Monday, April 4, 2016

A girl and her house, a love story, Part 1 - The Fixer Upper

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. 
-Maya Angelou

For as long as I can remember I have loved old houses.  In middle school I loved visiting friends homes in an area called San Mateo Park, in Northern CA.  It was just a 15 minute drive from my own middle class neighborhood of Eichler homes, but a world apart in appearance.  The homes were big, old, and beautiful.  I have no idea where I get this from because I had never lived in a particularly old home, nor were were my parents or grandparents old house lovers.  

When my then husband and I were ready to purchase our first home, we opted for a 1939 home over the similarly priced new track homes that were popping up all over our small city.  The house had been flipped by a contractor and much of it's character was changed or covered up, but eventually we ripped up the carpet  to reveal original hardwood floors and added our own touches to make it look more like it may have back in 1939.  It was a simple house, but we loved it at the time. In the attic we found furniture left behind by the homeowners and undiscovered by the contractor.  After a few coats of white paint, they had the cottage look that I loved.  I learned to garden, sew, and craft in that house.

After a few years of marriage and the addition of two little girls, we decided we wanted a bigger house on a less busy road.  The downside of our first little house was that is was directly across the street from the freeway, something we knew we would eventually want to move away from.  In the Fall of 1995 we finally found "Our Dream Home".  We had been looking in the downtown area, where all the old houses were, and had considered one house pretty seriously, but in the end decided against it because the price was too high for all the work the house needed.  

But here it was, an interesting floor plan, lots of wood floors, crown molding, built-ins, arched doorways, big bedrooms, mullioned wood windows, all the things I loved and wanted in a home.  The house was big compared to what were coming from and sat on 1/3 of acre, atop a small hill on a corner lot.  It was at the entrance to a once very prestigious older neighborhood in town.  At one time if was even nicknamed "pill hill' for all the doctors who lived in the neighborhood.  The house was built in 1938, the third house  in the neighborhood custom built to members of the same family.    

The bad part was that it was a complete mess.  Unlivable in it's current state...smelly, dirty, old damaged plumbing, rotting windows, stained floors, and inadequate electrical.  As I walked through the first time with our realtor while my husband was at work, we started in the living room and made a circle, hitting the kitchen towards the end.  I still remember my heart sinking as I walked into the kitchen.  The bathrooms had been scary enough, but that kitchen was awful.  Except for the light coming in those old dirty windows.  It was late afternoon and the sun was shining through the windows, which were directly over the kitchen sink.   The house was across the street from a very old park with lots of mature trees.  I fell in love with that view instantly.  I have no idea how I could overlook everything else that was so wrong with this house, but I did and  I was excited to bring my husband to see it.   Our realtor took us back that evening with the kids and my mom.  It was dark and there no was no power on, we had a big flashlight, the kind you use if there is an emergency with a radio attached.  It was spooky, but we knew we had to have this house.  Another couple saw the door open and came up to see if they could look at it too.  I remember feeling so territorial, "back-off, his is our house!",  I thought to myself.  Soon after a another visit with all of our parents, we decided to make an offer.

The good part was, since the house was a  true fixer upper in "as is" condition,  it was cheap and to our single income family, affordable.  Our real estate agent was a family friend to the owner and wrote a letter on our behalf to help seal the deal.  There were several other offers coming in, so we offered the asking price and crossed our fingers.  The owner was willing to carry the loan so we wouldn't have to qualify through a bank.  This was good for us, since we hadn't sold our first home yet and he would not take a contingency.  It was go for it and take a chance, or miss out.  We took a huge leap of faith and went for it.

On January 31st, 1996 escrow closed and it was officially our house.  By now our first home was on the market but wasn't getting a whole lot of notice.  It was cute, but with not the best location and it being a buyer's market, we weren't getting too much action.  This was worrisome, as we would now have two mortgages to pay.  Finally in April the house sold, albeit for less than we hoped.  We had to move in with my parents since we had made little progress so far on our "dream house".  It was in no condition for a family with two small children to live in just yet.  Our oldest was 4 and the baby just 7 months old.  I wonder now what possessed us to jump into such a huge project with a 4 year-old and a newborn.  

