Taste, touch, hear, smell and see

There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy life. I have been convicted lately of not taking enough time to slow down to appreciate simple things.

Life has a way of speeding up into a chaotic frenzy and bubbling over into a meltdown from stress unless we hit the pause button or unplug our devices.

I am guilty the last nine months. We have had no vacations. Fall, winter, spring and now summer are quickly fading away. Why, you might ask.

Because, what began from our good intention of moving into a smaller home to downsize and simplify life has turned into a long drawn out stress-inducing list. There is an endless list of things to do when 1. selling an existing house and 2. building a new house. These things include but are not limited to :purchasing a lot, drawing up house plans, choosing a builder, packing, donating, pitching, staging, showing, meeting with subs, shopping for windows, cabinetry, flooring, lighting, plumbing fixtures, creating wish lists, etc, etc, etc.

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! It must be noted that the Lord wants us to use our senses to experience His goodness( the other senses must be inferred as well.) Psalm 34:8

When was the last time I sat quietly just to listen to a beautiful symphonic piece of music or watched fireflies twinkle in the yard while listening to the sounds of crickets, or smelled the sweet scent of a rose after a summer rain that left its petals dappled with raindrops? Or savored a long quiet dinner at dusk on my back porch? Or run my hands through the leaves of a patch of rosemary and thyme then sniffed the lingering smell on my fingertips?

Here are a few images to help focus on the senses…..

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Hear the tinkling and gurgling sound of water from a fountain.

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Feel squishy dirt between my fingers while planting a flower in a pot.

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Smell the sweet scent of roses in the garden.

Life is filled with challenges and I know that God allows things to happen one way or another for a reason but in all of it, we must still be willing to slow down to experience His goodness if we are to SURVIVE and THRIVE!

 

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Feeling Especially Loved

I have been feeling a little sad and discouraged lately but on this Valentine’s Day, God sent me a special reminder of His love. I thought it was worth mentioning as a way to encourage others who may be struggling.

This morning, my husband surprised me by leaving some roses on the counter with a Valentine’s Day card before he left for work. Before opening his card I got busy signing the card that I had purchased for him and decided to embellish the envelope with some hearts. I was going to deliver the card with some candy to his office later in the day. I drew two hearts with arrows then entwined two more at the top to symbolize how the two became one. Moments later I opened his card to me and read a very similar sentiment as the card that I had sent him. It reiterated that no matter our ups and downs, together we would get through life. What amazed me was that two identical entwined hearts were found on the front of the card. At the office I showed Ken the two cards. We both were amazed over our Valentine’s Day miracle.

I sat down to do a little bookkeeping while I was there and clumsily spilled some coffee that I had brought on my red turtleneck sweater.  I got a paper towel, dampened it and began to blot out the spill to avoid a stain.  As I blotted and looked in the mirror, I saw the image of a heart forming on my sweater. I quickly took a photo with my phone to prove the evidence that not once but twice in the same day I had witnessed a miracle. I took these reaffirming signs to be a message directly from the heart of God that His love for me is real and is quite evident during times when I need it most.

 

 

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A Cry For Dating Etiquette Renewal

As a mother, I have witnessed several things about dating that are the trend with the current millennial  generation and I must admit that I am concerned and disappointed, to say the least.  Sadly, young people no longer have the  delightful opportunity to meet other singles in safe common areas.  They  distrust these meet-up scenarios due to scary outbreaks of shootings and muggings that are rampant in the news. They have had to resort to screening potential dates through internet dating sites. They have replaced phone conversations with texts and Facebook chats which understandably decrease ones ability to interpret  sincerity of motives or genuineness of character from voice inflections.

If your young people have happily met their significant other and gotten married, I congratulate you. You are in the minority, I think.  That leaves many of us still hoping and praying for the Mr. or Mrs. Right to come along.  I must continue to bite my nails as my children go out on dates with strangers in hopefully safe arenas.  I must continue to listen to their woes and disappointing stories, as those that they meet turn out quite different from what their profiles suggest or that they lead them to believe by brief interactions on their devices before meeting face to face. I don’t know how many times now, my daughter has gotten excited over a potential meeting to be stood up…travelling even long distances to make the connection. I also can relay several instances where the potential didn’t have the courtesy to thank her after the initial meeting but suddenly seemed to disappear in thin air from all links ie. “unfriending” her  leaving her to wonder what she did or did not do right. HOW RUDE!

