Saturday, August 2, 2014

Be It Ever So Humble

This is my 39-year-old house. Jacob knows I love soft Christmas lights
all around the porch, rather than a single harsh bulb overhead,
so he bought new strings of Christmas lights and put them up for me. 

My little house isn't much to brag on. It's almost 40 years old, having been built in 1975. It badly needs both a new roof and a paint job, although I'd really like to afford new siding all around. It's awfully small, only 1200 square feet. And, as a teacher and single mom, I've never been able to keep up with the repairs. But it's mine. It has been mine for 21 years, since Mark and I bought it in July 1993.
And I never appreciate it more than at the end of a long work week, when I look forward to the comfort of my own place, surrounded by my own things, where I can relax and just be me.

Our kitty Gimli greets us at the porch.

Family life can be hard on a house. Our porch used to be all screened in, with a screen door to keep out pests. Then, in late February 1994, Mark brought home an adorable 5-week-old puppy with feet the size of saucers. Half pit bull and half Labrador. Sarah wanted to call him Whiskers. With those huge feet to grow into? We named him Rambo.
One night in March, after I discovered that Rambo had chewed up Sarah's doll furniture, I banished him to the porch. When we went out the next morning, all the screens had been ripped out of the porch. And there was little Rambo (who later grew to 100 lbs of pure muscle, "a show dog on steroids" as a colleague once described him), with his head stuck in the screen door. I was not amused. Only the pleading of my husband and children (and a sentimental story I read that night in Readers Digest about a dog saving its family's lives in a house fire) saved him from the dog pound. We never were able to afford to have the screens or door replaced.

March 6, 1994: 6-week-old Rambo stuck in the screen door.

Though the house is a bit run-down, it is filled with memories. This is where my children grew up. Sarah was only three years old when we moved in. Jacob had barely turned two. Dylan was born here four years later and has never lived anywhere else.

This is where we've celebrated twenty-one years' worth of birthdays, Christmases, Easters, and other holidays. This is where we've mourned the deaths of Rambo and other assorted pets, from turtles to rabbits. This is where my kids donned their new school clothes and backpacks before setting off for the first day of school, with equal parts excitement and nervousness.
This is home.

The new entertainment center in the living room.

Our living room is small. Too small for all the furniture we have crammed into it. But there's a story for that, as well.
In June of last year, we had new carpet put in the house. While my ancient little Walmart-vintage entertainment center was being carried out of the living room, it crumbled. So Ed and I headed out to the local furniture stores to look for a new one. I'd hoped for another modest unit, but it seems with today's larger TV screens, everyone is selling larger entertainment centers. We found one I really liked and decided to order it. I prayed that it would fit in the room. It does, barely.

I love being able to display my Willow Tree figurines here, dust-free.
All but two of these have been gifts from my sweet daughter Sarah.

While we were arranging financing, Ed noticed a sign stating that we could get a free 50-inch TV with the purchase of a couch, loveseat, coffee table, and two side tables. Back we went into the store. During our search for the entertainment center, we had tried out a couch with electric recliners. I will admit, they were incredibly comfortable, but I really didn't want to spend that much money. In the end, though, we'd ordered the couches and tables before we walked out of Furniture Row.

The new loveseat (foreground) and couch with tables.

The irony of purchasing these sofas and tables that Ed wanted so badly is that they were delivered three days after he moved out of my house for good. That leaves me to pay for them, and they are definitely not pieces of furniture I would have chosen for myself. The colors are very dark and masculine, while I prefer lighter furniture in soft colors. This was supposed to be Ed's room, but he never got to enjoy it. 
Nonetheless, everyone who comes to my house admires the furniture, so I suppose Ed did show good taste in his selections. I've learned to appreciate the new look.

I do love the variety of textures and colors in the tables' tiles.

And I will say that the electric recliners (both ends of the couch and both sides of the loveseat) are unbelievably comfortable. I don't think I've been able to stay awake through an entire Netflix movie since the couches were delivered!