Here are some pictures of what the house looked like, I wish I had more, but this was long before cell phone cameras...I have neglected to mention the smell of this house, it's not something I can put into words, but hopefully the pictures will give you an idea.  It was awful!
Master bedroom
Alyssa's Room

The Dining Room, gotta love those drippy dirty doors!

Kristil's Room, this room was one of the dirtiest, the woodwork was literally dark yellow from cigarette smoke.  The walls were an awful brownish yellowy green color. 

Jack & Jill Bathroom between the girls' rooms.  That is the shower on the right, it was painted black and white stripes with red around the opening.  Yikes!

The Kitchen

The Kitchen Sink w/ tiles literally crumbling.

The Butler's Pantry

The Library/Office

Library bookshelves.  Notice the yellow tinge, that was all over the house.

The Living Room

The Living Room

Main Bathroom
 To be continued...

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hey there, I'm still here...

“Never explain – your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.” – Elbert Hubbard

I love this quote, I found it today in an article a friend posted on FB.  It came at the perfect time for what I was already contemplating this morning when I decided to write a blog post, something I haven't done in almost 2 years.

Where have I been??  Right here, living life, experiencing both struggles and accomplishments, just like everyone else.

I had been struggling with sharing myself through my blog after a rather difficult court battle with me ex-husband a few years back.  In a nutshell, posts from my blog had been printed and used as examples as to why my life was so great, I didn't need his money. They were used as documentation for lack of a better explanation.  I wasn't sure I liked this kind of exposure, even though I put myself out there by posting details of my personal life, purposefully in a positive manner.  That is just who I am, some might say "TMI", but I am a pretty open person.  I try not to pretend to be what I'm not and I'm comfortable with (most of) the decisions I make for myself.  Yet, I often still feel the need to explain myself.  I'm really not sure why...maybe it's my detail-oriented mind, or my borderline type A personality.  

Regardless, I think I am pretty much an "open book", while I use discretion and opt for little white lies as opposed to hurting someone's feelings, I will give you an honest answer if you ask me something.

This sentence "We should be confident enough in our decisions that someone else’s opinion doesn’t matter",  from the article mentioned above (which I have provided a link to, click on the quote) speaks volumes to me, it's something I've said before myself.  As most of us know, this is not always so easy to do.  I think it's human nature to doubt ourselves and look for affirmation and acceptance, especially in this world of constant self-comparison from a barrage of social media.

So what am I getting at here?  Well, just speaking my truth, in an attempt to be a better person and give me the strength and confidence for another obstacle I will face tomorrow when I  once again appear in court with the ex.

He's taking me back yet again, always over money, and I'm fighting it because...well, I guess I don't need to explain, but rest assured with or without a detailed explanation, I am confident in my decision and know that I am doing what I need to do for ME.

Please send your good thoughts, positive chakra and prayers my way....

Happy Thoughts,

Monday, October 14, 2013

A New Beginning...

Just a few weeks ago I moved my youngest daughter into her first apartment on the campus of University of California Santa Cruz. can it be??? The little blondie who liked to run around naked with a plastic bucket on her head when she was little!  (I'm sure she will love that I have shared that here).

But really, two daughters now living away from home, one permanently and one in college.  My oldest decided to move back to Southern CA where she attended and graduated from college. I can't blame her for wanting to live by the ocean!

Such a change for my girls and I. In less than two weeks, the "little" one will turn 18, my oldest now 22.  That makes me a little old doesn't it??

It's not so bad...I can cook whatever I want...the house stays just as I've left it in the morning...I can come and go as I please.  Then there is the extreme quiet, and little bouts of loneliness for the old days, when the girls were young and it was just the three of us.  I do miss them. Terribly in fact.  But at the same time I am very proud of them and happy that they have spread their wings and left the nest.  As hard as it is, I know I have done my job by the sheer fact that they were ready to fly when it was time.  I worry about them all the time.  But I guess that's what "we" moms do.

