Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The fixer-upper saga continues: The things we leave behind

I was hoping to find what the Bible refers to as “hidden treasures of darkness.” The property we bought included a run-down mobile home and a metal shed. Both very dark and both packed, I say packed (some boxes since 1999) with the left-behinds of what was once a family. Or maybe it was several families—siblings who used the place to store the mementos of a former life.

There were old skis and sailboats and tool chests and diaries. Mounds of musty clothes and old quilts too far gone for me to even consider redeeming. We felt bad about chucking family photographs and vacation to-do lists.

The man who lived there had been whisked away by a concerned relative. Whatever his present state of mind—he’d clearly been shutting out the world for a long time. Someone who retreated into a world so dark the underbrush engulfed it, left behind evidence of a former life, one that included L.L Bean boots, camping gear, and photos of grand mountains and the majestic outdoors.

As we picked and poked through our “inheritance” I began to suspect my greatest treasure was to be thankful I was a child of light—the Light, and that maybe my hidden treasure was going to be about the next phase of life we’ll begin as we clear the property and build anew. It certainly wasn’t in the above- pictured treasure trunk. (Life jackets there)

Meanwhile, scavengers are a necessary part of the recycle rhythm of life. So while we sorted our saved pile—a gossip chair,
some cane barrel chairs,
lovely water color—
the tree crew, who were felling the tall pines that were leaning toward the neighbor’s house, hauled away our give-away pile—washer, dryer, tools and even one enterprising soul dismantled the rusty shed and took that too. Within 48 hours of closing we had hauled away ten truckful’s of stuff, ten pines and an old shed. Someone wanted Bob’s carport but I had to turn him down. (Bob’s been waiting for a garage a long time now and he probably wouldn't be pleased to see its frame heading down the road.)

So what kinds of things will you leave behind? Someday I imagine my kids will sort through my stuff and wonder why on earth I kept some things—like my favorite frying pan that my son (now a very grown man) put a dent in (when he was a young boy) trying to use it as a hammer. So I like it. Or the letters my daughter wrote from camp decades ago: “Dear Mom and Dad, I really like camp. Sorry I haven’t written but I’ve been very busy. Love-N”

I’ll probably still have the gossip chair, maybe repainted though. And definitely my original, falling apart, underlined and well-worn Bible.

Most of all, I hope whoever pokes through my left-behinds will find evidence of a life well spent living and serving in the joy of the Lord. If they read my journals (perish the thought) they'll know more about me than they'll want to, but will certainly see what a change can happen in a life redeemed by God!

And next, if the guy who wants the mobile doesn’t show, and if I don’t knock myself silly cutting branches (like I did yesterday) I’ll tell you how to dismantle a mobile—with the help of a hefty, sledge hammer-swinging son-in-law and husband who believes he can do anything.

Today, may you find hidden treasures where you least expect them.

In the joy of the Lord

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,