Gramz's Blog

Musings of a crazy quilter

It all started when I decided to rearrange a few items in the bathroom. This required moving the board with six coat hooks (I find hooks more practical than a towel bar) to a different wall. Unfortunately, when I removed the board, it pulled the paint and part of the new drywall with it. Oh, man, did I goof! I know better than to try to repair the drywall myself because I will make a royal mess of it, so I decided to cover it with a little quilt project until the drywallers return to finish up some details. I figure it is a good excuse to work on the skills that have become rusty.

I have heard other quilters talk about how relaxing it is to do hand work while watching television. So I thought this would be a good project to work on in the evenings.

Someone had given me a copy of the Dec 2010 issue of "American Patchwork & Quilting" and I saw a pretty quilt by Bonnie Olaveson which used the Louisiana block. I cut all the pieces out and started this first block by hand. It was not at all relaxing for me. The next block was done by machine! This is the Louisiana block I did using a scrap of a batik fabric:

It is my first attempt at making flying geese (something I had always avoided as too fussy and wasteful of fabric; I have since changed my mind). I also thought it would be a good opportunity to practice using varied scales and print designs from my stash. I originally intended to make three blocks, but I had trouble eliminating some fabrics so I ended up with four. It was so silly of me to start this project by hand. Machine is definitely the way for me to go!

I took pictures of the finished blocks to help me identify which scales of prints worked best together. The block on the far right is too busy for my taste, but since it uses some favorite fabrics from my stash, I decided to keep it anyway. This block uses fabrics from the quilt I made for my sister:

This block almost didn't get made because I thought it would not work well with the other fabrics. I figured I would make it anyway and probably leave it out of the project, but since it turned out to be my favorite block I decided to leave it in even if it is not as busy as the other three blocks.

My sewing machine had been packed away for nearly a year so I had to get used to using it all over again. Then I decided to dive in and do some FMQ. It certainly isn't perfect, but I still like it.

The back:

I thought the Louisiana block reminded me of butterflies. Since there are butterflies printed on my shower curtain, I thought it would be cute. Turns out there are not so many butterflies in the little quilt, but it sure makes a pretty band-aid. I'll post a pic after I get it bound.

Gramz

Yesterday as I came out of Wal-Mart I saw a tube of Carmex lying in the parking lot. Uh oh, someone is going to be sorry they lost that, I thought to myself. Then I found myself wondering how it got there. Had some lady dropped it when she took her keys out of her purse? Had it fallen out of a shopping bag? It is a small item, perhaps it had been overlooked when the groceries were being loaded onto the conveyor belt. Or perhaps a little one had picked it up at the checkout counter when mama was busy paying for the groceries and had dropped it on the way to the car. It could be unopened; in that case a perfectly good tube of Carmex would go to waste. Too bad. 

But maybe a child would spot it, pick it up, and put it in his pocket so that, new or used, it would not be wasted.

I had done that once. My family was at an event in a big arena; the kind with lots and lots of seats and each row of seats set a step or two higher than the row in front of it. I don't remember if we were at a circus or a show or a concert, but I think we were there with another family because I remember other kids being there. The event must have been over, because my mom was chatting with friends and we kids moved back behind the grownups to play in some empty seats. That's when I found the lip gloss. It was in a little glass bottle with a screw-on lid and a tiny plastic ball was under the lid so the slick, sticky liquid could be rolled on. It would not be likely that I would find it's rightful owner so I unscrewed the lid. It smelled like strawberries. It tasted like strawberries. It was super shiny. I would look so grown up wearing it. I put it in my purse.

I wonder why my mother never made me throw it away. I didn't keep secrets from her so she must have known where I got it.

That bottle of lip gloss lasted a very, very long time.

As I continued to my car with my cart of groceries I thought to myself how horrified I would be if one of my children or grandchildren tried to pick up that little tube of Carmex lying on the black top. Just think of the diseases that little tube could contain. We have so much more understanding of disease today than we had back then, thank God. Then I imagine the germs that could have been spread by that one innocent-looking shiny bottle I carried for a couple of years in my little zippered purse. I considered how fortunate that I had not caught any diseases from the strawberry lip gloss. Then I wondered if I had caught a disease and just don't know it yet. Don't go there! I warned myself.

The young are so blessed in their ignorance.

 

 

The last time I quilted was nearly a year ago. It was June and my youngest daughter was getting married. I had been working on a quilt for her and since money was tight it was a scrappy quilt. I was making progress on a full size quilt when I heard she actually had a queen size bed. No problem; I just added a larger border. I finished the top and I was pinning the layers together on the ping pong table in the basement when I learned she and her fiance had purchased a new king size bed. There was no time to make any further changes before traveling 500 miles to attend the wedding, plus we were in the process of moving to our new home. Out of disappointment and frustration I folded up the quilt top and packed it away along with all my sewing gear.

Immediately after the wedding we packed up our entire house and put everything in a large storage unit. The only things that did not go into storage were two beds, one television and a table to put it on, a love seat, some summer clothing, very basic kitchen ware, microwave, refrigerator, and tools. We also put the lawn mower and lawn tools in the little shed on the new property. The big appliances were packed into the back of our son's bedroom leaving just enough space for his mattress on the floor. Nothing else could go into the new place because the renovation would be too extensive. We put the love seat, our bed, and the television on the enclosed porch which now functioned as our living room and bedroom. My brother-in-law invited us to stay with him for awhile and we did try that, but we missed the privacy that our own home provided even with all the mess. So for nearly a year I've been pretty busy with the house renovation.

Three things have dominated my thoughts these past months: make the house safe to live in, get our stuff out of storage, and find a place to sew. It has been quite a journey, and there is much to do to bring the house up to par, but we are now living in every tiny room in our 750 square foot home. It is cute and cozy. It is also challenging, because each and every project, no matter how small, makes our little house cramped. Piles move from room to room and boxes and bins of items which do not have a permanent home are stashed and stacked about the house. We are getting more and more creative about how to store and protect things. We have learned which items are not critical and so we have learned also to give them up. And nearly everything that comes into the house has to do double duty: it can be pretty but it must also be functional. We have made significant progress and most things have a home now.

So as you can imagine, I have not been able to find the space to quilt.

Suddenly, I hated going to quilt guild meetings. There were so many cool ideas presented and I could not work on a single one. Goodness knows I didn't really need the creative outlet - I have lots of projects going on at the house - but I really did need the fellowship. But getting time to get away became burdensome because I was just plain exhausted. I even stayed away from QCA for a time.

I have studied the problem of needing an area

in which to sew and have tried to work out many solutions, but it seems the only place to set up my sewing machine is on the enclosed porch. There is plenty of light because there are lots of windows. But those windows are 100 years old and are drafty (but I still love them and their wavy, bubbled, cheerfulness. That room had never been insulated, so it was C-O-L-D! I have plans to insulated it and to install storm windows and a storm door, but other projects are more important at the moment. (Can you say "new furnace?") But, thanks to the unusually fine weather this spring, I have been able to work through the bins and boxes stored on the porch and arrange a little space for my sewing machine and ironing board. So three days ago I started sewing! Yay!

