::Refining Those Instincts::

What happens when the house you were sure was supposed to be yours ends up being an obvious dud?

We toured *that house* again on Monday with a contractor and heard all about the issues, mainly lots of water damage, termites (!), and a pool that is non-functioning.  Needs some work on the sewage (ew), gutters, a roof, and perhaps a new garage.

Here's the pooch I mentioned in the previous post.  We let him in, and he grabbed his rawhide bone and happily followed us around the house.  He was fat and at-his-ease...pretty sure he rules the roost)

We walked away feeling satisfied that we gave it the ole' college try, but neither hubs or I felt like going down that road with that house.  The ruined pool pretty much sank the ship.  And I was totally ok with it as I drove away.  It was an interesting part of this journey, and I learned important lessons, honed my instincts more, even thru the ups and downs....the excitement and the disappointments.  I felt relieved when we closed the door on this possibility, knowing there are others out there waiting to be discovered.

Source: hgtv.com via Cindy on Pinterest

See, here's the thing.  I get all excited and see all the possibilities and believe and hope and dream about a new house every week.  I'm wicked good at it.  Hubs is my grounding force, but sometimes he comes off as a wet blanket. We had some frank discussions (ok, we argued) about how I need him to dream with me sometimes instead of trying to protect me from falling from too high when reality hits. 

Maybe that happened years ago (pretty sure it did), but in my midlife, I can disconnect pretty quickly from the hopes and dreams so long as I'm presented with cold, hard facts.  I don't throw too many tantrums over broken house dreams anymore.

So we're moving on.  Actually I had already found another property with awesome potential before we even went on Monday.  I think it was my way of having a back-up plan in case things don't go according to my dreams.  :)

Having passed on *that house*, I again went back to my cottage instincts, our priorities, our wants and needs.  Hubs says our intuition simply pushes us in a direction with no specifics....but our brains engage and take over, assigning specifics that may or may not be where our intuition was leading.  Hmmmmm......

So what if I told you now we're looking at a property that would give me both old and new for even less than *that house*?

Tomorrow we'll check out a one acre property in the city that includes that cape cottage up thar on half and an empty lot on the other where a home had previously lived.  Not sure if it burned down or what, but an empty lot with trees is an empty lot with trees.  And a driveway :)

My brain says, live in the cutie-patootie cape cod and build something smallish next door.  Then rent or sell the cape to our kids.  Way out there, yeah?  I'd get to enjoy the character of the cape, help the kids make it theirs after ours was built, but mosey on next door to my new house with lots of windows and my soaking tub :)

Source: bhg.com via Cindy on Pinterest

But there's potential....that's how my brain works.  I believe the impossible until it proves it ain't possible.  And so many things would have fall in line for this property to work out.  I'm not going into this completely blind to the improbabilities, but I don't let them squash the hope in possibilities.

Just for funsies, we'll be looking at 4 other newly built homes, one that is $100K more than that cute little cottage up there.  I need to step inside and 'feel' them too.  It would give me an idea how 'new' strikes my instincts.

But hold up. I thought my intuition said building wasn't our style.  Upon further digging, (and seeing the reality of an older home) I think I could live in new OR old....it's just a new neighborhood that cramps my style.  The cottage/lot is not in a neighborhood....no restrictions, no one making sure our lawn is perfect, no association dues.  No Jones to keep up with.

And the lot is deep, but narrow, so it limits the type of home we could build there, meaning smaller, which is fine by me as all the homes along there would qualify as either ranch, cape cod or farmhouse.  I'd build something to blend into the landscape...which means cheaper, by about 50 grand that what we were previously considering.  And yes, I've already found another floorplan that would work....the graph paper has already made it back to front and center on my desk.

I was also reminded how this journey began...but visiting a friend whose new home 'looked' old.  And realizing we could afford it.  Which doesn't mean that's what we will do, just that the idea of building shouldn't be completely abandoned if the right lot/style/price can be found.

