Tearing down fences

Tearing down fences

While I was away on Friday driving back and forth to pick up Andrew from that film camp, I got a text message from my husband that said this: “I’m taking down the fence.”

What fence? I responded in my mind, but not with my fingers.

Surely, he doesn’t mean the six-foot fence that surrounds our backyard, keeping people from randomly roaming onto our property.

He couldn’t mean the fence that probably cost many thousands of dollars for the previous owners to build.

Not the fence that has given me great peace of mind when my children are playing in the backyard.

Could he be talking about the fence that might someday keep a hypothetical dog that we have talked about purchasing from potentially running away?

From the day we moved into this house four years ago, my husband has been talking about tearing down our fence. We’ve discussed it several times since then, but I always assumed this was an idea for a project he would work on after the kids had all gone off to college or maybe once we retire. I didn’t know he meant we should take down the fence right now!

When I got home, I walked through the house and straight to the backyard. For the first time, I could see from our deck into the prairie behind our house without anything obstructing my view. It was amazing!

Still, I felt a tinge of uncertainty as the reality set in that the fence was gone. What was making me so anxious?

I’ve been reading a great book the past few weeks by Bob Goff. The book is called, Everybody, Always. In it, Goff tells stories about how he has been convicted in life to try to love everybody.

Always.

I often choke back tears as he writes about the woman in his neighborhood that he cared for as she died of cancer. I feel inspired by how he learned to sky dive, just so he could spend more time with his son doing something he loved to do. I get motivated reading about the parade that he organizes in his neighborhood every year, just to create a sense of community.

I listen to his stories and I tell myself that I want to be like that. I want to do stuff like that. I want to live like that.

But then reality sets in, and I realize that what I really want is to live inside a fence.

At the church our family attends (and the place I work), we have four core values, which we call our “code.” One of them is that we want to leave isolation for community. It sounds so simple. So fun. And really like a no-brainer.

The truth is, it’s easier to live in isolation. It’s easier to hide inside a fence. In fact, it’s cozy.

Living in community sounds fun. But then you have to start dealing with reality. People get cancer. Their husbands walk out on them. Their kids do stupid things. When you live in community, you can’t just sit inside your nice fence, pretending you can’t see over the six-foot wooden barricade.

But an amazing thing has happened during the past few days since my husband tore down our fence.

I’ve been mad at myself for holding onto that fence for so long. I can’t believe how much prettier life is now. I can see all of the white flowers that are blooming across the prairie. I have an even better view of the sunset, without having to stand on my tippy toes. When people walk by on the trail behind our house, we wave and yell, “Hello!” I feel silly that we didn’t remove that fence a long time ago. We’ve already spent four years looking around it and through it and over it when we could have been enjoying our beautiful view!

Sure, there’s always the risk that someone I don’t know will meander too close to our yard. There’s a very real possibility that a coyote or fox could run through our yard during the night. And we will probably bother our neighbors at some point with all of the kids that gather in our back yard.

But that’s OK. Our house is so much better this way.

I want to remember that next time I’m tempted to build a fence.

**

 

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Life in Niceville

Life in Niceville

When we were considering where to move earlier this year and we would mention the name of our new town, we would often get the same response: “People there are so nice.”

“Really?” we would ask ourselves. How could it be possible that people living in a slightly smaller town, just 12 miles away could really be THAT much nicer than anywhere else? I was skeptical. I didn’t see how a community could be comprised of only nice people.

Once we decided to move, I spent lots of time on the phone setting up utilities and taking care of the logistics of moving. Without fail, I would get off the phone with someone in our new community dumbfounded by their niceness. “You won’t believe this,” I told my husband. “I called to ask about the garbage service, and the lady went on and on explaining the different types of garbage cans and where to place them on the curb. She was SO NICE!”

After we moved in, the niceness continued. The neighbors were nice. The park district people were nice. The teachers at the junior high were nice. I went to Meijer and cracked up when a guy went out of his way to help a pregnant woman out the door with her groceries. Even when I let my library fines pile up to such an embarrassing level that I was “blocked” from the library, the librarian kindly helped me restore my account.

After five months of living here, the niceness has continued. I know it’s not possibly for everyone to be nice so I’m waiting for someone to let down their guard. Do something mean. I sometimes like to play little games with those in my new community to test their niceness. This involves striking up conversations with strangers, asking random questions of public officials and asking for help finding things in stores.

A few weeks ago, I had the perfect opportunity to test the niceness of the park district. As you know by now, our house backs up to a prairie wetland. Since we moved in, we have heard that once a year, the park district does a controlled burn of the prairie. We have been anxiously awaiting this spectacle. So I can’t even tell you how happy I was to receive a postcard in the mail, alerting residents near the prairie that the controlled burn would be happening soon.

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I would look out my windows each morning, hoping to spy a blazing fire behind my house. Being slightly obsessed with fire, I was afraid to be away from home for too long because I might miss it. After a week of looking out the window, I decided I needed more info. I found the postcard and noticed that the person in charge of the burns ended the postcard with these words. “Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.” Oh, yeah.

