had said would ruin the shingles over my kitchen. As I sawed each branch, I looked up until my neck got stiff, and then I stared straight ahead while Mom guided me: "A little to the left. There, you've got it. The saw dust is coming down."

Oh the triumph of watching those big limbs fall! It was worth the blisters. But for the record, I have to admit that Steve probably cut three-fourths of the limbs in that big pile. And I'm very thankful that he was happy to help, wounded pride notwithstanding.

Okay, so come on in the front door. Here's the living room. That's my 12-year-old, perfectly serviceable couch, with two lovely new throw pillows that I found on clearance at Pier 1 after much searching and praying. They have both green to match the couch and three shades of blue which will tie into the blue walls that I will have some day. That console table under the mirror is where Fluffy used to live. I'm thankful that she's in a better place and not hurting any more.

Here is the fireplace I love, and the pretty mirror that Jackie left for me.

What I am most thankful for in my living room is memories of reading the Bible together in the evenings, sitting on the couch with Ethan on one side and Allyson on the other, trying to scratch both of their backs while simultaneously holding my page in the Bible. We're reading through Luke right now, and I think we will read the gospel of John next, which I love to read at Christmas time. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." How thrilling those verses are during the Christmas season, or any other time of the year. 

Here is my dining room. I'm thankful that we listened to my sister Amy on moving day when she insisted we really could get that buffet and table into this space. I had resigned myself to storing the buffet in the garage, but see how beautiful it looks! A perfect fit. The mirror came from my bedroom, and the antique tea set from an antique shop in Nappanee, Indiana. The lamps I found, after much searching and praying, for 40% off at Hancock Fabrics when I was looking for something entirely different. 

I've decorated the space above the cabinets with Ethan's and Allyson's art projects from school. I laminated them and put them each on a tiny easel that I found on sale at Hobby Lobby. I'm thankful for their amazing art teacher, who knows how to bring out their talents. And I'm thankful that they do have artistic talent, which they certainly did not get from me. Seeing their colorful paintings brightens my day.

I'm also thankful that we have tasty, nutritious meals on our table. I'm thankful for the amazing variety of fruits and vegetables I've been enjoying since starting my vegan diet last March. For example, last night I enjoyed butternut squash pasta sauce over brown rice noodles. Who would have dreamed you could make pasta sauce out of butternut squash? 

Here is the freshly painted guest bath, which hopefully looks a bit less garish in person. The color combination and the shapes on the shower curtain and mirror were inspired by a hotel bathroom that I saw on our summer trip to Austin. I found both the shower curtain and the mirror on clearance at two different stores, after only a little searching and praying, on the most magical shopping day ever. 

Dad painted the bathroom for me, and he did a meticulous job even with his over-80 eyes. I'm so thankful for all the hard work that Dad has done in my house, hanging pictures and weedeating and painting and wallpapering. But I'm getting ahead of myself....

What I'm most thankful for is to have Dad here with us after his battle with esophageal cancer and the horrific surgeries he endured. 

Here is my bedroom, which I plan to paint a very pale lavender. Even without the paint, it's shaping up nicely. I found the down alternative comforter after LOTS of searching and praying, when I definitely wasn't looking for it. I was grocery shopping at my favorite grocery store in the world, Aldi, when I spotted that comforter for only $25!! And the purple sheets I found when I was grocery shopping at Sam's Wholesale Club. They were less than half the price I'd seen for similar sheets at Bed Bath and Beyond. I found the throw pillows on sale for half off at Bed Bath and Beyond, and I couldn't pass them up even though I was afraid they might not match the sheets. But I was wrong. They were made for each other! 

But the best thing in the preceding picture is the portrait Allyson painted of me and herself. It was my Mother's Day Present last year. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you'll see that it is a very fair likeness of Allyson. Did I mention how thankful I am for Allyson's art teacher ?

There is the chair I found on the side of the road. I love to sit in it at the end of the evening and talk to God about my day.