I even helped out at our guild's biennial quilt show (which was amazing!) and I went to our most recent guild meeting. Some ladies there make comfort quilts for children in the foster care system and they issued a challenge: make a quilt with the theme of "Children's Games" using a fat quarter of printed black fabric. What perfect timing! I can do that now! So I just completed my first quilt top in nearly a year; I call it "Go Fish". it is pictured below in my new "studio" on the porch of our home.

It is so good to be back!

Posted by Gramz Quilts | 6 comment(s)
Filed under: , ,

We recently celebrated our anniversary. Since we are still working our way past some financially lean times, I thought the small gifts we had exchanged had been appropriate and satisfactory. Apparently, my DH did not.

I am one of those people who doesn't really like surprises. I often do the shopping for the Christmas gifts intended for me and give them to my kids to give to me. That way I know I am getting exactly what I want and that they didn't spend too much. It isn't that I am a control freak, but rather it is related to my desire to plan everything. I am tormented by thoughts like: What if it is the wrong color? What if is too small? Will I have to wear it anyway even if I look like I was stuffed into a sausage casing? What if I don't like it? I think people's feelings might be hurt if I have to return an item to the store. I realize this character trait is confusing to gift givers. It is with great shame that I recall the situation in which a family friend purchased and returned several times a wedding gift for us because she overheard my anxiety about the bedroom I had not seen. My face still warms when I think of how ill mannered I must have been.

In an ideal world, the people who care about me should know me well enough to know what I would like, but I have learned that depending on people - especially my DH - to pick up on hints is impossible; I just have to flat out tell him what I would like to have. It is just one of those things I have learned after living with him for 27 years. If I don't give him a list of things I might like to have, he might get me something he would like to have. Sometimes he still doesn't get it and I have actually had a friend hand him an ad with the Kitchen Aid mizer I had asked for for several years. Because I worry that I might make the same mistake,  I also ask him for specifics about gift choices for him. I know from experience that whatever I buy for him will likely be returned even if it is exactly what he asked for so I have found it to be much simpler to take him out and let him pick out what he wants. When he selects it himself, it is less likely to be returned. If he tells me he is looking for a tool, it is so much easier to let him pick it out - and much quicker, too since he can head straight for it at the store while I would be wandering in search of it.

I also am uncomfortable with big ticket purchases for me. I can always think of so many things that are needed that should take precedence over whatever I might want. But one of the things I like best about my DH is that he is generous. So I sometimes have to let him make a big purchase for me. Years ago, the prongs on my engagement ring had worn out and I had lost the diamond in it. My DH had replaced it once before, but we had not realized that the prongs were so worn that the new diamond also fell out. I was devastated to have lost not one but two diamonds and I had resigned myself to the fact that I just didn't deserve one since I couldn't care for it adequately. But five years ago, my DH surprised me with a brand new ring. I was embarrassed by the size of the diamond, but I didn't want to hurt his feelings so I showed it off to everyone as if he had fulfilled my greatest desire by buying me that ring. I am used to the ring now (after having worked out for months just to support the added weight on my left hand), but I think I would have felt a little better about it had I been involved in it's selection. See what I mean? I just can't feel good about  such a wonderful gift, but my DH is such a generous kind of guy that I had to allow it.

Besides, if someone gives and expensive gift I feel like I should give as nice a gift in return. But sometimes finances don't allow it.

So what was it that my DH bought me that has me running mental circles now? A bike. Yep. A fancy hybrid (the kind that is somewhere between a racing bike and a mountain bike - not the kind that uses alternative fuel although that would have been preferable to the traditional power produced by my weary legs) with all the bells (literally) and whistles (figuratively) that I am not used to: 21 speeds, aluminum frame, hand brakes, cushy seat, and a huge wicker basket on the front.

A few months ago he had purchased an identical one (man's version) for himself and I was pretty ticked off that he spent that much money on himself without discussing it first. Then I found myself just a tiny bit jealous that he could take off on it by himself because there was no way my little old one speed could keep up. On the other hand, I didn't know if I could keep up anyway since he is in much better physical condition than I. He offered to buy me one, but I just wouldn't spend the money on something I feared I might not use much. But I did start to do a little research to determine if I should eventually get one, imagining what color, what style, what size I would need.

When DH surprised me with the bike, I experience the gamut of emotions. Guilt that he spent so much money on me when the family has other needs. Anger that he was telling me I am fat and out of shape (which I am). Wonder that maybe he wants to have me for company on his long rides. Disappointment that I did not get to pick it out (and since I suspect it was special ordered I dare not complain). Fear that I would not be able to keep up. Worry that allergies and weather would keep me from riding. Terror that my DH would pick up on one of these emotions and presume that I am ungrateful.

Dang! I'm outright neurotic!

I'll just have to hop on the bike and take it for a spin.

Posted by Gramz Quilts | 2 comment(s)
Filed under: , , ,

DS: I think I heard a mocking bird in our yard.

Me: Really?

DS: Yeah. What does a mocking bird sound like?

Me: Good question. I'm not really sure. I think they ... (he interrupts)

DS: Wait! Maybe it was a knocking bird. Is it "mocking bird" or "knocking bird"?

Me: Well, what did it sound like?

DS demonstrates by tapping rhythmically on the dashboard.

Me: I think you mean "woodpecker"!

We emptied our storage unit today.

 

It has been quite a process. Two years ago, my husband started a new job in Indiana – 500 miles from our home in Missouri. At the time, we had a beautiful four bedroom, two bath, 2,000 + square foot house in a five year old subdivision on the outskirts of town, two children at home, a pool, a home office, and one dog. We had both been unemployed for some time, so when this job became available it was a huge answer to prayer.

 

For six months I sweated it out, mostly alone, since I had to remain behind to settle our affairs and prepare for the move. In my mind, hubby had the easy job. All he had to do was live in his sister’s basement, go to work, and look for us a place to live. I, on the other hand, had to deal with a rebellious teenager who during that time decided to move in with her boyfriend and subsequently got pregnant, console the youngest child who would be leaving behind the only neighborhood he had ever known, and pack up the house. I would have traded places with him on any day.

 

Now, I did not do it all entirely alone. One day a man from church came by and moved some packed boxes to the garage for me because I had injured my back; I really needed the room to continue the packing process. Another day, my oldest daughter and her boyfriend emptied everything out of the attic. And then there was the fun day when ladies from church came over to help me pack up the kitchen. And yet other friends disassembled the 24-foot pool and packed it up for the move. I could never have accomplished it all without their help.

