Your mission, should you choose to accept it…..

Dear Readers,

Next week (Lord willing) will be the beginning of a new era in the life of our family. And, as promised, I am starting the whole process (and hope to continue doing so) by sharing with you what we are about to undertake. The story of how we have arrived in our current difficult position is so long and convoluted that I cannot explain it all here, but along the way, I can’t count the number of times I have been asked the following questions-

“How is the house is coming?”
“What do you have left to do on it?”
“Is it at least livable?”
“Do you know when you might get into it?”

And perhaps the most frequent of all-

“Is there anything we can do to help?”

I hope to answer these questions in the following post.

They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, and if we had known eight years ago what was going to transpire in our lives, what with job loss and financial upheaval, family emergencies and unexpected moves, (not to mention another baby and another and another) we never would have bought the house. But wise or not, we did it, and against all odds, we are still the owners. As I posted before, we have reached the point where it has become necessary to do something desperate. This will be the last try. If we don’t succeed, we will at least know that we have done everything in our power, and we trust God to open another path for us.

So, you asked how the house was coming on? What do we have left to do on it? Well, here is where we are at-

This is the front of our house. As you can see it has lovely dormer windows and an enormous porch. The entire front of the house needs to be scraped, sanded and repainted. The windows (throughout the entire house) need to be replaced, and the hubby is custom building them himself. These are just two “small” projects that need to be tackled.

20150317-220340.jpg

20150317-220409.jpg

20150317-220430.jpg
This is me, walking around the exterior. You will notice that about half of it is painted a different color than the original yellow, and all the windows are boarded up. We have had to go to some length to keep the burglars (and pigeons) out.

20150317-220810.jpg

20150317-220820.jpg

20150317-220830.jpg
This is the yard. Oh man, I feel like I would be willing to live just about anywhere to call this yard our own- even a trailer. The trailer has not yet arrived, but will go in the back corner where the parking area is. The boys have already marked out the spots for their new forts.

20150317-221248.jpg

20150317-221257.jpg

20150317-221308.jpg
I just realized I forgot to take any pictures of the front yard. It’s a good sized front yard that we leveled out a few years ago and ambitiously planted bulbs and trees. The bulbs and trees are starting to bloom, which seems like a good omen.

20150317-221627.jpg
You ask if the house is livable? I’ll let you decide by showing you the interior.
It’s a little difficult for me to share these with you, because it makes me feel vulnerable, like the whole world can now see what a mess we have to tackle. But I’m going recklessly on in hopes of some really amazing before and after shots down the road.

When you enter the house you are welcomed in, not by one, but by two living rooms.
The left one (which will hopefully be a library)

20150317-222017.jpg
And the right. It already has a functioning wood stove set up, so we won’t freeze to death if we haven’t finished before next winter. There is also a piano. We have to warm the soul as well as the body, right?

As you can see, the entire house needs to be wired and sheet rocked before anything else can be done. You might notice lots of empty blue electrical boxes which once upon a time were wired and ready to go. But stolen copper is good money apparently. So all that has to be redone.

20150317-222207.jpg
Walk through that room, and you arrive in my kitchen, the size of which makes me feel a little giddy. It’s not quite ready for cooking, unfortunately.

20150317-222354.jpg
And such a large kitchen needs a corresponding dining room. As soon as we move over there, I am tearing down the plywood on these enormous window holes. It will be such a beautifully light-filled room.

20150317-222520.jpg
I’m not bothering to show you any of the four bathrooms, (FOUR BATHROOMS!) or the enormous laundry room, (LAUNDRY ROOM!) since they don’t look like much yet. There are two very large bedrooms on the ground floor- our Master Suite, of which it is hard to get a good angle-

20150317-222738.jpg
And the guest suite, which is currently home to eight years worth of our excess stuff. The reason it looks so jumbled is that it has been ransacked on a few occasions by a person (or persons) unknown. Whoever they are, I hope they are enjoying all my old books. (Grrrr). My first job will be to go through this room, reorganize and probably throw most of it away. Fun!

20150317-222917.jpg
All right, bear with me- this is a huge house. Let’s head upstairs, shall we?

20150317-223220.jpg
This is the view at the top- the door to “The girl’s room.”