For me....I've immersed myself in my new job and my creative, baking, crafting, creating.  I am in the middle of several projects, from cleaning out a messy teenager's bedroom, to sewing and decorating for Halloween.  So my weekends are packed with chores, projects, new recipes, and friends when I have time.  Making more time for fun will be my focus for the new year.  For now there are things to do (and make!).

Always in search of balance over here...some days doing it better than others.

Some things I've been  keeping busy with...
My homemade granola

In search of the "ultimate" Chocolate Chip Cookie  recipe..
Pumpkin Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Frosting.
Halloween Decorating

One great thing about having your kids living away from home is how much you look forward to seeing each other when the holidays or visits come around...right now I am excited to see my youngest this weekend to celebrate her 18th puts a whole new perspective on the mom/daughter relationship and definitely fosters an appreciation that wasn't always apparent ...if you know what I mean!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Change is good, right??

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. 
-Winston Churchill

I am in the midst of some very big changes in my life.

I have always resisted change, but I have also learned, and continue to practice the theory that change is not only necessary & inevitable, but it can also be good thing.  It challenges us, makes us grow emotionally, and opens up new doors.
Goodbye old desk...
First major change - just a couple weeks ago, the very same week my principal got a promotion,  I was asked to interview for a new position, which also happened to be a promotion. In a matter of two days, my boss was leaving our school for a job at our district office, and I got the job at a new school. I moved from a school site where I have loved my principal, staff, students, and parents to a new position and a new principal, where I only knew a couple of teachers.

Hard to believe everything fit in one box!
If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
-Frederick Douglass
It has been a bit of a process for me to "let go".  Like I said before, I truly loved the teachers, the kids, and the parents where I was.  For 8 years I have worked with a core group of amazing and talented teachers.  It was very hard to leave.  Not only did it happen quickly, but also during our Summer break, so I did not get to see very many of my co-workers and especially the students and parents I have grown to love, before I left.

I am still adjusting to that part.  On the other hand, I am tackling new challenges.  A whole new position, which includes new task and duties, as well as some I am familiar with. I am meeting lots of new people and getting to know a new principal, teachers, and co-worker.  So far, I love my office co-worker, she has been warm, welcoming, and so very helpful as I adjust to my new job.

I am challenged for sure, but also optimistic that I can make a difference to the students and families here.  That is what I hope for anyway.  The demographics are slightly different, the needs of the students at my new school are much deeper than where I came from.  There is no PTA, very few parents volunteer in the classrooms, a big change from my old school.  
My girls

Another big change that will be a far bigger challenge, is I will soon have an "empty nest".  My oldest daughter is moving out in just a few days.  I can't believe it.  Seems like just yesterday she graduated from high school and was starting college.  Now she's graduated and ready to face new challenges herself. Time to be a real grown-up.  How scary and exciting all at once!

My youngest starts college in just over a month, so she will be leaving too.  Fortunately she will not be as far away, so if I really need to see her, I can get in my car and be with her in just a couple hours.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
-Allan Watts

As a friend recently said, nothing really prepares parents for this.  Our kids growing up, leaving home, all things that are supposed to happen, but still difficult for moms and dads.  I am working on letting go, but even so, there is a pit in my stomach when I think about them both being gone.

I know I will be ok.  I have many friends and interests to keep me busy, not to mention the extra hours I've been spending at work adjusting to my new job.

But it will still be hard, there's just no way around that.  I will miss my girls so much.  Over the past 10 years that I have been a single parent, we have grown so close.  We are the 3 Musketeers   Don't get me wrong, we disagree, we even fight sometimes, but they are everything to me, and I think they feel the same.  I love them so very much, they are my world.  So, I will keep my chin up and be happy for them as they start new adventures and become strong independent young women.  

I have so many hopes and dreams for them, I look forward to watching their lives unfold.

So for now, I accept the changes in my life and even welcome them!

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Because it’s summer and the memories are just waiting to happen. -Unknown

Oh Summer, how I love you!   As much as I love each Season and the different weather, foods, and feeling each has to offer, nothing compares to Summer for me.  The main reason is the time off I have from work and being able to spend quality time with my girls.
Sitting on the beach relaxing...

