Thursday, February 9, 2017

Bob’s Barn: When life hands you a carport—but you really wanted a workshop

Nat with shed stuff
Marcia Moston

I used to say the property we bought was “on the tracks”—the lake homes to the right of us were mostly a mix of new and nice, some to the left were tin and tacky. But after living here for the past six months, I’ve had to repent of my uppity attitude toward people who live in homes that are registered with the motor vehicle department. I still don’t appreciate those whose yards are full of trash; there’s a difference between slovenly and resourceful, but I’ve come to see that some of that yard stuff I looked upon as trash is actually someone’s creative vision just waiting to take form.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How to dismantle a mobile home—DIY Rule 1b:Beware the time-lapsed video

Marcia Moston

After we spent several thousand more than anticipated in clearing our newly purchased land, we discovered the old mobile home on it wasn’t so mobile after all. The person who wanted it for his own fixer-upper project abandoned the idea because he couldn’t get the permits to haul it down the road. So there we were with this big old doublewide parked right where we wanted to build. The man we hired to find the septic system offered to take it down. “$5,000,” he said. “You pick up the Dumpster fees.”

Ka-ching. Again. And we hadn’t even started to build. That’s the way it is, isn’t it? There’s always a high price to pay to get rid of the old before you can begin the new.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Downsizing: Letting go of all that Precious Stuff

Marcia Moston

The thing about my childhood home was that even though it was small—with every closet and cupboard packed—to a child there was a potential for the discovery of unexpected treasures.  

I remember the pantry, long and deep, with a wall of upper cabinets and huge heavy bottom drawers I could hardly joggle back into place. Nevertheless, I loved to explore and organize the shelves. I marveled over the ruby-colored dessert cups that caught shafts of light and the stacks of Grandma’s green embossed dishes crammed alongside rougher items like waffle irons, hammers and a gun or two lodged up against the water heater in the far corner.

Why did no one care that these treasures were relegated to such an ignominious fate? Hidden away. Unused. Unappreciated.

I think it was the discovery of my sister’s coconut that shed some light on the matter for me.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Year of Nest Building

My intention when I walked into Pier 1 that day was to pick up the chairs I’d ordered. It was the picture of the bird with a beak full of miscellany that stopped me. I turned to my ever-agreeable Bob. “Building a nest. That sums up my life this past year. I’ve got to have it.”

This was before I remembered birds build nests mainly to raise their babies. They live (roost) elsewhere. Clearly not my situation. My nest is post–birdlings. It’s an empty-nester’s nest, one that this time around I expect to live in until I die.

 Nevertheless, I bought the picture and hung it on the naked wall of my newly erected house.

That was in August—six months after my post about buying land with a vacant mobile home overflowing with someone else’s boxed-up,cast-off life. Six months of learning how to dismantle a trailer, sell a house, live out of a suitcase, design a new house and build it. Six months of feathering the last nest I ever intend to live in.

Which is a novel idea for me. I keep turning it around, examining how it feels to live in a place long enough to plant a tree and actually eat its fruit. (If I don’t end up being buried under it.) The previous eight houses of my married life all had a sense of impermanence—just settling there for the moment to do a particular thing.

Being true blue DIYers, Bob and I don’t get scared about fixer-uppers, although I should have been more concerned about what we were getting into with the last house we bought when the owner sobbed at the closing. “Thank you for buying it,” she said. We discovered she had every reason to cry. In fact, even after about $70,000 in renovations and several years of our hard labor, when we sold it, I wanted to thank the buyers and cry too.

Actually, it was the fear of having to live out the rest of my life in that big old rambling southern belle set down in a low spot that got me going. After months of searching for a new place, we had finally put an offer on a lovely property, but during the inspection discovered it had multiple problems. I was adamant we back out of the offer. Bob was frustrated and tired of house hunting. He threatened to build the garage he’d been wanting and just stay put.

I knew I’d have to come up with something fast. With the updated in hand and desperate prayer on lips, I headed out in search of That Perfect Place one more time. 

I stood on the hill of the overgrown property—so overgrown that you could hardly see the mobile home enshrouded under the brush. Oh Lord, this is on a hill (one of my requirements) and it does have the utilities in place (another on the checklist). It’s private yet close to all I would need as I age, and the price is right. But it certainly had passed beyond any hope of being a fixer-upper.

 I wanted a place of light, efficiency and beauty where I could see the sky and marvel at the Creator. This was a cave—dark, depressed.

Did we have the vision, the strength, the resources to tackle it?

