Category: home

2015 was a complete blogging dead zone, and for a long time I wasn’t ready to talk about why.

For anyone new who stumbles across this blog and wonders, I’ll go way back to explain. In January 2012, my mom passed away. She’d been battling ovarian cancer for about eighteen months; it had progressed into her brain and spinal fluid, and she took her last breath peacefully at home with my dad and his mother and sister around her. I was in Kentucky, wishing I could be there, feeling torn about taking care of my little family and taking care of the family I grew up in. That’s a hard place to be, and reader, if you’re there: I get you. Hang in there. Over the next few months, I blogged a bit (and drank a bit) and cried a lot and got through the days. You will get through it, too.

In the fall of 2014, my two oldest kids started attending private school for the first time after homeschooling for their whole lives and we bought a new house. It was crazy around here, but exhilarating and vibrant. I blogged about it.

And someone from our family’s past showed up here on my blog. An old friend of my mother’s, who missed her deeply, and who had spoken angrily and rudely to all of us when my father remarried, found my blog and left awful comments. There’s this thing called comment moderation – on the backside of the blog, I can see comments and then I can approve them to appear or I can delete them if they are spam or, in this case, abusive – so the things she said weren’t made public, but they hurt me terribly.

After that, every time I sat down to blog about something – to share something sweet or cute or funny my kids did or said, to talk about something hard or challenging I was thinking about, to encourage anyone reading – I just couldn’t. I would hear her voice in my head, rebuking and incriminating and insulting, and I would shut the internet down and walk away.
Normally I have words to spare, but that encounter robbed me of my words. So for almost all of 2015, I didn’t touch this blog. I renewed the domain, and I kept reading the words of others, but I only put my own words out on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. This place felt invaded. Violated.

Now it’s the end of the year, and when I made my goals for 2016, I realized I wanted to use this space again. I’m going to work on a little facelift, and probably streamline the archives, and –most importantly– I’m going to start writing here again.

Life is too big and my words are too important to let the haters get me down. I’ll be here with bells on in the new year – and I hope you’ll join me.

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This is mine. Well, ours. And I seriously can hardly believe it. We had back-to-back closings on this house and the one we’re living in.

Derby Chase 1

 

Because in a so-crazy-even-my-realtor-had-never-heard-of-this-happening twist, the folks who owned that brick & stone beauty? Decided to put in a CASH OFFER on our 4-bedroom house, essentially giving us a golden ticket to move ahead with buying their house. And then our lending officer, the Vice President of AWESOME at a local bank, pulled off a dazzling feat of underwriting glory when the sellers of the big house asked for an as-quick-as-possible closing.

Nine days, y’all.

Say whatttt? Yeah. It was bonkers.

And here we are. Keys in hand and garage clickers clipped to my minivan visor. We are going to haul small things ourselves for the next couple of days (clothes, artwork, heirlooms) and the moving van is hired for all day Friday and half of Saturday. (Optimistically, we’d love to be DONE on Friday, but with uncontrollable weather our mover wanted to reserve an additional half-day just in case.)

It’s exciting and exhausting. I’m going to take a shower and put myself to bed early tonight!

—————–
(By the way: there are still a few more #ContagiousContentment posts in the works. Do you have any burning questions, points of debate, or random ideas to throw my way? Bring it, friends!)

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In about three days, I’m going to be the proud owner of a formal dining room. (Technically, this house has a space which ought to be a  formal dining room. However, as Susannah tells it: “Remember how we used to have a school room? And now it’s a BOX room!”)

The previous owners painted the room pale yellow. The floors are a dark hardwood with grayish undertones, there are lovely french doors (facing east) and white trim, and a white-ish slightly shabby-chic chandelier. I love the white, the fixture is alright, and I love the bright natural light.

Front Door with Dining Room to the left

Dining Room

We probably won’t do anything with the room immediately. (I want to spend my pennies letting the girls repaint their new bedrooms (currently blue and bluer!) and furnishing the rec room & homework nook with storage solutions for all the toys and crafts.) But eventually, I need to create a dining room.

I’d like a pedestal (or double pedestal) table. Seating for at least eight. A china hutch with space to store both heirloom sets we own, and maybe? a sideboard/server piece as well.

I recieved my mother’s china and Chris’ grandmother’s china shortly after we moved to Owensboro. I’m a big believer in using our “nice things” to celebrate special occasions and everyday victories, so we do put these pretty pieces to use. I’m really looking forward to having a cabinet for display, though!

