Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Thought and A Story

I have to record this experience before the memory fades.

Today, on my way home from work, I kept thinking about my dad.  And how much I missed him.  I kept thinking about those final moments with him, and the feelings I felt after he passed.  I wasn't really sure why I kept thinking of him today as I drove home from work, he just kept popping into my mind.  After I arrived home and greeted my sweet children, Owen, my little 2&1/2 year old proceeds to tell me, without prompting that today, he played cars with grandpa and grandpa raced the green can and Owen raced the red car.  Owen never had a chance to ever actually play cars with grandpa before he died.  

And I couldn't help but wonder.  As I looked into the ever so innocent face of my little boy, I pondered his pure spirit, and realized once more how thin the veil really is.  I realized that my dad, no matter how busy things are on the other side, still finds a moment to come and see his grandchildren, and perhaps even play with them, and to let them know he loves them.  There is more to this life than pure coincidence, and I know for a certainty my dad came to see my little Owen today, and Owen, well, he was lucky enough to still be able to see him too.

I'm grateful for this moment, to know that although it still hurts that my dad is gone, I know he hasn't forgotten about us, and will find a way to let us know he's always there.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Some Kind of Progress

The great thing about owning your own home is all the things you can do to make it your own.  The not-so-great about owning your own home is all the things you have to do to make it your own.

It's been a zoo here.  A hard working, sweating, always-something-to-do zoo.  I swear we've been making progress, it just doesn't *seem* like it.  I wish we could have done the big ticket items first, like the floors mostly, but that's the thing about following promptings to buy a house.  It barely gives you time to prepare!  The money we had saved up was mostly used for closing costs, and then we had to buy appliances (not included in the purchase, blah!), which left us with, well...not much!  So, we've been doing what we can in the meantime, and hoping the elusive money tree will shake a few dollars our way, haha!

Here are some pictures of what we've been doing:

Kitchen:  First coat of paint over the crazy orange color.  Man alive, do I dislike painting.  I think only because the only time I can do it is after the kids go to bed, and I am exhausted!  Painting means breaking out all the supplies and doing a lot all at once, so I don't typically finish until midnight or later. 

 The color isn't right in this light, but at least it shows we have paint on the walls, eh??  Love the color, a rich gray.
 This is a better idea of the color...
 Woops, my chickies.  They were busy noshing on some leftover kale, they ate it right up.  Nothing is more satisfying than feeding my chickies leftover kitchen scraps.
 The backyard landscaping has needed a lot of attention.  Just overgrown really, so we've been doing a ton of weeding and cutting back and trimming and ripping out.  As you can see, there is big pile of garden clippings, just one pile of many.
 This side looks much better.

 This wisteria was like Medusa's hair!  It was wild!!  Well it's been trimmed way back.  And that little piece of dead tree in the foreground is on it's way out soon.
 This fence was removed, it sliced the backyard right down the middle.
 And this half of the fence went down first.  The grass is already greening up!  We'll figure out what to do with the empty spot the fence was hiding, soon.
 And the nice work shed, Kristoffer cleaned that up, and it's quite spacious inside.  He's excited.
 Kristoffer put this fence up with the old fence material.  There was a chain link fence there and it was U-G-L-Y ugly.  So, out it went.  Considering it's on the side of the house, and we live on a corner, it was pretty visible, so this looks awesome.
  If you remember, there were some overgrown bushes in the front.  Yeah...they're gone now.  And honestly, I think it looks better empty than how it did before.  The plan is to use garden blocks/pavers to build up the front about 2 feet to hide that yucky concrete and then plant some pretty little boxwoods or something inside.
 This tree was waaaay overgrown.  We were actually going to chop it down it was such an eyesore.  But, Kristoffer chopped it back and even though it looks like a big green mushroom, it's much better.  I'm going to get in this are with the garden blocks as well and make it pretty.  I think a lot of this will wait until fall for cooler weather and fall planting.
 Kitchen backsplash, ripped out.  It looked like tin, but it was actually all plastic.  And I think whoever put it up originally had a trigger happy finger on the glue.  That stuff was stuck!  I had to go at it with a crowbar and a hammer!!  Getting the area ready for tile.
 This room was originally yellow with and orange wall.  It's now gray with a mint fizz wall.  Love the color.  It's not showing up so well in the picture.   In need of a new couch (or two).
 This chandelier needed a facelift.  We originally tried posting it on craigslist, no bites....no wonder!  So, I gave it a facelift.  It was a bright shiny gold and it screamed "Heeeelloooooo, 1980's!!".  We're not so much that way, so I bought some oil rubbed bronze spray on good advice and sprayed away.  It's much improved.  Still not my favorite piece, but better at least.

