I have been strong through God's mercy - I feel I have had to be so so strong over the past 15 months. My husband had just lost his father to cancer, we had just gotten back from the trip to Florida, me driving the girls and Chris flying down with his father's coffin. We were tired and sick. And then we left home. I had to tell my children that we were leaving the only home they'd ever known and we would never be going back. Their precious dolls and toys, their proud artwork and school books, their special places in the yard... it was all stripped away. Not only that, my child who wasn't allergic to mold had to help pack up, sell, throw away, or give away all of her toys and special things. The other had to wait outside, coughing and lonely. My husband had to put his grief to the side and work late into the night every night, tearing apart all he had put together. By himself in a house that his family could no longer enter.
I had to be strong for my kids when we moved from our lovely spacious house into my mother's tiny apartment (it is fabulous for one or two people, but when you add 4 more people, 2 cats, 2 dogs, and a fish...). My dear husband staggered home each night and slept on the floor, while I slept on the couch. My kids slept on air mattresses that we stacked each morning so my mother could access her closets. All of our belongings fit into 4 rubbermaid containers. I started having blackouts from my allergies. But I had to be strong and keep everyone happy and content, I had to provide a focal point.
I had to be strong when we moved again to a friend's abandoned house. I taped off "dangerous" rooms, like the one with the hole in the roof, taped up all the closets and half of the cabinets. And I was strong again, helping everyone find the happiness and beauty in this new place. God gave me the strength to keep a happy attitude while our new house was delayed time and time again. While my husband worked late nights at the new house and struggled with the extreme stress our family was under. While I sprayed every inch of our new house's framework with borax and peroxide when we found mold. I kept the kids distracted and content despite moldy conditions in the friend's house which caused more illnesses. God gave me the strength.
And I had to be strong moving again to our new house, dealing with an emergency move due to swiftly increasing health issues, trying to stock an entire house with necessities, coming up with a plan for trying to regain our health. God gave me the strength to keep a peaceful, joyful attitude despite ill health from out-gassing new items, despite a crazy week when the water was shut off due to a well contamination, even when we found our daughter was reacting to our new mattresses (I do not want to relive that week).
So now I feel my exhaustion. I have come to the end of my strength time and time again. And I do not wish for anything other than what God has given me. I am content. But that does not mean that there is not a time to mourn. There were good times before this. And memories.
This was my house. I know every turn of that driveway. I remember when we put in the pad at the front of the photo when a windstorm took down a giant pine. I remember sitting on the front porch when a tree hit our car! Perhaps not a fabulous memory, but very exciting. I remember the hammock that was between the two middle trees, all the happy times swinging with the girls. I remember Mimosa as a puppy, racing through the leaves. I remember the kids raking leaves with Chris, or zooming across the yard on the zipline. I remember coming home at Christmas, and seeing all of the lights. I remember seeing the lights on and knowing that I was home.
This was my backyard. The section to the right is the kitchen that we added on. I remember the fun Chris and I had, planning and dreaming. I remember planting my garden, watching the kids run across the lawn. I remember looking over the deck and watching the dogs frolic around the playset or drowse in the sun.
This was my screened porch - we built it with the addition. My kiln used to be kept here. I remember sitting out next to the kiln on cold nights, enjoying the glow and the warmth. I remember how much I loved putting pottery in the kiln and the excitement of pulling it back out. I remember my husband building that retaining wall so that I could have a kitchen herb garden. I remember building a fun outdoor play area for the kids at the top of the hill. I remember my neighbor walking by the fence on her walks. My compost heap was behind the bush and the green frogs.
This was at the bottom of my yard. I remember Chris building our fence - 78 post holes!!! And the care he put into this arbor for my lady banks roses. It is a bower of yellow blossoms every spring. I remember those wind-chimes - we got them on a fun trip to the beach. I remember starting the gardenia bushes from little cuttings, and enjoying the blooms each year.
This is the other side of the gate - our stream. I remember so many fun hours with the kids, building a little dock (which got carried away by a flood), finding crawdads, playing with the dog in the creek.
This was my beautiful pottery room, my sanctuary. Chris built it for me. He got someone's reclaimed laundry cabinets and sink, then built the desk and shelving. That is a painting of the horse that I loved from a friend. Speckles has been gone for about a year and a half now. My pottery wheel went in the corner where the stool is.
Here is my pottery room when it was being used. I just loved that room - I'd go in and just feel happy. I worked all summer one year, running summer camps out of my house, so that I could buy a wheel and supplies. And then God supplied the kiln. Pottery gave me so much joy. Sometimes I feel a little lost without it.