How did this generation escape being taught the social etiquette that was drilled into us?  Saying  “please”, “thank you” or “excuse me” were sentiments that were spoken without thinking  in our generation. We showed respect for one another by responding to RSVP’s, sent “thank you” notes for gifts or to show gratitude. We dressed to make a good first impression. I am not talking about a suit and tie for guys or dresses for girls but at least it would be courteous to show that some thought and effort were made to look presentable.  Often dates these days think the more casual the better and wear sweats or shorts and a t-shirt as if the date was not important enough to take a shower for after going to the gym.

In the dating world of my generation, chivalry was not dead, and gentlemen were fairly plentiful. They had learned the do’s and don’ts when calling  on a lady.  They knew to open doors and pay for the meal. They would never leave a lady stranded somewhere or would not expect the lady to drive a long distance to meet. Even on a first date and even if there was not a love connection, they would walk her to her car, and would make sure she had gotten home safely after the meeting. Feminism hadn’t destroyed men’s attempts at showing manners.

Women on the other hand, were courteous enough not to order the most expensive item on the menu or choose the most expensive way to spend the date. They would give the guy a fair first chance at least and would thank him for taking her out afterwards even if there was no interest in a second date.  Usually,  it takes two dates to decide whether or not things go well as the first date is filled with nervousness and awkwardness.  Are young people today really that impatient or shallow? Perhaps so.

There are many girls now that think they can be friends with every guy.  What are the poor guys supposed to do about that? My son has two to three “friends” that won’t consider marriage but instead want to keep him hanging on as a friend indefinitely.  That seems pretty unfair and selfish to me.  It would be better to break it off for good than to lead a guy on to think that maybe one day the girl will give him another chance.

 

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Classified Ad for Singles

There is  a movie called “Must Love Dogs” that was popular in the last few years.  The story goes that a single person looking for love in the online dating world feels more comfortable with other singles that share a fondness for animals.  Our love seeker assumes if a date prospect loves animals, dogs in particular, they are more trustworthy because of their compassion for pets.

If someone is willing to care for an animal and all the inconvenience that is involved with owning a pet, they are more than likely an unselfish individual who is worthy of a relationship with another person. Owning a dog requires us to take walks outdoors in both wet and freezing elements when they are less than welcoming. It requires us to go to the vet when Rover is sick or when he needs to have a check-up. It can be expensive to buy heartworm medicine, or flea preventive which dogs need every month. Dogs require grooming. This is also expensive if your dog needs his fur coat cropped to avoid turning into a matted mop look-alike.  Dog owners who really deserve praise, attempt to bathe their creatures while getting an unintentional bath themselves  so that their indoor environment is more pleasant-smelling to bear. Pets need to be cared for if we want to take a vacation.  If we board them, this is also another expense we must be prepared to pay or we must impose on really good friends or family who are willing to help us out with Fido while we are gone. Not all dogs are small enough to fit into a backpack or purse which some pet owners insist is a must for pet ownership in order to take them everywhere.

In short, owning a pet is inconvenient.  Owning a cat is a bit easier since kitty can stay indoors to do his business and not bother his human to take him on walks. However, every cat owner knows that  litter box cleaning is not for the faint of heart.  I know because I have been the only one of my family brave enough to go inside the cat quarters, while holding my breath, when it is time to clean “the box.”

It is true that most animal lovers I have met have been good humans to know.  I would like to go one step further in saying that if I were to place a classified ad as a single looking for a caring person who is worth the risk, I would also  have to add “Must Love Children and Old People.”

 

 



 

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The Pool House: Part Seven Of My Own Fixer Uppers

We decided to move again when our children were in elementary school. The decision was made when we all needed a little more room to grow.  We wanted a garage and larger space for the kids as they were too tall by then for their “play” spaces.

We realized within a short time of searching that we would get more square footage if we purchased an older home.  A fixer upper or house in need of some “tlc” would give us the most house for the money.