So anyway.  We're making progress, and mostly done on a few things, and part way done on lots of things.  It's just taking time, and time and money.  My friend at work told me she relies on the "Two thirds" concept.  That working on a project will either take twice as long and cost three times as much, or cost twice and much and take three times as much time.  Yup, she about nailed it on the head!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Buildin' Da' Coop

OK, so we have been hard at work on so many projects since moving in, but the chicken coop has taken priority, for sure.  During the day, my six chickies are outside in the fenced in pre-existing dog run, and at night, I haul them inside with a dog carrier and down to the unfinished portion of the basement to sleep in 3 big boxes I've taped together and fanci-fied.  It's dire, I know....chickens in my house. 

Husband to the rescue!!  He has been amazing, really.  He hasn't built a lot of structure-like things before, but he is totally rocking this hen house.  AND, listen to this, it's made of almost 100% salvaged materials!  We've spent less than 100 dollars on this project, and that includes some wood for the frame, chicken wire, tar sheet (whatever that is) for the roof and some roofing nails.  The rest of the wood has been salvaged from a fence we tore down, and also from a massive, albatross of a dog house we ripped apart (no dogs here).  The shingles were left with the house, and we also used the screws from the fence.  Amazing.

Check it out!

It's not quite done yet...
 The little boxes you see in front are the nesting boxes, which is where my chickies will lay their eggs, it will have a hinged lid for easy access to breakfast!  The fenced area above is a window for circulation and will have a close down flap that will lock.
 The small opening to the left will be where the chickens go in and out, and the large area to the right will be a big locking door that will allow me to put food in, and clean the house out.
 Here is one of my lovely ladies right now!  She is one of two Barred Plymouth Rocks that I have.

 One of two Golden Sex Links.
 Five of my six.  They are so funny.  They just live in the moment.  And the kids love them.  Marin loves to chase them around and pick them up.  Her favorite is the Brahma Bantam, on the far right; she is smaller and has feathers on her legs and feet.

 There's the hubs working on the hen house.  He is so amazing, I love my man.  And he is doing such a bang-up job.

Hopefully it should be done tomorrow, and then I can't PAINT it!!  I've had a suggestion for red, but I'm not quite sure yet, any other suggestions??

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

House Surprise

Before I left for NY, I knew we would likely be closing on the house while I was gone, so I signed power-of-attorney paperwork before I left so Kristoffer could sign for it without me.  With my stay being extended from Wednesday to Sunday, I thought for sure he would close that week, and I kept asking him if he had closed on the house.  And he kept telling me no!  I was starting to get a little worried thinking that something was wrong, I mean...who knows what could happen with a big purchase like a house!  My family kept asking me if we had closed on the house, and I kept telling them no, so I would ask Kristoffer what was going and he said he wasn't sure, but not to worry, just be with my family and take care of that and he would take care of the rest.