Here's the amazing desk I found at Salvation Army for just $65. I spent almost a hundred more on American Paint Company chalk paint in Dawn's Early Light plus a shiny topcoat. This was another thing I learned to do; it was my first time to paint anything, let alone furniture. What made the experience extra special was that I did this project with my mom. It was fun learning something new together. It is very imperfect, but it's supposed to be. That's the beauty of chalk painting--that, and the fact that you don't have to sand before painting.

Inside the desk are both of my computers, all my peripheral devices, lots of cubbies, and a file cabinet drawer. Plus, Dad installed a fluorescent light and a mail rack with hooks for my headsets. It's the best desk I've ever had, at home or at work!

On top of the desk, I used the plaque that Gentle made me to hide the ugly Internet router. This plaque makes me thankful for two reasons: It reminds me of Gentle's friendship and of the growth I've experienced through Celebrate Recovery. Even today I am learning to accept what I cannot change and to focus on what I can change: my attitude.

Here is one of my favorite things about my bedroom, which I discovered on the very first day I woke up in it. Every morning, sunlight streams in that crescent window, and as my squinty eyes adjust to the light, I'm greeted with the most spectacular view of golden light dappling the green leaves. In recent weeks, I've enjoyed watching the fall colors coming in. Soon the graceful branches will be bare against the gray sky.

And now for the room you've all been waiting for.... 

Allyson's Ocean-Themed Room!

Gentle made the window seat cushion. She had just enough foam left over from her children's own reading nook plus the perfect piece of plywood. So all we had to do was buy the fabric, which we got for 50% off (of course!). Allyson and her friends love to sit and read here. 

The sea shell mobile hanging to Allyson's left was a find from her Vancouver trip in the summer. The dolphin painting is a print from a painting by my sister Melody, an award-winning artist. Can you see how perfect the colors are for Allyson's room? You'd think she had painted it specifically for Allyson. 

Allyson picked out the beach umbrella online for $16. I tried to talk her out of it because I thought the print was too busy, but it's perfect! The purple ties in with the window seat and the fish painting on the other wall.

I had bought the comforter and sheets on sale at Target for $20 each, and Allyson hated them until she saw the whole room come together. We also argued over the paint colors, but we prayed about it together and were able to come to an agreement at last.

Allyson picked out the orca whale wallpaper border online, and Mom and Dad put it up one day while I was working. They did an excellent job, and every time we look at it we are reminded of their love.

Here is Allyson's amazing dresser, hand painted with love by my dear friend Jenny. The starfish drawer pulls I found on sale for 50% off at multiple Hobby Lobbies. It was worth all the running around to hear her squeals of delight when we unveiled the dresser.

Do you remember how the dresser looked before? Here, this will refresh your memory:

It was a hand-me-down from my sister Emily's daughters, who received it as a hand-me-down from my brother's daughter Mindy. I think Rick and Diane got their money's worth out of that dresser!

And remember this desk that I found on the side of the road after making two wrong turns on the way to drop Ethan off at the school one morning?

Well, here's how it looks now! And that lovely original oil painting was another Salvation Army find. When Allyson spotted it, I told her we might not be able to afford it. And then I saw the price tag: six dollars!

This is a project Allyson and Daddy made for her new room. It has pictures of all of us on the beach.

I'm so thankful for how this room turned out, and for all the help from family and friends. Allyson and I still marvel over how we managed to pick out so many things online and in so many stores, all before we found the perfect paint combination, and yet everything blends perfectly. We both know that was God. I'm so thankful that he cares about the little things that matter to us. 

Well, now you've seen most of my house. I will show you Ethan's room when we get around to decorating it. But here is the futon that we got for free from Jackie. He says it is very comfortable. 

Who's that in the picture with the futon? That's sweet Arwen, who is such a joy. Next to her is the dorm fridge that Ethan got from his dad. I'm sure he's very thankful for that. 

I hope you've enjoyed your visit. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Friday, November 1, 2013

She Went Gently Into That Good Night... But I am Still Alive

Our week started with some sorrow. Remember our cute little hamster, Fluffy? Well, she'd been ailing for the last few weeks. We first noticed a small bald patch on her side the week we were moving into the new house, around the first of September. It looked almost like she'd cut herself somehow. That bald spot and sore area grew gradually, until at last she was about a third bald. And then she started to slow down. When she ran on her wheel, her legs no longer made a blur. And when I cleaned her cage each week, she was easier and easier to catch.