Our tiny kitchen and dining area. Not even room for a real dining table.

The kitchen is probably the most run-down part of the house's entire interior. I dream of one day remodeling, with brand new cupboards and countertops, tiled walls instead of the cracked and peeling old wallpaper currently in place, and more storage areas with space for a dishwasher. That's right. I haven't had a dishwasher for 21 years.

Remember that this house was built in 1975, originally designed as a summer cabin. And 1975 was during the era of some awful kitchen colors, like avocado and poppy, or the harvest gold of my chipped, scratched, discolored counters. I long for beautiful marble or granite countertops.
I do love my new kitchen flooring, though. And I'm very happy with the black flat-top oven and range I bought back in February 2009. Recently, I treated myself to new candy apple-red pans and new plates, bowls, serving platters, and glasses, so I have nicely matched sets now. And Sarah gave me beautiful new silverware for Christmas. Little by little, I'll keep working on improvements...

I have the world's most comfy bed.
It's always an adjustment to go from being married to being single, and nowhere is that adjustment more difficult than in the bedroom where you've shared your most intimate moments as well as your most intense arguments. Although the bedroom furniture was mine, I had to do a bit of rearranging when Ed took his gun safe, oxygen machine, and a few other items from the room when he left.

It took awhile to get through the grieving process, but eventually I made a few changes to take back my space. The cheeriest change was getting rid of my old blue floral quilt and replacing it with this fun Southwestern-style quilt. It brightens up the whole room.

Putting all my Willow Tree figures in the entertainment center
freed up a lot of space on my dresser!

The room needs brightening. I always complain that it feels like I'm sleeping in a cave, with brown paneling on every wall. Paneling is nice as a highlight on a wall or two, but I'd really like to paint a couple of walls (like Mark and I did in the hall just outside the bedroom door).

My stuff is now on top of Ed's dresser. Through the opening is my home office.
You see the box piled high with Ed's things? I've run across them as I've
deep-cleaned the house these past 6 months. I'll need to get those to him someday.

One of the best things I did for myself recently was to finally tackle the cleaning of my home office, where my books, desk, computer, and food storage live, along with a lifetime's worth of documents. It also tends to be the catch-all for the entire house, so it feels wonderful to have it clean and organized for the first time in about 5 years!

Before: Jacob's bottom bunk and Dylan's top bunk.

Lastly, there have been subtle changes in the boys' bedroom as Jacob has gotten married, moved out, and taken his belongings with him. It created a lot more space for Dylan and made it much easier to keep the room clean. I thought it would be fun to compare perspectives of their room when they shared it, to when it became solely Dylan's domain.

Now: Dylan has the bottom bunk.

As shabby as my house may be, I will say it is always clean, now that it's just Dylan and me. He's good about putting his clothes in the hamper, making his bed, putting away his things (although I sometimes find his shoes and backpack in the middle of his floor after school!), wiping up the counter, and rinsing his dishes. He also feeds the cat, takes out the trash, helps with the laundry, and cleans his own bathroom, along with other chores I assign. For the most part, we have a pretty peaceful, quiet life together.

Before: Jacob and Dylan

After: Just Dylan

Before: Jacob and Dylan
I gave Jacob and Danielle that old dresser.
It was built by Harold Benge, Jacob's dad's great-uncle.

After: Just Dylan.

Every house has its tales to tell. My house has just shared some of its tales with you!


Grandma Honey said...

I enjoyed this and all the detail. I think you have a very nice home. I've gone into some very large and newer homes that also seem cold and uncomfortable.

I like the contrast of the lighter carpet and darker furniture in your living room. I also like your kitchen but I think you should get some kind of award for washing your own dishes the past 21 years!

Mary said...

It is definitely a "cozy" house, but it's been filled with laughter and love for 18 of 21 years. We spent 3 years walking on eggshells around Ed, but thank goodness that's over!