 

During those six months, hubby would come home on an occasional weekend (eight hours driving in each direction!) to help out. There was the weekend we emptied out the crawl space and discovered boxes that had never been unpacked from the previous move. Unfortunately, much of what was stored down there had mildewed. So we rented a dumpster and as we hauled boxes into the yard from the attic, the crawl space, and the garage, we tossed the mildewed items into the dumpster and sorted everything else out for a yard sale. Boy, that is the biggest yard sale we ever had! Because we had household items from every room in the house I am convinced we had the best selection of all in the neighborhood yard sale. I had no idea we had collected so much stuff! At the end of the sale, we donated every leftover item to charity – and that was still a sizeable pile of stuff.

 

It was surprisingly freeing to be rid of all those items, but yet I still had to pare down our belongings because everything we would take with us to Indiana would have to fit in one car and one 26-foot rented moving truck. There were more difficult moments to come.

 

We had decided on three possible towns we wanted to live in, with two of them being higher on the wish list. When in the spring hubby found us a three-bedroom rental in one of our preferred towns, we were elated. Knowing he would want to move in as soon as possible, I arranged with the rental agency to have the house ready for us to sleep in the night I would arrive and to sign papers the following afternoon. I strategically planned the items I would pack so he would have all the necessities to set up housekeeping. I packed everything he would need into the minivan and I hit the road. I completely trusted my husband’s selection of a home for us. The rent was a bit high for the neighborhood, but it was a rent-to-own deal so I knew it would be worth the effort to make any improvements. We had planned to sleep on mattresses on the floor that first night, but the furnace wasn’t working so we slept in his sister’s basement. The next day while he was at work I was at the rental and I started assembling the basic furniture I brought and imagined where everything would go in the house. I was surprised and ashamed of the disappointment I felt about the condition of the house. I had always said that you can make any house a home just by putting your own belongings in it and here I was being put to the test. I was determined to stand by my word. As the day warmed I noticed an unpleasant odor that got stronger as the day went on. By the time hubby got off work I had identified the source of the smell that by this time was irritating my sinuses and my lungs: the carpets smelled like cats. I am allergic to cats.

 

No problem, we thought. We’ll just take up the carpets, refinish those pretty hardwood floors and it will all be good. But the realtor did not go for that idea. She said she would not tear out $2,000 worth of perfectly good carpet. She was angry with me because I had assured her on the phone that I completely trusted my husband’s judgment and she had turned down another renter because of my agreement to rent the place sight unseen. I was miserable. Thankfully, hubby’s sister let us store all that stuff in her basement until we found another place. So I returned to Missouri and the house stacked with boxes to wait.

 

My very pregnant daughter dropped out of school and decided to move with her boyfriend to another city; he had taken a different job so that he could have insurance for her and the baby. They moved the day before we did. I had kept all her bedroom furniture for her and they came by to tie it all on top of their belongings that were loaded onto his pickup truck. It grieved me immensely to be leaving my girls behind, but it seemed to me worse because they would be separated by many miles from each other and would not be find comfort in each other’s presence. I felt this whole experience would either break us, or teach us all more self-reliance.

 

One of the best decisions we made during the whole moving process was to hire professional movers to pack the truck. They were worth every penny. They had the whole house packed up lickety-split, they used their young backs rather than our ageing ones, and they didn’t have a single argument as I am sure we would have!

 

Eventually, my hubby found the perfect rental for us in the town that was at the top of my list. The price was lower and the house was in much better condition than that other house, so I guess the Lord knew what He was doing. We settled our son into his new school as we settled into our new hometown. Hubby and I were so happy to be living together again! The only thing we missed was having the complete autonomy that comes with home ownership; we never felt like it was a permanent home.

 

So this is the part where I tell you about the ugly little house we bought not quite a year ago. I have talked about it in earlier blogs. It is very, very tiny. It feels more so when you live with a man who has long, gorilla-like arms that seem to bump into things even in a very large room. The house was in such rough shape, that we packed up everything except our beds, a tv, a loveseat, and the patio furniture, and moved it all into a 10x30 storage unit. It was kind of like packing it all back into the moving truck. Thankfully, I had saved all the moving boxes. We lived on the porch of the house for several months while we did the renovations. Once the drywall was complete (and we had exhausted our strength), we laid sheets of vinyl flooring and carpeting, moved the main pieces of furniture in, and decided to just live here for the winter months. Meanwhile, I would go to the storage unit from time to time and bring home a carload of things to put away. Those boxes and bags full of our belongings would stay piled in corners until I found a place to put them away or decided to get rid of them. Once the house felt normal again, I would return to the storage unit for another load.

 

We still do not have a climate-controlled space – or even a garage – to absorb any overflow. The shed contains the lawnmower and bicycles and the attic holds the Christmas decorations. Other than that, we have gotten creative with storage solutions or have simply gotten rid of it all.

 

Today, we emptied the storage unit. Surprisingly, I have been able to find a home for most items (even if not in my home). There are a couple of those plastic bins stacked in one closet and some on the enclosed porch. I will not be able to reduce the contents of those bins right away, but at some point I will be able to let more of their contents go. The important thing is that somehow I have survived the culling process (there is probably a good sermon illustration in there somewhere). More importantly, we are able to live in our smaller, but comfortable space without feeling responsible for so much stuff. With that storage unit empty, I am free to concentrate on a multitude of unfinished projects. Maybe even start a quilt.

Posted by Gramz Quilts | 8 comment(s)
Filed under: , ,

Tomorrow, my Love and I will celebrate 27 years of marriage. There have been many blissful moments as well as tearful ones, but our love has endured them all. A facebook friend asked me to tell our wedding story. Since I already shared it there, I thought I would share it with my blog friends as well.

During our engagement, my fiance and I lived several hundred miles apart so we were anxious to firm up the arrangements whenever we could be together. Back then we weren't aware of any tools to help plan marriage ceremonies. If computers and the web had been available back then, we would not have experienced the crazy mix-up that was to come.

On one of his trips to my hometown, I think it was in January, we went to the courthouse to get our marriage license. I remember it well because the ladies there were so friendly. When they asked the date of the wedding, I told them April 6. We did all the paperwork and received congratulations from all the nice people in that office. We were reminded to return the paperwork within 30 days. It felt good to be able to do something together in preparation for the big event.

On the day of the wedding, everything went according to plan. We started a few minutes late, the cake wasn't pure white, and I hadn't completed all the flower arrangements, but otherwise everything was perfect. After the reception we headed for our honeymoon in a city about two hours away. When we arrived at the hotel in our wedding attire, we learned that someone had cancelled our reservations. The hotel manager was quick to remedy the situation and gave us a lovely room and left special gifts for us. The first or second night at the hotel we ordered pizza in our room; after the first delivery, a second call came in for a pizza delivery that turned out to be some of our male college friends playing a trick on us. They never made it up to our room, thankfully!