I'll admit, on the plane ride back to SLC, I secretly wondered and hoped that perhaps Kristoffer had closed on the house and moved everything up, keeping everything a secret (which he LOVES to do).  I quickly dismissed the idea telling myself not to get carried away, and just plan on going home to move.  So as I hugged and kissed my family hello, we hopped into the car and headed home, and it wasn't until we hopped onto the freeway heading North instead of South that Kristoffer divulged his secret.  He *had* closed on the house the day after my dad passed away, and had cleaned (as much as he could) and moved everything up to the new house with the help of some close friends and Melodie and Justin.  

I was ridiculously happy and fell in love with my husband for the 985,447th time.  He is such a sweet man, and I am so SO blessed to have him.  He is such a hard worker and wants only to make his wife happy, and it just melts my heart.  I love my hubby.

OK, so we are doing a few things to the house now that we are in.  And truthfully, it's actually kind of fun.  While it's still a ton of work, we both LOVE projects and making the home our own, and considering it's our very very first EVER home that we've bought, it's exciting.  The house has great bones, and we love the layout, but it's about 20 years behind in updates, and needs some TLC (which doesn't always show up in pictures).  We are still working hard!!

The first thing we're working on is a hen house/chicken coop for my chickens.  This needs to be done *pronto*.  I came home from NY and my chickens were fully feathered!  So, during the day, they run around in the dog run, and at night I bring them inside and put them in the unfinished portion of the basement in some boxes.

Before pictures:

The formal living/dining room.  We're almost done painting the walls, which makes it look very different already!  Next up is getting rid of that blue carpet, blech.  We're still deciding on flooring. 
 If we choose to do hardwoods, I think we'll stick with carpet on the stairs.  As much as we like the look of hardwoods on stairs, it's CRAZY hard to do yourself and CRAZY expensive to have someone else do it, and truthfully, we don't have the cash for that.  But, we will paint the banister white to match the trim and crown molding.
 Again, blue carpet must go.
 The window on the right is actually a window seat, and I can't wait to make cushions for it.  But I have to be focused on the big stuff first!
 Kitchen.  Plan is to paint cabinetry white, add hardware.  remove gold backsplash and replace with white subway tile.  Paint over the orange/red with color: mint fizz (love it).
 We've already painted over this yellow color, and it looks great, at some point we would love to make this window/door combo into french doors.  That's lower on the list.
 Burnt orange wall is almost done with mint fizz.  The mantle is not actually white, it's kind of a whitewash called pickled oak (it matches the kitchen cabinets), so I need to paint that white.
 Main floor half bath and laundry.  Needs new flooring for sure, I don't think it's been changed in 20 years.  For sure some paint on the walls.
 Still the bathroom.  I need to paint the cabinets white and new counter top.  And that toilet?  Ummmm, it's also from the prehistoric era and will find it's final resting place in the dumpster very soon to make way for a more water friendly and less gargantuan-sized toilet.
 Laundry room needs paint, some pretty natural wood espresso shelves, I think.
 Guess what this is.  That's right...an actual drop station.  I am so excited to finally have one of these.  I can't tell how pet-peevey I am about stuff on my kitchen counter, so here is a new spot of that.  I'm still debating what I want to do with this space.  Any ideas are welcome!!
 These shelves in the kitchen are going bye-bye.  Yup.  Just to the right is huge, lovely window that brings in so much light, and then you move to the left and see big, boxy cabinets.  My plan is to remove the shelves (perhaps for use elsewhere) and do a simple feature wall and place natural wood espresso stained open shelves for our white dinnerware and cups.  This will even out the bright window on the right with some reflective surfaces just to the left.
 The pantry.  Thank the good Lord I have a pantry!!  I'm so happy!!!  I'm still thinking of ideas for these doors.  Maybe paint, maybe not, but new hardware for sure.
 I would love to add some more molding above the door to fancy-it-up.  But that's lower on the list.

All of these projects are going to take some time, and we are taking it slow, only because we have to wait for the money to replenish before we move ahead.  This is just the main floor, and we'll work on this first before we start anything else.  Now that the walls are almost done, I can start painting my furniture projects with my new paint sprayer....can't wait!  And sorry, but you'll be seeing lots of house updates this summer and fall!

