I gathered enough courage to open the cabinet door where I found a mousetrap left by the previous owners. Still empty, yaaaay...doin' my happy dance!
Welcome to #my1957tinybrickcottage !!!
For those of you who've been wondering (and for those of you who have not!)...I bought my next fixer-upper and it's an adorable 1957 brick bungalow. It has four rooms...two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a tiny bath. I guess technically that's five rooms but not sure you can actually count the tiny bath. It's perfect!
So much has happened since my last blog post and, as I've struggled to get some things straightened out in my life, I find myself living in what could possibly be called my dream home. How, you say, can a tiny bungalow be a DREAM HOME? Glad you asked.
For starters, I've bought this little fixer-upper with the idea of possibly living here a long time...or however many more years the Good Lord gives me. It is small enough for me to be able to keep it up and big enough for me to live comfortably. It is low-maintenance with brick on all sides and vinyl soffits which will never need painting. It has original oak flooring and a kitchen that is, albeit not the latest in design, spacious and functional. It has an established lawn with hardwoods not overhanging the house directly and some mature shrubs and bushes (like gardenia, holly, and hosta). I've grown more and more intrigued by the tiny house trend and a lot seems right about it to me: Less responsibility to allow more time for doing the things you love (like traveling); less of an imprint on the earth (I mean, who really needs 6,000 square feet?); and just generally less-encumbered with all the "things" it takes to fill up a larger space. And, with me, if I have the space, I will fill it up! As a lot of you know, I've become very disillusioned living in the houses we've renovated, selling, and then moving out, only to do it again the next time. I have moved 10 times in the last 10 or so years. As I've gotten older, I've needed more stability, a respite from work-related issues, and some peace and quiet! This is what I believe this little cottage will give me, and so far it's working out beautifully! Even though I have another house that we're renovating as well, this little one is my baby, and I have great plans for her! She and I are like twins in many ways...almost exactly the same age, up in years but still strong and sturdy, ready to face whatever else the world throws our way, whether it's a doozy of a thunder storm of one of life's inevitable private storms. We'll do it together, she and I, and "she" is swiftly becoming my haven. I am so incredibly grateful.
As for the mouse trap? I am brave and I am strong!! I've pulled dead mice out of the end of my shop vac, no biggy! But one skedattling across my kitchen floor? Eeeeeeeek! Give me a dead one any day of the year!
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a
- Melody Beattie
It was 5:30 a.m. and I lay there mentally preparing for battle. I knew this time was coming but I'd put it off in my mind...one more day won't matter...it's somehow gonna all come together in the end, down around the 11th hour. I thrust one foot (in great need of a pedicure) over the edge of the bed and pulled my tired body up and stood. It was a victory just standing because it was not my normal getting-out-of-bed stance; it was the stance of a warrior. This is the day. It's happening today.
I must start packing.
We are closing on the sale of #our1892adventure in less than one week, and not the first box has been loaded, let alone sealed, labeled or sent down the conveyor belt to its new destination (and who knows where that is?).
I am the most blessed woman on earth, even though sometimes I don't act like it. And you know I'm blessed if you read my random and (lately) very inconsistent blog entries. But I gotta be completely honest. This past week has been one of the hardest of my life. I won't bore you with any details because they are painful, ugly, and completely un-newsworthy. But here's the part that is newsworthy. I have made it through this week from hell and one day, somewhere down the road in a quiet moment of truth and self-reflection, I will realize that this week made me a better person. A stronger person. A person more well-equipped to deal with life and everything life has a tendency to throw my way, leaving me as vulnerable as a granny standing naked on stage in front of 10,000 people. The thought of that alone could slay me right now as I sit here talking to you about my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week.
Why is it that when you're on the final leg of something good and you've been waiting, about to cross the finish line, that the monster of regrets, guilt, and negative self-worth comes to your door knocking, and you (like a fool) open that door and invite the monster in (unknowingly, but still...). You entertain him to stay awhile, have a cup of tea, spend the night in the guest bedroom. You gladly serve him for days before you realize the scoundrel is trying to steal the joy and satisfaction of reveling in what you've been able to accomplish like a boss. I'm sure you can relate to this scenario. You're on the last leg of your well-trained-for marathon when you trip and fall, spraining an ankle, and are not able to cross the finish line. You've prepared long and hard for the test you need to ace in reaching a milestone in your career when you come down with the stomach flu and can't get out of bed (except to puke), and the test gets pushed to the back burner for another year. You work long and hard for a payday and, before you can get it, that monster has tried to rob you of all the satisfaction and joy of receiving the reward for which you've worked so diligently, sweating, fretting, and occasionally uttering the random curse word (spoken in a moment of sheer frustration for the 100th problem you've encountered in a day).
I'll tell you why it is. It's life.
