All About Me – a story of hope
I grew up on a 40 acre dairy farm.
We lived in the oldest farmhouse ever that had all the magical details we DIYers strive to recreate today. High ceilings with beefy thick mouldings, authentic tall skinny windows, and old doors with flat black hardware. We also had the massive big red barn and side buildings out back just like in all the storybooks.
We also had other animals other than cows. Horses, barn cats and an outdoor dog that ran after every motor going by, including frightened Mr. Motus on his bike!
I still smile at the fond memories of my mom gently shooing out my hidden barn cat or three from inside the house with the end of her broom. Animals had their place which to her meant outside. (still love ya, mom!)
My bedroom had what was called, donna (who knew?) conna walls. In today’s world, that means floor to ceiling bulletin board heaven. It was a breeze hanging up my velvet horse posters. My mom let me choose the colour for my room which was a weird minty vibrant green. My rad green and my fuzzy posters and wacko bedding to match. I loved it and that’s all that mattered to her.
I was always artistically inclined. I won contests in elementary school and even had one poster proudly on display in town for a whole month! I aced art all through highschool. But one of my first paying jobs was working for a greenhouse down the road.
Boss man Graham needed signs painted for a flower show and asked me to take care of that. I’ll always remember his compliment, “I just LOVE the colour combinations of the lettering!” I didn’t know anything about paint and colours other than how much paint was left in the pot, but was glad he was glad nevertheless.
Growing up, I took on various jobs that had nothing to do with art, but looking back, I liked arranging stuff, right down to the display shelves at my brother-in-law’s gas station. One day I landed work in a major department store (my version of a lottery win back then) and eventually figured out how to work some art magic into whatever I did.
In the women’s clothing department, I arranged the displays so the colours would bring you in from the isles then push you back toward wall displays. My best days EVER were when I could work in the back stockroom wearing jeans and scribble hand done illustrations on signs for our big warehouse events.
Then there was talk of the store going under. Believing the stories, I started looking for other work. I knew this time I wanted to do something with art. I applied for a sign shop not having a clue what premask or anything else they did was. I had never even touched a computer at that time. I slapped together some drawings to prove I had something to offer and landed the job. I couldn’t believe it!
I was so relieved to work in the art industry while the store chain collapsed. I felt safe, and it felt so right, but so surreal. I LOVED my work! And then, I got fired. They never did tell me why.
Down but not out, I found another job that weekend in the auto graphics industry (pin striping cars for body shops and dealers). It was a commission job so it was like I worked for myself. And then I got fired from that one too. Nifty…
See, I apparently had a little issue. I was assertive and wanted to learn. You couldn’t throw enough info at me. I was hungry to do my best and flew beyond expectations. I. Just. Wanted. To. Learn.
Stumped, I wondered if I was entering the right profession. I mean, fired twice?! And that’s when I spotted an ad in the paper for a graphic design class, complete with a sign division. I signed up immediately and became a fulltime student for half a year.
Because I knew lots of the material from my last 2 jobs, I decided to purchase sign equipment and practice with it once I got home from school. School by day, and 3 cracked open library books at home by night learning my new computer and vinyl cutter. I’d learn something, then at night create what I learned bringing in a ready-made sign the next day. (what a show off, huh?)
Before school was even over, I was running my own sign and auto graphics business off a pool table in my basement. I worked from home until a local body shop invited me to rent their small offshoot building for my storefront. I accepted! And the school I was in called me back and asked me to TEACH the class I had just taken. (it paid to be a show off) Three storefront transitions and 2 employees later, I had a very successful biz.
All the while, I was an antiques fanatic to the extreme. I took in weekend flea markets with my brother and sis-in-law as well as big time scary auctions. I always had a boatload of rustic goodness going on wherever I went. I ate and drank the stuff.
My then husband and I had finally moved into our dream home. I’ve lived in other houses before, one even being built for us, but this older one was THEE one. Only 12 years old but built from an 1800s floor plan, wrap around veranda, on 5 gorgeous acres, it was the hilt of going historic. And as you can well imagine, I landed the perfect home for my rusty relics.
We accumulated a horse, 3 indoor cats, 1 dog, chickens, tried sheep for 1 day (that entails its own post), 2 cows and an attack rooster. (I now HATE roosters) I had finally come back home to the roots I had grown up with. Farmer’s daughter all the way. I was HOME.