Source: pinterest.com via Cindy on Pinterest

So I suppose I'm saying my cottage instincts don't lead me down a path to a particular place...but that they keep me true to what I love.  And oh how I love cottages....beachy, craftsman, farmhouse, capes, both new AND old. I love 'em all.  I'm not gonna get stuck on a certain place thinking it's the 'only one'....like some folks do with spouses.  I believe we become 'the one' after we risk and take a leap.  I'm looking for a home that will support our over arching priorities (not spending the upper limits of our income on housing is the biggest).  I'm looking for the potential that it will BECOME 'the one'.  And for every dream home that falls thru, there are always other fish in the sea, yeah?

Mumford & Sons is my favorite band right now (my brother happens to be their booking agent).  This refrain is in one of their new songs:
"'Cause I know my weakness, know my voice
And I'll believe in grace and choice"

I still believe in magic (grace).  But I believe we create that magic by staying open to the possibilities that line up with our priorities (choice).  I also believe signs are real, but that they don't necessarily mean specific things....more like general leanings.  I think we have to create our realities after we've done the hard work of understanding ourselves...what we like, what we love, what makes us unique.  

Then there are all kinds of opportunities, each with gifts and each with issues.  Kinda takes the pressure off.  No need to worry and fret that we've missed out on 'the one'.  I believe in 'the many'....and for this season, we're gonna hope to make the best choice out of the many, trusting that we have the vision to make any home we buy or build 'the one'.

I hope sharing our windy path toward our next home is helpful to you guys.  I know it can sound like I have no idea where I'm going....but as I navigate my way thru this, I'm learning so much about myself, and I hope it can encourage especially those of you who feel like you can't trust your instincts to guide you.  Even in that moment when I thought "I missed it again" after our second visit to *that house*, I knew my cottage instincts could be trusted...that there must be something else out there for us.

And I believe we'll find it.


::Trying to Keep the Faith::

Well, we saw it.

And, dear readers, it was plain awful.  

In the eeewwww-awful-est sense.

We learned upon entering, after maneuvering around a ripped up filthy sofa in the middle of the breezeway, that it was a bank owned/short sale.  Which explains the low price for that area and the extreme yukkiness we met as we toured the home.  Including space heaters as they'd turned the heat off.
Clearly these owners wanted to make it hard for the bank to kick them out.

(all pics are from the listing....it wasn't this clean when we walked thru)

(what you can't see in this pic is crooked cabinet doors, layers-upon-layers of grease on the stove, and peeling laminate floors that sit 3 inches above the hardwood in the ajoining rooms)

I kept heart and continued walking thru, noticing horrible paint jobs, dried spaghetti sauce on the cabinets, a sink full of dirty dishes, broken doors.....and a miserable looking dog just outside licking the door begging to be let in.  (*please see update about the dog at bottom of the post)

We steadied ourselves  while tiptoeing down to the basement using cellphones as flashlights since there was no power down there, which revealed walls covered in graffiti and tacky strings of lights.
Dirty laundry all over the floor.  Musty, dirty smell.

(One of two decent rooms, this dining room passes muster except for a slip-shod job with the molding and some cracks in the ceiling plaster)

Upstairs we braced ourselves against the onslaught of ickness we faced...yet still trying to remain positive.  There had been water damage to the wood floor just outside the bathroom, creeping insidiously under the new-ish tile floor.  The stairs had been treated to a half-a-- job of refinishing, wallpaper was half painted, banister hanging by a thread.  Closets painted closed.  Beds unmade, clothing (including men's underwear) thrown around.....and cold...the whole house was freezing cold.  
And it had begun to wind it's slinking tendrils around my heart.

(the living room was also decent, but that mantle is barely connected to the brick and they drilled into the brick to hang the big black eye)

My daughter's FIL is a police officer, and mentioned the owner was a mean man, and had been arrested a few times.  There was a messy divorce.  I'd say Mean Man had taken his frustration out on the house via sheer neglect.  I saw signs of a loving homemaker's touches here and there....but just shadows.  Even in foreclosure, a woman would never let people walk thru her home in that state.  My guess is that no woman lived there now, and hadn't lived there in awhile.