Our sunny front room. This room had art desks on one side and sewing tables on the other. We spent many creative hours in this room! And in the afternoon, the sun would shine in - absolutely the best place to read! I loved looking a the big wooden sun, a handmade gift from a Finnish artist. I had a beautiful sun collection, scattered throughout the house, but mostly in the blue entryway. Suns from everywhere - Mexico, France, all over the place, gifts from many beloved people. I loved my striped blue floors in the entryway! The yellow room was my pineapple room. I cut out a pineapple on a sponge and painted them on the bottom section. All the pictures on the walls had pineapples as the subject. We didn't use this fireplace, but I painted it orange and put in lights for a warm glow. My sandpipers on the mantle always reminded me of my grandmother. I had plans to paint the fireplace, but I never did get to that. My daughter painted the striped painting as a gift for me. The green thing under it is a plaster house that we got on a cruise before we had kids.
This is where my babies slept. I painted the murals and wooden sea creatures on the walls, along with the bookcase. The stool was mine as a child. The closets used to be bursting with colorful clothing. Chris built that bookcase and I painted it the week before Eloise was born. The wicker mirror was a gift from me to my husband. The white ceramic geese were my grandmother's, and the bed was one of my brother's childhood bunk beds, repainted for my girls. My mother bought us the comforter. We had wide windowsills that the kids could sit on. Eloise slept here as a baby. and then Kailee moved in as they got older. I had taken the doors to the closet down and put up cheery curtains that I made.
This was the playroom, although for the house photos we moved Kailee's bed into the room, along with her bookshelf. I painted both. I sewed the palm tree with the smiling coconut children before she was born (I actually put it on the wall in our first house the night before she was born!). I drew the wooden butterflies and sun, Chris cut them out, then I painted them. I sewed the curtains in both bedrooms to match the beds. This room used to be full of shelves and toys, with dress up clothing in the closet and games on the shelves. There were tons of model horses and a big dollhouse that Chris built and I decorated. I remember lying on the floor in here when I was pregnant with Eloise, looking at Kailee lying in bed, wondering how it was possible to love such little people so much. It had carpeting back then. Chris put in this laminated floor with a friend. We drew on the floor underneath before they put it down.
This was our bedroom, with a door to the deck. Chris gave me that fan for my birthday one year. The plant stand masquerading as a nightstand was my grandmother's. We used to have the furniture from my childhood in here, a medium walnut set. The photo on the wall was from our honeymoon in Bermuda. The wall against the head of the bed used to be orange. We had a king and queen bed pushed together, called the "keen" bed - this was a giant room! I loved to open the glass door and do yoga to the sound of the birds (we had a busy birdfeeder on the deck).
This is my beautiful living room. We redid it when we built the addition. Chris spent many hours putting engineered cherry flooring throughout the addition, living room, and pottery room. I loved the colors here - it was so cool and peaceful to me. The yellow curtains were made from material that used to be my grandmother's. Many of the dishes on the shelves were hers. Chris built the pink cuckoo clock for me for my birthday one year. I always wanted a cuckoo clock, so he built a pink one in memory of our Bermuda honeymoon. Then I got to decorate it! We used to have a fish tank on that shelf. Chris, of course, built the shelves. My aunt gave us the stacking tables for our wedding seventeen years ago, and I painted them green. Chris and I picked out the furniture for our first house. We had so much fun picking new light fixtures for our house - I loved the wicker fans! This room had beige wallpaper when we moved it - obviously I don't like beige or wallpaper!
This is the view from the living room. The pineapple room was on the left, pottery room was behind the wall with the purple table, Chris's mancave and office straight ahead, orange kitchen to the right. I adored my brick wall behind the fireplace! That is a spice rack, re-purposed into a beach collection. We got sand from every beach we went to, plus various things from New Hampshire and Florida. I drew and Chris built all the shelving. Our old kitchen was right here, but we used it for piano (on the purple table), tv, storage, etc after the rennovation. The skylight used to really heat up the room! And if I cooked with honey, bees could get in the skylight and we'd run around with butterfly nets to get them out. The closets to the left in the hallway were art and pottery storage closets. The girls would put on socks and "skate" on the floor. Our Christmas tree went by the brick wall, or in the pineapple room.