A few days later we were settling nicely into our little church parsonage and I had fun arranging all our lovely gifts. On the Thursday following the wedding, we had our first argument which we quickly patched up. I can't even recall what we argued about, but immediately afterward we received a call from the minister who officiated at our wedding. The pastor and I were friends; we had grown up together in that congregation and I had even done my ministerial internship under his leadership, but it was still odd that he would call.

 "So, how's married life?" he asked.

I think I responded with something like, "Just fine." I was curious about his call and thought maybe he was calling just to tease us.

"Well, I'm sorry to say that you're not."

"Not what?"

"Not married."

Now I was really confused. He started to explain. He had turned in the license to the courthouse as expected. The problem was, it hadn't been turned in within the required 30 days.

But it HAD, I thought. It hadn't even been a week yet.

Turns out, that paperwork has to be turned it within 30 days of when you APPLY for marriage license. Since I had told the clerk our wedding date, I naturally assumed she meant 30 days after the wedding.

So, there we were, living in the church parsonage and we weren't legally married! We were in utter shock! At that point I must admit I felt quite insecure. What if my groom decided he didn’t want to be married to me at all? But he assured me that he still wanted to be married.

Since the state we lived in required a three day waiting period and blood work to approve a marriage license, and since the announcement would be in the local paper, we decided we had better head back to Kentucky to get another license and have the same minister do the wedding again.

I called my parents to explain the situation and to ask if we could stay the night with them. We quickly packed and were on the road. When we arrived at my parent's house, they both met us at the door. If you knew my dad well, you would realize he rarely answers the door so it was surprising to see him standing there. They had discussed our situation at length and decided that in the eyes of God we were already married so they were going to allow us to sleep in the same bed together that night. I hadn't even thought of that! Of course, we kept to our own sides of the bed that night because my parents’ bedroom was directly below ours!

The next day was Friday, and we immediately applied for and received our new marriage license. The clerks were sweet and apologetic. I think they said this is the first time this situation had occurred. Then on to the church where we were married again, this time I wore navy rather than white. My maid of honor was still available, but my mother signed in place of the best man.

We were very quiet about it at first, because we did not want to cause a problem for our little church where my husband was the pastor. But our district presbyter thought the story was hilarious and he liked to introduce us by telling people that we lived together before we were married.

Now it is just a funny story. I understand that minister now warns couples not to make the same mistake. The fun advantage is that we have two anniversaries to celebrate so we can pick the date that is most convenient for work and family schedules. But I always have to remind myself to write down the legal date when asked; I still view the first date as the real one.

A few years ago, my DH moved us halfway across the country because he wanted to get a graduate degree. At 2,400 square feet, the home we left behind was pretty big and since everything we would take with us had to fit in our one vehicle and one moving truck we had to pare down substantially. What was most difficult for me to leave behind was the dining table, chairs, and buffet we had purchased secondhand from a neighbor. DH promised that we would buy new dining furniture as soon as we settled into our new home. He is always the optimist when it comes to money, but I knew it wouldn't be so easy.

Despite the best of his intentions, I knew it would be a long time before we could get new furniture. First of all, neither of us had work in our new town. Secondly, we were both students again. Thirdly, the new house needed work. It would be a long time before we would have the money to shop for furniture. In the meantime, we made do with one of those plastic lawn tables. You know the kind; it comes in a flat box and you assemble it by sticking the four legs into the slots on the underside of the tabletop. We had four stackable plastic chairs to go with it. It worked great and was easy to clean after meals. However, it's one serious flaw was that it was not steady if you had something on your plate that required a knife to cut. Serving steak? Forget it unless you are willing to serve guests their steak already cut up like we did for the kids.

I was determined to get a pretty, quality set. So when I had any "free" time - between my responsibilities as mother to a 12 year old, a one year old, undergraduate studies, graduate studies, and part time job - I was on the lookout for a dining suite. I would have been very happy with the antique Duncan Phyfe sets I found at very reasonable prices at a store I discovered in town. But my DH doesn't like antiques, preferring items to be new and shiny. So although I haunted the antique store, I also scoured furniture stores for deals and popped in to every yard sale I could find. Many months later, I did find a reasonably priced set I could be happy with. It was at a furniture store. I dragged my DH kicking and screaming to look at it. He was unimpressed. The one he picked out was made by a good quality manufacturer, but it was one of those really pricey models. I could just imagine it's shiny dark surface covered with fingerprints. The home we lived it was very casual in style, so that highfalutin version would be entirely out of place in our home.

In the end, it was DH who found the ideal set for us. When we were finally ready to buy, he got two competing stores to try to undercut each other's prices. I thought we still paid too much, but I did love the red oak mission style. We bit the bullet and bought the table, eight chairs, china cabinet, tv cabinet, and end tables because the dining and familiy rooms opened into each other and we wanted both rooms to coordinate. I had dreams of filling our entire home with mission style furniture and I was convinced that the table was so beautiful that some future generation of the Quilts family would be fighting over who would keep it.

I never dreamed at that time that the tv cabinet would go out of style so quickly. A few years and a couple of moves later, we had acquired one of those huge, newfangled, wall-mounted, flat screen, plasma televisions. What would I do with my tv cabinet? It was expensive when I bought it and it matched the rest of my furniture, so you can bet your boots I was not going to give it up without a fight. So I used it to store (depending on the house and the need) linens, games, sewing stuff, or the kid's video gaming equipment. I had seen in a magazine that someone had converted theirs into a home office and I seriously considered installing some of those metal drawer glides to make mine work like that. But I knew there wouldn't be enough leg room for my tall DH to really use it. So it remained a storage cabinet until very recently.

I finally came upon the perfect use for my old tv cabinet when we moved into our current (and, hopefully our last) residence. There is not enough closet space in our tiny home; in fact, there is no closet at all in our bedroom. So I went to the hardware store to figure out a way to put a closet rod in my tv cabinet. Someone else must have had the same brilliant idea, because I found a telescoping rod with brackets soldered to each end - perfect for installing in a cabinet. Once installed, I had the ideal place to store my hanging clothes. My dresses remain in the back of my son's closet; I don't wear them every day so it is not inconvenient at all. And since the new wardrobe matches the dining furniture so well, I left it right where it was and it blends in perfectly. 

Here is how you can convert your tv cabinet into storage for your hanging clothes:

1. Get yourself a tv cabinet. Measure to see if it is deep enough to hang clothes in. Make sure the side walls are sturdy enough to screw your rod into. If not, see if there is a sturdy place to install a 1"x4" support on both sides.

2. Remove existing shelving. In my case, I used an allen wrench (that L-shaped, hexagon piece that comes with assemble-yourself furniture).

3. Paint it or refinish it if necessary.

4. Place it in it's final spot because it is probably pretty heavy and the following steps are not too messy.

5. If your cabinet has a built in power strip, plug it in now. It will be too heavy to move after you hang your clothes. It will be handy to use if you install a light or if you want to put a decorative lamp on top of the cabinet.

