Getting Away


A few weeks ago, we got away from it all.  We took a beach vacation.  This was a first for us.  First time to take the kids on a plane.  First time to show them the ocean.  It was amazing.

It’s a good thing we bought the tickets in January, because after the bathroom remodel, and the bills coming in from the exterior work we’ve been doing, I’m not sure we would have had the guts to buy plane tickets and rent a condo on the beach!

But the tickets were booked and the condo paid for, so away we went.


4am in the hotel- ready for that early morning flight!


Once there, we had two items on the agenda:

1) Play on the beach:

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2) Eat Seafood

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The second day we were there, it was misty, drizzly and cloudy.  It ended up being a day that contained some of my favorite memories of the trip.  Right away in the morning, before the rain, we headed out of town to the dunes.  We had fun collecting shells, climbing the dunes and helping the local turtle rescue pick up trash along the turtle nesting grounds.

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That afternoon, when the others were reading or napping, Claire and I went for a walk along the beach.  The sky was a beautiful gray, and the waves matched.  The air was balmy and Claire’s curls sprang to life.  It was lovely.  What I will remember most was how excited she was to be with me.  It was obvious that the ocean, the shells, the sand, were all second to the fact that she was alone with me.  She didn’t just hold my hand, she clung to my arm.  She was so happy.  Being alone with my middle child on that afternoon, in a place so far away and different from our usual reality was a gift that I will always treasure.  It was one of those moments in life that while it is happening, you know you are always going to remember it.  And, if I didn’t get it before, I got it then.  This is why vacations are worth it.  The money, the hassle, the stress of planning… all worth it for moments like these that are set apart.

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That night, after a big seafood supper, we took the kids back to the beach and walked all together.  Playing in the waves made them so happy.  And watching them play together in the ocean made me so, so, so happy.  What a thrill to give your kids an experience like this for the first time.

We could have stayed home and gotten more items on our to-do list check off.  We could have kept the money safe in our savings account, or tucked it away in college funds.  But instead we showed our kids the sea.  You can’t put a price tag on that.

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In case I have been giving the impression that owning this house is nothing but warm fuzzies…

I couldn’t sleep last night.

This house is stressing me out.  I even had to get up and take Tums.

So many projects are undone… or waiting to be begun.  How in the world are we supposed to do this in a timely fashion on our DIY budget?  And how are we supposed to work and raise three kids while we do it????

In my mind, we had until the end of March… maybe even mid-April to finish up our winter projects- the bathroom and some main-level rooms that we put a new coat of paint on the walls and had planned to put up picture rail.

The early Spring made our inside projects come to a sudden halt.  We had to abandon all of those projects and focus on what was happening on the exterior.

Last weekend, I looked at my Facebook feed and saw pictures of families outside hiking, playing outside, at grill-outs.  I wanted that to be us.  I wanted to be done with even just ONE project!

Sometimes the kids were farmed out on play-dates, sometimes they were crying and driving us crazy because they were so bored and we never do ANYTHING.  We reminded them that just last week we flew them across the country for a beach vacation.   This did not make them feel any better for themselves.

As I reflected on my stress/guilt/anxiety last night.  I started to understand that the only way we will come through this with out either debt, neglected kids or half-assed work is to take it s.l.o.w.  One day at a time.  Learn to live with and leave some mess.  Take a break.  It’s just a house.  This will be my new mantra.

With that… I leave you with a few “behind the scenes” pictures.  I hope they don’t stress you out too much…


The paint in our kitchen, butlers pantry and future powder room is peeling away from the plaster in sheets.


The result of a teeny, tiny leak in the bathtub plumbing. It leaked for a couple weeks before the ceiling was saturated enough to leak.


Remains of our hackberry trimmings lay in our bare-dirt back yard. The plan is to put in an irrigation system and sod this Spring.


Remember the bathroom renovation? This is why there has been no “end result” post yet. We still need to refinish an old dresser that will house a drainboard sink.


Picture rail waiting to be sanded and stained. It’s been on the library floor since February.


The icing on the cake. Our front yard. It all needed to be redone anyways.. we have amazing 125 year old pavers we salvaged last summer for this job.

The Writing On The Wall


If you are a history/old house nut like myself, when you start tearing into your century-plus year old house, you hope you find SOMETHING.

As our exterior siding replacement draws to a close, I will share what we found.

Find #1: One Sunday night, soon after our project began, I turned out the light and closed my eyes. “I found some writing on the wall.” My husband said. Say WHAT!?!? This was only the best news I’d heard all year! Writing on the wall!!!!! 126 year old writing!!!!!!! Lance pulled out his phone and showed me this picture:


“H.C.M” In decorative block letters. How. Amazing. Is. That. Someone, working up near the peak of our roof, decided to pull out his slate pencil, and write his initials. He didn’t stop there. He made them fancy. He knew, I am sure, that some day, someone from a world he could only imagine, would take in those initials and wonder who had written them. And that person was me. What a gift to feel that kind of connection with the past. If only I could find out who H.C.M. was.

