"Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity." ~ Gilda Radner

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


It was not love at first sight.

More of a strong like.

But I had always said I wanted an older home with a big front porch, and lots of wide, dark, wood trim on the inside. And that is exactly the kind of house we bought after we left Ohio and moved back to Iowa following the birth of our son, Daniel, in 1993.

It has been our affordable cottage (with a great front porch for morning coffee) for two-plus decades. Save for some foundation/driveway work, new windows, kitchen and bathroom flooring replacement a dozen years or so ago, and, more recently, a bathroom wall treatment re-do, our tiny, two-bedroom house has not changed much.

Over the years I have channeled my inner Mary Bailey in hopes of refurbishing our cabin-esque dwelling with cheery "It's A Wonderful Life" determination and fervor, using gallons of  discontinued paint and inexpensive curtains.

However, I must confess, I eventually came to resent this old house. Particularly its yellow Formica kitchen countertops. I craved stylish granite. I yearned for, nay, obsessively desired, new carpeting, an upstairs laundry and on and on and on. Seemed like everyone else I knew had updated/remodeled their homes, or built or bought brand new (pouted Pouty Pouterton).  But nothing of that sort had ever been in our very tight budget.

And oh, the clutter that had accumulated!

Home by Phillip Phillips on GroovesharkThen one Saturday morning last summer, with the help of my dear friend/tireless home organizer, Angie, I began my own house update of sorts...an attitude repair project, one might say, beginning in our dark, dank basement.

I tried channeling my inner Mary Bailey.
Tote by dusty plastic tote, we sifted through what seemed like tons of faded pictures, decades-old Christmas cards,  outgrown shoes, scrapped clothing, and an odd assortment of chipped juice glasses and tarnished flatware.

We also unearthed many treasured keepsakes of school years and professional careers gone by.

Save. Toss. Save. Toss. Toss. Toss.

Daniel's once-prized pacifier that he had abandoned at eight months of  age but I had apparently packed away for posterity? Tossed.

Yup. I had to make some emotionally brutal decisions that day.

But eight hours and 28 bulging contractor-strength garbage bags later (yikes!), I could actually see the basement's back wall and most of the floor. And I could feel the heavy, old-house loathing in my heart slowly lifting...

Angie had inspired me! The basement purge I had declared I was beginning on Dec. 31, 2007 (OK, so I have a tendency to procrastinate...if you'd known my dear, departed dad, you would understand) was, finally, at hand!

Once the basement was cleaned out and smelled like Renuzit Apples and Cinnamon air freshener,  I  moved on to the attic...then I attacked the bedroom closets and dresser drawers...the cabinets underneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks...

I was a decluttering/deep cleaning/organizing machine!

And when autumn arrived, my husband, John, and I raked leaves till our arms ached, and tidied the yard and garage. We made some minor repairs.

Granted, after several weeks of long-overdue attention, it was still a small, old house -- with yellow Formica kitchen countertops --  in need of further repair.  But where chaotic clutter once ruled, a cozy contentment now reigned. I stopped whining about the imperfections and started appreciating the sturdy shelter the house had provided my family for so many years.  I found myself savoring a newfound sense of strength in my home's simplicity. 

On our last afternoon of raking and yard clean-up a few weeks before Daniel's long-anticipated arrival from college for Thanksgiving break, I was bagging up a pile of leaves that had collected just around the corner from our back door.

And that is when I finally, officially, fell in love with this old house.

For there, hidden beneath the leaves, were the indelible, albeit weathered, handprints Daniel and I had  made in the once-freshly-poured cement during those aforementioned foundation/driveway improvements so many summers ago.

I bent down and slowly traced with my right index finger the ever-enduring outlines...

Granite schmanite.

There is not a newer, bigger, more modern house anywhere that can offer me such a precious memento of my son's love.

Oh, Home Sweet Cozy Old Home! My dear, stalwart friend!  Thank you for reminding me that sometimes, what matters most --  a family's love for one another -- grows best in an older, simpler, smaller house where the heart's memories remain steadfast and (unlike yellow Formica kitchen countertops) never go out of style.