20150317-223459.jpg

20150317-223521.jpg
We have called it the girl’s room ever since we started on the house. I am so glad we finally have a girl to put in it! Although it does seem like an awful lot of space for one little peanut, who currently lives in this much space.

20150317-223914.jpg
To get to the boys room you cross this large open area we aren’t sure what to call- the den? The playroom? The ‘what on earth am I gonna do with so much space?’ room?

20150317-224042.jpg. And then the boys room itself. (Pardon the sawdust. Daddy uses this space as a workshop)

20150317-224216.jpg

20150317-224237.jpg Oh, but wait- it goes around the corner too, and ends in some secret tunnels Daddy built in, just for his boys.

20150317-224338.jpg
Oh, and then there is this room. Just an extra, you know, for whatever.

20150317-224440.jpg
But the best of all, is of course, my own especial room, to do whatever I want with. There will be a lock on the door and much crafting within.

20150317-224858.jpg

20150317-224908.jpg

So then you asked, “When do you think you might be able to move in?”

Well, I hope you have seen that we have a looooong way to go before this house can become a home. That is obviously the scariest and riskiest part of this whole venture. There is simply no guarantee and no timeline in place. All I can really say is, the sooner the better. Which leads me to your last question-

“What can we do to help?”

Oh friends, the time has come for me to be very transparent. This is not an easy thing for me.
There are two things that we need- skilled labor and money. My hubby is one of the most skilled laborers I know, but he is one man and he is finite. If he must, he will build this house one inch at a time over the next twenty years. Obviously, this is not ideal, and we would like to be able to hire out most of the work. But without going into financial detail, we are stuck. We don’t have the money to finish the house, and yet we cannot keep the house if we do not make this last effort. We have prayed so long for an answer to this conundrum, but it has seemed insurmountable. My hubby has worked tirelessly over many years now to build his fledgling business, and has accomplished amazing things. But it is a fledgling business still. I would like to build my own business as well, but cannot without a larger space.

Then one day a friend suggested that I just ask people for donations.

I snorted- I scoffed- my pride recoiled at the suggestion. But the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. A thousand objections arose, but still it nagged. I wrote my family about it, asking advice- they said I should do it. I still resisted.
Then one night, before I went to bed, I asked the Lord to make it clear what we should do. Before I even closed my eyes, a message pinged on my ipad. It was a facebook friend, not someone I am particularly close with, but someone who apparently had been thinking of us and our situation. She simply asked if I had ever considered setting up a fundraiser so that people who would like to see us get into our house could donate. Stunned by the timely message, I asked her if she had been talking to my family at all lately. Perhaps they had mentioned the idea to her. She said no- that the idea had just popped into her head.
Well folks, what would you do?
I caved.
So without any more hemming and hawing, I am here today to ask if you would consider helping us reach our long-awaited goal by donating to the following site.
http://www.gofundme.com/pctz2w

And of course, if you are not in a position to help financially, any and all prayers would be most welcome!
We (and the children) thank you!

20150319-213831.jpg

A Domain of my Own

Hey folks!  Just a few little announcements here tonight.  The first being, I purchased my own domain name for my blog!   Basically all that means is that instead of being climbingvineclothing@wordpress.com, I am now just climbingvine.net.  I decided it was high time I got rid of the ‘clothing’ in my blog title since I haven’t been doing clothing since the very beginning of this blog.  It is also much easier to tell people I am at climbingvine.net, than that other, longer title.  But don’t worry, if you are still typing in the old address, it will redirect you to my new one.  I have updated a few of my pages, and hope maybe to do some design update as well.

I thought it was a good time for a change, since I think the content of my blog is about to change quite a bit as well.  We are hoping to move in about two weeks, which means my needle is already packed away.  I hope it will be out again and stitching with renewed vigor by the next holiday season, but all of that is a bit up in the air because of the house.  You remember the house? I may have mention it a time or two.   I am really hoping, if the Lord and money allows, to take my loyal readers through all of the many steps needed to complete this mammoth task before us.  I think it will be fun, but there is no telling how long it will take, so stay tuned.

In order to help fund this project, I have almost decided to take this cake making business to the next level.  I have sold so many of them in such a short period of time that I think it will really be a help.  I have had a few generous offers from friends for kitchens that I might be able to use since I will be without one for the foreseeable future, but I still have lots of little details on that to work out. I’ll try to keep people posted on that.