6. Install an inexpensive light with a switch that is designed for under a cabinet. A battery operated push light will work, too.

7. Purchase a hanging rod long enough for your cabinet. In my case, I found one at Menard's for $7 that telescoped and had end pieces attached and screws included. Mark where you want the screws to go; make sure the doors will still open and close.

8. Using a small drill bit, pre-drill holes for the screws. To avoid drilling too far and going through the cabinet, mark the depth on your drill bit with a piece of tape which can be removed when you finish the project.

9. Install the hanging rod using the screws that came with the kit. Check to make sure the rod is secure before you hang your clothes.

10. Send me a pic of your project. I'd love to see it!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Gramz Quilts | with no comments

Since I married my hubby 27 years ago, we have lived in eight houses. I did the math: that is an average of 3.375 years per location. “Setting up housekeeping” as my great-grandmother used to say, would be so much easier if each new home had rooms of similar size or color as the previous place. But I was never that fortunate.

 

As newlyweds, our first house together was a church parsonage and it had not been improved for at least a dozen years. It had matted gold carpet in the living room and bedrooms; the kitchen had avocado appliances and that icky green was incorporated into the designs of the backsplash, countertops, and vinyl flooring. With the exception of the gray paneled bathroom and one paneled wall in the living room, the entire house had been painted so it was easy to freshen everything up with a coat of neutral paint.

 

Like most people, when we started out we didn’t have a lot of nice things so we made do. My DH (dear hubby) purchased us a second-hand couch and chair he described to me in a phone call as the shape and color of a football (they were chocolate brown with edges rounded rather than squared off). He brought his queen size bed and small chest of drawers from the house he grew up in. We salvaged a rusty table from the basement of the parsonage and used it in the kitchen with some folding chairs we borrowed from the church. For end tables I set some sturdy cardboard cases on end and arranged books in them like shelves. I raided my parent’s basement and found some odds and ends furniture that I put to good use. It was during those days that I learned the joys of yard sale-ing.

 

I discovered a store that sold discontinued wallpaper. I remember the time I worked nearly through the night and hung wallpaper in the kitchen, cleaned up the mess, and tumbled into bed. In those days, in addition to pastoring, my hubby held a “regular” job to pay the bills. When he rose early the next morning, he discovered the kitchen had changed overnight to country blue with lots and lots of geese. I could tell from his exclamation that he was impressed with my work. I smiled and rolled over to go back to sleep. From that moment, I was hooked on decorating projects.

 

Thankfully, I am married to a guy who usually likes my work (sometimes my ideas are not so great). The times he is unhappy with my projects are the times when those projects disrupt life in general, and dinner in particular. So, even if I can’t get the project completed in a single day, I do make an effort to get the mess cleaned up before he sees just how bad it got. Overall, he seems to be happy and I have even overheard him bragging about me once or twice.

 

Getting a different house every 3-4 years has not set any records, but it has given me some experience. I have learned what is important to pack and how to protect it for the move. I have learned what to let go. And I have learned when to make do and when to buy quality.

 

I still enjoy decorating my home and I especially like to get creative without spending lots of money because I can think of lots of things I would prefer to spend the money on. Some friends have asked me to write down some of my ideas. To tell the truth I don't believe my ideas are particularly brilliant; in fact most of them are spawned by someone else's idea: something I saw in a magazine or on television or in a store. Anyway, I thought I would share some of them here. I hope you will share some of your in return. Sharing our ideas with each other will keep our creative juices flowing.

 

Happy decorating!

Mrs. Komnenovich was my fourth grade teacher.

 

I was nervous on the first day of school, but the butterflies in my stomach were especially active since it was the first day of a new school. We had moved for the second time in eighteen months so this was the third school of my career in public school and it was different from the previous schools because those classrooms had all been on the single floor; Monfort Heights Elementary was a great big, old, three-storey building with a basement. When Monfort Heights Elementary inhabits my dreams it is always much bigger and has multiple basements; it also has many, many stairs between my classroom and the bus and I am always worried the bus will pull out before I can get there. It had a gymnasium but no pool. However, in my dreams there is a pool deep within the twisting and turning bowels of the hulking building - way beyond the lower level locker rooms. This all sounds more ominous than I intended, but I think the occasional dreams are just a way for me to work through particular stresses in my life.

 

I do remember bits of that first day of the fourth grade; especially the other students since this was my first time meeting them. The common names were Mike, Dave, Bob, Rick, and Tom for boys, as well as Karen, Mary, Debbie, Barb, and Lisa for girls. There were so many Karens that one girl opted to go by the pet name her family called her. Then there was also the girl of Greek heritage who, shocking to the rest of us, had no middle name yet when spelled out on paper her first and last names alone were longer than any of our three names.

 

That year was the first year that lessons in stringed instruments were offered in our school district and it had been decided to begin with fourth graders although the band instruments did not begin until the fifth grade. The “orchestra” teacher traced our hands on a piece of paper and recommended an instrument based on the size of our hand and the length of our arm. I picked the violin and I was surprised when my parents actually rented an instrument and encouraged me to play. Once we got to junior high and then high school, we were the class to introduce strings to each new school and we were the first orchestra students to graduate. Many kids dropped out along the way, opting to focus on sports or band or choir or art, but I managed to hang in there. I enjoyed it, but I also felt obligated to stick with it. If we all dropped out then future generations might not have this option. In retrospect, perhaps it was silly of me to that kind of pressure on myself, but that doesn’t make it feel any less real.

 

Fourth grade class work was challenging. I had always worked hard in earlier grades because I wanted to do as well as the really smart kids. You know the type: those who would shout out the last word on the spelling test although the words were given in no particular order or who finished the math assignment so quickly that they got to help the teacher grade the other papers. In the third grade I had always felt a step behind in math; I never could seem to finish quickly enough to help Mrs. Miller grade. My mom tells me it is because I struggled with the multiplication tables. Apparently I was a step behind here at Monfort Heights as well. There were three fourth-grade classrooms and for reading and math the students were divided by ability. At math time I found myself in another classroom with all the students of the middle group; I felt humiliated that I wasn’t good enough for the higher group. For reading, I was sent to Mrs. Richardson’s class – also the middle group.

 

In Mrs. Richardson’s class, I learned the importance of a good name. It happened only once, but I remember it well. While taking attendance she commented about how strong one boy’s name was: Ben J. She said it sounded like he would be a lawyer or a judge or something. She repeated his name for emphasis. I still wonder how his life turned out.

 

I didn’t stay forever in Mrs. Richardson’s class because one day she sent me back to my homeroom for reading. I had been promoted to the higher reading class! I was stunned and embarrassed; I hoped I didn’t draw the attention of the other children at that moment. But I was satisfied that I was finally where I wanted to be.

