Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Tiny Cow

Our neighbor came by to bring us some very appreciated fresh ground beef today.  He had taken one of his cows to slaughter, and had more than he could fit in the freezer.  Not only did we get lucky enough to have some awesome, local beef... but the girls and I jumped in the truck and went for a little field trip!  We saw the baby calves, nursing.  We drove around the pasture, checking out the cows and Longhorn steers, horses, and donkeys!  The girls rode through the tall grass, their heads hanging out the window like golden retrievers.  It was great!

That afternoon, Olive came to me, holding some invisible thing between her chubby fingers.

She asked me, "Do you see?!" 
"What is it?!" I asked, excitedly.
"It's a tiny cow!  It's black and white, and soooo cuuuuute!"

She then proceeded to wrap the tiny, invisible cow into a carefully folded wipe, patting it to sleep.  This was repeated over and over for the next hour.  Daddy even came home just in time for the cow to wake up, get unwrapped, and presented to him.  I didn't catch a good glimpse of him, but it sounds like he was "soooo cuuuute"!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stuck like everyone else. Sort of.

 Plans never plod along smoothly.  We know this.  We have learned to ebb and flow... to work towards a general idea, but realize there will no doubt be curve balls and obstacles.  Sometimes, you even go backwards.  These are lessons that we have already learned through out marriage.  But, that doesn't mean that I don't still feel exhausted from it all.

We came up with the idea to move back to our hometown and build.  We had taken a dilapidated house and made it beautiful.  That should count for something, right?  Surely, we would benefit from all of our hard work... and it would help us achieve our next step.  We bought the land for our new home and farm.  But, instead of selling the old house, we bit on a rent to own situation.  Just a few months ago, Jeff and I talked about how much money we need to save in order to actually start building our home.  I hit the spreadsheets, I made a plan. 

After my budget plan was enacted, our tenants that were in our first house - the first one that we fixed up, lived in, and loved.. moved out.  They were great renters, and had stayed a long time.  I hated to see them go!  After they left, my saving plan when to heck.  That house needed work, of course, so we orchestrated some needed renovations.  And, we hemorrhaged money. Technically, we still are.  I think we'll be back on track, with renters paying rent, next month. That's the "plan", anyways.

And, even though we knew the rent-to-own contract on our last house had a chance of falling through... it still hit hard for me when it didn't.  It needed to sell so that I can move forward... so that this independent person who loves freedom and space can yet again own a home. And instead, we were paying three mortgages and living in someone else's house.  Sigh.

After a very brief attempt to sell our 1862 house again, we decided that we needed to be open to renting it, as well.  With the economy what it is, people just cannot get loans right now.  We made this decision and then got very lucky.  A friend, a good friend, a good friend with an awesome family full of awesome children that my boys played and bonded with and love, will be moving in to the house!  It is so liberating to be able to know that the house will be taken care of, and loved.  With that said, all of the decision I was making and conversations I was having... were from a distance.  It was a series of phone calls, numbers on a spreadsheet, Craigslist ads, blog posts, and emails.  Until Saturday.

On Saturday, I actually went back to the house, for the first time.  While Jeff worked on the porch, I mowed the grass... and cried.  This is what it felt like to mow your own grass.  I did this.  That big, beautiful garage?  We built that.  Those steps?  We built them.  The porch... The siding... The cabinets and the antique tiles and the details.... We made those decisions and put a whole lot of my heart into them.  I am not over that house.  It might be easier to handle not living there when I am moving forward.  But, as it stands, it's just someone that I never got over... and someone that I am protective of.  Renovating that house was our life.  OUR LIFE.  My trip on Saturday was full of uncontrollable tears... I miss our house... and that's just the way it is.

I started to feel a bit disillusioned.  Why did I care so much about where to put that door, or which knobs to put on the cabinets?  Why did I waste my mental energy on picking out the light switch covers that I liked?  Why did I bother... What was the point?  If it's not for me, and it's not helping me live somewhere that is for me, then what on Earth were we doing?

We bought our first house from a couple that we named Tweedle Dum and the Paint-hater.  They had horses, that destroyed the pasture... it was red clay.  There was a crummy old stable and a workshop that had seen better days.  The entire back yard was covered in, literally, tons of junk.  I mean, it was like a small scale junk yard.