A few weeks ago, I looked up the lifespan of Russian dwarf hamsters and was disappointed to learn they only live about two years. We don't know how old Fluffy was when we bought her, but we got her two years ago in February. I began to prepare the kids. "I think Fluffy's dying," I said several times.

This last Saturday when I cleaned her cage, I got teary eyed. She toddled around like an old man, and she mostly sat still in her exercise ball while I worked. But the worst part was when I put her back in the cage, where I'd laid out her favorite treats (carrots, oatmeal, and bits of torn spinach) on the upper level of her cage. She headed straight for the food, but she couldn't make it up the ramp! She kept sliding backward. I tried to give her a little boost, but then she toddled for the safety of her house.

I moved the upper level as low as it could go, and then she could make it up the gentler slope, but she was unable to pull herself through the hole at the top of the ramp. I finally moved her food bowl and water to the lower level.

"Oh, Lord," I prayed. "Please let little Fluffy pass peacefully. I don't want her to suffer. Please ease her pain."

Over the next few days, she was pretty quiet, and we had to check several times a day to make sure she was still alive. I did notice that she had managed to drag herself up that ramp after all; all of the carrot bits and spinach, and most of the oatmeal, were gone. I had to admire her tenacity. Maybe she was going to rally.

On Tuesday night, Allyson opened the cage and lifted up Fluffy's house. "She's not in here!" she exclaimed.

For a moment, I wondered if she could have escaped. I thought back to the one time several months ago that she somehow squeezed through the tiny bars of her cage and wrought havoc in my living room. I don't think I ever told you about that. One morning, I woke to odd bits of fluff all over the living room. They seemed to have come from under the couch. Suddenly a flash of fur caught my eye, and I jumped. A mouse! No, it was Fluffy. I glanced over at the cage, which was securely closed. "How did you-?" I muttered.

And then I crept over and knelt down, holding out a hesitant hand. No way I could catch her, I figured. But she sat still and let me scoop her up. I bet she'd worked up an appetite after a night of exploring and nesting under my couch.

"Could Fluffy have gotten away again?" Allyson asked.

"No, she's too weak to crawl through the bars," I answered from the kitchen. "I'll come look for her when I finish the dishes."

Indeed, the cage appeared empty. I pulled out her little igloo house, and then I spotted her curled up in the corner, her tiny form barely visible in the cedar chips. She almost looked asleep, except I could tell she was stiff.

"Fluffy died," I said softly.

Ethan and Allyson hurried over to see. "Aww," Ethan said. Allyson said nothing, just slipped an arm around my waist. A moment later I was surprised to feel her sobbing quietly. For a couple of weeks, she'd been talking about getting Fluffy's replacement, so I hadn't expected the tears. She cried for a few minutes, snuggled in my lap on the couch next to Ethan.

I prayed, thanking God for the time we had with sweet Fluffy. I thanked Him for letting her pass so that she didn't have to suffer any more, and I asked him to surround her with her favorite things up in heaven. I thanked God for always being close to the brokenhearted, and I asked him to let Allyson feel His love through my arms.

After her sobs had faded, she asked in a tiny voice, "Can we bury her tomorrow?"

"Of course," I answered, wondering how I would manage this. Burying things had always been Bill's job.

Yesterday we borrowed some gardening tools from our new friend Jenny, and Allyson dug a little hole in the soft dirt in our entryway. The timing was perfect because a neighbor had just dug out some greenery that the home inspector identified as a termite hazard, and it had rained afterward.

"Should we pray before, or after?" I asked.

"Can we pray while I dig?" she asked.

So I prayed about Fluffy returning to the dust and becoming part of God's good earth. Again, I prayed for Allyson's comfort and asked God to help us remember the good times with her. Allyson sobbed again, harder than she had the night before. I held her close, and we swayed silently.

