This weekend we visited with some friends who had recently completed their renovation project- a lovely old farm house with big Victorian windows. It took them almost seven long years. I thought it would be hard to see yet another set of our friends completing their home and moving forward, leaving us so far behind. I admit, it is hard to swallow sometimes. We work so hard and have so little to show for it, but it can also be encouraging to see other couples who have struggled with a house project for years that eventually comes to completion.
"Did you ever think it would be finished?" I always ask. It gives me hope to hear the inevitable answer.
"No, never." Is always the reply.
Hope lives in the oddest of places.
Before the fashionably colored paint is even dry on the wall, news of pregnancy always follows swiftly. The message is clear, Our house is done and now we will begin our family. Now we can begin our real lives.
The regrets pile up in my mind. Did we make a mistake staying here, trying to stay close to our family, in a completely unaffordable area? Should we have moved to the mid-west where we would live like kings? Or some southern state where we could have built a house? Would we make friends? Would we find a church? Would doing that have been a mistake?
The funny thing is, before I ever could have dreamed that we would own it, I used to drive by our house and think That's such a cute house. It has such potential. It could really be something. The Mister and I had just begun courting, so I knew the "for sale" sign out front would be gone by the time we were married and looking for a place to live. What I didn't know is that the sign would reappear again after an amateur house-flipper had had his inexperienced way with it. We're talking crooked walls and a kitchen floor so skewed towards one corner of the room that it could flip you over in a somersault. I still can't believe that we ended up in the house I used to drive by and think fondly about, the house that has ended up causing so much anguish and frustration. Every time my Mister pulls out a rotted beam from a wall, he can't believe the house ever stood this long.
And while it is vaguely comforting to know that every one of your friends has either reconstructed or is now in the process of renovating an old house in such disrepair that it could have been bulldozed in the blink of an eye, it does not make it any easier when you come home from work to a dirty construction site night after night. In this situation, civility lives in the oddest of places. Take, for instance, the Mr. Clean Magic Sponge. On Saturday I was feeling ambitious in my cleaning, so I got out the Mr. Clean Magic sponge and went to town on our appliances and doors. It worked very well on our back door which always has a lot of dirt from the dogs jumping on it and my husband hauling construction debris outside. In case you are wondering whether that magic sponge really works, it does a good job of getting rid of marks that won't come off with soap and water or other products. Most of my other cleaning efforts were quickly voided when the Mister started tearing out a ceiling in the living room to prepare it for a new beam. We are getting rid of the wall that separated the living room from the entrance way by the front door in an effort to open things up and make the tiny living room seem more spacious.
Then, as dirt fell from the attic on to the living room floor, I wondered why I even bother to clean anything around the house, ever. It reminds me of a story I once read where this homeless family always lived in these shacks without electricity or windows or even doors, but the mother would collect colorful glass bottles to place near a window for decoration. Perhaps it's because dignity lives in the oddest of places.
On the Table: Vegetable lasagna, strawberry rhubarb pie.
Around the Home: Finishing winter sewing (finally!) and starting on spring. With an eye on warmer weather, we shopped for a barbecue grill (and found one) and a certain man is now always mentioning "the spring construction season" which I find hilarious. Because, you know, the construction season is year round at our place.
On the Nightstand: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writing from the Ozarks. Long before she wrote about her pioneer girlhood in those Little House books that are so widely adored (and seem to have a special place in the hearts of conservative Christian folks), Laura was a thoroughly modern country woman. She was committed to learning, education, politics, farming, looking her best, and as a poultry expert she loved chickens more than children. No quaint prairie moments here, the true Laura would surprise many.