(just out of the shot, but a bit noticeable is the graffiti SPRAYPAINTED all over the ceiling and walls of this boy's room...just like in the basement...the hardwoods upstairs were in terrible shape.)

Hubs then noticed the pool hadn't been winterized.
Just frozen over with black moldy leaves stuck in the ice. 

These folks just ran.outta.money.  

(this room has great potential, so long as you can make it up the nasty staircase to get there.)

The house reverberated with tension, silent cursing, and signs of outright rage.
It was stiff, leary, holding its breath. The air was heavy, and the place was bone-tired.  

We left the place dejected and outraged that someone could be so cruel to such a beautiful home.  
I had lost hope I'd ever find a house so perfect, then there it was, and the pictures were so deceiving.... WHY OH WHY did it have to be so trashed?!

I sensed Hubs just didn't want to go down the 'fix it up' road again.  He couldn't shake the awful feeling he got walking thu it.  He couldn't envision it's potential, and worried about all the repairs...horribly disappointed.

I withdrew into myself, came home and got busy doing other stuff that needed done with a lump in my throat, fighting hard to cling to that newly recovered trust in my cottage instincts.  It was hard.  

It's still hard, folks.

(Tiniest room at 10 X 8....no door, just hanging beads)

I arose early this morning with THAT HOUSE on my heart.  It truly had everything I wanted.  Even a corner sink, for goodness  sake!  I kept thinking if it was all cosmetic, if the bones of the home were still ok, we could hire out any work that needed done....even the cleaning as the price is so far below what we were considering previously.  

(this room looked like the owner had just threw back the covers and jumped outta bed...junk laying on the bedside tables, shoes nearby.)

Talked with hubby about it....took a drive thru the neighborhood and those surrounding it, even called on a for-sale-by-owner nearby.  We decided to continue to work on our house, keep our eyes peeled (and our friends' eyes peeled) for newly listed homes, and....

(didn't even make it onto the front porch, but doesn't it look like it has great potential?)

 ...called a contractor we know to walk thru THAT HOUSE with us on Monday.  :)

I feel I can't let it go til I get some straight facts....is it structurally sound and how much and how long to bring it up to my (very reasonable) living standards?

I had hoped we'd get a definite feeling one way or the other when we saw the house.  I leaned in hard to my gut, turned my inner ear to my heart, tried to see it as 'my house'.

Instead I got a jumble of 'yikes' and 'oh! there's beadboard ceiling in here!' and 'ok, um, no.' and 'ooooo there's buildins!'  Reading my feelings was like reading chinese.  
In the dark.

(at least there's granite counters, custom shaker cabinets, and all the appliances stay)

Hubs just got more agitated the longer we stayed.  His dark mood affected mine, as I'm the eternal optimist when it comes to crappy homes.  Though even I was overwhelmed with the work that would need to be un-done before we could even start getting the fun stuff done making it look all cozy-cottagey.

(other side of the kitchen behind the bar stools.)

But oh my heart.  My heart has to follow the emotional trail until we hit a brick wall.  And a dirty house with shoddy work isn't a brick wall.  A broken foundation would most definitely be a brick wall. Literally.

  And I figure the least we could do for the poor house is give it a fair shake during daylight hours wearing     down coats and knit hats, armed with flashlights and someone who knows what they're talking about. Yeah?

So the saga continues, even as we walk thru some open houses tomorrow.  None old, most too far out of town to please me, but just honing my instincts.  And it will help get my mind off THAT HOUSE until we visit again on Monday.

I'm ready for the game to just be freakin' over, but evidently I haven't played my whole hand yet, and I can't deal with the regret of folding without seeing my opponent's hand.  I'll call his bluff for now.  I'm holding a full house of vision, ingenuity, and cold hard cash.

And honestly, I don't want Mean Man to win.  

That house deserves better.  It deserves a cottage chick with loving hands, experience listening to what a house really wants to be, and respecting it's integrity.

That chick just may not be me.  If it comes to that, I'll fold graciously, knowing there's something even better just around the corner.

