One miraculous week

I thought about splitting this blogpost into two entries or even three but after some careful musing, I decided to cram it all into one so that maybe you can get the same overwhelmed, amazed-at-the-suddenly-rapid-progress feeling I have experienced this past week or so.

I got back from my trip to Washington last Saturday and spent the weekend more or less passed out from exhaustion on my bed, not even able to muster up the energy to notice if any work had been done around the house. And even when I had gotten a little bit of energy back, I couldn’t see much difference than before my trip.  Still no kitchen to speak of, no functioning bathroom and of course, no windows, although some progress had been made there. And of course there was unpacking to do, laundry to be washed, grocery shopping to catch up on- when momma leaves for a week, there is always plenty of catching up to do. 

But I was wrong in my first surmise.  Things had been done around the house.  Plans had been made, parts been ordered and delivery dates for certain, important appliances had been set.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know and not without a lot of preliminary work, I am sure.  And so, somehow, this week decided to be the week where several things fell into place and allowed us to take a big jump forward in settling in.

Monday morning, the hubby told me that I should probably start cleaning out the trailer and moving everything that hadn’t been moved yet up to the house.  I was reticent to do so, since it seemed like tempting fate to presume that we might be finally be done with the trailer at last. Surely something would come up to hinder progress yet again, I thought, and if there were actually any real wood anywhere in the trailer, I would have been knocking it every few minutes as I scrubbed windows, emptied out cupboards and bleached the minuscule shower curtain.  Would it be possible, really, to say farewell so soon to my least favorite bathroom and kitchen in the world? While I pondered these questions, work really was going forward on better ones. It was usually late at night, after the poor, exhausted hubby got home from work, but slowly the bathroom went from looking like this 


To this




Of course, this is a temporary fix for the bathroom.  (And when I say temporary, I mean it will probably stay this way for the next ten years or so) We planned on tiling the majority of it, but tile in such large quantities started to add up rather alarmingly, so we had to settle for this hideous looking green, gooey, waterproof membrane rolled onto the walls and floor.

But it looks better on the walls than in the bucket, it does the job it needs to and I would take this bathroom over the trailer one every day.  My babies inaugurated the room by bathing in it tonight and I won’t tell you how excited I am for my shower tomorrow morning lest you think me ridiculous.

And then, there is my kitchen.  This is also going to be a temporary fix until we can save up enough money for cabinetry etc., but it is more than passable for the time being. What we had set up before (to try and avoid running down to the trailer and back and forth for every meal) was really atrocious- a lopsided old table with a microwave, a toaster oven and coffee making supplies piled pell mell on top.  This is what it looked like after I had been gone for a week. Don’t look, mother.

This side of the kitchen is where my good countertops and kitchen sink will eventually go, so I decided to get rid of the awful table and get creative using the other side of the kitchen for the time being.  But in order to move my kitchen stuff out of the trailer and out of storage and into circulation again, I needed some kind of shelving. I have a nice pantry but no built in shelves and not a lot in reserve to be purchasing shelving.  Luckily, my basement and porch are brimming over with scrap wood and even a few odd bits of furniture that came with the house. 

This particular hutch had been sitting on my porch for at least a dozen years- seriously.  It was unbelievably filthy and I wasn’t sure it was even salvageable, but I thought I might as well try.

I didn’t take any photos of the in between stages, but after a ton of sanding and painting and patchwork and a tasteful yard or two of fabric to cover up the less fixable areas, the  boys and I succeeded in shoving it into the pantry where it fit perfectly and I had something quite usable.  


That, along with my favorite technique of stacking board and bricks to make shelves, and my pantry was in business.  It’s a cute little room, but rather difficult to get a good picture of.

I did something similar with another old hutch,although this one was in much better shape and hadn’t been sitting outside for the last decade.  I just spruced it up with a cute piece of fabric and now my “red” collection is housed there.  

I like red and decided it would be my accent color, which was easy to do since most everything I already owned in my kitchen was red.  


This was the other side of the kitchen- a blank canvas, if you will.

I had a few more random pieces of shelving (one of which definitely needed to be covered with a tasteful curtain), a good solid piece of wooden countertop and my trusty old kitchen island that I rearranged twenty times over until I found an arrangement that worked and would give me at least some counter space.

As soon as I had finished that, my beautiful, fifty dollar Craig’s list fridge was delivered and finally filled that space that has been mocking me with its emptiness for so long.  Oh the delight!

And then, this morning, best of all mornings, some dear people delivered a stove- a completely free gift that, like so many items now in our house, were apparently just looking for a good home. So this is my “temporary” kitchen. 