We looked at our next house once and ruled it out because it was very outdated and unappealing. When we couldn’t find anything we liked that we could afford, we decided to look at it again with a more open mind. Yes, it needed updating. The rose-pink carpeting throughout was in bad shape. The paneled walls made the space very dark and unwelcoming. The current owners’ dark and drab decor did not help us get a positive vibe .  They had a brown sofa in the already brown paneled den and a grey sofa in the living room where all the drapes were drawn over big picture windows so that it looked even more cave-like. The wallpaper throughout had been put up in the 70’s or 80’s. It was floral everywhere but looked more like grandma’s tiny prints than Waverly’s more bold up-to-date style. The kitchen cabinetry matched the ugly dark paneling in the den. It would all have to go.  On the plus side, there was a welcoming pool in the backyard of the drab cave house. Once my husband saw it, his perspective changed and his quest was to sell me on the house and convince me on the vision he saw for it. Even though he was optimistic, I did not share his enthusiasm about such a large home renovation project. It was not a good sign, he much later confessed to me, that I cried after our closing.

My ambitious husband told me he would have the whole house painted like new in three months time. Nine months later, it seemed like we had not even made a dent in our growing list of projects. In fact, it seemed as though we were taking one step forward and two steps backward on our Reno timeline for quite some time.

We started in the kitchen. My husband was able to demo the cabinetry himself, saving some of the upper cabinets for the garage for more storage space.  We hired Home Depot to design and install new bleached cabinets that were popular at the time.  That project went fairly well although the island sat in our kitchen on blocks for about three months until we could get the cabinet installer to come back to complete the unfinished job.  We had a tile man install a white ceramic tile backsplash. At the same time we remodeled our master bath which contained only one sink and a shower.  A garden tub was installed where a closet had been and the tile man put up white ceramic tile around it. Since there was no room for a double sink, we replaced the small cabinet with a larger one and a wall-sized mirror above it to make the space seem bigger. We also added cabinets above the toilets in all three bathrooms for extra storage. We installed new light fixtures in the baths and throughout the whole house to make the house appear much brighter.

We added new carpeting after some of our painting projects began so that we didn’t have to worry about paint on the floors. We had a carpenter build a new laundry room space where a pantry had been next to the half bath behind the garage. When it was time to turn on the heat as the winter began to set in, we discovered that we needed to replace one of our heating systems.  Also around this time, we had some leaks in the basement ceiling and had to have some old copper plumbing pipes replaced with pvc piping. These unforeseen expenses hit us pretty hard at the onset.  At times, we felt like we had bought a money pit. We prayed hard for the burdens to begin to lift and slowly, the first wave of repairs began to subside.

By the time we had lived in our house five or six years, we had remodeled the basement, adding French doors, a gas heater and walls to make one large room into three rooms so that my husband could have an office and I could have a craft room. In the larger area we added a pool table and seating with a tv  for the “guys” to have a place to hang out.  We finished the upstairs attic space. It became a bedroom for our son as he became a teen.  He appreciated the private space even though the ceilings were pitched. We had to situate his bed at the best angle for added head room. The last project we took on was tiling over terrazzo floors and enclosing the screened sun porch off of the den.

Things went well for several years. Around 2007, the real estate market fell into a steep decline which adversely affected my husband’s real estate appraisal business.  We started to feel the pinch in our income. After a very slow year, we fell behind on our taxes. We started thinking about selling the house. We put it on the market for 6 months to try to sell  it ourselves but got no offers for what we thought was a low listing price. On the up side, we found a house in foreclosure for a very reasonable price that we thought would meet our needs. We decided to make an offer or risk losing the chance to buy it. We thought surely our house would sell within the year and lowered our price several times. When we still did not sell it, we decided to rent the house.

We found out soon, that this was a huge mistake. Without going into too many details, the year that we had tenants was very stressful. We broke down and listed our house for sale with an agent after we had some major cleaning up to do on the inside of the home. We had two prospects within a couple of months but both fell through. FINALLY, we had a buyer who was genuinely interested in our home, wasn’t playing any games or trying to take advantage of us and gave us a reasonable offer.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Two Story “Play” House: Part Six Of My Own Fixer Uppers

When things started taking off with the business, we decided to build a bigger house for our growing family.  We liked our neighborhood and inquired about purchasing a vacant lot at the end of a quiet street backing up to some woods.  We found out that the owners would sell but that the lot had some drainage challenges. There were some underground springs on the property which would require rebar reinforcements to be put inside the foundation. We would have to find a builder who was experienced with such issues.