Life is hard. It can be gut-wrenching. But somehow in the midst of it all, most of us manage to pull through, survive, even renew and be better. For me, knowing I'm not alone in the battle is the war at least half won. I am blessed to have friends and family who believe in me and keep telling me that (and eventually it sinks into my brain). They tell me I am worth it and worthy of love and worthy of success and worthy of joy and happiness and good things. They push me along, shouting from the sidelines that I'll make it one more time over this new and scarier hurdle. They sit with me in the dark hours as I spill my rubbish upon them, all of the nasty, stinky garbage of regret and lack and self-loathing. Heck, I'm convinced they'd stuff me into a little red wagon and drag me along behind them if they knew it'd help me out of the miry pit. I am blessed because I am loved and, even though I've already had at least two-million-and-two pity parties since the new year began, I am never alone and those folks -- those angels in disguise -- are my heroes. Once again, you have put on your valiant cape, suited up for battle, and followed me into the trenches. And for that, I am beyond grateful and I will never be able to repay you.
As we close another chapter in our renovation story, I have no idea what is next. I have moved 10 times in 10 years and I'm tired. I'm not only tired, but I'm getting old! My greatest ambition right now is to get those boxes packed, transferred to some still-undisclosed location, and sink into a fluffy hotel pillow somewhere down the road and not leave the room for about a week. Right now even the thought of buying a fixer-upper slap wears me down but I know that's just temporary because apparently I have it in my blood. Also, did I mention I need rest? A month on the beach might do the trick, and then I might be ready to go again. No matter how much I say I WILL NOT do it again, I know I will. All it takes is the right house at the right price and, bam!! -- I begin salivating with the juices of creativity and I know it's just a matter of time. After all, I am a self-professed rehab addict (and possible crazy woman) I do believe.
And to #our1892adventure, may I say this: You are truly a bittersweet friend, soon to be a bittersweet memory. There were times when I thought you would most definitely be the end of me. I thought for sure you were gonna be my certain death and, if not the death of me, the death of my marriage or my sanity. But seeing how I try to be a half-glass-full type of gal, one thing is a given...I will never, ever forget you and the valuable lessons you have taught me. They are and will forever down the road be priceless.
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help
(Please, please, please keep telling me this forever and always and I just might make it...)
Looking back on some of my favorite things about #our1892renovation...
Except for being stirred by a couple of texts alerting me that the new year had begun, I rang it in the same way I do most years...sawing logs! Now, I love the idea of staying up till the ball drops and kissing the hubs at midnight, but I realize about 11:00 p.m. that I love my sleep way more than I love ringing in the new year. After all, can't I kiss my hubs any evening (and indeed I do!)? I mean, the year's gonna change whether I'm up or not, but the lack of a good night's sleep lingers on, starting the new year off on a very bad note. But that's not to say I don't love a new year -- I do! As the old year winds down with all the activities of the holidays, I look forward to rest and newness...new opportunities, new experiences, new endeavors, and a new fresh perspective.
Have you solemnly and with great contemplation made your New Year's resolutions? Nope, me neither! I actually don't believe in them. Many years over the last decades I've resolved to lose weight in the new year, only to fail miserably on day 3. I think we can all remember resolutions we've made over the years that lasted no longer than a New York minute, only to feel defeated when we were not able (or willing) to keep them. Unfortunately for me, food is not always solely a means of sustenance and, if I'm truly honest about it, I'm probably one of those who live to eat more than I eat to live. I've pretty much always been this way, and it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, so I'm at peace with it. Food is one of my best friends. I invite her to pretty much anything and everything I do: When I get together with friends and family, when I travel, when I go to the movies (or watch a movie at home), when I'm working, when there's a celebration or a stressful time, or just when I need the comfort of an old familiar friend. I'm not saying this is necessarily a good thing, but just trying to keep it real. Oh, yeah, I eat when I'm hungry too. I love good food and I cannot lie!
I've read some articles and inspiration lately that have brought a new perspective to me on the whole New Year's resolutions thing, and I thought you might enjoy them as well (in my own words, of course). Here goes...
1. Instead of trying to lose a boat load of weight (or even 10 lbs.), by starting a regimen no one can keep, resolve to get healthier. This might include more movement of the ol' body, even if it's taking a walk or making better choices with food, like choosing a healthier option at least once a day (even I can do that!).
2. Instead of reflecting on all the things you want to do differently in the new year (though not a bad thing), reflect on all you did right last year and continue it into the next 12 months and beyond.
3. Instead of dwelling on how much more you want and think you need in the coming year, be truly grateful for what you already have.
4. Instead of worrying what others are always thinking of you, relinquish to be the kind of person you want to be, almost immediately filling your cup to overflowing with this one. We could all use a little more self-love
(God don't make no junk, right?).
5. Show kindness every single day. This one is easier than you think. It might be a genuine smile to a stranger, a word of hope to someone in distress, a listening ear for someone who needs to talk.
There you have it...simple things we all can do in the new year ahead -- resolutions we can keep! Sometimes I think we complicate things waaaay too much. When we put such pressure on ourselves, we set ourselves up for failure. But if we start small and acknowledge that even small achievements and changes count, we can find more fulfillment and happiness, and who couldn't use more of that, right?
