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Monday, February 23, 2009

Counting My Blessings: A Tale of Five Houses

As I wander around my house aimlessly, clean it's shiny new surfaces, or just sit and take it in, I reminisce over the places we've lived throughout our 10+ years of marriage from our first little love nest to our dream home we have now. As I contemplate, my thoughts can't help but turn to how blessed we've been.

Our first dwelling was a newly renovated, two bedroom basement suite in the city near my home town. Other than being cheaply constructed with the rejected kitchen cabinets from the upstairs, used appliances that only half worked, and ugly blinds it was clean and we made it home. We endured a year of interesting noises from the upstairs neighbours which included listening to an old man hock up loogies every morning, and then two devil children that insisted on jumping off of the furniture on a regular basis causing our dishes to rattle and screaming bloody murder at 2 A.M. We also shared the laundry which was in our suite so the upstairs tenants had to walk through our living room.

Our second abode was another two bedroom basement suite but in Calgary, Alberta. No new reno's with this one! It was fifty or so years old with hardwood floors and retro lino that was so old and hideous it actually had character. The fridge and stove also appeared to be original with the house. We lived there for two years and put up with severe fluctuations in temperature (we had limited control over the heat), a two year-old upstairs who's parents thought nothing wrong with him wearing shoes on hardwood floors at 6:30 in the morning, a flight attendant who came and went at all hours, and one couple who fought so fiercely we almost called the cops.

Needless to say when we achieved the means to build our first our house and get out of basements we couldn't have been happier. This occurred two and half-years into our marriage. Trevor's parents had taken out a life insurance policy on him many years earlier that had matured. Since he was no longer a dependent he had the choice to continue paying into it himself or cash it in. We chose to cash it in and thus appeared a down payment on a house. (Blessing number 1) At the time building a small new house in Calgary was the least expensive way, aside from buying a condo, to owning a home. Once we chose our desired suburb we went to the two home builders in that area and perused the home options. There was was a house with each builder that we could afford so we chose the one we liked better and that was that!
Place-to-live number three was 900 square foot split-entry house. Pretty much everything about it was included in the base package and selected out of very limited options because we could not afford more. I loved that house; it was small but it was ours! When we moved south three years later I cried for days.

When we chose to move away from Calgary the housing market had began its spike. As a result we made a sizable profit from the sale our beloved little house. (Blessing #2) The economic boom was just starting to touching our future city so we were able to purchase house number 4 for less than house number 3 sold for. (Blessing #3) This house was a 25 year old, 1160 square foot split level in desperate need up some cosmetic upgrading. After a month's worth of reno's we moved in and a year later I actually began to like it. It had a developed basement, and a large yard with mature trees with behind us. We also had no neighbours behind us.

Just over one year ago we were able to begin the process of living where we do today. The economy had taken off and house prices skyrocketed to impressive heights. After much calculating and pondering and a generous financial gift from Trevor's parents we took the plunge and bought a lot in my home town fifteen minutes away from the city. We also put our current house up for sale. Six months later we sold house number 4 for almost double what we paid for it (Blessing #4) and officially embarked on the building journey. There are two main reasons as to why we chose to build a house in a small town: the lots were cheaper and larger, and we weren't restricted to going through a builder. In the city the home building companies buy most of the lots leaving new- home buyers no choice but to build through them. We were able to contract the building of our new house ourselves which saved us approximately $65, 000 compared to having a builder do it. (Blessing #5) Aside from from all that, being able to live with my parents and not having to pay a mortgage while we built is what ultimately made it possible. (Blessing #6)

Sooooo, the combination of all those factors over seven and years of being home owners is what enabled us to have the house number 5. How do we afford it now? Only half of what we put into the house is mortgaged, and interest rates are quite low. In short, we hit the economy right, made some smart, careful decisions, and had plenty of help from our families.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Bad and The Good

So I wrote this long, blathering, whiney, "poor me" post yesterday.
I decided that I wouldn't subject you all to it but is was a great way to get some thoughts off of my chest.