Thankfully, with Ken’s business contacts, we were able to find a builder that agreed to work on the project. We decided on a basic two-story plan and had a budget based on the parameters of our building loan that we tried our best to stay within.  We fashioned it after our first new home in Charlotte but without a garage and with a few upgrades.  Some changes were made along the way. We stuck with builder grade cabinetry, flooring, appliances and materials. We upgraded the carpet. We upgraded a few light fixtures such as in the eat-in kitchen area and dining room. We changed the location of a door so that we could have a front hall closet. (This was where my daughter would take all her dolls and stuffed animals during thunderstorms to hide out and stay safe when there was the threat of a tornado.) We fashioned a side porch entrance  because of the grade of the driveway. We decided on wood instead of vinyl siding because it was cheaper. We added a screened porch on the back of the house. My husband wanted a small office upstairs although it was basically an over-sized closet at the end of the hall.

I did not want any country blue in this house. Instead I opted for a hunter green and pink mauve color scheme. After all, it was the 1990’s.  I chose a floral rose wallpaper for the kitchen with a matching border. I found a Waverly fabric to go with it and made some café curtains for the windows. I  also chose floral wallpaper patterns for the dining room and for our master bath. I found neutral patterns for the other bathrooms. With this house, I began to experiment  more with decorating than I had with our previous homes.

I also took on more gardening projects for this house than I had before. To save money, I ordered some bare rooted plants through catalogs. We put in all the landscaping around the house ourselves. This was out of necessity because we had no grass or foundation plants when we moved in.  I had a gardening neighbor who inspired me.  She taught me a lot about the plants she had success growing.

In our backyard,we added a “play” fort with swing and slide for the children. We also put up a tire swing. We hired a retired neighbor to convert an upstairs walk-in storage space into a “play”room for the children. It was great as long as they were under 5 feet tall for the ceilings were very low and fit under the eaves of the house. He also added a deck on the back of the house.

We did what we thought were reasonable projects and upgrades for a house in our neighborhood. We did not want to make over-improvements. A garage would have been one such addition which was out of the question.

 

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The Country Ranch House: Part Five of My Own Fixer Uppers

Our rental house was undesirable plus it was on a busy road. We wanted to  find another house of our own again however, having gone through several job changes and moves, we were hesitant.  My husband lost his father that spring.  Soon after, I discovered that I was pregnant with our second child.  Ken’s job was looking more promising, so we decided to look for a permanent home in the area.

With the help of a realtor, we decided upon a 3 bedroom, 1 and 1/2 bath brick ranch in a moderately priced neighborhood. It was outdated so we knew we  would have to do some work to it. There was no garage or car port but there was a big yard. There was lots of paneling in the house and some hardwood floors. The bedrooms were small but adequate. The house still had the 80’s  feel with country themed wallpaper in the kitchen and cornflower blue trim throughout. The carpeting in the bedrooms was also country blue.

We got to work making changes right away.  We painted the baby’s room first in a neutral yellow.  We put in a new sink and pretty cabbage rose printed wallpaper in the main bath.  We had a shower installed in our bathroom enlarging the space  by taking the closet space and converting it into a full bathroom. We had to build a new closet in the bedroom which made it smaller.  Having a larger master bath took priority, we decided, over the size of the bedroom.

My father helped us by painting the maple cabinets white in the kitchen. We installed a new stove and removed louvered shutters from the windows. We put in new country blue laminate countertops to match the existing color scheme. The linoleum floors still had a “brick-look” pattern and were dark but otherwise the space was quite updated and  much brighter.

We planted some foundation plantings and trees. We built a swing set in the back yard. We attached a child-sized swing for our daughter and a baby swing for our son.

We did all this work over the course of several years.  While in this house, my husband made a career change and trained to become a real estate appraiser. He finally found what he was meant to do and started his own company.

Some years after moving from this house, we learned there was a fire started when a warm grill was stored in the outside hot water heater room beside the back kitchen door.   A large portion of the house on that side  of the house was burned and had to be rebuilt.

 

 

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