All that being said, I wish you the best, most happy and content year in 2019. May you enjoy good health, more love than your heart can hold, and at least a few pieces of fruit with a carrot stick or two in place of that brownie you know you want!
Going into the new year with a few comfort measures for the winter ahead...
***Update on the sale of #our1892adventure: We are moving forward into the new year with high hopes of a sale being finalized in the very near future. We have learned so much from this endeavor and look forward to starting a new renovation soon (working on that one as I write)! Sometimes it takes really reflecting on the previous year and seeing how far you've come to be able to appreciate what you've been able to achieve. The sky is the limit, guys!
"If you asked me for my New Year Resolution, it would be to find out who I am."
- Cyril Cusack
Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go...
Those are the lyrics to the song, but in my case it's to my daughter's house I go. But I do indeed cross the Appalachee River, the Alcovy River, and the Yellow River to get there. The woods however would translate to pounding the 27 miles of pavement between my house and hers, littered with vehicles of every shape and form in the 6:30 a.m. Atlanta traffic. But just like the excitement of a child on their way to their grandmother's house, this grandmother is anxious about what is waiting for her at her destination. It's not so much the what, but the who. A smiling cherub playing the role of a tiny little girl who greets me most mornings with a "Nanaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" before she leaps into my arms and we start our day getting sissy off to school and completing all of the many tasks of a two-year-old. Throughout the course of our day I hear the endless chatter of her talking to her babies and directing them through her pretend but very real situations. She lines up her itsy-bitsy dolls on the edge of the table, then pushes them over and says "Night-night now!" Eight full hours of her all to myself...hands down, the best part of my week. The other five or so days of the week just don't compare but, alas, there are some other things that do require my attention. I've made some extra trips to her house recently, as our youngest and her hubby are in town and we've tried to be all together as much as possible. Good times. Really good times.
As Christmas is upon us and is, in fact, tomorrow, no matter how busy you've been I hope that you've taken time out of that "busyness"to stop and smell the roses -- or rather the pine, or the cookies baking, or apples and cinnamon simmering on the stove, or citrus or rosemary -- so many delicious smells this time of year! With family traditions being front and center of our activities this month, we continue in the day-to-day marketing of #our1892adventure (good news coming soon we hope!), and it seems sometimes that there just is not enough time in the day. My family decided this year to exchange small gifts with a $10 limit (Seriously? Yep!) which has proven to be very challenging! But it also makes you take time to really think about something that can be meaningful regardless of the cost. The jury's still out on seeing how I did on that one. But because I know that taking care of myself includes time to take a break from the crazy action and just sit still, I've allowed myself time to do that. I sit on the sofa with a cup of coffee or tea and take a moment to rejuvenate before tackling the must-dos and the need-to-dos. It's amazing how just a few minutes of solitude will help you to re-focus right when you think you've used up the last little ounce of energy your body and mind can produce for the day.
And always at this time of year, I like to remind myself of the blessing I have of the many friends who support me through the year and especially the ones who sit down and take time to read my blog entries. When I think of this gratefulness I feel in my heart, I try to immediately express that thankfulness in written form, and that is the main focus of this entry...to say thank you to all those whose support has gotten me through the tough and trying times of renovating homes and the occasional family crisis -- your comments and encouraging words feed my soul! As we continue on this journey, whatever the next step may be in 2019, I hope you'll continue to follow my blog because I need you! I want you! I gotta have you! And will you do me a favor?
If you know anyone who might benefit from from reading my blog, if even for just a smile or a moment of encouragement from this ol' gal who's been there, done that, and would love to encourage their day, would you please direct them to my website? I would really appreciate it.
Now, may I wish you a Very Merry Christmas, filled to overflowing with all the things that bring you joy and gladness, the love of family and friends, and a heart of gratefulness for all the goodness in your life. May your Christmas day be a time of reflection and introspection. May you see all the good around you and, if you see bad, may you have the courage to do something about it. May you find yourself healthy and happy and whole. And may 2019 be a year filled with all the same things and more!
Or, in the words of this old Irish blessing...
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Preston Family Album 2018
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Today is Black Friday. And even though I know it's named that for the sales that are made today, putting businesses in the black heading into the Christmas season, there is really nothing black about this day for me.
Coming off the heels of a beautiful Thanksgiving Day in Atlanta, my heart is full and continues to feel gratefulness like I haven't felt in awhile. I've made a new commitment to try and live each day more gratefully, and only because I've recently realized that when you stop counting your blessings, you allow all manner of anger, bitterness, resentment and such to take up space in your heart and a heart of gratefulness really has no room for that. It's like one pushes out the other and it is up to us to decide which will reside in our hearts.