And besides, Robyn Rose has faith in my cottage instincts.  She told me so.

*Edited to add: I've received some comments/emails/fb comments about the dog.  Yes, he looked pitiful, and yes I wanted to let him in.  No he didn't look abused, maybe he was scared of us?  He also had one of those strap-on blanket dog coats on, so I don't think he was cold.  He was fat and groomed.  He just looked sad to me, and seemed to match the mood of the house.  If I see signs of actual abuse on Monday; I will report it.  I love how tenderhearted my readers are!


::Recovering My Cottage Instincts::

This will be long and convoluted and rambly, but I'm writing it for posterity....

(Robyn Rose 8 months)

And it documents when I started believing in magic again.  

Which means, I recovered my cottage instincts.

Magic, I tell ya.

Ya know, the last year or more on this blog I've been mostly absent.  It was an intense year for so many reasons, and it left no time or energy for me to fluff and frouff and stage and edit and post.  

Or have a sense of humor.  

I kinda thought my blogging days were numbered.  

Then in the last couple months our family decided it was finally time to move.  Say so long to the last 4.5 years in a community I didn't care for or fit into.  Say 'I've done what I can' to my circa 1982 ranch and look forward to new decorating adventures.  Mostly wave goodbye to the previous 18 months and hello to a bright future.

And a new house meant new fodder for blogger. :)  Lucky you!  (Am I over-reaching there?)

And by 'new', I mean brand spankin' new.

Let me start at the beginning...

Mid-November, we started thinking of building.  I talked to two builders in our area. I toured models.  I drove thru finished neighborhoods to get inspired.  We put money on a lot.  We made an appointment with Mortgage Guy.  We got a hold of Realtor Lady and began the process of getting our house ready to sell.  (understatement, saith my aching back)

Then this past Sunday, we came *this close* to signing the building contract....as in, Sales Rep Person was drawing up the contract before my husband realized it was *the* building contract and said "Whoa. Not yet...gotta talk to my money guy first."  

Which was an embarrassing moment, lemmetellya.  I'll even let on that I was a bit miffed. 

 Having dealt with the excitement, working endless hours on 3 different floor plans, 

....arranging furniture on gridpaper just so, picking out a lot (ooooo, there's one extra tree on that one....), trolling Pinterest for inspiration, firing one Sales Rep Person #1, well.....let's just say I was ready to be done with the indecision and get on with it.  


That evening I began to understand how profound my husband's less-than-socially-acceptable-halting was.  
I began to thank my lucky astroids that I have a husband who is hesitant about throwing down many thousands of dollars on the table before knowing the actual lay of the land.

I didn't sleep well.

I arose Monday feeling agitated and irritated and confused and mad (and tired).  I suddenly felt I needed to get a job to help pay for this 'dream house'.  Which I'd never felt in my whole life. (!) In our 27 years of marriage, hubs and I held to certain values like not spending the upper limits of our income on housing.  Like me staying home with our kids even if it meant older or not-as-nice cars and homes.  Like knowing our neighbors.  Like not giving into the Galloping Gimmies too often.  
(every parent needs this book, just sayin'.)

I closed my eyes for the zillionth time and tried to see myself dwelling in a home I'd never actually been able to walk thru, a home with walk in closets, upstairs laundry, a corner garden tub, 9 foot ceilings, transom windows, a MUD ROOM.  I tried to imagine a pristine new home with slabs of wet driveway cement and a thatched front yard, the roar of bulldozers building someone else's dream next door.  
It wasn't working.  I simply couldn't see it. 

I tried to distract myself with some of my Country Living cottage deco books....and was reminded how much I love old stuff.  Which, of course, can look totally cool in a new home, don't get me wrong.  But they just 'fit' in an older home.  I was also reminded of how much environmental havoc is involved in the building process....and the outgassing we'll deal with (as the new carpet upstairs has been reminding me this week). 