Of course, I am not sure what kind of internet access I am going to have at our property, so posting will probably be spotty, but I really hope not to let this old blog fall by the wayside.  I have so enjoyed writing it, and looking back over almost two years now, and seeing how far we have come constantly surprises me.  So thank you for being willing to read my stuff and for supporting me in all my little endeavors.  It has truly been an encouragement to me.

And prayers would be appreciated.  We are headed into uncharted waters here, which leaves me inexplicably excited and a little bit terrified.  Eek!

The Challenge Continues

I am sure you all have been on pins and needles, waiting to see if I managed to solve the puzzle of the ‘too small house’, so here is an update of the boys room.  After much thinking, I decided to keep the boys room as the boys room.  They really do need the space, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage nap and bedtimes with the girly in there.  So she will be in with us.  But more on that later.

If you recall my last post on the subject, here are the before pics of the four corners of the boys room.

DSCF1410DSCF1411DSCF1412DSCF1414

It was one of those projects that, once I began it, I wondered if it were worth it.  Things got pretty hectic in there for a while.

DSCF1417

My first idea was to get as much excess furniture out as I could.  So the white shelving unit found a home in a corner of the kitchen, where I like it much better.

DSCF1418

And then there were the dressers.  We have had those two stackable dressers/shelves since my oldest was born, and even though they are old and beat up, they are incredibly sturdy, so I wanted to keep them.  But I wanted to clear out the closet if possible, so out they came.

  DSCF1424

Remember the deep freezer I had in this corner?  I measured it and thought it might just fit in the closet, so I unstacked the dressers and put them where the freezer was.  I also put up some little curtains over  the shelves, since they really aren’t very pretty.

DSCF1426

I had hoped the freezer would squeeze into the back of the closet, but I failed to calculate the baseboards into my measurements, so it didn’t fit as well as I had hoped.  I had to make a decision.  Which space did I value most- the boys room or my pantry? The pantry had a corner where I figured I could fit it just as well.  I decided it would make more sense in the pantry, so the boys helped me move it.  It does make my pantry a bit crowded, but it is so nice not to have a freezer in the boys room anymore!

DSCF1427

The ugly cot went into storage, and a toy chest got repurposed to my room.  But I still wanted more space.

I wanted a place that I could dedicate solely to the storage of legos, which, as you can see, have slowly been taking over the house.  So I came up with a crazy idea that I wasn’t sure would work, but I wanted to try anyway.

Here is the final outcome, for now.

Corner # 1 –

DSCF1550

I tried to fit all shelves and dressers here, and just managed it.  There are shoes and toys in the dresser drawers instead of clothes.  I got each boy a box for their clothes, that hopefully will help them put their own clothes away and keep them somewhat organized, instead of stuffed pell mell into a drawer.

DSCF1551

Corner # 2-

There really was no where else to move the piano, so this corner just got a good spruce up.  I put a lot of the music and books into storage, and hid other toys neatly in boxes on top. And what piano is complete without a pirate ship?

DSCF1552

Corner # 3-

Here is where things started to get a little crazy.  I decided to get rid of the bottom bunk of the bed, keep the top bunk as a loft bed and use the space underneath as the “lego room.”

DSCF1553DSCF1554

The boys love the new space, since with enough blankets tucked around the edges it easily turns into a fort.  And I am trying to implement the rule that all legos must stay within the confines of the bed/fort.  We shall see if that works. Ha!

DSCF1560

“Umm, but where are the boys sleeping?,” you might be asking. Good question.  No, I am not making all four of them sleep on the top bunk.

Just follow me to corner # 4, and I will reveal my hair-brained scheme.

This is the school room/closet.  The boys nice clothes are hanging on the left, my clothes are hanging on the right. (that’s part of my room rearrangement).  But what are those blue things hanging in the corners?

DSCF1547

I’m sure the suspense is killing you.

DSCF1548

Hammocks of course!

I found the hammock idea online, but didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on a project that I wasn’t sure would work.  So I went to the Goodwill and lo and behold, found a huge piece of sturdy blue canvas for ten bucks.  I cut it in half, added a loop of extra fabric from the armoire project to string some rope through, and had the hubby install some heavy duty rings into the wood frame of the closet.  The other side hooks underneath the top bunk for sleeping, and they store neatly away in the corners during the day.