 

 

So here’s where I confess my decorating ineptitude. Chris suggested last night that he’d like a white dining table and chairs – “to match the chandelier.” I started looking around online, and found a couple of tables, but then this morning I realized that our white & platinum china would absolutely disappear against a white table and in a white china cabinet.
I’m leaning toward gray for the walls — it will need to be carefully chosen, though, because (as you can see in the top photo) the dining room is right off the front door, which is a rich deep brown and the entry walls are a khaki-tan color. I don’t want the dining room to look too yellow-gray compared to those. And the wall color needs to play well with the floor color as well.

A quick look on Pinterest brought me to this:

dining room inspiration

Maybe something like this would work. The table (as well as chair legs) are darker wood than those floors; the wood trim, light fixture, and upholstered chairs pop with white; and the two shades of gray feel cozy and welcoming.

What do you think? If you have a knack for decor, or if you spot something that just screams “Michelle!” you can send it to me on Pinterest or comment here. I pinky-promise, I’ll post photos when we finally get around to decorating our new dining room.

 

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{Get caught up… Read Part One here.}

Our realtor, Matt, came to our house fully prepared. He had printed up comps on the yellow house  (poor guy! He wasn’t privy to the long, rambling conversations we’d had that led us to conclude we should not, in fact, pursue that one) and on our house here on Trotters Lane. We were really pleased by his assessment of the house’s value, and we caught him up on our new plan. There were four homes on the MLS that looked, on paper, like they would work for us going forward. When Chris had started investigating building our own house, we had created a list of what we would want a floorplan to include.Builder

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Home staging is a big buzzword in real estate these days. You’ll hear about it on HGTV, and see it on the DIY network. Bloggers love to talk about staging, and it’s all over apps like Houzz and Pinterest.

If you haven’t dipped your toe in the staging waters, I’ll explain:

“Home Staging” is the act of turning a lived-in (or vacant) home into a neutral, appealing space for the purpose of attracting potential buyers. Home staging removes the personal touches of the current (or previous) occupants and creates a ‘blank slate’ where buyers can envision their own furniture, family, and life.

Home staging, my dears, is a pain in the butt. We’ve done some staging here – hid away the 5’x7′ rug to make the entry appear larger; slipcovered the ratty loveseat in our front room, tidied up the bookshelves (but a true home stager would make me pack 75% of those books and have ‘styled’ shelves); removed all the homeschool items, hung new curtains, and turned the schoolroom back into a dining room (but a real pro would probably make me create a faux ‘leaf’ to extend our dinky table and buy slipcovers for our ugly mismatched chairs). We reduced the items on the kitchen countertops (but if I were hardcore, it would be nothing but the KitchenAid and the Keurig!) and took most of the toys out of the family room (that room might pass ‘real’ muster, actually). Purged things from the kids’ rooms (again, probably a pass), but we didn’t change the office-slash-guest room (and a properly staged home has no dual purpose rooms. You’re supposed to pick one and make it shine!). Bought new handtowels for the powder room and hung the nicest towels in the other two bathrooms.

Living in a house which has been staged feels stilted. This is still my home, but it’s “off.” It’s like sitting in a nicely decorated hotel room. I feel awkward if I leave a dent in the sofa cushion. On the surface, it looks great – and it’s supposed to, that’s the point, for real estate purposes.

But today I was thinking about how many Christians are walking around fully staged. We are prepped and polished. We have packed away our unsightly clutter and mess – but it’s not really gone. We have hung up new curtains of humility, modesty, patience, grace – but there remains pride, greed, selfishness, anger.

We want to gleam and glow, and when others in the church ask how we’re doing, we give them our “listing” answer. (Four beautiful bedrooms! Gas fireplace! Eat-in-kitchen!) “I’m so blessed… Things are really busy, but we’re doing great….” I’m not saying that we’re being dishonest when we present these generic answers, exactly. After all, the houses on your local real estate market really DO have the features with the funny abbreviations: 4bd, FP, lg bkyd…. Right?

What I am saying, though, is that one of the functions of the body of Christ is to build each other up.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

It’s impossible* for me to help a sister shore up the foundation of her marriage if she never shares her fears or hurts. I can’t speak encouragement and hope into the heart of a friend who doesn’t confide her doubt and desperation. My Sunday School class recently finished a study of Romans 12, and the author used this passage to exhort his readers to build an authentic community with each other.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

“You can’t be a genuine part of this Body,” he said in one of the videos, “when you’re so busy keeping your mask on straight.”** And that’s the truth, y’all. I accept the challenge – and I hope you will, too – to take off a mask of holy-roller perfection, to stop “home staging” my life and my spiritual walk, to start sharing even my doubts and ugly moments. When I do, my brothers and sisters can step INTO their God-given calling to build me up! When I do, the saints around me may be emboldened to de-mask and de-mystify and share their own hurdles and difficulties, which gives me (and others) the chance to step up and serve my Lord by building them up.