After she'd placed the tiny toothpick cross she'd made, we each recounted our favorite memories of Fluffy. I talked about how she ran so fast that she went upside down on her wheel and fell off. Allyson talked about the fun of showing her to friends, and playing with her in the bathtub. We both laughed over the way Arwen liked to lean up against the bars, nose to nose with an oblivious Fluffy. (She had just started to make tentative swipes with her paws, and I think it was a mercy that Fluffy passed peacefully in her sleep, that she went "gentle into that good night.")

After the funeral, Allyson dried her tears and enjoyed the rest of her afternoon.

Other than losing Fluffy, we had a really good week. On Saturday, and then again on Wednesday, we made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and handed them out to our new friends in the neighborhood. Allyson did all the measuring on the second batch, which turned out even better than the first.

I had just met one of the recipients this past Saturday. Her name is Amanda, and she was the best friend of our house's former owner, Jackie. It turns out that both of us are total hippies. Like me, she grinds her own grain and bakes bread, and she's into making her own cleaning solutions out of Dawn, vinegar, Borax, etc. The four cookies we brought her netted me a dinner invitation for next Tuesday. Reminds me of the time we got a homemade pumpkin pie after we brought our old neighbors candy canes.

Even better, we finally got to meet the people who bought our first dream house. One of our other neighbors wasn't home when we tried to drop off some cookies, so I told Allyson, "Why don't we take these cookies over to the new family?" (They'd moved in about a month after we moved into our house.)

So we traipsed right over there and knocked on the door. A pleasant young woman answered, and Allyson held out the cookies. I explained that we were handing out cookies for Halloween, and we wanted to welcome them to the neighborhood. Beaming, she invited us in even as she apologized for already being in pajamas at 5 in the afternoon. "I'm eight months pregnant," she explained, "and the first thing I do when I get home from work is get in my jammies."

"I understand," I said.

I learned that her name is Amber, and her husband's name is Dayton, and they are expecting their first child, a baby girl. They have a cute little Dachshund who loved playing with Allyson. Unlike me, Amber has a green thumb, and she said I can come over any time I want to tinker in the lush vegetable garden I fell in love with when we looked at the house.

She told us that the timing was perfect when they bought the house. They'd just paid the earnest money on another house, but she had cried as she remembered this house. It turns out that Dayton loved this house, too, so they withdrew their first offer and made another offer that same day. "There was just something about this house," she said with a smile.

"Yes, I know," I said. And then I told her the story of how we'd tried to buy it but then the deal had fallen through.

"So you're the first buyer!" she said.

I asked her about the foundation damage, and she said that they'd consulted a couple of structural engineers, who had disagreed about how bad the problem was. She and Dayton had decided to buy the house as is and deal with the foundation later. "Around here, every home is going to have a problem eventually," she said. I nodded in agreement; that was just what the foundation repair person had told me when he'd examined the house.

We both marveled at how everything had worked out. I told her how crushed I'd been, but I said I was happy now because I realized that this house was meant for their family, and my house was meant for mine. Because the house had been tied up for a few weeks with me, it was available for them when they were ready to buy. And the house meant for me had come into my price range at just the right time.

I don't know how God works out all these details, but aren't you glad that He does? And I love how he lets our paths cross with others who can bring such joy to our lives. Just a week ago I was feeling isolated here. Although my neighbors had all been quite friendly, what I really wanted was a close girlfriend on my street. Now I have four!

As you can tell, I'm in much better spirits this week. That may change tomorrow, but that's okay. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but today I feel very alive. And so blessed.

And now, a few pictures I must share before I call it a night....

Today at school, and tonight during trick-or-treating, Allyson became a blonde Cleopatra.

Jack O' Lanterns on Daddy's Porch
Allyson's is the Witch.

Here's my handsome boy on center snare during the halftime show at a football game a couple weeks ago:
Ethan and Jeremy
And here he is at Allyson's school yesterday, for Red Ribbon Week. Allyson was very proud, though she wouldn't admit it.
Can You Believe the Resemblance? 


Related Posts with Thumbnails