When we first started #our1892adventure, we had no idea what we were up against. But as people doing what they love sometimes do, we dove in head first and sunk our heart, soul, and strength into it. Nearing the end of this renovation project, we found ourselves physically and emotionally depleted with a depleted bank account, and lacking in just about every arena you could imagine. When you are in this state of "existence," you see how you've let some of the important things in your life slip by the wayside and not get the attention needed for health and wellbeing. Like your personal state of mind. Your spiritual state of being. Your relationships with others...maybe even your very own marriage. Sometimes you really don't even realize it until you find yourself standing at the edge of a large canyon and there is a mountain lion on your heels. Do you jump and know you're jumping to your death or do you take your chances with the lion and hope for a miracle? This is how I've felt at times and, believe me, it is not a pretty place to be (no matter how beautiful that mountain lion and canyon is). In times like these, you have to take a step back, ask yourself again (for about the millionth time in your life) what is it that you're wanting in life and reassess the present situation so as to align yourself in that direction. Sometimes we become so focused on the immediate job at hand that we allow it to drain us of all our resources and even our state of mind becomes a needy entity for which there remains nothing left within you to nurture it for the days ahead. You find youself numb, empty, and on the verge of being emotionally alone.
I think this is why I love Thanksgiving more than any other holiday. And that is saying a lot since I am a die-hard Christmas lover. Thanksgiving forces us to take a look at our lives, what is surrounding us, re-focus on the priorities that bring us happiness, and to truly be thankful for the good in our lives. No matter what hard times have faced us in the year, Thanksgiving is the time to dig deep (or maybe some don't have to) to remember the things that are good and truly grateful-worthy. Do you have a roof over your head and food in your mouth? Do you have clothes on your back and peace surrounding you? Do you have even one person in your life who loves you fiercely? Now, I am fully aware there are those out there who might not have any of these things, but only when we take care of ourselves by embracing the good we have can we be strong enough to help others. I pray that Thanksgiving has brought you even one tiny step closer to remembering all that is good in your life. Because others are counting on you and you need gratefulness to be all you can be for them...for your spouse...for your child...for your aging parents...for the person in your life who sees you as their example of hope for the future. I know that sounds really heavy, but to whom much is given, much is required. Isn't that what the good book says?
Now, all that being said, I can finally(!!!!) announce that #our1892adventure is officially on the market and for that I am EXTREMELY grateful. It has been a long, hard ride on a bony horse that has given me bumps and bruises on my backside and thrown me to the ground more times than I can count (metaphorically speaking), and one that I will not soon forget! I'm not quite ready to ride again, but when I do I'm looking for a younger version who won't be so ornery! This ol' 125-year-old gal has just about done us in! But, of course, with Christmas a mere month away now, I had to see how she'd look all dolled up for the holidays and, if I say so myself, she's a beaut! Living here is another blessing I've had to come to realize. No matter how long we're here, having a time of enjoying the love and hard work we've put into this project has given me new perspective and for that I am sincerely grateful.
Wishing you love, peace, and a tuly thankful heart...
"It didn't matter how big our house was; it mattered that there was love in it."
- Peter Buffett
Have you ever noticed when you're in a crunch to get out the door that the last 30 minutes before you are to leave fly by like a nano-second? It does with me. I can be going along at a good pace, having allowed plenty of time to do all the necessary things I have to do to be prepared and then in the last 30 minutes everything falls apart. Either I have to change clothes one more time due to indecision or spilling my coffee again or I get a phone call that I have to take or -- well, I think I'd be safe to say you know exactly what I'm talking about. Something inevitably happens to delay your departure at the time you planned. Case in point: Even though we begin with ample time to get my sweet little P off to the bus stop, we sometimes end up with: "Finish your breakfast or we'll be late! Brush your teeth -- do a good job but do it quickly! Show me just how fast you can put those socks and shoes on!" Thank goodness this is the exception and not the rule, but for some reason those last 30 minutes seem to evaporate into thin air.
You'll probably agree that we're heading into one of the busiest times of the year with holiday preparations and such. I simply cannot believe we're just three short weeks away till we celebrate Thanksgiving and officially head into the Christmas season. Of course, if you ever venture out into retail territory you know that Christmas has already officially been ushered in. Christmas trees and baubles and pretties abound and, as much as I've tried to resist the urge, I have finally given myself permission to look at Christmas decor and dream a little bit about what mine might look like this year. But with our house on the market, who knows if I'll even be here for Christmas? I might be spending Christmas in an extended-stay hotel like I did Easter a couple years back. For all the many reasons I am glad my eldest daughter is back in the Atlanta area, celebrating the holidays is one of the top ones. Because I know that no matter where we are (as in where we're hanging our hat at the moment), we are always welcome at our daughter's beautiful home and have the privilege of sharing in the new traditions she is making with her little family. It's one of my greatest blessings for which I'll be thankful on November 22nd.
We are now in the "last 30 minutes" of our #1892adventure. We are literally hours away from our real estate listing going live, and THERE IS STILL SO MUCH TO DO-----EEEEEK!