We are very, very blessed.



It seemed fitting, somehow, that the first meal I cooked in this room should involve bacon.


So now, everything we need to function in our house has been installed- errrrr, everything but the kitchen sink. That’s still in a box. But she’s a beaut, no?

And of course, the windows and the heat and air and a hundred other little things that would allow us to call this place finished. But oh, we are so much closer to that goal than we were even a week ago. 

 We are looking at a hooootttt summer ahead of us but we are facing it with hope, joy, thankfulness and a fully functioning bathroom.

What a difference a year makes

So a year and a day ago I posted this.  I was just rereading it, remembering as if  it were only yesterday what it was like having just moved into the trailer and then getting attacked by that awful stomach bug. And even thou we aren’t technically done using the trailer and a stomach bug today would still be just as unwelcome as ever, I am amazed at how far we have come from that bleak and miserable birthday.  

There is so much value in looking back over a year, not only seeing how far God has brought you, but realizing that all miseries must come to an end sometime, whether it’s a 24 hour illness or a difficult living situation or you name it.  Of course, it is also helpful to remember the bright spots in the dark times- a helpful sister, loving children, unexpected humor in the midst of it all. It reminds me that most of life is like that- a mixed bag of struggle and joy and hilarity.

This last week, I did something crazy and jumped on an airplane with my baby girl to come and see my folks out in Washington. It was about as spontaneous a thing as I have ever done- the boys were done with school, my church job wrapped up for the season, and something told me I needed to go see my daddy before he wouldn’t know me any more.  And grandma needed to see her granddaughter as well.  

It’s always painful, heading back home, knowing that things are difficult and knowing there isn’t really a lot you can do to help.  But daddy recognized me immediately.  He was so surprised and excited- he couldn’t quite remember my name, nor even how to give me a hug, but he knew me just the same.  There is pain in life, but it often makes the joys just that much sweeter. 

I came out ostensibly to be a help, but taking a breather from my own crazy life has been more helpful for myself than I imagined. My family surprised me with a little birthday trip to one of my favorite places and we spent a few days just quietly looking at the waves.   I had some rare, sweet, one on one time with my daughter


And she has gotten that special time with grandma and cousins I crave for my children so often.


Then, this morning, not only did I not wake up miserably sick, but the gloomy forecast that had been predicted for my entire stay decided not to go through with it and instead, blinded us all with a glory of sunshine.


My jet lagged baby decided to sleep until almost seven AM, which may not seem like much but it sure beats four.


And even though it was mostly shrouded in a haze, my favorite mountain managed to pop out and say hello.


I’d say it made for a pretty good day.  

I’ve been spoiled, really.  Life may have thrown me a few curveballs and will probably continue to do so, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to take a brave swing at them when your fellow team members are an unbelievably fabulous group of sisters, parents, husband, children and friends. 

Who could ask for a better gift than that? 

Progress and patience

There is a scene in one of my favorite Narnia books that goes something like this-

“Quick! Quick!” shouted Aravis. “We might as well not have come at all if we don’t reach the city in time! Gallop, Bree, gallop!”

It was all Shasta could do to prevent himself from shouting out similar instructions, but he thought, “The poor chap’s doing all he can already,” and held his tongue. And certainly both horses were doing, if not all they could, all they thought they could, which is not quite the same thing.

But at that moment everyone’s feelings were completely altered by a sound from behind. Shasta knew it at once. It was the same snarling roar he had heard that night by the river- the roar of a lion. Bree knew it too. And now the horses discovered that they had not really been going as fast- not quite as fast- as they could.
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, we’ve been feeling a little bit like those horses lately. Of course, we have had nothing so terrible as a lion on our heels, but let’s just say, a few months ago I thought we had a lot on our plates and now I feel like they were only half full. I thought we were stretched to our limit this past winter, but I’m starting to feel like Elastigirl from the Incredibles and hoping I can return to my normal shape some day. Just when I thought we couldn’t go any faster, we needed a fresh burst of speed.

There were many months, you know, where I sat in the trailer and just looked at the house, wishing there were something I could do to forward the work. Now, there is so much work to be done, painting, sanding, slowly and painstakingly making the downstairs habitable, that by the end of the day, I hardly have the energy to fall into bed.  

The hubby’s brother was here for another month long visit, to help push the business along, and let me tell you, starting a business from scratch is not for the faint of heart. It.is.hard.

They were both so busy, I felt almost like a single mom for the time, but I was so busy, I hardly noticed.  