 

That year was the first year I felt mocked and bullied by another student. I wanted to do all things well and I wanted to be noticed, but even when I did well I did not wish to draw attention to myself. In art class when I lamented the less than satisfactory result on my project, one girl began to mock me. I think she interpreted my self-deprecating comments as false humility and decided to call me out on it. She was a popular girl who always wore the latest styles and confidently spoke her mind, so of course I wanted to be like her. I was miserable when she teased me about my accent which, unfortunately, was stronger whenever I returned from a trip to southern Kentucky to visit extended family. So I worked hard to perfect my speech and use of grammar so as not to be considered backward or stupid.

 

But English and grammar were difficult subjects for me – and my grade card showed it. I was devastated when my report card had a C next to English. Until that first fourth-grade report card I had straight As. I now recall that the school I attended for the second half of the second grade and for all the third grade was significantly behind the schools I attended in the first and the fourth grades. But the only thing I could think of when I saw my very first C, was that I was frustration because so much of the new curriculum seemed foreign to me. I felt dumb.

 

Despite the challenges of fourth grade, there was one redeeming thing about it: Mrs. Komnenovich. Mrs. K. (her name was often shortened thusly because the closest some people could get to pronouncing her name was Ms. Kuh-nen’-a-vich) must have been petite, because she didn’t seem very tall or wide to me. She wore polyester pantsuits and the tops were usually white or ivory colored and were printed with floral or geometric designs. Her lipstick was too bright, but she smiled often. I do remember an occasional student getting into trouble, but I do not recall her raising her voice or yelling. She didn’t have the walls covered with stuff like the classrooms of today, but the bulletin boards were always colorfully decorated and she planned crafts around the holidays. Best of all, at the end of the school day if our class work was completed, Mrs. K. played games.

 

I don’t recall if I ever had a teacher play “Around the World” like Mrs. K. The game is played with flash cards. A student stands next to the person seated behind him who is also standing. The first person to correctly identify the card moved to the next person behind and the loser is seated. Sometimes the subject was math, but my favorite was when she used the geography or States flash cards. The other students were familiar with the game, and Ricky W. blew us all away when it came to identifying the shapes of countries. With the States cards the subject would vary: state bird, state capital, or the state itself. I lived for the days we would play “Around the World”.

 

Sure, fourth grade was difficult, but there are lots of good memories, too. Some of the friends I made there were with me the day I graduated from high school. Since there were 557 students in our graduating class, I had lost contact with many of those kids because our academic focuses varied and some attended classes in other buildings in business, car repair, or cosmetology. I did see them in the halls from time to time. But I met others who moved up through the ranks from other schools that fed into my high school. And, thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with some of those people. We are parents and grandparents now and retirement is not so far off. I still wonder where some of them are and what they do.

 

But the reason I began this story is Mrs. Komnenovich. I wanted to tell you about the last day of fourth grade. All the achievement testing was done. The field day competition was over. All the milestones for the year had been reached. And we had one more “Around the World” game to play. She got out her grade book for reference and we began in the front, far right corner of the classroom. These questions were different. It was the Who’s Who of Mrs. K’s fourth grade class of 1973. Who has the highest grade point average? Who has the second highest grade point average? Who had the highest score on the achievement tests? Who had the most (fill in the blank)? The questions went on and on. She had prizes for the students who had achieved those goals.

 

The answers to most of those questions were obvious to us all. We all knew who were the brightest and most talented among us. But there was one question that had the entire class stumped. I believe every single person had a guess and absolutely no one could give the correct answer. Mrs. K. burst into laughter after my guess, an action which I tried not to take personally, but how could I feel badly when nobody else could answer correctly either? Finally, Mrs. Komnenovich had to tell us who had the second highest score on the achievement tests. It was … me. The whole class fell silent and stared at me as stunned as I. I slunk down in my chair then went to her desk to retrieve my prize. Me?

 

Today, I have my doubts as to whether Mrs. K. would be allowed to share those stats with the class as it is probably against the law, ethics, and school policy to do so. But I am so glad she did. I might have felt like I was lost somewhere in the middle when it came to grades and ability, I might have seemed shy and backward to others, but on that last day of school Mrs. Komnenovich found a way to let me know that I was special, too.

 

Thanks, Mrs. K!

I’ve heard of the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and although living with two guys I sometimes feel like I am living among aliens, I am skeptical about plunking the sexes in different categories. I have never been interested in reading that book. I will tell you that I am convinced that men and women speak different languages. It has taken me years to figure it out, but now that I armed with this new information I am compelled to share the secret with every woman I meet. Let me explain how I think this all came about.

 

From the very beginning, boys are taught to communicate differently from girls. The baby girl is handled delicately, is immersed in a world of lace, lavender and pink, and is spoken to with complete, although babyish, sentences. In a couple of years she is chatting away to her girlfriends and dollies. Boys, on the other hand, are roughhoused from the beginning and are taught to communicate with grunts, squeals, noises made by various body parts. Their play consists of wrestling, pushing cars, and going very fast; activities accompanied by sounds of engines, whistles, crashes, and explosions and those activities require very little use of actual words.

 

The problem is worsened by the current school system. Those boys I sat next to in school, the very ones who had the same English classes and the same English teachers from grade school all the way through high school, were taught something completely different from what I learned. I know this for a fact. It might have appeared that the teacher was feeding us the same information, but we were duped. The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that throughout their formal education the boys were given a different dictionary than the girls were given; and the result is that while a man and a woman might believe they are having the same conversation, in reality they are not.

 

“You will arrive WHEN? Just in time for the wedding? We were counting on you. You were supposed to be here an hour ago. The wedding is in four hours and now you have a four and a half hour drive ahead of you.”

 

“I said I would be there for the wedding and I will.”

 

“No, you asked me when we need you here.”

 

“I asked you when the wedding starts. Five o’clock, right? So I am leaving now.”

 

 

My “separate but not equal dictionaries” theory also explains why men and women just do not and cannot understand each other. As a result, as we learn more about the people we talk to on a daily basis we start to dance around each other, size up our partner, and calculate how to make the next statement in a way that is not offensive or demeaning because to do so could cause a fight or, worse, could result in the silent treatment.

 

“Honey, I need the bank card from your wallet. Where is your purse?”

 

Knowing she has to be precise in her description or she will have to get up and get it herself she says, “In the kitchen on the shelf under the light switch.” From her perch on the living room couch she silently watches him standing in the middle of the kitchen. He is studying the contents of the cluttered kitchen table. She realizes she gave him too many clues in one sentence. His shoulders droop in frustration.

 

“I don’t see it.”

 

“Find the light switch.” He turns toward the wall. “Now look at the shelf just under the light switch.”

 

“Got it!”

 

Eventually, through an unfathomable process that takes place deep in the mysterious recesses of the male brain, men become masters of a complicated pattern of speech: the awkward segue. Let me give you an example of how this all translates to a couple who are 50ish and have been married for more than 25 years (um, yeah, that’s my DH and me). The conversation begins with a discussion about the upcoming dental appointment of one of the children. She is aware that as a child he suffered miserably because of the silver crowns the dentist put on his teeth after a bicycling accident and his misery translated into an obsession about their children’s teeth. Although this particular child is grown and is supporting herself, he wants to pay the portion of the bill that is not covered by insurance even though doing so will require a financial sacrifice by the family.

