Saturday, July 29, 2006

"I will lead them in paths that they have not known. . ." Isaiah 42:16

I spent a fitful night tossing and turning, reviewing real estate we'd looked at, bouncing back and forth between fantasies and troubles. Fantasies about staying in this house and not having to orchestrate the monumental task of moving or on the other hand, finding that perfect country place and transforming it, albeit slowly into our dream home and staying there forever. Real estate contracts, inspection reports and mortgage broker details kept the wheels turning long after midnight.

Add to that, the typical worries about children sprinkled here and there and . . . well, sound sleep is not going to happen.

Weeks ago, I told God I was taking my hands off this deal. It was up to him – whether or not our current home sold; where and what we’d find to move onto and how the whole bundle would fall together. I also prayed for strength to resist the urge to take over the process (my tendency) and wisdom to recognize his directives.

Before I went to bed last night, I read from the Guideposts Devotional book, just like I do every night. The scripture was Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead them in paths that they have not known . . .” It felt like reinforcement to me that God was leading and I just need to follow. This morning before we headed out to Wimberley to look at one more house, I opened the book to re-read last night’s passage, to bolster my confidence before we struck out again - except the book fell open to a different passage: “That they may dwell in a place of their own . . . II Samuel 7:10.

Sure enough, the last place we looked at was great. It’s on about 4-1/2 acres, has a beautiful view, plenty of room – all on one level – a separate studio/workshop – beautiful rock fireplace, real wood accents and a long shaded porch.

It also has major electrical problems, a long list of plumbing issues, a metal roof that leaks and to the best of my memory, no real dining area AND it’s priced far too high. But for some reason, we still like it. Of course, if we can’t get the price down far enough to compensate for the repairs, we’ll have to pass and I’m okay with that. I know now that we’re on a journey but we’re not on it alone.

Tonight, I plan to sleep like a baby.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

. . . and the deal unravels

Today seems surreal. The inspection on the Wimberley house revealed even more serious issues than the Brownwood house had so that deal went out the window, sending us each to our computer to do more home searches.

The inspectors for this house were here this afternoon, along with the realtor and the buyers, so the place was buzzing with folks. Our house passed with flying colors - wouldn't you know it. Then our mortgage broker came over with papers for us to sign for the next house, which looked like a catalog it was so thick. By the time he left and we closed the door, we were drained.

Tomorrow we head out again to look at several more homes. I can hardly wait.

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's a done deal . . . :(

It's been less than two weeks since we put our house on the market and gosh dangit - it sold. I thought I was ready to leave it and maybe part of me is but the part that weeps obviously isn't.

I cried when we signed the contract; cried every time we looked at another house and had to leave the realtor's office when we signed the offer on the new place (pictured above) so I wouldn't embarrass us all by leaving tears on the paperwork.

It’s a weird feeling for me. This is what we do and what we've always done. We buy homes, improve them and sell them when the market is right, a process that has afforded us the opportunity to live all over the country. Changing surroundings has been a huge part of what feeds our total creativity and keeps us motivated. We enjoy the joint collaboration of transforming a new place. Truth is, I don't want to lose that sense of adventure because that, it itself, is revitalizing for both of us.

There have been other special places, like Indiana and Reagan Wells but I don't remember feeling this way about leaving those. Mike tends to look at our homes as new canvases, fresh fields to plant with color and stone and stagnant spaces to breathe new life and light into. For me, it's another chapter in a book already filled with adventure and heartfelt memories.

I know it's time to sell this house for a lot of reasons but I am certainly going to miss it. The door frame inside my dressing room has eight of my ten grandchildren’s growth chart penciled on it. They love backing up to the wall, standing tall, tall, then jumping away to see how much they’ve grown (and who they’re catching up to).

The saving grace for me is that I just adore the couple who are buying the place. They have twin 3 year old girls and a 3 month old baby boy and they're going to make some wonderful memories here. (I must confess, however, that secretly I've imagined that for some bizarre reason, their loan falls through and we decide to take the house off the market for another year or so). I don't wish it on them, I just imagine what I would do if that happened. They're way too nice and I like them too much for that.

So, after spending a small fortune in fuel driving around the hill country looking for that perfect "next" house, we've made an offer on one in Wimberley. We rented a place in Wimberley a few years back for about seven months while we were house hunting. Wimberley is a wonderful little bustling art community with Cypress Creek and the Blanco River running through it. It is almost always alive with an atmosphere static with creative enegery fueled by a steady stream of tourists and a variety of cultural and festive activities.