Finding The Words

I've been meaning to write this post for quite some time now, and things have just been crazy busy, so it hasn't happened.  And today, we finally had our internet connected, so I'm happy to finally sit down and write.

It's been three weeks now since my father has passed away, and that's given me some time to sort through my feelings and perhaps even compartmentalize some unresolved emotions.  Even though I've really been fine since his death, I feel myself choking up as I think over the final moments before and just after his death.  It's still a hard thing to think about...knowing that my dad is gone from this life.  And while I have that incomprehensible gift of the the eternal Plan of Happiness, death is still hard.  I think it's supposed to be hard, really.  The moments we remember the most in life are our most difficult, our most trying...those are the moments that change us the most.  And I can truthfully say my father's death has opened my eyes to a new perspective of our Savior's great plan.  

My two older sibling and I flew in to NY on a Saturday, and immediately attended the wedding of a cousin, which was wonderful.  Then straightaway, we went to the Veteran's Home, where dad had been placed just a day or two prior.  The Veteran's Home was a gift from Heaven.  I can't describe it any other way.  From the awful hell-hole of a nursing home he had been in previously, this place was large, clean, friendly, and bright, even despite the rain, but most importantly...peaceful.

I walked in to see my father, and while I had prepared myself a hundred times to see his weathered and worn body as he still clung wearily to life, my heart instantly became overwhelmed with emotion and I had to shake away my tears as I greeted my dad.  He was dying.  I could see it.  I've seen death many times as a nurse, and I could see that death was pulling it's shroud over his body already.  Despite his incredibly frail and hallowed appearance, he squeezed my hand and told me he loved me as I hugged him and told him how happy I was to see him.

My siblings arrived soon thereafter, and we spent the weekend going to visit dad and talking and laughing and giving him head scratches (which he loves).  My older sister brought her 4month old little girl, Clara, and placed Clara's little feet next to dad's hand while she kicked, and he squeezed her tiny little feet and reveled in her presence.  Dad couldn't say much the entire time we were there.  His lungs were filling up with fluid, and he was rattling and bubbling through his chest; we could hear it from across the room.  But he could manage to squeeze out a few words, and most of them were, "I love you's".

Tuesday morning, my older brother and sister we scheduled to fly home, and had left the house very early that morning.  At around 6am, the Veteran's Home called my mother to tell her Dad had become unresponsive around five AM.  I talked to the nurse briefly and sent my mother to see him, and I called my sister to tell her to turn around and come back...they were 10 minutes away from checking in.  I got up and my heart was heavy with the realization of what would be happening that day.  In a desperate attempt to normalize the moment, I ate a bowl of cereal and began to get ready.  While I don't feel like I should divulge much about this next event, I will say that there was a very strong prompting that I could not shake to encourage my 22 year old brother to go immediately to the Veteran's Home.  I initially ignored it, since most confrontations with him result in arguing, contention and massive irritation, and I didn't want to start our day that way.  Finally, I couldn't let it go and went in to see him.  I'll skip the details of that conversation.  Jacob (the 22 year old) went to the Veteran's Home just a few moments after we finished, and it was he, my mother and a very close family friend who were there when he passed at 9:30 that Tuesday morning.

I rode with Matthew, my 20 year old brother, and as we approached the Veteran's Home....I knew.  I just knew.  No one had called, but my spirit knew.  I rushed into the room, and it was over.  My father had passed just 5 minutes previous, and his warm, lifeless body lay in the bed.  I quickly found my crying mother and we hugged for a long time.  When Jonathan and Tabitha, my two older siblings arrived, I knelt at the side of my father's bed and placed my head on his shoulder and cried.  I cried for so many reasons in that moment.  I cried for his passing, I cried for my sadness, I cried for my mother's sadness, I cried for my kids and all of the grand-kids who won't have their grandpa here in this life, I cried for Dad's suffering....and then I cried tears of relief.  I almost couldn't believe myself and the feeling that I was having that a weight had been lifted off of my chest.  I was almost grateful that his pain and suffering were over, even if that meant death.  I once had someone tell me that there are far worse things than death.  And until that day, I wasn't quite convinced.  I understand now.

