Friday, February 18, 2011

Creating A Cottage On A Hill Project: The Backstory



For those of you that would like to hang around, "after the blog show", I've been asked how I found myself living in a "house in a basement" so I thought I'd give you a little history lesson: 
In May 2008, I had been planning on moving into a new, furnished condo. I decided not to renew my lease for the condo we had been living in for the better part of the past four years and sold pretty much all of my furniture on Craigslist. I put all of my son's toys and my book cases (along with its extensive book collection) in storage until the end of summer when our condo would be ready and we moved into a spare wing of a friend's Chateau (quite literally). The day the movers arrived I had to pick up my five year old cat, Kiah, from the vet. I had her spayed and while she was unconscious I also had her de-clawed so she would not destroy my friend's furniture. She died that night. She had a rare disease called Cardio Myopathy which became aggravated by the anesthesia from the surgery and her heart had stopped. I tell myself she didn't suffer, that she just...left. Some nights my crying wakes me as I dream of her. Still two years later and I miss her every day. Tragedy number one, complete.

 


August rolls around. The furnished condo we were supposed to move into falls through. The previous tenant decides not to move out and the landlord and I had negotiated on a handshake. I was an idiot, plain and simple. Lesson learned. Tragedy number two, complete.

December finds me living with my best friend in her spare bedroom, this situation is not ideal and we barely made it through. My 2007 Honda SE lease ends. I'm now driving a $300 1992 Taurus. This thing scares me. I often wished it would just explode. You know how they tell you to be careful what you wish for? Well with good reason. my friends. A few days before Christmas, it blew up. I mean, really blew up, as in Boom! On the bright side, a salvage yard paid me $200 for it. Tragedy number three, kind of complete. 

Just after Christmas, I met a family through my church that wanted to have my son and I over for dinner, they had "adopted" us through the Single Mom's ministry I belonged to with my church. I struggled with participating, be too proud for handouts and charity and all, but God wasn't terribly interested in letting me out of it. You know how they say when one door closes, another one opens? Well, it can’t get much more literal that this, folks. We loved them and they loved us, pretty instantaneously  Random tidbit: their dog? Her name is Kaya (spelled different but pronounced the same as our dear little kitteh). I thought Blake was going to faint when she jumped on him and they yelled, "Kaya, get down!". The next day I got a phone call and that went a bit like this:

Them: So Christy, we got to thinking after dinner last night, we just bought this new house and the lower level is its own separate unit.
Me: Uh huh
Them: Well, we can’t really rent it out to just anyone, because they’d have access to our house
Me: Uh huh…
Them: But we really liked you and your little mister, we’d love to have you look at it. If you’d be interested?
Me: Well, what are you doing today?

Now mind you, we've met only once, that one time, over dinner at their house. I had explained how I had arrived at this existence where I was kind of homeless, didn’t own any furniture, had everything left that I own locked in a 10x10 storage unit and didn’t have a car. It was kind of a bad scene, but I tried to make it not sound as pathetic as it does right now as I am telling you. It seemed my luck was a turnin’. My only question after looking through this new home was, Can I paint?” to which I was met with a lot of laughing and, “Can you? Yes! Please, please paint.”

January 11th, 2009, I wake up in the middle of the night to a dream that my Grandpa was in the hospital. I sat next to him and as I held his hand, I watched him slip away. This is only the second time in my life that my sobbing woke me from my sleep, Kiah visiting me after she died being the first. I called him the next day:

Me: Well hi, Grandpa, I just called to tell you I love you.
Him: Well I love you, too, doll. Did you hear the news? The cancer is gone.
(as he says this his voice breaks and he starts to cry)
Me: I did. I am so very happy to hear that.
Him: Hey, any chance you can find me a book on how to make a Cardinal feeder?
Me: I will sure try
Him: You’re a good girl, Christy. Well, I’m glad you called, I love ya.
Me: So am I, and I love you, too.



It would be the last time I hear his voice, besides in my own head. That Thursday my Grandpa went into the hospital unexpectedly and with the dream in the back of my mind, I didn’t want to go. I was planning a visit for the weekend, but Saturday afternoon my aunt called, she said he was doing much better and suggested I wait to see him when he comes home. He died around 1:00 am Monday morning, almost a week after my dream. I loved him dearly. It kind of freaked my Grandma out, since I had told her about it when I called to speak with him, and between us, it kind of freaked me out, too. He was my like my father, he raised me, I would miss him every day. Tragedy number four, complete. 


My favorite photo, I think because it reminds me of JFK


I moved into "The Bucks" at the beginning of February with pretty much just a mattress, books and dishes. Oh! And an arsenal of painting and cleaning supplies, I can’t forget those. I put my bed in the kitchen and spent every spare minute that I wasn’t working at my day job painting every single inch of this place. Looking back, I can honestly say that having a project of that size to work on saved me, it really did. At times I would break down, I’d fall to the floor and sob hysterically. But now, when I look at a specific part of the room, I don’t think of how sad I was back then. I think of how my hands touched every inch of this space, how I helped breathe new life into it. I think of how proud my Grandpa would be of me. I think of how many things went wrong for me to find something that would eventually turn out to be so right.

That was two years ago.

Since then I have managed to collect all new pieces of furniture – mostly for free that I’ve upcycled or found on the side of the road. I’ve found a way to turn my giant one-room “loft” space into four separate rooms that each carry out their own function. I’ve changed my mind often, but each time I do, I get closer to who I feel that I am and my space reflects how far that I have come. I’ll never be completely happy with it, nor will I ever not see an improvement that can be made. I've lost loved ones and more vehicles and doors still close while others still open. But, isn’t that just life?

We have never truly arrived, we always have room to grow. Why wouldn’t the same be true for the shelter we call our home? I think I’m okay with that. In fact, I think I love that.

I also think I am very, very lucky.
xo


My next installment:
Creating A Cottage On A Hill Project: The Living Room

3 comments:

Jennifer and Austin said...

Wow. Just...Wow. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a couple of mini tears in the corners of my eyes right now. It was truly a beautiful glimpse into your persona and your life. What a wonderful, somber, yet ultimately uplifting and inspirational piece of writing. Thank you for sharing this, especially for those of us who don't really know you that well (yet), but would like to.
Wishing you all the best, and then some more on top of that :)
-A

EmTea Designs said...

Loved hearing your story xx

Chrissa said...

Austin, reading your comment made *me* tear up a bit.

And Em, I love seeing your face, you always make me so happy just by showing up

xo