Monday, February 15, 2016

The fixer-upper saga: Seems you can’t just haul a trailer away

“I’m not mean,” he says. “We just think differently.”
“Nope. You’re mean.” I hold my ground, but after thirty-something years’ of marriage he can tell I don’t mean it. We had long ago concluded we thought differently about, well, just about everything.

This current discussion concerns a problem about a piece of property we’re supposed to close on in a few days. Seems that even though decrepit mobile homes in SC are as abundant as roadside boiled peanut stands, the situations concerning the removal and disposal of them are so complicated my attorney suggested we discuss our options off the record.

We had bought a piece of land with the intention of dismantling the mobile home on it. That meant tons of work and substantial Dumpster fees. (The fact that we got our info on how to take a mobile apart from a YouTube video reflects our level of expertise on the matter.) However, a fortuitous offer came along that seemed to resolve all problems—someone wanted to remove the mobile and fix it up. He had done this before, knew how to ready it for removal, and had a company lined up to haul it away.

Perfect, we thought. Man takes trailer for his fixer-upper. We get empty lot to build ours.

But a mobile home is just that—mobile— a designation the DMV is highly interested in. They like to keep track of titles and taxes. Only thing is they lost the title to this one. It must have been surrendered decades ago and even though taxes have been paid and owners have changed since it was first parked on the property, no one can find the title, hence, it is not cleared for removal.

My husband likes the bottom line of things. “So we take it down ourselves,” he says, (an option we later discover is dependent on the missing title). I like to examine all the angles and complexities. Besides, I’ve already put away my safety glasses and leather gloves and warmed up to the image of seeing it drive off into the sunset on the back of a flatbed, so I’m trying to finagle ways Kenny can have his trailer and I won’t be liable if it falls apart on the highway.

 Bob dons his coat. Enough of “I think-you think.” He’s decided to risk the sleet warning and spend the day at however many county offices he’ll have to visit in order to get to the bottom of this matter.

This snag is actually a good reminder for me to keep a positive attitude. Setbacks and difficulties are just that. They are not insurmountable, devil’s-out-to-get-you catastrophes. Somewhere along the line during my youth I picked up the notion that I shouldn’t get too happy if something good happened because something bad was sure to follow and snatch my joy. Smacks of the Asian superstition that if you think (or others say) your baby is beautiful, the devils will notice and do harm.

I’ve traded in that wrong thinking for the words of Proverbs 10:22—The blessing of the Lord makes rich and he adds no sorrow to it. God’s gifts and grace are more than enough and I will enjoy them.

However, I still feel like I’m in one of those old Uncle Wiggily stories I used to read. The narrator would conclude each story with a line like “in case the load of hay doesn’t fall on my puppy-dog and break off his curly tail, I tell you about Uncle Wiggily and the …” or, “in case a cowboy doesn’t come along and take my little pussy cat off to the wild west show, I’ll tell you about Uncle Wiggily and the…”

So, in case a big wind doesn’t come and blow my mobile down, I’ll tell you about how it moved on out and how my very clever, not really mean husband plans to turn an ugly carport into his handsome long awaited garage.

In the joy of the Lord this February day of Leap Year, which my sister has reminded us is her REAL birthday day that she doesn’t have to share with the Feb. 28thers or the March1sters.


Friday, February 12, 2016

When the fixer-upper is beyond fixing

If dreams are any indication of what is occupying your subconscious, it wasn’t boding well for the situation my husband and I just gotten ourselves into. Zombies were chasing someone right up to my house—(the one we just bought in in real life.) I wasn’t particularly afraid of them but was holding the door open, hoping the person would make it in time.

Unfortunately I will never know because the scene switched to the basement of the dream place where we discovered a room that had been a gift shop. It was still full of stuff but someone told me that underneath the place were wind tunnels whose constant screeching drove people crazy. And I still wasn’t worried (?!)

Now the setup for this dream isn’t that far-fetched because the person whose real-time property we bought had just walked away. Family was concerned and came to get him. Left his beer can on the end table, bills piled high. Rusty Coleman stove on the kitchen counter and pictures on the wall. Said he didn’t want a thing.

When my realtor friend and I first walked through the place, we didn’t even have a flashlight (fine prepared prepper I am). The place was kind of creepy, but we had known we were going to tear it down. Still, when I got to the dark bedroom, I froze. The bedding had a big lump in it.

(Now, understand—when my elderly father-in-law lived with us I used to peek in his bedroom if he slept later than usual and look to see if his burrowed mound under the covers was moving up and down. (Breathe in. Breathe out.) So that’s what I did when I saw this lump. My realtor friend hollered out if anybody was there, but I told her if someone answered she’d better move cuz I’d be mowing her down to get out of there.