DSCF1556

The boys have gone nuts over them.  They have been sleeping in them for about a week now, taking turns on who gets to sleep on the top bunk and who gets a coveted hammock. So far it is working.

DSCF1558

I was worried of course that letting the boys sleep in swings would get out of control very quickly, but it is actually working much better than having three or four of them piled together on the bottom bunk. They seem to sleep well and comfortably, and putting the hammocks away in the morning is much easier than making a bed.  So far so good!

So that is probably as much as I am going to do for the time being.  It freed up a considerable amount of space, got rid of a bunch of clutter, and gave the boys a few exciting new features to their room.  Now I just need to finish a few things for little girlie’s space.  So until next time!

 

The Buck Stops Here

20130919-193720.jpg

Well, it’s story hour folks. Sit right up and grab a bowl of popcorn, or just scroll on down to the bottom where there is a super exciting picture of a sewing machine. Your choice.

For those who choose to continue reading, I will tell you that about six years ago, we decided to buy our first house. For four years we had been renting a tiny duplex- about 900 square feet tiny. Our second son had just been born, and this bigger house- four thousand square feet bigger, was on the market for a steal. The real estate market was booming, the hubby had a pretty good job, and this particular area in our city was the place to be if you wanted to renovate a house. So we bought it, such as it was. It was a gutted structure with half a roof. What roof was left was populated by a plethora of pigeons. It was a mess, but oh the plans we had for it.

We set to work with a will, but it was such a big job that we knew it would be a while before we could move in. We rebuilt the structure, fixed the roof, put in a lovely staircase. We continued to work, even after we discovered I was expecting my third child. We had high hopes that we might move in before he was born. We worked many late nights there with our babies sleeping in sawdust covered playpens. My big ol’ pregnant self learned to measure and cut piping according to instructions hollered through a hole in the floor where he was putting our plumbing together.

We were getting close, the plumbing was in, the electrical completed and the insulators were coming when the economy fell apart.  Details aside, we had to put the house on hold. I made room for our third son in our tiny duplex, and the hubby, in order to keep his job, was asked to start working in Memphis, six hours away. We had family troubles as well, and when my dad was diagnosed with dementia, I offered to go help my folks out for a couple of months since the hubby was gone most of the time and I needed some help too. It was meant to be a two months visit, but slowly stretched out to six as there was no end in sight for the Memphis job. We finally bit the bullet and moved to Memphis, but all this time, there was the house looming in the background, sitting empty, sucking us dry. We finally moved back, and found a “temporary” tiny house to live in. We are still in it three years later.  When we went to the big house, we discovered that thieves had ripped out all of the wiring and some of the plumbing we had put in, and stolen many other things beside. I remember sitting and weeping when I discovered that someone had stolen all the books I had been collecting since childhood that had been in storage there. That was a low point. And then the hubby lost his job a few weeks before baby number four was due to arrive.

Well, life went on. We have had many changes in our lives the past few years, but the looming house has been a constant worry, always nagging at the back of the mind. I felt I was content with my lot, but I had learned to shut the door to thoughts about the house, and hated talking about it to anyone. I started having dreams that I would show up at the property and it would all be finished, or that our current small home had bedrooms or even whole floors that I forgot were there. I would wake up asking myself why on earth I didn’t use that extra space and then reality would hit.

When we found ourselves members of a new church, I didn’t want to tell anyone, so no one would ask that wearying old question, “Soooo, how is the house coming on?” But at church one night, there was a group of people sharing prayer requests and I felt I would just mention the circumstance. One of my pastors prayed, and all he asked was that the Lord please help us to finish our home because “A hope deferred makes the heart sick”. (proverbs 13:12)

I broke into tears as it struck me how sick my heart had become. I realized how weary I was of waiting, weary of putting my life on hold until our real home would be finished. I had gotten to the point where I could push it all out of my mind, but then it would come bursting out in moments like those. It could all pretty much be summed up in thoughts about my craft room. That may sound silly, but from the beginning of our plans for the house, the hubby wanted to make sure I had a room of my own. A place where I could make and store all the crafty stuff that is constantly being spread around my house by my mischievous boys. It could even have a lock on it! The hubby designed it with lofty ceilings and a dormer window. I can show you a picture in it’s sadly unfinished state if you like.

20130919-182921.jpg

20130919-182941.jpg
This is the view from the windows, where I try not to imagine myself sitting on my cozy window seat, stitching dainty things whilst ignoring my children.