An added bonus for me is the church in Wimberley. I missed going to it after we moved and never found one here that was comparable.

The house we're buying is a diamond in the ruff - typical for us. It's large and has an attached workshop that will become a sculpting studio, a wonderful north facing painting studio and a large office. It sits on cliff overlooking Cypress Creek and has sweeping views of the hill country. Our plan is to take the first six weeks off after we move to gut and remodel what will become the kitchen/great room. Tracy, our contractor, will be there part of the time but Mike and I will do a good portion of the work, which is something we truly enjoy and haven’t had time for in the last two years. I’m sure by the time Vegas rolls around, we’ll be very ready for a break!

I'm starting to feel some excitement about the move but it's going to take some time to get over this place and grow affection for the new one.

At least the house hunting part is over. While it's normally fun, this time it was a chore! The upside was we made a great new friend in Beverly Hohertz in Brownwood, who is hands down the best realtor on the planet!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Faith, Trust and a U-Haul Truck

We finally did it. We put our beautiful home up for sale. The truth is, if it doesn't sell, I won't be heartbroken - even though I'm completely ready to go on to the next chapter, take on the next home improvement challenge and bring new life to a house that's fading into the shadows. I guess its the creative nature in both of us that makes those projects so inviting and so much fun.

If God is ready for us to move on, the pieces will fall into place just as they should. It's always been that way for us and this time will be no different.

Twenty seven years ago, we lived in a crowded stuffy subdivision in Houston. More than anything, Mike wanted to move back to the mountains of Idaho but times were hard. Supporting a family on a secretary's salary and the income from the art we sold was a challenge, to say the least.

One day I came home from work to find Mike working on a HUGE painting. It was 5' x 8' and took up the entire loft wall where he had his studio. We had an art show coming up and he decided if he could sell this huge painting, we'd have the money we needed to move.

He also decided, after working in acrylics for 3 years, to try his hand at oils - on this big painting! For those of you not familiar with the difference, you can basically blow on acrylics and it dries while oils must be mixed precisely right if you want them to dry in less than a week.

The painting was awesome but after 3 weeks, the oils were still not drying which meant we wouldn't be able to take it to the show. It would get destroyed in transport.

Two days before the show, one of Mike's customers came over to preview the art and lo and behold - fell in love with the huge painting. Mike told him the price was $8,900 - and he said SOLD! The look on Mike's face was priceless. As the customer was leaving, he picked out two more paintings bringing the grand total of his purchase to $13,500.

Two weeks later, we delivered all the paintings to the customer's business and collected our check. We stopped on our way home and cashed it, pulled in and reserved a big U-Haul truck and within a week, were on our way to Sandpoint, Idaho, where yet another adventure awaited. Not only did we get the money we needed to move, we had enough to tide us over until we got re-established.

Not in a million years could we have predicted the way God would get us out of Houston . . . and not in a million more could we have known the kind of adventures we were about to have.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Their first place - and ours

Our daughter, Christi and her partner, Tina, signed the papers on their first home last week. They're just thrilled and we're thrilled for them. It's a nice home in a quiet neighborhood in Austin - which is saying a lot because you almost have to be a gazillionaire to afford to buy a house of any kind in Austin these days.

They looked at many homes - oh, thirty or so - and made offers on at least ten but the real estate market in Austin is hotter than ever so each time they made an offer, theirs was just one of many other offers the sellers were considering. Inevetibably they would lose out to a buyer who was willing to pay significantly more than the asking price. It was a long, hard battle but thanks to an innovative real estate agent, they finally "won" one!

Going with them to Home Depot and ReStore, the scrap building supply store run by Habitat, was a toot. They were like kids in a candy store, scrounging through cabinet door knobs, pedasal sinks and light fixtures. They're on a mission to update the place as much as they can afford to in the next couple of weeks while their kids are gone. Something tells me their weekend golfing trips may be replaced with weekend warrior home improvement projects.

I remember the first house Mike and I bought when Christi was about 6 and Staci was 8. It was a very old farm house in the northern most part of Idaho, near Sandpoint. It came with 5 acres and had a barn and a "guesthouse" that was really a travel trailer that was permanently planted about 75' from a railroad track. The weeds were about to take it over when we got there but Mike cleared them out, aired out the old musty tin can and turned it into his first official "studio." He thought he was in high cotton.