Then the unheard of happened. We got THE CALL. After waiting 7 long years on an adoption list, our baby was about to be born. I was about to become a mom!!!
I quickly morphed the storefront plans, took out a loan and built my own shop on my property so I could be closer to my newborn son. I had it all. And I started working part time so I could raise my son. I truly HAD. IT. ALL. As well as a new big fat loan.
And then one day, the walls came tumbling down. My marriage came to a very abrupt end. And I had to let the house go. I couldn’t hold onto it on my own on a part time wage with a young son. So not a part of the plan.
I took out another loan and fixed up the house so it would sell for top dollar, taking 6 months to fix. I was raising my son, running my very part time at the time biz, renovating, running a farm, and learning how to be a single parent all at once. Then it was time to sign the papers to release that newly renovated home with nowhere to go.
I detested every house I looked at. My price range really left me with very little to select from. I then decided I had to venture outside of where I had planned to live, desperate for a place to call home.
I took a drive through a quaint little town with one 3-way stop as its main intersection, when I spotted a friend on the side of the road. We stopped and talked for a moment and he highly encouraged me to move to his little community. A suburb in the middle of the country.
I eventually chose a house in that very community with one of the most incredible mountain view backyards that I’ve ever seen. It was so reminiscent of where I just came from and the only shred of familiarity I clung onto with every fibre of my being.
But it was FAR from the home I had just come from. However, at the time, I was truly grateful to have found such a lovely community to raise my son. And while you cannot change the outside, you most certainly can on the inside.
It was then that my son and I moved into what we called, the pink house.
The new ‘black coffee’ trim colour goes on – fall 2009
It wasn’t pink, but the burgundy trim made it look pink. And there was nothing but nothing that was ‘me’ on the inside nor out. But I knew that could be changed. So I swallowed hard, and lived among the…
whatever you call it. Good grief. (this was the basement thank goodness!)
Once settled in, I started hacking away at the house. However, the things that went wrong were clicking at a much faster rate than the things I could keep from going wrong. I collected a few tools and books and attempted what I could. Truth be told, with no building skills, I was getting buried. FAST.
Remember the friend that encouraged me to move to my little town? His name is Dan and he is an artist.
It was right around this time that Dan needed help with his themed environment work to which I volunteered, striking the deal that he needed to teach me EVERYTHING. His line of work entailed utilizing every tool imaginable. I was quite taken aback that he accepted my lousy offer. The interview process went something like this.
Dan- “Do you see anything here you think you wouldn’t be able to do?”
Me – “AFTER you teach me, nope.”
Dan – “See you tomorrow!”
And I started to learn how to work with tools on my very first day. This man had faith in me and my capabilities and single handedly helped to build my self esteem when it was very down. I was meant to be in that small town and was meant to have his crew and family help me along my way.
Using a chop saw for the first time while cutting my stairway spindles.
My skills and own tool collection gradually grew. I was fixing toilets on my own, putting in new tap sets, and even tinkering with lights. But it wasn’t enough. I had a toilet that was about to fall through the floor and every window in the house leaked x 1 trillion other things going wrong daily. And I didn’t have the funds nor knowledge to do anything about it.
I struggled. Oh I struggled. Living in dysfunction was so very difficult. What was even worse was living in an UGLY house that I couldn’t make pretty because funds were burnt up fixing things. Ugly AND dysfunctional. Nice.
Wires sparking, toilets leaking, stove stopping on me, cupboard doors literally falling off hinges. I started feeling pretty low about it all. You know that feeling when you’ve hit bottom because what’s burying you eventually reaches suffocation stage? Yeah. That. I was stone broke with a house made out of broken sticks.
I had stopped decorating and buying and collecting my loves. What was the point? It would look ugly here anyway. I did what I could with paint, right down to painting the cupboards and countertops, but paint just wasn’t the same as glue.
It was right about then that I went for walks with my dog to get OUT of the house. And I found a nearby cottage-type home for sale that I fell in love with. But big problem. How could I possibly unload my house riddled with problems in order to move to this problem-free one? Every waking moment was either working or fixing something on the house. I had little time for my son. My current life as is, was NOT working.
I walked by that nice house for a week. It was unoccupied so I could sneak in and peek through the windows and dream of better. I started to bond with the property it was on and one day, I sat in the field out back, in emotional agony. I needed a sign. I needed to know, should I do this? I held my head in my hands, and prayed.