No one did but we got out fast anyway.

The decision to buy this place confirms an underlying dynamic between my husband and me. We can’t resist a mess, an adventure with a hoped for, but uncertain end. When we moved south eight years ago we said we were finished fixing up houses. Yes. We were going to buy a solid brick ranch, put the couch against the wall, the pots in the kitchen cupboard, clothes in the closet and move on with other things in life.

Many of you know how that turned out. How I was dazzled by a swimming pool and bought and hundred-year-old house with yellow duct tape holding up the doorsills. It took us a while (and tens of thousands of dollars) to recover from that decision. Never again a fixer-upper we said.

Well, that part is true. This place isn’t a fixer-upper. It’s so bad we have to tear it down before we can even build it up!  But I’m pretty sure this is the last one we buy, because we are at the point in life the Bible refers to as being “full of days,” and about out of energy to fix houses.

As it turns out one of my writing partners is an architect, so she is drawing up my plans. I sketched out the living areas and traffic flow I wanted and she is putting order to it. It’s good to know someone who can harness your nebulous ideas. I think every dive-in-and-doer should have a planner. So let’s see how this will all turn out. I’ll keep you posted as we pack up another person’s life to make way for our own.

Meanwhile, most of the words and blessings I’ve both received from others and meditated on myself this new year have concerned delighting in God’s favor and perceiving his pleasure. So in spite of what things look like at the moment, I’m thinking on Paul’s words as the ship was going down—So take heart men, for I have faith in God it will be exactly as I have told. But first we must run aground …

In the joy of the Lord,


Monday, January 25, 2016

Fixated on a fixer-upper or—When that penchant for fixer-uppers gets you in a real fix

You know how amazed you get when you see the beauty some people, (like Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer-Upper) can make out of a wreck of a house? Just knock out this wall here and put in a stainless steel kitchen there. And ta-da! A new house is born right before your eyes.

It’s easy if you have the ability (and the money) to “see” the vision. I can see the end result when I have something to work with—we knocked out walls in confident abandon in my present home
—but I have no, absolutely none, conceptual ability to transpose a
flat scale drawing of a layout into an actual 3-dimensional space. And I can’t sleep or think on anything else until I get it.

So for the past three days I have been walking around my house measuring spaces, measuring couches and desks and doorways in an attempt to imagine what they would look like in a new little house that doesn’t yet exist. My left eye is bloodshot, my brains are beat and I’ve used up a whole pad of graph paper trying to “see” the house that will replace the one we bought after we tear it down.

Yep. That’s it above. I was afraid when our kids saw what we just purchased, they’d be putting us in a home all right but it wouldn’t be the one on the hill.

Monday, January 18, 2016

When God knows you need a pick-me-up

You know how you can’t sleep when you are in the midst of a big decision?

That’s how I was last Wednesday. Even with the help of a little melatonin, I tossed and turned and poked my husband (who wasn’t worrying at all). Finally I got up, put on the gas logs and knelt on the floor to talk to the Lord. Poured out all my concerns, spelled out all the details that posed problems and waited. Waited for him to say something. Waited for some remembrance of the perfect Bible passage that fit my situation and assured me all was well.

You know how God is notably quiet sometimes and the only passages you can recall are about walking by faith?

After a while, reluctantly, I shut off the logs and went to bed, believing “by faith” God heard my concerns, but wishing he had given a little acknowledgment. A few hours later I rushed to get to a writer’s group in the next town. If it hadn’t been for book review I was scheduled to present, I would have skipped going altogether.

Minutes before the meeting began, I slid into my seat and heaved a sigh that I’d made it in time. Alycia, the president of the group, who knew nothing about what I’ve been up to, leaned over and handed me some gift cards for coffee. We don’t have much relationship outside of the critique group so I was totally confused as to why.

“The Lord told me, ‘Marcia needs a little pick-me-up,’” she said. And then this, “He also said to tell you he is aware of the details.”

You know how when God seems to take the long way around and you wonder why?

That’s because his ways are perfect. If he had assured me directly that night, I might have been satisfied or I might have doubted whether or not I’d really heard from him. By giving the message to someone else to deliver, he left no room for me to doubt, he encouraged someone else that her act of obedience confirmed she had heard the Lord, and he gave the both of us a chance to share the testimony with others.

I hope this encourages you that God cares even if he doesn’t seem to be listening. You have no idea whom he may have intercede for you or how he’s working out the perfect plan. And for those whom he chooses as messengers—may you have the courage to go for it.

In the joy of the Lord,