I sat down and wrote him an e-mail explaining my enthusiasm about the controlled burn, while trying not to sound too much like a pyromaniac. I asked if he could tell me when he planned to do the burn because I wanted to be sure to be home to watch. I hit send, fulling expecting that there was no way he would actually respond.

A few hours later, I got his reply. He apologized that they would not be able to do a burn of the particular prairie behind our house because it is full of peat soil. They have burned the area in the past and found that when the peat catches fire, it can burn for months or even a year. They realized their mistake in setting it on fire, and now they are working to restore the ecosystem to its original state, he explained.

In his detailed e-mail, he told me about some of the other prairie areas near our house and offered to call me to let me know when they would be doing a burn nearby. He even offered to meet me at the site to give a more detailed explanation. In a word, his response was: NICE.

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Of course, I couldn’t just drop it there. I wrote back thanking him for his explanation and telling him of our family’s love for the prairie and interest in the ecosystem.

He wrote back again, this time offering to come to our house to meet us and answer our questions. (Seriously? Does that even happen?)

I sent a text to my husband telling him I was going to invite the guy to our house for Christmas dinner just to see what he would say! (Insert sarcasm)

Well, I didn’t go so far as to give the guy my phone number. So imagine my surprise this morning when my phone rang at 8 a.m.

“This is the park district calling. We have a note to call you to let you know when we are doing a controlled burn in your area.” The message included details of the time and locations of the burns that would take place today. I took a break around lunch and got to the site just as a bunch of guys in yellow fire suits were getting ready to start the first fire. My daughter and I sat in the minivan watching them do their work.

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I took a few photos out the window. I was too shy to walk right up to them because I was afraid that they might have received a memo letting them know my name and my interest in the burn. I guess I’m just not used to this level of niceness just yet. I’m hoping that one day, I will be less of a skeptic. But I have to say, we are really enjoying life here in our new community. It’s… well,… NICE!

 

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When weeds become trees

When weeds become trees

One of the things we were most excited about when we moved to our new house was the back yard. It was larger than the yard at our old house with a peaceful view of a 67-acre prairie right behind us. And we had trees. Lots and lots of trees.

For anyone who lives in suburbia, you know that having tall trees in the yard isn’t something you take for granted. Many of the newer subdivisions were built in corn fields, and it takes decades to grow a tree that can provide shade and maybe even give the kids something to climb. Plus, trees are expensive!

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But that first week as we sat out back gazing at all of those trees, we started to notice something. We didn’t just a few trees here and there. We had bunches of trees. Three growing all together in a clump. Some growing next to the fence. Others right by the house. Two trees basically growing on top of each other. They were tall and thin. It was as if they hadn’t been planted there on purpose. No. The trees seemed to have planted themselves.

Everywhere.

All over the yard.

Yes, they gave us some nice shade. And it was good to have trees. But this many trees? Growing randomly?

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As we read more about these trees on the Internet, we found that they were a Silver Leaf Maple. They grow fast and tall. Their roots spread far and wide. And if we let them continue on their own, we would soon have roots busting through the sidewalk and the fence. Tall trees threatening to fall on the house during a storm. These weren’t just trees. They were actually weeds. Thirty foot tall weeds.

In the two months that we’ve lived here, CapableDad has cut down about 15 trees. (We did pay someone to take down the largest tree…. and we still have at least 15 “good trees” left.) He cleared out the trees from the side yard, and the neighbors started remarking about how they could see the back of the house for the first time. The more trees he cut down, the more trees we wanted to remove.

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He cut three more right from behind the house. Now we could see the sunset without having to walk around the trees.

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Finally, this weekend, we cut two more of the largest trees from the other side of the house.

But these trees don’t want to die. It’s only been a few weeks since we’ve cut down many of the trees, but already they are growing back like thick bushes.

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I spent the afternoon on Saturday, pulling weeds and cutting off the new growth from the trees. We eventually need to buy something that will kill them for good. Until then, I started going a little crazy chopping away at all of those new branches. I do NOT want these weeds growing back like towering trees in my yard!

Sitting on the ground pulling weeds can be therapeutic, and after a few hours, I started having some deep thoughts. 🙂 I cut and pulled and removed debris as I thought about the big weeds in the rest of my life. Getting ready to move, we realized how many “weeds” we have in the form of our material possessions. One by one, things looks good and seem to add value to our lives. Just one more thing to entertain us. One more toy. One more article of clothing. Then they start to collect and take over. They grow big roots, and the things we own start owning us.

It felt so good to get rid of a lot of that stuff when we moved. The more we threw away, the more I wanted to throw more away! We learned that we can actually live better with less. But now that we are getting settled, we’ve already started adding again to our stockpile of things.

With fall right around the corner, I’m starting to worry about not just the material “things” but the commitments we will be adding to our lives. We’ve had such a peaceful slow pace this summer. Soon, it will be jam-packed with baseball and gymnastics and basketball and preschool. Then there’s ministry and projects at work and travel for my husband. I was reminded how important it is to choose wisely what we add, so that all of these “good things” don’t take over. I don’t want to find out later that what seemed like a nice little tree that would add some shade has really become a towering 30-foot weed!