 

She says, “I understand you are concerned about how the kids feel about themselves if their teeth are …”

 

He interrupts, “That’s why I married you, you know.”

 

She blinks. “Because I have ugly teeth?”

 

“Because of your smile.”

 

“You felt sorry for me because the way my ugly teeth affected my smile?”

 

“I married you because of your smile.”

 

“Huh?”  His real meaning is beginning to take shape in her mind.

 

“Never mind!” He was thinking he shouldn’t have said anything at all.

 

“Are you saying I have a nice smile?”

 

Long pause. “Yeah, that’s what I was said.”

 

“Aw, honey, that is such a nice thing for you to say!”  But she was thinking, “Why doesn’t he say what he means instead of me having to try to figure it out?”  Avoiding the looming argument, she said in as sweet a tone as she could muster, “Thank you!”

 

Like I said before, I do not like to pigeonhole people. I have had numerous conversations with men – even with the man I am married to – and not all of those conversations go badly; in fact those conversations can be mentally stimulating and satisfying. In my experience, conversation has become a metaphor for the human experience: sometimes we are willing to put in more effort for acquaintances than for who are most important to us. A little more effort would go a long way. But then again, maybe we really do speak different languages.

 

 

Posted by Gramz Quilts | with no comments

I sat up with a start when I realized my twelve year old son was standing next to me. It was late and he had been sent to bed hours ago. I was, as usual, checking my favorite online sites.

 

“I TOLD you to feed me!” He was obviously agitated. I studied his face and looked into eyes which stared vacantly. Sleepwalking again? He muttered some unintelligible words but I caught the gist of what he was saying with, “I’m hungry! How am I supposed to help my parachuters without food? I have to help them, now get me some food NOW!”

 

I giggled. Just a tiny one. I couldn’t help it. “I don’t parachute, just like I don’t bungee jump. So what is it you need?”

 

“You never feed me. There’s never enough food around here! Get me some food. I am responsible for my parachuter guys and I need food now!”  I was really grinning now. Maybe I really should limit his time spent with video games.

 

“Why are you laughing at me?” Uh, oh. He was coming around.

 

“I’m not laughing at you. I am trying to understand what you are saying.”

 

“You make me so mad! You are too laughing at me! Nevermind, I am going to bed.”

 

And he did.

 

It's much harder to downsize than I thought.

I had good intentions. I even had a good plan. But this is harder than I thought.

I have experience with moving. In 26 years of marriage, my husband and I have lived in eight homes. I did the math. I averaged a 3.71 year stay in each of the previous seven houses. As a result, I consider myself pretty much a pro at packing and moving. I also think I am pretty darn good at setting up a new household which means, more often than not, making do.

Moving a lot also means one learns a good deal about one's spouse. In my case, this specialized knowledge developed an extraordinary skill set and triggered some interesting behaviors. I learned to pack the most important items first since anything that doesn't fit might be left at the curb as the truck pulls away. I learned to fight for a place for any furniture which is designed for organization. I discovered a need to look over hubby's shoulder as he hauled boxes from sheds, attics, and basements to make sure they make it to my packing area or he might decide they are worthless and drop them in a dumpster. I found it is important to take the non-perishable foods as well as inexpensive and easily replaced items (even if he insists we can buy new ones after we relocate) because there is never enough money after the move to replace them right away. I learned some items are not so important after I had to move them so many times. I also became more organized and self-reliant because I learned first hand what a move is like when you live with someone who is not so organized and is seemingly disinterested in the process until the very last minute when it is time to gas up the vehicle and cram miscellaneous items wherever they might fit.

When we returned to Indiana last year, we had already significantly downsized the amount of things we had, keeping in mind that everything we were taking with us had to fit in a 26 foot moving truck and our two vehicles. Before the move we had a 2000+ square foot home with literally tons of stuff stored in the 2-1/2 car garage, attic, and huge crawl space. We left behind two grown daughters in Missouri and we passed many things on to them. We gave away stuff. We donated stuff. We sold stuff. We discarded stuff. And, ultimately, we rented a dumpster and had stuff hauled away. It was embarrassing, really. I hadn't realized we had accumulated so much. It was freeing to let all that stuff go.

We moved the remainder of our stuff into the little rental house in our new hometown. After we had lived in the rental for six months and had become familiar with our little town, I began the search for a house to purchase. We enjoy the fun and responsibility that comes with home ownership. Before the first anniversary of our return to Indiana we found our new home, a little bungalow. The difficulty was the house was in bad shape and our lease was up, so all our stuff went into storage.

We tried living in the roomy, finished basement of my husband's brother. The house was comfortable and we felt welcomed there; they even designated the basement bathroom for use only by the three of us. But it was inconvenient to get our son to and from school every day. Traveling between our town and my brother-in-law's town was getting old. Were quickly tired of eating out. And we missed our stuff. So we rushed to get one tiny bedroom and the closed in porch in livable condition. As soon as those two areas were clean and we had hot water for the new bathtub, we moved our beds, a loveseat, and a television into the bungalow.

It has been several months since we first made our bedroom on the enclosed porch. Thankfully, our bedroom was livable before the weather turned cold. Our little house is coming along nicely. Except for minor inconveniences, we are quite comfortable. But I still miss my stuff.

Except for the living room and my son's bedroom, every room has been organized, renovated, and reorganized until it contains all it can hold and still be attractive and functional. Yet, the storage unit is still full of stuff.

Each trip from the storage unit must be planned with great effort because there simply is no more room in the house. For example, I completely emptied the porch (which has become the staging area for every project) to make room for the Christmas decorations and my sewing things so I could make room for them in the house. To accomplish this I had to empty, paint, install flooring and shelving in the closet in my son's room so there would be room for our hanging clothes, add a cabinet and reorganize the pantry in the kitchen to make room for fabric, find a place for the box of autumn decorations, and donate another minivan full of stuff to the town resale shop. All this took a matter of weeks. You wouldn't think it would be such a big deal, but I have never lived in a house before that did not have usable space in a basement, attic, or garage: this house has none of those. So every item that comes in the house means that something else has to go out.

I do have plans for getting all our treasures out of the storage unit, but it is going to take much longer than I had planned. Since my husband has had periods of illness ans injury in recent months, he has been unable to assist with lifting heavy items. So the bookcases, for which I have big plans, remain in the storage unit along with the big dining table and chairs and the couch. So this week I came to the conclusion that our storage unit is going to serve as our attic/garage/basement storage until we can figure out a more permanent fix. And if that permanent fix means more stuff gets sold, tossed, or donated, then at least I will have more time to determine which stuff goes and which stuff stays.