The days following Dad's death were difficult.  Not because of sadness, but because of the waiting.  He passed on a Tuesday, and we had the calling hours Friday night and the funeral on Saturday morning.  While we needed those days in between to prepare, it was torturous waiting for the "closing ceremonies" to begin.  It's hard waiting for closure.  

We spent quite a bit of time together as a family in those 8 days we were in NY, and most of it was good, and some of it was very very difficult....if you can imagine 5 adult siblings in a house, tensions mount and often come to a boiling point.  Somehow we made it through.  And while we disagreed and fought at times during the week, we could still come together and play games in the evening and laugh.  I will never forget how healing that was for me especially.  The last 9 months of gut-wrenching awfulness that I experienced as I sat front row on Dad's awful roller coaster ride from Hell, itself, made me incredibly....anxious before I  flew home a few weeks ago.  Honestly, my heart was full of angst and terror.  I had been to strong for so long, that if death itself was going to be more difficult, I didn't think I could do it.  I just didn't think I would be able to handle it or make it through, and it terrified me....more than anything else I've done in this life.  But I can say that while my siblings and I don't always get along, I never felt alone the whole week.  Never.  I cannot tell you how wonderful that made me feel.  Anything is possible when you know you have someone (or 4 other sibling-someone's) on your side.  I love my brothers and sister.  I really and truly do.  We were meant to come as a package deal, and I am grateful the Lord knows what we need even when we don't...or when we think we know better.  

My sister and I talked a lot during the course of the week, and as we talked about the whole experience of life and death and Dad's passing, she described it as being full tender mercies.  I could not describe it more succinctly than she.  As difficult as this trial has been, it was full of tender, such tender mercies.  After 9 months of NO tender mercies, the final week was a gracious and soft, warm blanket of tender mercies.  It was still a difficult experience, but so many things just....fell into place.  So many things were made....easy (?).  So many things that let us know that the Lord had not forgotten about us, and that He wanted us to know He loved us, and that He knew we were sad.  There were many things that happened that week that were guided by the Lord's hand.  Even as difficult as it was, we were never alone for any of it.
And so, while I sit here and type this with tears in my eyes, I am still filled with gratitude.  Gratitude for knowing I will see my dad again someday.  Gratitude that the Lord knew my heart, and calmed my troubled soul.  Gratitude that my Dad's suffering is over.  Death is hard, I don't know as though it's ever easy, and it's not supposed to be.  It's the difficult moments in life that teach us the most.  That guide us through the next wave of stormy waters and give us the experience to sail safely through.  I will always miss my dad, and I don't know as though that hole in my heart will ever go away.  But I hold firm to the knowledge that when we die, our spirit leaves our body and goes to Heaven.  A place that is superfluous beyond our capabilities to imagine, a place that when we get there, we will instantly remember all that was wiped away by the veil of forgetfulness when we were born on this earth.  I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His infinite love and compassion for us.  He knows us, He loves us, and He wants us to return to Him someday.  We can.  We CAN return to live with our Savior again someday.  We can be eternally sealed to our families in this life, and know that we can be together....forever.  Love and relationships extend far beyond the grave, if we only allow ourselves to follow the path that will take us there.  If you would like to know more about being together FOREVER, please go to www.mormon.org.  Only because I can't imagine what life would be like if I didn't know I could see my loved one's again!  

This post has been a long time in coming, and I've shared the moments that I felt needed to be recorded.  I hope that some day, these experiences (if I ever get them printed.....), will help my children through similar trials.  In the meantime, life has handed us some super busy moments, and we are trying to keep up, so stay tuned, we're back online (literally)!!