Ah, my kitchen. These were the colors of my grandmother's laundry room, a place where I spent many happy hours. Yep, it was bright orange with yellow counters! I told someone that I had painted my kitchen in the colors of my grandmother's laundry room. When he saw it, he said, "Somehow this was not what I pictured!" Another friend who had had brain cancer said that if it came back, he was just going to come over and sit in our kitchen and be happy. It's hard to see in this photo, but the lights have metal pineapples on them. Our lemon tree gave us about 7 lemons every year. Right around this time of year they would ripen, and we would make lemonade with honey. I drew this room and shelving (and cabinets) and Chris built them. I painted and stained. He put in glass shelving and lights. The brown sign with the blue letters was our birthday calendar. I had just made it a few months before we left. The paintings were by my grandmother. I remember staining the beam on the ceiling, then watching Chris and a friend climb up shaky ladders to screw it to the ceiling. Scary. I can still feel what it felt like to walk through this house. We lived here for ten years.
This is where I spent many happy times - homeschooling the kids, cooking dinners, playing board games and cards, entertaining friends, sitting by myself for a cup of hot lemonade. The sun would shine in and just light the whole place up. The china and pottery was from my grandmother. I sat on the right, Chris on the left, the kids in the middle. We had a basket of candles that the kids loved to go through - they were so proud that they could light them and make the table look pretty!
This is what I was thinking of tonight as I cooked. I have quite a nice kitchen now, but this is where I spent much of my time. It was so bright and happy. Chris built the blue nook in the wall since I hated to waste space (it was for the air return). A cat would often hop up into it. Chris built the spice rack for me. The red and yellow bottles had lights in them, and we would light them up for ambiance. Chris bought the red sun on the wall for me on a beach trip many years ago. We got the bamboo ship in Dominica from a man who made them after a hike through a rain-forest. There was also a backpack basket up there - my grandfather used to take it ice fishing. I remember drawing out the plans for the curved island. We had a computer screen on the wall for recipes, internet etc. The computer was on the other side of the room in Chris's office.
This was my grandmother's bell. She used to ring it on the beach to call us in. I wonder what happened to all of my spices.... I can't remember.
We planned out the shelves behind the counters so carefully. I just loved them. Chris built the drawers below especially for me - I'd been suffering from arthritis-like pain and the full extension drawers helped me reach things without pain. It's hard to see, but there is a repeating wave pattern that I drew that was carved into the top drawers. My grandmother gave me the set of knives, and we got the dishes for our wedding. I loved my sign that Chris gave me "Mood swings available every ten minutes." (I asked for the sign ;)). I adored my bright yellow counters!
This fireplace was the focal point of the kitchen. Lights in the summer, roaring fire in the winter. It made the room sooo cozy. It was specially built and put out so much heat! We would garland it with lights and greenery at Christmas, and sit on the hearth to warm up after walks. I got the big photo of exotic fruit for the first apartment that Chris and I shared. I can still feel what it felt like to sit on that hearth. Amazing how you can remember details like the feel of the cool stone.
This was our giant deck. It's very cut back right now, but it has tons of fragrant star jasmine that would perfume the air all summer. It would attack our glider and we'd have to cut the glider out from it every year. Grape vines are growing up on the left - they provided us with many yummy snacks! We did so much on the deck - we had a playhouse, sandbox, and at times even a screened room! In the summer we'd put out a kiddie pool.
Here is the view from the end of the deck. Down at the bottom is the arbor and gate out to the stream. I planted all the bushes from tiny little starts - I had about a dozen gardenias and 4 beauty berry bushes. I also had 2 peach trees, 2 cherry trees, and a nectarine. We never got to see them bear fruit. My huge vegetable garden is behind the fence to the right. We had a huge playset at the bottom of the yard - the kids loved the "pirate ship!" I would push them and push them on the swings when they were little.
Well, thank you for taking a final tour of my old home with me. In a way it was easier using the photos from after the house was ready to sell - much of the personality is missing. Sometimes you have to go back and say goodbye. I've had several times over the past year when I've found my mind wandering into my old house and flying back out, fleeing from the pain. But today I needed to just plow through it. I am happy where I am. I am content. But I needed to go back and say goodbye. I loved our house, our life, our neighborhood. And that is all gone now. Many of our old friends have disappeared from our new life - their lives are busy, and our needs make it ...difficult. We have a new life, new house, new place. Memories will come, but right now everything is new and empty of memories. I don't have anything where I can say "Remember when....???" But God is familiar to me, and He has been constant, which has allowed me to be constant through these turbulent months. I don't take anything but Him for granted anymore. And as it turns out, He is enough.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."