So I left for yoga and decided to drive thru some areas near where I used to live....80-100 year old homes with no yards, no driveways, no garages, no walkout basements....and spiraled a bit deeper into the abyss of indecision, wondering and observing this weird sensation of 'not sure' after getting so cozy with the idea of 'new and fabulous (and expensive)' for the last couple months.  Thinking how foreign to be thinking about getting a job after all these years to help pay for the 'dream house'.  And then wishing we could find some older home, a mature, settled place that would fit our needs as well as our dreams....and realizing that was a slim possibility.

I drove to our new lot and stared.  Nothing.  I felt nothing.  I remembered sitting at the table less than 24 hours previously ready to sign off on an as-yet non-existent dwelling....looking at my husband when Sales Rep Person told us our 'new' address, and both of us saying 'eh, not crazy about that name'.  I recalled all the forcing and struggling and frustration trying to get people to call us back.  And the house price increasing with every visit to Sales Rep Person.  And telling myself I deserved a new house after all these years, goshdarnit!!!

Back at home, I sighed, plunked myself down in front of the computer and decided to check the MLS again in hopes that by some miracle, the right house might pop up, even though for 3 months not a single property seemed suitable competition to what we wanted to build.

You know where this is going right?  

I typed in my old zipcode and... 

 First house listed, no pictures yet, just an address.  But I recognized the street name instantly....my old neighborhood....but the older, more stately section.  The area we could never afford.  The neighborhood that rarely offered up one of it's pearls of homey goodness. I mapped the address and soon discovered it was THAT HOUSE....

THAT HOUSE that I drove by daily, wishing I lived there. 

THAT HOUSE that I walked by s-l-o-w-l-y with the dog...hoping he'd choose to relieve himself right there so I could take in the goodness, and perhaps steal a peek thru the windows.  Obsessed might be just slightly too over-the-top, but it gives you an idea how I felt about the place.  

It was all window boxes and front porch swings, and 2 car attached garagey (!), and inground pool-ish.  It was shuttered off-center-window-quirkiness, and tall, old tree loveliness......

And now, (be still my heart) my screen was telling me it was available, weighing in at 90K less than what we were considering building.  

Oh Hello.

I shook my head in disbelief.  Which moved quickly to tears.  Which progressed to laughter. Which moved back to tears.  Which culminated in 'dare I hope?'  

THAT HOUSE!  Up for grabs????  REALLY???

I even said aloud "No.  This isn't happening.  This can't be happening.  It's too good.  It's too full circle and perfect and and and....."

,,,,And suddenly all the agitation, all the frustration, the stress, and worry evaporated.  
The words "NO WONDER" reverberated thru my heart.  

That, my friends, *that* is where the magic jump-started into a whirling purr in my spirit.  
I hadn't felt it since my granddaughter emerged into this world on my family room floor in April.  
I wasn't sure I'd ever feel it again after my beautiful mom succumbed to cancer in September.

The last day has been spent looking at the pictures that were finally posted and doing my yoga breathing and downward dogs so I don't take off into spaz-land in my anxiousness to see it.  Our first showing was scheduled for last evening (just after the meeting with Mortgage Guy).  It was postponed until Friday.

FRIDAY, PEOPLE.  That's like the equivalent to a thousand years, right?

I can't say that this whole deal doesn't look suspiciously like a big present wrapped up in a satin bow with my name on it.  But I also know there is always good and bad to everything...even when it's special-delivery from the Universe.  Like with our kids, who are beyond fabulous, but can be less-than-fun on many occasions (like 3am wet-the-bed sessions, for instance.)

Then there's that whole changing direction mid stream thing.  Some might call it flakey.  

I mean, a mere 24 hours previously I had designed my dream home . Was pissed my hubby engaged in contract-signing interruptus.

Now I'm sure I'll be forever content with a house where I'd share a bathroom with 2 teenage boys.  

Does that seem just a mite strange?  

I toyed with the idea that I might be completely deranged and have no clue anymore what I truly want in life.
Although I'm a sucker for crystal knobs.
And original hardwood floors.
And arched doorways.