20130919-183026.jpg
That room seemed to symbolize all of my frustration and weariness, all of my excuses for sitting on my bum and bemoaning my life.

I am relating this long sob story, not to throw myself a pity party, or to throw a fund raiser so that we can finally finish that monstrosity of a house. I tell it because God has been so merciful as to open my eyes to the way my life was heading. It was becoming a constant sighing for what I did not have and an unwillingness to embrace what I did have and make the most of it. Through the prayer of my pastor and others, God started to wake me up. I began to feel that circumstances had dominated my attitude long enough.
Around the same time, the hubby attended a convention for a new company he was interested in working for. When he came back, he was fired up. He seemed to have a new energy and kept muttering the word GOYA under his breath as he went about his day. I finally asked him what GOYA meant. It sounded like some goofy, new-age mantra to me.
He laughed and said,
“Well, it stands for “Get Off Your Ass.”
I about died laughing. I guess that was the rather crass theme for the convention, but I liked it. It said to me in a refreshingly flippant way that life is hard, but God is good. Now get to work.
The result is this blog and a brand new craft room that I made myself. Well okay, it’s just an ironing board in my living room and a dresser full of fabric, but it works.

20130919-185715.jpg

20130919-185727.jpg

20130919-185739.jpg

20130919-185749.jpg
Oh, and as promised, this is the sewing machine the hubby got me last year. Isn’t she a beaut?

20130919-185854.jpg

At any rate, the house is still there-unfinished, slowly being reconquered by the legions of pigeons. Remarkably we still own it, which leaves room for hope. But the moral of the story I hope I have learned thus far is ora et labora- work and pray. Hopes are often deferred, but as children of God, our hearts do not need to be sickened. Look your trials in the face and get to work. And as hard as you work, pray even harder. Leave the rest up to Him.

 

Ponder Anew What the Almighty Will Do

Life rolls in stages.  I write a lot about my past on this blog, mostly because I had a very happy youth and I like sharing it with people.  That happiness was due in great measure to the fact that I was a child, and didn’t register that things weren’t always perfect.  But even with that blindness, there were times in the life of my family that truly were happier than others- long stretches of sunny weather with hardly a cloud in the sky.

I haven’t written much about my present, other than my feeble attempts to start a business, because it has been a stormier season of life.  I have four healthy boys, and a wonderful husband.  We live in a comfortable, albeit tiny, house, and we have plenty of food on the table. We have lots of good friends and are members of a great church.  I write that list easily because I run it like a litany through my head every time I get discouraged about the circumstances of my own and my larger family.

The past five years have been no picnic.  The house we were renovating and hoping to move into before my third boy was born fell prey to the economic crisis.  We still own it, but it is sitting empty, a roost for pigeons and an easy target for anyone looking to tear the wiring out of the walls.

My dad was diagnosed with dementia, and we are now witnessing the gradual disappearance of his memory and functionality.  I say witnessing, but for us it only hearing, because we live far from the rest of my family, and that is a trial in itself.

My husband lost his job two years ago, and we have been trying to get back on our feet ever since.

We have dealt with mental illness, and the sudden loss of my brother-in-law a year ago. We have walked with my sister in her grief as she moved here to start a new life.  But she is moving on again, leaving us this week.

When she first told us she was moving on, I felt like it was the last straw.  It has been so wonderful having a sister in town.  It felt like the beginning of better times.  Now that was going to be gone too.  It was time to resign myself to the fact that things would never be sunny again, and let pessimism reign.

But now there is a fresh wind blowing.  A sudden and unexpected gust that has me trembling with hope and a joy I haven’t felt in years.  I am seeing that God can tear down our walls without warning and build them up again just as quickly.  I can’t spell things out yet, and I don’t really know what is going on. But  I can share with you my favorite hymn, the words of which have been bursting out of me with tears of joy, startling my children and no doubt making them think mommy is crazy.

Praise to the Lord, who with marvelous wisdom hath made thee,

Decked thee with health and with loving hand guided and stayed thee!

How oft in grief, hath not he brought thee relief,

Spreading his wings to o’er shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper they work and defend thee!

Surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;

Ponder anew what the Almighty will do,

If with his love he befriend thee.

Catherine Winkworth

sun-after-rain