I sat down recently to compose a final punch-out list for the house, and it actually grows a bit with each passing day. It seems as though you can always think of something to do still -- one final tweak...one last correction...one little thing that will hopefully make everything picture-perfect. But I am one who knows only too well from experience that there is no such thing as perfection and, if you try to attain it, you will be a sad little person. Because there is always something that in your mind seems absolutely necessary, but is it really? So what if every little thing isn't perfect? Let's not deceive ourselves into thinking that others EVER see us as perfect. They don't. We all have our little dents and dings, but we're trying all the time to do better, be better, live better, and that's okay. Let's just be ourselves and let all those little dents and dings just hang out and become part of who we are. We're much more interesting that way anyway. If you're waiting till your house is perfect before you have friends over, don't. It'll never be perfect no matter how hard you try, and you'll miss out on one of life's greatest joys: Spending time with friends and family.
One of our last jobs to complete on the house has been giving the living/dining room fireplace some extra love. The ol' girl probably looked pretty good for 125 years old, but there were a few things we wanted to do to spruce her up. It's so interesting (thinking of perfection, that is), to see how people in the past felt about this fireplace. They weren't the least bit interested in how she looked but, as this was their only source of heat, how she worked. When warmth and air started to slip out of the crumbling mortar on the chimney, what did they do? They piled more mortar on to plug those holes and keep the heat in! Over the years, later folks decided that covering the old fireplaces would be the next best thing to them not being there (after central heating), and for many, many years they stood behind the walls. They were things of utility, not beauty. Having centralized heating was what those folks were proud of! But we have set these old sentinels free, and have given them the opportunity to shine once more and to be what they truly are...works of art...pieces of history...parts of past lives that deserve to be recognized for their roles in the last 125 years.
So now that we are in "the last 30 minutes" of this renovation, it's sometimes hard to believe it because it's been the hardest job we've ever worked on. There were days that seemed to last forever holding problems that at the moment had no solutions and where we fell into bed dog-tired at night. But one thing I know: Every job finally does get completed and you can look back in wonder at all you've been able to accomplish. I cannot let those last 30 minutes derail me trying to reach for unattainable perfection. I will just let this house stand for who she is...a 125-year-old hardworking gal who, like me, has her own unique imperfections.
And she is all the more beautiful for them.
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
- Thomas A. Edison
Around this time every year when the temperature finally breaks from the low nineties to the high seventies, I begin to believe that summer is (finally!) relenting and allowing autumn to take her place center stage. After all, she is the favorite actor in nature's display of seasonal wonders for most people. So also around this time I begin to diligently search for found objects that I can use in my displays throughout the season, until I've had enough of acorns and muted dryness and am more than ready to usher in the glitz and glamour of Christmas decor in all its glittery glory. God knew we'd only be able to stand four to six weeks of the stunning beauty autumn has to offer and the sadness we'd feel at her faded-out departure. You can't appreciate the beauty without the ugly of winter that follows fall.
But in my quest to do just that (find objects, that is), I've been almost totally unsuccessful in finding some pretty leaves. Collecting leaves in fall is one of my favorite things to do...kind of like collecting seashells on the beach. But as the trees in this part of the country have only begun to tempt us with their slowly changing chameleon-like attire, they are few and far between. I've even ventured a tad farther north to the land of Blue Ridge where I love to go every year, but alas there were none to be found there, either. There are myriad philosophies I've heard over the years as to why leaves change when they do and how vibrant they are from season to season. I've heard it has to do with the amount of rain we've had over the summer: if a lot of rain, the leaves will do this; if not enough rain, the leaves will do that. I've heard that it has everything to do with the length of days or whether or not you've had a frost. Do you want to know what I think? I think they decide to change whenever they're good and ready. And although I'm sure there is a scientific study out there that tells definitively without a doubt why leaves vary so greatly from one year to the next, please don't alert me to it. I prefer to remain in the dark and just let autumn surprise me each year with her finicky fanaticism. I've learned to take whatever she hands out and be grateful for it.
And you know me, in my head when I get to thinking about nature, I always seem to somehow correlate it to the plight of human beings.
We too can be moody and unpredictable, don't you think? Sometimes the very thing that brought us extreme happiness last month might fall short this month. Sometimes we can surprise people when they realize how we've changed over the years (or maybe not changed at all). Sometimes we refuse to change and want to stay that stubborn shade of humbug green that we've been wearing all summer long. But, as we know, change is inevitable in life and, no matter how much you might hate change OR love change, there is only so much one can do to bring it about or stop it from happening. It doesn't matter how hard you try sometimes, how much money you might have, how much you've prepared, or how many good decisions you've tried to make, life has a way of sending change your direction just like nature sends us fall every single year. And with it, we can embrace change or make ourselves miserable stuck in an endless cycle of stubborn rebellion. Kind of like my almost-two-year-old granddaughter when you ask her if she has a poopy, and she repeatedly says no but you can smell if from across the room. She doesn't yet have the insight to realize how much more comfortable she'll be if she'll only let Nana get her cleaned up. Change can totally be our friend.
As we take our final ascent into fall, I hope that you can embrace the changing seasons and the seasons of change you might be experiencing in your personal life. When change is not wanted, it can be really hard. Sometimes, when it's thrust upon us, we feel like we can't breathe. We might feel life may never be the same, and maybe it won't. But most times, if we take these moments in life and allow them to help us slow down and take that breath and wait patiently for the outcome, we'll be able to see exactly where those changes might take us, and even winter has its glories.