The biggest project we tackled during the last month, on top of all their business craziness, was refinishing our floors downstairs. Having had some success with the sanding and floor painting technique upstairs, we wanted to see what we could do down below. It is the cheapest solution out there, but in order to make a sub floor work as your actual floor, you have a little bit of labor to put into it to make it look half way decent.  

The problem with our floors is that some of them are original hardwood (in very bad condition) and some are just sheets of plywood screwed down. We debated for a while what to do. Carpet was out of the budget and some kind of cheap linoleum went against our inclination, but floor paint would not hold up so well in such a highly trafficked area as we knew the living room and kitchen are going to be.   We tried staining the plywood, but it failed to cover the myriad of old paint splotches and other messes that nine years of construction had left behind, so we sanded off as much of all that as we could (oy, my knees are still sore) and decided to see what a brown floor paint would look like.  


We painted the old hardwood first, after much patching of cracked boards and gaping holes. The first color we chose was a kind of reddish brown, but we thought it had too much of a purple hue to it. 


so we tried a darker one next- it was called ‘black bean’ (which still makes me laugh.We liked it better, but the floors ended up looking kinda plasticky so my brother in law suggested we ‘distress’ them a little bit. (of course, he described his technique in French, so it sounded much more artsy and interesting). 


All he did was take the sander and run it lightly over the top of the ‘black bean’, to make it look a little more authentic, or something of that nature.  Anyways, the result was that the reddish brown of the first coat underneath peaked through a little and we really liked the effect. So we finished up the hardwood and headed to the plywood to do the same thing, hoping the two floorings would sort of look matching by the end.  


But man, there was a lot to do to the plywood first. Wood filler and a putty knife became my best friend as we filled in all the myriad seams and nail holes and cracks and tried to level out discrepancies with a belt sander between the different boards that had shifted over time. Then all that wood filler had to be sanded smooth again before we could finally put a coat of paint on. Then, once the paint had dried, it had to be ‘distressed’ as well. 


We liked the result, but had discovered the great drawback to floor paint. It shows absolutely every footprint and smudge of dirt and scratches ridiculously easily. I was trying not to panic, imagining how much of my future life would be spent scrubbing my floors and hiding scratches when the hubby just suggested we slap a little polyurethane on it.Eureka! It worked! Although the super fast drying poly we bought turned out to take much longer to dry than the can claimed, so we had to construct an interesting network of planks around certain areas for a while, so as to be able to access the toilet and avoid stepping on the floor. 

After the polyurethane had cured for several days, we were finally able to install what I have been longing for for many years- a second toilet and a sink with actual running water! Of course, it’s only the half-bath that is functional, but it’s a lot better than nothing.

As for a bathroom with an actual bath, I’m trying my best to be patient. There was a good weekend that we set aside to start working on it in earnest, but both the hubby’s work cars died on that day and so the days had to be given to fixing those vehicles instead. The old van is still dead. You could pray about that. The hubby really needs a truck. 

And then, as many of you have asked about, there’s my kitchen. We haven’t been able to install a sink there yet, since we have been working towards replacing some expensive plumbing parts that were stolen a while back from under our house. But we were finally able to reorder them today. I have a fridge and a stove, waiting to be delivered, but without a sink, there isn’t much point in cooking up there yet. So the trailer still continues to serve as our life line for food and (tiny) showers.  

We have also been busy collecting furniture from people. Folks told me that when the time came, we would have no problem filling up this giant space with stuff, but I admit, I doubted them. I was a fool. So.much.furniture has been given. I am overwhelmed. Beds, chairs tables, dressers, rugs- all in good condition and some of it absolutely beautiful. Some old friends gave us the most beautiful dining room set- hutch, buffet, all matching and the table that can extend to fit about 20, if we squished (and had enough chairs).  

I finally got it all moved in yesterday, and last night, in spite of plebeian paper plates and grilled burgers for dinner, we ate our first meal in our dining room. I might have cried a little. 

We aren’t quite out of the woods yet. As you can see, we are still without windows. We are going to need some prayer for what to do about those as well as the days get hotter and hotter and we have no HVAC installed. AC is fairly useless without windows anyway.   

And for those who have asked, our options for the windows are either the hubby continues to build them little by little as he has time, or we hire someone else to do it.  And unless things change, the first option is our only feasible one, which means p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e for me.

So all in all, lots to be thankful for but still lots to be done.   

I am torn most days between being gratefully excited at how much has come together and a bit overwhelmed at how much still needs to be done and praying, praying, praying that God will prosper the work of our hands, both with the house and the business. But I am finding that the more exhausted and overwhelmed we feel, we feel God drawing closer still, in new and unexpected ways, to strengthen and encourage. 

My mantra every morning as I face the day has become- “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” And it’s a good one.