The house needed some work, which we thought was a lot at the time.  I am a little jaded now that we did the Bethlehem house and are looking at building a timber frame home with lumber that we are milling ourselves.  But, for normal people, especially a young couple, it was a major effort.  Scraping the house and windows, painting, putting in a floor, digging a french drain by hand and anger, in the rain.  Putting up fence along 2+ acres.  Rearranging the stables and making the workshop and barn very nice... It was a different place, indeed, when we left.

With all of the manual construction labor that define our 13 years together comes sacrifice.  Saving money, taking small vacations, spending weekends and often weekday nights doing manual labor (or being alone with the kids, while Jeff did)... All of this was sacrifice that was supposed to have a pay off.  Right now, with the economy the way it is, that payoff it not guaranteed. 

Beyond the self-inflicted stress of buying needy homes, we spent 7 years struggling to create a family.  8 miscarriages, countless expensive failures, an adoption nightmare that no one should ever have to live through, a horrific lawsuit that consumed our every thought from the time we woke in the morning until after we fell asleep at night.  Very hard pregnancies that either left me and the babies hospitalized for almost 5 months total... or left me back in the hospital at 2 months postpartum, in the ICU, trying to figure out what was causing my body to go septic.  A set of preemie twins on oxygen and monitors.. that would actually go off for a REASON, all the time.  A baby who could not eat and breathe at the same time, causing him to be readmitted to the NICU months after coming home (unheard of).  A baby who almost died from a black widow bite... Another who took more ambulance rides than I can count, due to spazmatic throat closure.

I know that, in the big picture, we will look back at all that we have accomplished and it will make sense.  I know we will succeed, somehow, and live in our home on our 25 acres... with animals all around.  I am not so self-pitying that I think this is truly hopeless... I know that we are incredibly blessed. But, that doesn't mean this is easy.  We are both tired... and we have so far to go.  I feel that we have spent so much energy working and sacrificing to fix houses that other people will live in... or for houses that we are in that belong to someone else.  I am overwhelmed.  Do we have it in us to keep going?  Why on Earth do we do this stuff?  Are we stuck?

The good news is that, although things might be getting to me, or to Jeff, they are not getting to the kids.  They went with us to the house on Saturday.  They helped... and played with their friends Ethan, Cael, and Tucker... who will be moving into the house!  It didn't make them sad to play in their old "beaver dam".  They weren't phased by their old porch, or any of it.  Even when I couldn't control my tears, and they asked me why and I told them, they were still okay.  They don't miss the house because to them, they have a house.  They have a class with friends.  They are happy.  And, this means that we have been successful.  Kids don't care.  Thank God.

If we had not taken that rent-to-own situation, we would not have moved here when we did.  We wouldn't have been able to jump start our hybrid homeschool class, which is going so well.  It's like we moved for the schools... without moving for the school system.  The kids wouldn't be spending at least twice a week hanging out with their grandparents.  It is a better spot, lifestyle speaking.  Now, we need to find a way to make that next step... and have the energy left to do so.  This one will be our biggest project, and yet we start out weary.  But, I know that one day, when the economy recovers, we will sell that fabulous home and give our building possibilities the boost it needs.

Last night, Jeff gave me a big hug and told me that we've come a long way.  He said this as we stood, hugging, in the same bedroom that I slept in as a kid.  Have I come a long way?  I suppose in some strange way, I have.  I have learned a lot about being flexible, about not being in control, about not wasting energy trying to change things that cannot be changed.  I've learned that life truly, truly isn't fair... and I've learned that that's okay.  I also know that, even though I may feel beaten at the moment... I have no regrets.  It was the right path, it's just not fun right now.  And, I am well aware that, despite my whining, I have lots to be thankful for.  We are blessed with happy, healthy children.  We have a marriage that continues to work.  Our boys are getting an awesome education.  We are spending time with our parents.  We do have a roof over our heads.  And, things will most likely make sense in hindsight.

But, tonight, I am feeling the toll from all of the work we have put in... and I am going to bed to dream of the day when I can spend energy picking out a light fixture... and then stick around to get to use it.