Find #2: The next day, I asked our contractor and crew if they noticed the initials when they were working. Yes, they had. I am not sure why this discovery did not make them summon me immediately with bells and whistles, but I guess they were not aware of the awesomeness they had just uncovered. They were probably worried about being productive, or something. “There’s more writing over here…” one of the crew said. (!!!!!!)


“farbandede” is how I read it. I sat in the dentist’s waiting room while my kids got the checkup and consulted google and facebook for answers.

I typed “farbandede”into the search engine. All of a sudden, ‘Danish for “CURSED”‘ popped up on my screen. Simultaneously, my facebook friends came to the same result and were messaging me… it means “CURSED!”

Here is how the facebook mystery solving session unfolded:

  • arbandede is what it looks like to me.
  • ME: Or maybe Lar ban Dede? Dede is a last name… There are Dedes in Sioux Falls…??
  • I wonder if it’s Norwegian
  • Google translate: “for bandede” is “for cursing” in Danish
  • And “far bandede” means “father swore”
  • the plot thickens
  • ME: Ahhhh!!!!!
  • ME:So I found that “forbandede” means “cursed” in Danish…. Which seems even creepier.
  • ME: Now I’m ticked at the Danish guy who wrote that on my house.
  • burn your house down and start over
  • Haha… Thanks for nothing, Google.
  • Replace that board.
  • SMART FRIEND: Is it where the original color would have changed? Farbanderle is Swedish for other color.
  • Well sounds pretty boring but a lot better than a curse
  • ME: This is so interesting! Now I see that what I thought was a “d” could be a “r l.” Yes, it is possible that that is what it was referring to. This part of the house was originally green and below it was grey. Love it!

And so, just like that, I took a sigh of relief that my house was NOT cursed. A Swedish carpenter had just written instructions to his crew, or maybe just to himself to remember to change the color of the siding at that point. Not nearly as dramatic, but sill so crazy cool to lay eyes on that script, put there 126 years ago.

Find #3: Our contractor said that there were what looked like old tuna cans nailed into the sheeting on the roof to cover knots in the wood. Nice insight. It makes sense…Swedes like fish, right?

Find #4: When the tuck-pointers cleared out stuff from under the porch, they found this old Canada-Dry bottle, circa the 50s/ 60s. I learned from the women, who used to be girls in the house during that time, that they used to by these bottles of ginger-ale for a dime from a nearby store.


The bottle I will keep in the house with all of the other trinkets we’ve found. The writing on the wall was covered up with the new siding and I imagine will remain unseen for anther 100 + years. I don’t know who it was who put it there in the first place, but I’m glad he decided all of those years ago, to give this girl a thrill.

One Year Gone

I am sitting alone in front of my computer on a Saturday night.  Three kids are sleeping upstairs.  I  have a gin and tonic by my side and there is a bat in the floor.  Yes.  A bat and the floor.  Thus the gin and tonic.

One year (plus some months) have come and gone since we took a leap and purchased this old girl.  Was it the right choice?  Do I regret it?  Do I wonder sometimes? Yes.  No.  Yes.

125 years have come and gone and this old house has stood as a witness to them.  Electricity.  Indoor plumbing.  Cars.  Paved roads.  World Wars. Television.  Moon Landings.  The Internet.  And we’ve been living here for a mere year of it.

As I scraped away the layers of paint on the house last summer, and as I peeled away wallpaper this winter to reveal long-ago chosen designs, I am just so thankful that Lance and I made the decision to make our home about more than a building we live in.  Moving here has changed so much.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been utterly fascinated and in love with old houses.  While things about my life and personality have changed with years, that part of me has remained the same.  One year ago, I went to hear a speaker give a talk about finding purpose to a group of women.  She told us that we were all given birth-right gifts and that by age 10, the things we are gifted in and passionate about have already emerged and will stay with us through the rest of our lives.  My curiosity was peaked.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how her words might apply to my own life.  Maybe I should just go with who God has made me to be.  Maybe my interest in old houses and old things was more than just  a quirk… maybe I was given this personality “quirk” on purpose.  So I went with it.

It’s pretty clear that I’m in love with my house, but I am also head-over heals with my neighborhood and what is happening here.  The month after we began living here, I attended my first neighborhood association meeting and have found it to be one of my favorite nights of the month.  Gathering together with other neighbors to share both positive and negative happenings in our shared living space has been so valuable.  Dreaming and planning for a shared future has been inspiring.  I think part of the energy I feel from being part of this group comes from living in a space that could easily surrender to decay, to “progress,” or to crime, but instead we choose to encourage and promote appreciation for and beautification of our past.  To invest in what’s already here.  To be the change we’d like to see in the world.  To offer support and recognition.  To celebrate good things in  life with our neighbors and to offer sympathy and help when it’s needed.  I love living in a neighborhood were neighbors recognize the need and value of being a good neighbor.

In December, a friend sent me a message announcing an opening in the Mayor’s Board of Historic Preservation.  She said she thought I might like to apply.  And she was right.

In February, I got a call from the Mayor’s office that I had been selected to fill the vacant seat.  It is something new that feels like something I’ve been hoping to find for such a long time.  And it all began with decision to satisfy a girlhood longing to live in an old house.

Here’s to year number two.