“God, I need your help. I need a sign from you. Is this the place I need to be? Please give me SOMETHING to work with here! I can’t keep going downhill. I’m dieing inside. Please help me.”
I got up and snooped around one last time. I came up to a barn in the back and knew, if I moved to this new place, that the barn would have to be for my biz for the house was too small. It was a barn that was revamped into an office already so it was in my eyes, perfect. I desired to stick my head in that barn, to gain some perspective. Filled with hope, I went to the window and full knowing it would never open, I pushed on it anyway. And it freely slid right open… gasp!
I was so excited I nearly died that moment! I stuck my head in to get a grasp of the space and WHAM. The stench hit full force. How can this be?! It looked so nice and clean inside! I knew right then I could never work in a place that stunk that bad and disappointed, slid the window shut. And head for home.
I had to let go of the functional adorable cottage house dream and stay in MY place. So I cried.
Not 10 minutes later, I received a phone call. It was my neighbor Janette. She was so excited she could barely contain herself. She wanted me to come over right away to tell me something.
I went over and sat at her kitchen table. She shoved a brochure my way and I started to read. It was something to do with an extreme home makeover in her church. They were wanting to help someone in the community that needed reno help. I thought, COOL, as I just loved working with tools and get dirty, and asked,
“Do you want me to help?”
To which she replied, “No.”
“Well, what then?”
“I want you to accept this. This is for YOU. I nominated you and your name was chosen. We want to help you fix YOUR house if you’ll let us!”
I thought I was going to pass out.
Oh. And stubborn ol’ full of pride me, for the good of my sanity and son, said a very humble yes.
It was the hardest yes I’ve ever given.
The first mission with my new friends was the back steps.
Little aluminum ladders are SO HEAVY! 🙂
The church team started to build the very next day. I was woken up with the banging of my back stairway. I couldn’t get outside fast enough to help! A friend suggested I start up a blog to document the progress the church made on my house. Having NO idea how to blog, I googled how and fired up Our Extreme Home Makeover Experience
My first post is the letter from Janette HERE
, dated April 2008. A day before my birthday.
My work office ceiling downstairs
Walls torn out. Windows replaced. Roof installed. Electrical redone. Floors put in. Surreal. Absolutely surreal. The church, sponsorships and I shared the budget necessities but they provided the labor.
Truly a miracle from above.
But then we came to the kitchen, the last room left. There was no more sponsorship, offers, nothing. Except their help. They encouraged me to purchase a kitchen so they could support me with some labour. I took a very deep breath and took out another loan. And we went for it.
But the deal was, they wanted to give me more than simply replacing the ugly. They wanted to make my dreams come true. I reluctantly told them what I wished I could see happen.
And that was the removal of the walls so it could become an open floor plan…
Take the kitchen tour HERE
And three amazing dream windows overlooking the back yard. So that’s what they did!
From dining room to kitchen blog office
I learned so much working on the house with the team. I did lots of drywall work, some plumbing, some electrical, painted everything you see, and even tiled the floors on my own. When the team left, my bathroom looked like the above. It was amazing!
But even that changed…
Salvage farmhouse bathroom makeover
As my abilities grew, I (as in all by myself!) upgraded the bathroom even more by planking my own ceiling, created a cool wall treatment, beefing up the window frame, and more. As time went on, the more I grew, the more I could do.
Friend Dan of Imagination Corporation felt my upstairs needed a nice focal point. So he and his team, revamped the fireplace by adding cultured stone on top of the old brick. The stone was donated by Yarrow Hardware.
HERE is a post on how the fireplace was rebuilt.
And here is a sample of how I play with it today.
You can catch many more fireplace posts HERE
Our Extreme Home Makeover Experience
I haven’t focused on the house crew, however if you wish to see the inner workings of how the house became where it is today, there’s a whole lotta reading over at the Extreme
blog. 2 year’s worth. 🙂
They are the most wonderful group of people ever, and I’m ever so proud to call them my friends. And am so very grateful that this experience came my way.
However, this was apparently only the start. While I had a pretty home inside, I had a LOT of loans to pay off and work I wasn’t exactly loving any longer.
Right about then, a freak accident happened, which changed EVERYTHING yet again. In the most profound of ways imaginable.
Apparently my story was FAR from over…