You might think I sound like a hoarder; in fact, my husband called me that the other day and since I have seen those television shows about hoarders I'll admit I did not respond well to being called one. I am not a hoarder. In fact, it is more important to me that my home look attractive than that I keep all the stuff I have had in my possession over the years. I do hold tightly to some things, but only until I determine whether there is a need for it; f I decide we don't need it I am happy to see it go to another home, but I get pretty ticked off when perfectly good stuff gets thrown in the trash. Just the other day my husband decided there wasn't enough room in the closet so he threw ALL his dress clothes in the trash and said he only needs work clothes. I was horrified when I learned of it, but I try not to meddle when it is his stuff. I had made plenty of room in the closet for his belongings, but at the very least I thought they should have been given to someone who would use them rather than throwing them in the garbage. I think that is why it may seem I keep a death grip on my stuff.

Give me time to let it go, and I will. In the meantime, I'll keep sorting my stuff when I visit it at the storage unit. Eventually, I'll have only the best stuff and the most practical stuff that actually fits in this little space. And I'll make do until it all works out.

 

Posted by Gramz Quilts | 6 comment(s)
Filed under: , ,

Maybe I should just do one more drive by. But I had driven by before and this house looked hideous. It looked tiny. It had a tarp nailed to the roof. Visitors would never be able to find us there. It is so UGLY. But our need for an affordable place overruled the cringing I felt at the idea of touching the dirty old place.

I had been glued to the Zillow website for weeks. We had relocated to NW Indiana when my DH had landed a job here. He had been working here for six months before we had enough cash to make the move. He found us a great little rental here in the town we had chosen for its proximity to his work and for it's stellar schools. Although we had a wonderful landlord, we prefer home ownership to renting and since we were only a few months from the end of our lease we were looking for a house to purchase. This is a great market if you are looking for a home and I had found several that met our criteria. We wanted to remain in our school district, we wanted to stay close to mid-town so we could ride our bikes on sidewalks, - and we wanted something cheap.

Like I said, I had been watching the listings for weeks. The beauty of the Zillow site is that it will notify you when a property's price is reduced. I found some amazing deals. I even dragged my DH to view a few of them. Two of them were perfect; they were big enough to accomodate his tools and my quilting studio and they had two car garages. The prices were amazingly affordable. I was so excited to have find such amazing buys, but both were sold before we could make an offer. I blame two people: my DH and my realtor. Neither of them could be available to make an offer in a timely manner.  By the time I could contact either of them another offer had been accepted on both properties. It was pretty frustrating.

So, here I was looking at the picture of the ugly house again. It was in a neighborhood close the the middle school my DS would be attending in the fall. It was close enough to town that we could ride our bikes to the library, town hall, the center of town where the European Market takes place on Saturdays from early spring through late fall, and it is only a coule of miles from the beach on Lake Michigan. It had a nice size yard with reasonable distance from neighboring properties. It was sheltered by a great old maple that must be at least a hundred years old. It even had a great price  - and the price had gone down the night before. The asking price was now around $30,000 - a huge deal in this town, even for a really ugly house.

So before I knew it, I was sitting in front of this sad, lonely, little house which was surrounded by a sea of chest-high grass and wondering if we could make it work for the three of us. We don't need, much, I thought to myself, just a place of our own. There was a huge board strapped to the clothes line post with the asking price and a phone number spray painted on it. I said a prayer and called my realtor. Of course he wasn't available, so I left a message with his assitant and I waited. And waited. I recalled the other two houses we had lost out on because of delays on the part of my DH and my realtor. I determined that would never happen again, so I picked up the phone and dialed the number myself. I was given the combination to the lock on the door and was given permission to enter.

Having been disappointed before when someone else snapped up good houses at bargain prices, I was afraid to get excited and I actually dreaded going in to this old place because it looked very small and pretty rough, but I was NOT going to miss out on another great deal. I waded through the swaying grass and hoped my allergies would not set off and that I wouldn't step on some living thing that might bite or scare me to death. I stepped onto the tiny porch and was surprised that it was in reasonably sturdy shape. The whole place smelled mouldy and birds fled from openings in the eaves and around the door as I worked the combination, opened the door, and peered inside.

I was immediately amazed at how much sunlight filled the decent sized kitchen as I stepped through the door. The 1970's era vinyl floor was missing in places and had been patched with checkerboard contact paper. The drop ceiling was missing some tiles and I could see the lath and plaster ceiling above it was sagging and missing huge chunks where the insulation hung down. I moved through an arched doorway to the dining room in which part of the ceiling was crumbling where there had been a leak in the roof. The celing looked dry, despite the recent spring rains. Huge sheets of paint and wallpaper were peeling from the ceiling and walls and the painted wood floor appeared to have buckled from the humidity. But there were lovely elements, too. The ceiling was 9 feet high, making the smallish room feel much larger. The double window appeared to be a good quality replacement which was true to the size of the original window and the around the window and baseboards was beefy; unlike the kitchen, this room had maintained the charm of the decade in which it was built.

The next room was in better condition. I looked through a wider arched door to the living room in which the ceiling and floors were intact. The window and the door which opened onto the big porch, although badly painted, appeared to be original to the house. I was beginning to get excited. Once I pried open the door to the porch, I knew I wanted a shot at this house. The porch had windows on three sides and the windows all appeared to be originals. It was horribly dirty, but the glass that survived was wonderfully wavy and slightly distored the view which was of lots of trees and grass. When I turned back into the house, I found two very tiny bedrooms and a really icky little bathroom. I was in love with the place already.

When I returned to my car, I got a call from the realtor's assistant who said she had the code to the house if I decided I wanted to look at it she would arrange it with the realtor. I didn't tell her I had already been in the house. As I thanked her I was thinking I would ignore the realtor this time and go for it myself. I called the owner/bank again and asked about terms for a cash purchase and was amazed that I could get this little house for a third less than the asking price!

I could not reach my DH by phone, and the hours until he got home from work really seemed to drag by in an unbearably slow manner. I dragged him over to see the house and I was so amazed that his reaction to the porch was similar to mine; this is nothing short of miraculous since this man hates old things and antiques.

So that is the beginning of the story of our adorable, ugly little Union Avenue house. I have included a copy of the picture on the Zillow listing so you can see why it took me so long to check out the house even at it's very affordable price. In the months since we acquired it, our ugly duckling is slowly changing into a swan.

This is so like our Savior's great love. He sees beyond the ugliness of our sinful souls and finds value in someone that has been abused and neglected. Through his saving grace He makes old things become new again and even appreciates the character of the individual. Under his care and attention our battered lives become worthwhile and we are warmed and begin to thrive in the sunlight of His love. Old scars may remain, but the healing of the Great Physician is deep and complete. Thank you, Lord, for Your loving compassion that sees beyond what the world sees and restores our souls.

 

More Posts « Previous page