How about you? Do you feel like your life ever gets overtaken by trees that are really weeds?

**

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More before and afters… Squirrel!

More before and afters… Squirrel!

I hope you all have been loving summer as much as we have! After suffering through that long brutal winter, I think we are getting our reward with a really pleasant summer!

It did rain most of the day on Saturday, so I took that as my cue to get going on painting the master bedroom. Like the rooms in the main level of the house, the master bedroom was a bright white in flat paint. I know I should be happy to have a clean slate with the white walls, but they were screaming at me to add some color.

Any room in this house that was not painted white was either yellow or a pale green, and that included the master bathroom. I have been anxious to be done with the green and yellow as well!

The master bedroom has a vaulted ceiling, and I had envisioned the room with a very dark blue accent wall and grey on the trey ceiling. I found some new bedding that I used as my inspiration and pulled out four colors for my palette to transform the bedroom and bath.

Here’s the before with our old bedding and bright white walls…

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I was a little freaked out when the dark blue wall first went up, but I absolutely love it! The dark blue is called “Evening Hush.”

The other walls are painted a color called, “Squirrel.” I must say that Squirrel is my new favorite color. I had been hoping for a nice grey beige, and I absolutely love this one! In fact, if I had found it earlier, I might have painted more of our main living space in this color. The color shifts from beige to grey in different light and sometimes has a touch of green.

The trey ceiling is one shade lighter than Squirrel, “Granite Boulder”.

I can’t wait to actually get some furniture in the room, add some curtains and put some artwork on the walls. But until then, here’s what the room looks like with just paint on the walls.

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Oh, by the way, “Squirrel!”

And here’s the vaulted ceiling in all white…

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I found out that painting the trey was no joke. I was balancing on the top step of a ladder with my neck tilted back taping and painting most of the day on Saturday. You might not be able to tell a huge difference from the photos, but I LOVE the added color on the ceiling. I think it makes a big impact.

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And here’s the green bathroom…

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I’m so much happier now surrounded by this greyish blue.

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Just when I thought the ceiling in the bedroom was a challenge, I met this bad boy.

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The ceiling was even higher than the one in the bedroom, and I did almost die at one point when the ladder tilted. I only spilled an entire tray of paint of the floor, but managed to stay on the ladder. (I will be super happy when the gold on the shower door and the door knob are replaced with silver!)

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I’m so, so happy that the ceiling is no longer yellow!

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Ahhh… white and grey…

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So, I hope your weekend was more exciting than painting ceilings! CapableDad made some amazing progress on tearing down a wall in the garage and working outdoors. Hopefully, I’ll be able to show some of those before and afters soon, too!

 

 

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New colors

New colors

It’s hard to believe that we are closing in on the one month mark in your new house. I would love to say that we’ve all just been sitting back and relaxing and enjoying the view 24/7. But in reality, we’ve been working our tails off around here.

Just when we thought we had done all of the painting and plumbing and yardwork we would need to do for a long time to sell our other house, we have had even bigger projects awaiting us here!

Lots of people have asked to see photos of the inside of the house, and I’ve been a little nervous about posting them. The house might look too big, too small, too old, too new, too whatever… Then there’s the fact that I have no decor on the walls and most of my furniture is about 17 years old! But I’ve also been exciting since before we moved here to transform some of the pure white walls with color and make this place feel more like home.

So, if you find stuff like this annoying, please just skip this post! But if you want to see my new paint colors… come on in!

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Of course, I was so excited to begin painting that I forgot to take any “before” shots. So, the only before shots I have are from the day we walked through for the home inspection. Is it super weird that I’m posting photos with someone else’s stuff? Yes, it is. But… I guess it’s not toooo strange since these before shots are similar to the ones that appeared on realtor sites on the Internet. And it gives you an idea of how we had to use our imagination to picture our own stuff in the house!

Here’s the living room… the pure white walls were glaring at me!

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I painted most of the walls a tan color called “Harvest Brown.” The darker accent wall is “Toasted Walnut.”

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I love how the stone fireplace pops with the darker wall behind it.

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Instead of having a formal living room, the living room and family room are one big space. These big windows are one of our favorite parts of the house.

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It’s hard to get a good shot looking into the windows, but the white woodwork around the windows looks so much nicer with the new paint color instead of WHITE!

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This is the view into the kitchen… And this photo comes complete with the home inspector! 🙂

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I painted the kitchen a color called, “fudge bar.” I actually painted the kitchen a completely different color before starting over and settling on this one. I really love the chocolately color. 🙂

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Before, the kitchen had wood trim around the top of the countertop. We took that out…

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I have about 5,342 more cabinets now than I did in our old house. 🙂

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We removed the cork board over the desk…

 

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And we removed the tiles in the window sill over the sink…

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And here’s the view from the kitchen, which we love!

 

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This is where we spend most of our time!

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We have a ton of projects we are working on outside… tearing down fences and structures and chopping down trees and pulling weeds…. and we eventually need to stain that deck! Hopefully, I’ll be able to show some of the photos soon. Until then, I have a lot more painting to do! I just picked out my colors for the master bedroom.

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