As for my foliage search? Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands. I will not be taking any trips this season farther north than, well, Georgia, so you gotta do what you gotta do. Over the weekend, while at our local Target shopping center, I noticed that the small sugar maples in the parking lot have finally begun to have tinges of red at the top. Even they are late bloomers because I've seen those trees change as early as August before. I enlisted the hubs as my getaway driver, made sure the coast was clear, plucked a few sprigs off a tree, and took off. Yep, you heard me right; I flat-out stole them! But with the happiness they're bringing me right now on my kitchen window sill, I don't think anyone would deprive me of that little joy. And for the rest of my leaf-changing pleasures this season, I'll just have to wait for Mother Nature to do it in her own time. It might even be Thanksgiving before we see fall's true glory down here in Jawja. Unlike our Pacific Northwest friends who are unashamedly posting glorious images of fall foliage (stop bragging, you guys!), we do things a bit slower here in the south.
Happy fall, y'all!
"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
- George Eliot
I have found in my years it's highly likely that any person at any given time will be in the midst of their present situation or job or endeavor, not really there in mind and soul, but actually living regretfully in the past or anxiously in the future. I, for one, have caught myself doing that time and time again and, as hard as it is, somehow I drag myself back into the present, trying fully to be "present in the present" before once again the past or the future begin to tug at me, threatening to judge me for what's come before or condemn me for the future I desire.
Have you ever been there? It's a giant tug-of-war in my life.
So what is the "present"? The present can be many things. It can be the hardest thing you've ever done. It can be pain and suffering. It can be a transitional period. It can be your happiest moment (even though you may or may not know it at the time). It can be a time of learning and growth. It can be a nightmare. It can be a fantasy. It might be everything you've ever dreamed of or everything you've always dreaded. But here's the thing about the present: It most surely will pass, at which time it will become the past and lead you into the future. But I've found, sometimes much to my disappointment (or to my exhilaration), the present usually passes as quickly as it comes, and then you're moving onto the next thing. Sometimes that's a blessed occurrence and other times you realize you were not in such a bad place after all.
Transition, for me, has been a given the last ten years of my life and now that I'm in my "senior" years (really?), I find myself longing for stability. For the first part of the last decade, I suffered with breast cancer. I was diagnosed in the late summer and found my autumn and winter months filled with chemotherapy sessions, surgeries, and the "present" situation of being the sickest I've ever been. There were days when I felt as though I was hanging in the middle, somewhere between life and death. That Christmas was the hardest Christmas of my life. With no energy to make the holiday a special family time, I was in the depths of a huge pity-party and literally (not meaning to) ran my family off where I sat alone for most of the day after Christmas, my faithful kitty at my side. Thankfully, he didn't so much mind my foul state of mind. But, as present situations do, that time passed (albeit very slowly), I got my strength back, and things pretty much returned to normal. Today, except for the ugly scars left and the uglier memories, it's hard to remember the actual pain and suffering. And even though it was probably the hardest time of my life, I look back on it now and realize how much I grew during that time. Today I believe I am a stronger person, and I owe a lot of that to my experience with breast cancer.
Since that time my life has truly changed in my activities from day to day. When the hubs and I re-did our first little house in Alabama, I had no idea that it would lead to buying and renovating houses and become a lifestyle for us. We have lived in most of the houses we've renovated and it's been hard at times. That scenario has included moving many times, living in apartments along the way, even an RV for a short period (remember that one?!), periods of moving furniture in and out of storage, and having long droughts of uncertainty. It definitely has had its moments of excitement but, as I've gotten older, transition is becoming less and less attractive to me, and now I find myself longing for a place I can call my permanent home, a place where I can remain until they take me out feet first, as they say.
But in and between these times of transition when I almost always encounter struggle and hardship, I have moments of epiphany where I inherently know deep down that there is a purpose for what I am experiencing at the present moment. Am I being groomed for something in the future? (maybe) Am I being punished for something in the past? (haha, just kidding) Am I just being taught another hard life lesson of patience? (probably) But I really try to take time to reflect on my present and see how it can make me a better, stronger person if I'll let it. I have learned over the years to say, "Yes, teach me. Show me, hard times, what I need for this moment in my life and how it can make me better." That is an absolute given, that if we allow changes, hardships and challenges in our lives to mold us, they will do that. But you know what it takes? LIVING IN THE PRESENT. Taking today and asking what it has to teach us. Looking for all the lessons today has to give. Looking for all the blessings today has to offer. Taking today and making it the most important time, more valuable for learning than the past and more satisfying than your greatest hopes for the future.