This complete about-face made Hubs and I ask ourselves some hard questions:
1) What do we actually need/want in a house?
2) What kind of folks are we really?  New house people or old neighborhood folks?
(I've had 2 people in 2 days say we're definitely the latter, and my counselor told me I'm an 'old soul' and should explore living in an older home, which we did 20 years and 4 houses ago...it was the only home where I cried the first time we walked in).
And  most importantly,
3) What are our values?  Have they changed?

And that last one was a doozy.  The meeting with Mortgage Guy laid out for us the reality that although we could afford the new one, things would be tremendously tight financially for awhile.  When we examined our values last night after the meeting, I realized I like the freedom we have in our finances now, and that we've wanted to be more purposeful in our giving, and that being in debt is just plain awful.  And that, lo those many years ago we wanted to be people who didn't stretch the financial limits when it came to homes.

It's all about those cottage instincts, folks.  My heart loves all things cottage because it lines up so perfectly with our values for homes.  Smaller, older, quirkier....cheaper.  

I suppose you find the emotional trail and follow it....
even if it seems to lead to the Crazy Train.  

Because, honestly, there's lots of others on that train.  Those who've shunned the popular, the trendy, the copycats to live their own authentic, unique lives....be it in their clothing, their values, their homes....

You trust your instincts.  Something I thought I'd lost.  
Both the instincts AND the trust in myself.

Most times pushing yourself into a box (even one with a corner soaking tub) isn't smart.  Even in the heady days of arranging paper furniture on a grid of floorplans I wondered why this all felt so hard.  

Sometimes letting go and allowing goodness to come to you, trusting that you'll recognize yourself and your heart when it arrives, is the best way to deal with frustration and stressful decisions.  There's those times we need to chase down and grab hold, but when that gig stops working, it's time to back off.  
Monday morning I knew it was time to stop forcing and start trusting.  

As excited as I am about the possibility of THAT HOUSE being ours.....I'm at peace because I received my answer about building....that it doesn't really align with our family's budget and values.  Even if THAT HOUSE ends up not working out, it has served an enormous purpose in my life....reminding me of what I truly want, helping me say no to some of my LIKES to leave room for my LOVES.  

Now I just need to wait.  

And keep trusting my cottage instincts.  

I'll keep y'all posted.  


::More Winterfying::

PSSSST...I'm no longer blogging here!
You can now find me at


So here's some other cold weather touches around the family room and adjoining dining room.

This is my attempt to reconcile with Old Man Winter.
A wee wood plaque I painted with chalkboard paint.

The pinecone thing is the last remaining centerpiece from my daughter's wedding.
I bought the wicker table several years ago, painted it white, then left it out on our screened porch thru a couple winters....it's chippy and awesome now.

 Got the cloche at Hob Blob 50% off.  Love how tall it is!
I'm sticking nests with real quail's eggs here and there.
I love birds.  
But you know that.

Made this burlap wreath last year for the wedding too.
Was gonna use it on the front door, but loved it on my beadboard doors.

Got the metal letter on Christmas clearance a few years ago at Restoration Hardware.  
It used to be aqua, but has aged to a vintage-look gold.

The dried stuff in the urn is blocking the side view of the cords in the back of the tv for those arriving at our house....like say, buyers, for instance. 

View from my couch.  We were told to take out my beautiful shaker farmhouse trestle table as it dwarfs the dining nook.  
It will be replaced with a rustic white round table my daughter is currently using...
she'll get the aqua one til the house sells.

 Looking in from the front hall.

Switched directions...looking at the place I took the last shot.

My wee hutch.

More quail eggs in a fake nest.  
I like to mix it up.

I love this black bird....the detail is loverly. 

Removing the big table gave us room to use this piece my parents gave me.
It's from Pottery Barn a few years back.

I adore it.
The drawers are super deep.
In our next house, I hope to use it behind a sofa and store all my yummy cottage/flea market/farmhouse magazines inside.

A real nest with the eggs this time.
All the metal pineconey candlesticks in this and previous pics were also from my daughter's wedding.

Thanks for stopping by!
For pics of my winterfication of the mantel, see yesterday's post.


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