My toes w/ new pedicure in the warm Lake Tahoe sand :)

A couple years after my separation and subsequent divorce, I started a tradition of going to Lake Tahoe every summer with my girls.  I have probably mentioned before, my Aunt and Uncle own a cute little house on the South shore and allow us to stay at no charge.  It is the perfect get-away for me after a long stressful school year at work.  This yearly trip, which over the years has ranged from a few nights to almost week, depending on what's going on in our lives, has become the only time all year I truly relax.  Even when I'm off work at home, I am still working around my house and yard and dealing with the day to day responsibilities of being a homeowner and single mom.  In Tahoe, I check out of the usual responsibilities and let it all go.  I cook and clean while I'm there, but it's at my leisure and if I don't feel like it, then I don't have to.

My girls in the backyard of "our" little cabin.
Since I love to cook, I don't really mind cooking most of our meals, so we plan ahead and do all of our grocery shopping before we leave, packing it all up and hauling it to "the cabin", as we fondly call it.

This Summer was our 8th visit to the cabin, and over the years we have brought along the girls' friends, boyfriend, and even got my sister and nieces to go with us a couple years ago.  This year, it was just the three of us all week.   I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this time with them.  This is my last summer with both girls living at home, so I truly cherished our time together.  When we are home, there are so many distractions for all of us, work, friends, boyfriend, all the stuff that keeps us so busy and coming and going in different directions.
We found a new shop that had hundreds of different sodas and candy.  Alyssa found her her friend Sheldon, lol.

We stayed up late watching movies, got pedicures, shopped, played cards, went out for sushi, hung out at the beach, drove around the entire lake, and just enjoyed being together without all the usual distractions.

We have decided to make a pact, that as long as we can, we will continue to go to Tahoe together every summer, just the 3 of us for at least a few days alone, even if there are boyfriends, husbands, etc. who enter our lives.  This is a trip I look forward to every year and it's always a little hard to say goodbye when we leave our beloved cabin in Lake Tahoe.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Two endings and new beginnings...

 "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail." 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Helllooooo! Anyone out there?

I've been wanting to write a new post for the longest time, but mainly due to time constraints, I haven't managed to settle down long enough to do it.

The past few months have been a whirlwind of the usual end-of- the-year work responsibilities and graduation festivities. 

I am proud to say I am the parent of not one, but two recent graduates.  My youngest daughter graduated from high school in early June, and my eldest, from college just over a week later.  I am so proud of both of them, they are great kids and have worked hard in school and with extra-curricular activities.  My youngest will start college in September and my oldest plans to relocate back to where she went to school in the San Diego area.  It looks like my "nest" will be empty for the first time in my life.  Lots to think about and get used to for sure.

To celebrate both graduations, I hosted a dual grad party, it seemed the best way to commemorate the accomplishments of both girls with family and friends.  Although the weather turned out much hotter than I would have liked, we had a lovely evening. 

I spent the better part of almost two weeks planning and preparing, but throwing parties is definitely something I truly enjoy.  Being creative and fine tuning all the little details is something I am passionate about, so what may seem crazy and far too time-consuming to some, is something I relish.

Here are a few pictures of the party, even though most have been taken on my phone camera, you get the idea.

I made the majority of my decorations, and had some of them saved from my oldest daughter's party 4 years ago. I neatly packed it all away knowing I could use it again.  I have mostly white accessories in my house and garden so that whatever holiday or party it is, I can just add accents of color and it looks like more than what's really there.  I spent several days spray painting some old tables, and chairs that had been given to me and that I've had for years, it made it look like I had a bunch of "new" furniture, but it was all just transformed with paint.  

The beautiful buffet you see in the pictures was given to me by a friend a few weeks ago and I stayed up til 1:30am painting it before the party, I had a vision of it white and I just had to have it done. It probably need one more coat, but it looked fine for the party.

The day after the party, I took everything down, as much as I loved the yellow and white in my house and garden, to prepare for 4th of July which I've been decorating for the past 15 years.  We live downtown, so there is a fireworks display we can see from our front yard and every year we have friends over to eat dessert, snacks, and watch the fireworks.  Those pics will maybe be my  next post.

There is so much more I'd like to say, but for now this is enough for you all to read.