The first night we were there, Staci went in to take a bath and when she turned on the tub faucet, mud came out. It seemed there was something seriously wrong with the well casing. After several days and some help from one of our friends who knew a little something about wells, we started getting clearer water but it always came with a little sand.

Later that first night, as Mike and I were just drifting off to sleep, the activity in house picked up. There were mice living in the wall behind our bed and they were apparantly having a hoe-down! I never heard so much racket, running back and forth, even knibbling sounds. I was mortified. Mike had moved me from a nice apartment in Houston to what might as well have been the other side of the earth and there were RODENTS living in the my house! At least in Houston, we only had to deal with cockroaches (though they were almost as big as the Idaho mice).

The next day, Mike went down to the Colburn Store and bought 5 mouse traps. He set them up in the basement and within 3 minutes, they all went off. We spent the next several hours setting the traps, coming upstairs and literally waiting by the basement stairs for a few minutes - Whap, Whap, Whap, until all five had gone off. Mike would trek back down, empty the traps and start over. That went on for several hours. It was gruesome. Eventually, the mice population dwindled but not enough to stop the activity in the wall, just enough to slow it down a little.

At somewhere around 2:00 a.m.every single morning, an Amtrak train came blaring through the intersection on the track in front of our house - the same track the realtor said wasn't in use anymore - and scared Staci out of her bed. She would leap up and run through the house, still unfamiliar to her, screaming for one of us. We took turns catching her as she ran through the dining room.

We were pretty poor but we did decide to do a little remodeling of our own. I'd like to say there were lovely wood floors in the house but the truth is, there were just damaged wood floors under the old, ragged, stinky carpet. We pulled up the carpet and I decided to sand the floors of the dining room so I rented a big, heavy duty, upright sander. It was winter and very dark outside the night we cleared the room to tackle the task. I turned the monster machine on and it immediately threw one of the two electric breakers and there we were in total darkness. Mike fumbled around and found a small flashlight and went to the basement to flip the breaker back on. Suddenly, the lights came on and the heavy sanding monster took off across the floor, dipping and weaving in every direction as I tried to grab it. It was so powerful that when I grabbed the handle, it just took off sideways, dragging me with it, screaming and stumbling. Like a determined bull rider, I hung on, while it veered from one side of the room to the other, dragging me with it all the while. Staci and Christi screamed and ran to another room afraid for their lives. Finally, Mike ran in and pulled the plug from the wall and it was over. We stood there looking at each other for about 10 seconds before we collapsed on the floor, laughing so hard we cried.

It wasn't a perfect place but it was our place and looking back, it made for some wonderfully funny memories. As Christi and Tina relace faucets, paint walls and lay a wood floor in their new place, I do hope they have at least a few of those magical moments that make first places so special.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Days gone by...and Days yet to come

It's the first day of July and I have no idea where June went! Gracious me, time sure flies by these days. Deadlines, road trips, grandbabies and property hunting must have consumed it.

The last few days have been interesting. I got a call from one of my oldest and dearest friends from college. He's struggling with the aftermath of divorce with children and I've spent several hours on the phone with him. Regardless of how bad a marriage is, the finality of divorce is still a foreign feeling and requires a lot of adjusting. It takes a lot of prayer and good portion of time before the road gets smoother.

We're headed back to Brownwood tomorrow - this time with Tracy, our contractor. Before we totally walk away from this place, we decided to get a professional opinion about what kind of potential this place really has. We see the potential thankfully, Tracy can usually see what we see. The difference is, he sees it in real dollars and real time. We're dreamers and always have been. We see a grand old lodge of a house, plenty of room for all our kid and grandkids, space for our artist friends to come stay for a spell and let Mike mentor them as they start their careers and a place where we can sit on the porch in the evenings and listen to the sweet sounds of nature. We also see the perfect place to have an annual Chuckwagon cook-off and cowboy cartoonist show one day. The setting is perfect and it would be great fun for us and the community. I suppose we see another Y-ME Ranch Guest Lodge or Retreat kind of place - provided it doesn't drain us financially, that is.

Sometimes I wonder where we would be without dreams. I could probably live without my hearing and though it would be awfully hard, I could live without my sight. I could even live if I couldn't walk - but if I lost the ability to dream about the future and all the wonderful things to come - well, I just don't know if I could survive that.