I don't know where you're living today. Maybe you're stuck in your past with regrets and memories that not only hurt, but haunt you as well. Maybe you're longing for a future that brings all the things you've ever dreamed of. But may I challenge you to live in the present to see what it has to offer? There is a lot of talk today on "being fully present." And even though I think that term is way overused, its connotation rings true. Our presence is asked for or maybe even required in so many situations, but is it our body only that is present or also our heart and soul and the giving of our entire self to that particular moment in time? Something to think about.
My present situation is kind of a limbo game right now, and I have never been very good at playing limbo. How those people get down so low in such a compromised position is beyond my range of motion. But I am in limbo now in my life, moving from one situation to the next, trying to soak up all the moment has for me. I'd be lying if I said it was easy. It's a constant battle, looking back on what I could've done differently and looking forward to what I perceive as so much better. Sometimes waiting -- no, always -- waiting is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
But if I let her, my friend "the present" will teach me great things. I just have to sit still and listen to her instruction. I also have to hold tightly to her, grasping with joy, thankful for this fleeting time, anxious to learn what she has to reveal, because we all know...she is here today, but will be gone tomorrow.
P.S. Those months I was going through treatment led me to writing...putting on paper my thoughts and experiences and realizing that writing is an outlet for me, whether it's chronicling our house renovations or just sharing my heart. Thank you for listening; I never take that for granted.
"You will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you."
-from the Book of Isaiah
And almost three months to the day, I am baaaaack. Talk about taking the summer off!
For those of you who have been wondering, yes, I am still around and breathing, and much -- MUCHO -- has happened since my last post. It seems more like three weeks than three months since that post and, in referencing my last comment on that long ago day, I have indeed been trying to make my own happiness. I have been working, problem-solving, taking care of tiny humans while mama and daddy gather worms for their little beaks, and trying to keep it together as we struggle to maintain some sort of a peaceful existance -- you know, the kind where your sanity is in tact, and all your ducks are in a row? Ha! Is that even possible?
But it's been hard. So, spoiler alert, don't read this post till you've got a minute. I think it might be a long one.
As our projected date of releasing our 1892 Georgian Cottage into the real estate market neared, it seemed as if there was more to do than ever. How can a project keep demanding more and more of you when you have so little left to give? If you know the answer to that, please advise.
At the end of July we turned in our notice, packed up our two-bedroom apartment, and moved into #our1892adventure. Yep, it's not only our adventure now, but apparently our home as well. We have taken up residence in our Georgian Cottage and have settled into some sort of rhythm of normalcy for however long we might be here. We continue to work at finishing up all that small but treacherous detail work that only a house this old can demand...like adding trim to literally every wall, floor, door, window, and opening where there was none before, painting and re-painting, repairing and stabilizing a run-down shed in the backyard, closing up every little hole where critters might feel invited in, and addressing some re-zoning issues -- to name just a few. The critter saga is a whole other story for a whole other day. Why is it that we continuously have to deal with critters trying to get in or take up residence on our land that we paid our hard-earned money for? It is a constant battle if I ever knew one. But the positive side to moving into a place where you've designed new bathrooms and included other conveniences where there were none before is seeing if your improvements are practical and will really work for the next buyer. That has been a good thing, and we have been able to tweak a few things to make them more user-friendly.
I have been fighting for time to even photograph the house so that I can share with you some final results. But -- finally -- I am doing it today. I never for a million years thought I would ever move into this house. My vision was to finish, stage it, put it on the market and sit back and wait for closing day. But as with so many things in life, it just didn't go that way. I've had to readjust my thinking from "How can I make this picture perfect?" to "How can I make this work for us to live here?" We have definitely pared down from our last house which was around 2700 square feet with hub's office included. We have a work space that we share now and, let me tell you, it will test your patience to the max sometimes. I am a person who relishes a good bit of "quietness" in my life...and the hubs? His idea of a good work environment is talking to a client on speaker phone (very loudly I might add), with the blue tooth blaring Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress. If the dishwasher and washing machine (which are in close proximity to our office space) are on, no worries! It's enough to drive even the most stable person straight down the road of no return! A common sound is the smack of the power hammer putting in a nail somewhere and then, when you least expect it, the air compressor kicks in and scares the wits out of you. Sometimes I think there are folks out there who are afraid of quietness. If you are one of them, I DO NOT understand you. Are you afraid of your thoughts? The boogey man who might be lurking? That you might hear God speak loud and clear? Please don't be offended by my thoughts on that; just trying to better understand (again, another subject for another time). One last thing...it doesn't bother the hubs one iota if there are tools covering the floor and dust on literally everything. If that's the case, well, he's just more in his element.
But if you know me at all you know that I try really hard to be positive and look at the bright side of things. Like how far we've come in the time we've had. I read about renovations of old houses taking years to finish. Add to that the fact that you're doing most of the work yourself and it makes sense. I even read about one old house that took 16 years to finish (it was a much larger two-story house, but still...). When we started this project, we were thinking nine months, maybe a year, but alas we're still here staring at another fall and possibly a winter. Even though this house is still in transition and not officially on the market, IT IS FOR SALE, so if you're out there looking for a true rare gem, private message me and let's talk. Another blessing I try not to ever forget is the mere fact that we have a roof over our heads. Granted, it's not the roof I was counting on at this point, but having a roof over your head is always something for which to be thankful. We've lived in the majority of the houses we've renovated (like moved six times in less than 10 years), so what made me think this would be any different? Wishful thinking, I suppose. But I still have breath in my lungs and a marriage that is still (mostly) in tact, wonderful children and grandchildren, and life is overall good.