 

 

___________

*I should add a note: we’ve probably all had times when an unknowing person did or said something profoundly needed which interceded in our lives at just the right moment. Those are great examples of times when the Holy Spirit prompts us to aid, even though we don’t know the specific need. But those examples don’t let us off the hook for being transparent and authentic with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
**I didn’t take perfect notes: that’s a paraphrase. 🙂

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{This is one of those “I have to tell you THAT so I can tell you THIS” rambling stories. Hang in there.}

At the end of May, our renters moved out of our Elsmere house. There was some drama that weekend, but the short version of the tale is that they did eventually move out, we found lots of great workers to paint, install new flooring, handle little handyman tasks, and clean the place, and then we listed it for sale at the end of June.

The same morning we drove up to Elsmere to get our keys back, Chris was reading the newspaper in our Owensboro kitchen.  Ever since we moved here, I’ve had a Saturday morning tradition of reading the Real Estate feature insert with a cup of coffee and browsing the ‘larger’ listings. Our plan has always been to stay in this house until about 2015, and then move up to a bigger place; I wasn’t looking with deep intent, but I love looking at homes! I had glanced through the paper that day, but since I had our Elsmere trip on my mind, hadn’t opened up the MLS website or put my usual amount of interest to work. Chris, however, grabbed the laptop and did a search on the MLS site.

Up popped a 6 bedroom, 5 bath, 1927  Craftsman/farmhouse style home on a coveted street in town. Sitting on two generous lots, with a saltwater swimming pool and three-car detached garage, this house listing blew him away. He spent the entire drive to Elsmere talking about the yellow house. He called our realtor to get the “inside scoop” and ran mortgage calculators on his phone.

escalated

The next day, Chris was on call – and there was an Open House. In between consults at the hospital, he drove over to the house and walked through with the listing agent. He came home REALLY excited, and spent the next several days making appointments with bankers and finding out what kind of loan we could get. He asked me to make an appointment with our realtor, so I could see the home too.

Long story made longer: it’s a gorgeous home and I loved it. I’ve always loved old homes, I’ve always had a weakness for yellow houses, and the basement alone on this house is the size of the home we currently live in. WHat!?! But I was hesitant.  The pool, while a lovely feature for adult people, is a drowning hazard particularly for children under age 8, statistically speaking. (And we have three children 8 and under, remember? One of whom is particularly noted for a lack of inhibition and a certain flair for disregarding boundaries. Ahem.) The utility bills for the home, quite frankly, scared the bejeebers out of me. They were about as costly as the mortgage on our Elsmere house. Yowza! And there’s the consideration for ongoing maintenance issues if one buys a home built in 1927.

 nevermind

A few weeks went by, wherein we continued to debate the merits of the yellow house, but we began to reach a consensus that even though it was beautiful, it was not The House For Us. Another Saturday morning rolled around, and with nothing to do, we decided to drive around a bit. Lo and behold, it was the Parade of Homes weekend!

parade

 

The local home builders’ association puts these on twice a year, showcasing their latest and greatest feats of construction. We decided on a whim to walk through a lovely, large home in a neighborhood where a couple of Chris’ colleagues live. Halfway through the first floor, we learned that the home belonged to the hospital CEO. It was show-stoppingly beautiful. Martin Custom Building had done an incredible job. The next day, Chris went by himself to see another stop on the Parade – another Martin-built home. This one belonged to his friend Rico, and Chris was able to chat with Rico about the building process.

He came home ECSTATIC. He had a map of lots for sale in a new development – one he particularly liked was circled. The next week, he made appointments to meet with bankers about the loan process for new construction. He had conversations with designers who work for Martin, conversations with people around town who had built with Martin over the last few years. He was super-thrilled…. until a meeting at the bank took the wind out of his sails. (It ended up being a miscommunication, but he came away from the meeting with the impression that we really couldn’t afford to build a home. The reality is closer to: we could afford a land loan now, but we couldn’t start home construction until the land was ours outright.)

We had a long, serious conversation.

I suggested that perhaps we should go see the available 5-bedroom listings in town. If we liked any of them, we could move forward with listing this house and getting a home loan (which the bankers were practically throwing at Chris!) and moving “up” in house now.

And if none of them fit our dream, then we could decide to commit to building, even though it would probably be a three-year project. (We estimate that we’d need about 24 months to pay off our land, and then allow 8-10 months from the start of construction until move-in.)

So, we called our agent.

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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