In referencing the title to this post, I must admit to feeling a bit crazy at times -- no, not a bit crazy but off-the-rails totally nuts. I wake up most mornings wondering where I am and how I ended up getting here and doing what I do at this stage in my life. But I am a firm believer that everything in our lives makes up the greater sum of who we become -- good and bad and, if we'll be honest with ourselves, it's the hard times that truly mold us. I definitely would not call this a bad time in my life, but a challenging one for sure. It's what we do with those challenges that shape us. They don't have to define us, but (whether we like it or not) they definitely contribute to who we are. Hardships can break us beyond return, or they can make us stronger for the journey ahead. We have the choice to decide which road we'll travel.
Anyhoo, I think I've finally realized that being a little crazy at various and sundry times just comes with the territory. Dang.
Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.
- Sigmund Freud
Some "befores" and "afters" for you...
Recently I saw on an Instagram post that we have reached the "half-Christmas" mark, meaning we are six months back around to the Christmas season. Really? You gotta be kidding me. Christmas in July? No, thanks.
This got me to thinking about the many different ways we, as humans, measure time. Of course, the earliest most primitive way of measuring time was by the sun, and literally today in the 21st century we are still measuring time by the sun and moon and the passing of a 24-hour period, which morphs into a full 365-day calendar year. We measure time by birthdays and anniversaries and holidays and other special dates. One way I personally measure time is by the clock tower that stands sentinel in my little downtown where I live at the moment. Just as the faint and distant passing of trains gave me peaceful moments at my last house, so does the clock tower. It is literally yards from my bedroom window and many mornings as I lie there wondering what time it is, if I am patient that clock tower will let me know. It is consistently counting out the hours and every single day of every single year calls to the folk in town that time is surely passing. There is something strangely comforting about the sound of the hours being announced and, even though I will not miss the traffic outside my apartment window, I will miss the clock tower one day when we move.
Right now, I am mostly measuring time with the renovation of our 125-year-old house. In some ways, I simply cannot believe that we have passed the one-year mark but, at the same time, it seems like it has been five or ten years. It's getting harder and harder to remember life before this renovation came along, sucking us into its possibilities, and dragging us along as we have learned and grown and made what feels like a forever friend in this old house. The memories we have made renovating her will be with us I'm sure till our final days. We laugh sometimes as we talk about sitting in our rockers at age 90 reminiscing about how a 125-year-old house just about kicked our butts. At the onset of this renovation project, it seemed like time was all we had. It was a new challenge; a fresh start; a project that was all ahead of us and our energy soared. Now, as we count down the final weeks and literally days of this project, it's hard to see that far back to when we had the energy that some days seemed boundless. Now most days are marked by fatigue and the ever-pressing urgency to get finished, get this house on the market, and move on to our next adventure. But don't get me wrong; it is indeed bittersweet. As I've said before, I have never renovated a house that I didn't think for a short minute that I wish I could live there, that too bad I wasn't re-doing the property just for me. Because, if budget allows, we do our best to incorporate all the things into a property that we'd like to have if we were to live there. I dream of the long soaks I'd have in the beautiful tubs we've installed...or watching a rabbit scamper across the acreage on a regular basis as I wash dishes in the big farmhouse sinks. I envision family and friends gathering around large tables in the common spaces to eat together or piling into the living room for a movie night around a roaring fire. It is absolutely the case that every bedroom we design or re-do I imagine my bed in there and ask myself a million and two questions about the layout and comfort factor for every guest room. Is the placement of the bed best here or there? Are there plugs and light switches conveniently located to where they'll really be needed? Is there enough lighting and is it beautiful? Have we enough natural light and, if not, can we make more with added windows? All the things I want in a home I try to do for the person who will one day in the (hopefully near) future make it their very own and, even though I may never see it for myself, enjoy my efforts on a daily basis.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for following us on this journey. The next time I post, it will most likely be to announce the listing of this house into the market. Thank you for all the encouraging words when the days have gotten long and words of affirmation for my design choices. It really encourages me to have folks out there that are willing to take their time to listen to my (sometimes crazy!) thoughts on life, love, people, and a daily journey that can be mundane and repetitious and just might include an ample dose of complaining. If God gives us grace and a few more years on this earth, we will be finding another project down the road a bit (metaphorically speaking), and will begin the process all over again, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I will continue to guide you through life with my very-opinionated thoughts and philosophies (haha) and remind you constantly to be grateful and kind, hopeful and positive, to always put family first, and to never give up on your dreams.
We have to make our own happiness, you know.
"There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age."
- Sophia Loren
(couldn't agree more, foxy lady!)
Posted by CC
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