I will, however, provide you with an overview:
In short, I haven't been feeling especially happy lately.
It feels like everyone around me is in a similar state of mind and since misery loves company I joined in. Work has been a major downer and that brings back thoughts of "I wasn't even supposed to have to work at this point in my life, Trevor should be, finding child care is a pain.. yada yada". I also think that no matter how good moving into our new house has been and is, it is still a change and an adjustment and not as easy as one would think. My 'friend' situation was making me sad. I really, really, really, want a holiday where Trevor, Sierra and I can reconnect as a family and there's no hope of that until maybe summer. I'm feeling run down and desperate for some fun.

At the end of said depressing post I determinedly added some blessing that I have because that's what I do and it makes me feel better:

1. On the days I have to work coming home is extra special: Sierra's face lights up when she sees me and she races over to me with unrestrained enthusiasm and flings her arms around me in a hug. I love her so much and she is a such a joy to me.

2. Singing: I am making some small progress in my technique through voice lessons. As a result I am really enjoying choir and being a part of a team that leads worship at church.

3. My house. It is so nice to just be in my own brand new home and really like it.

4. At least Trevor and I have jobs and can live quite comfortably even if money is strictly budgeted.

5. My awesome husband who loves me and hasn't complained about me being a downer lately.

6. The friends I have are great and the times we get together are quality. Life is busy and I know frequency is hard to attain.

7. Knowing Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and having that hope. If you're a believer you understand, if not and you're curious please ask.

8. Having outlets like this to vent on and people like you to read!

I woke up feeling much better today and had a great morning which included coffee with a friend and a wander through the mall.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ask Carla

Kashoan recently asked for volunteers to be interviewed and I thought,
"Hey why not? It'll be fun."

Here's what she asked me:
1. What made you decide to start blogging?
Three things: - Discovering my friend Kindra's blog is what first got me reading them and it inspired me to do it too.
- I needed an outlet of expression and a form of amusement while I was on maternity leave since I had gone from constant people contact to virtually none.
-I wanted my family and friends to know what we were up to without having to send a million emails regularly.
2. If you could change one thing about the new house, what would it be?
Hmmm, change something? Why would I want to do that! Actually, I would make the living room area a bit larger so that it doesn't feel quite as close to the kitchen.
3. What have you done for you lately?
I had a long bath while reading a romance novel with no one else in the house except the cat.
4.What is your favorite thing about your daughter right now?
When she says please (peese) and thank you (da-do) - it is so adorably polite.
5.Describe yourself in 3 words

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We Have...

A home!

Here's the tour:

Le grande foyer. Okay, my french sucks.
This is the entrance and I wouldn't call it grand but it does the job. Not much to it. It's where you enter and exit the house. You can't tell in this picture but the door needs staining yet.

The view from the entrance into the great room. I took these pictures at the worst time of day, when the light was streaming in, so it's bit overexposed. Things are also a bit messy thanks to my little tornado named Sierra. Seriously, she is a tornado, as I clean up there's a new mess behind me - constantly! Anway, the couches are new - Italian Leather (finger pushing my nose into the air) and we are very happy with them. We went with quality because of how we know they will be treated. They even arrived on the day the store predicted back in December! Shock of all shocks.
The lack of separation between the living room and kitchen is different for me, everything feels close. I certainly am not unhappy with it it's just taking some getting used to.

The eating area.
It is bathed in beautiful morning sunlight which is exactly what I hoped for. The table and chairs don't match the rest of the house but I have one toddler and will likely have more so investing money into an expensive table that matches is probably like throwing money away. We had friends who bought a new dining room set and their toddler proceeded to pound an eating utensil into the top and add his own decoration to the finish.

My kitchen. I absolutely love this kitchen. I love the space, the arrangement, the colour - and the exciting part - all my stuff is neatly put away and I have tons of empty space!! This means I can buy more stuff - right?
The counter to the left is wonderfully large and awesome for cooking, and of course collecting clutter.
See the wine rack on the top left? Only three of those spaces are actually holding wine. It needs to be filled, an empty wine rack simply won't due. So I'm having a house warming party where everyone has to bring a bottle of wine. Is that selfish? I'll even serve crackers and cheese and fruit and attempt to be high class? I think I'll do it no matter if it's selfish or not. You're all invited by the way.
Oh and my grandma, who's become extremly opinionated and outspoken now that she's in her 80's, strongly hates the black appliances. I'm certain she believes anything black is of the devil. (She also hates my cat)

The hallway. By far my favourite part of the house. (Sense sarcasm now.) It shows what the doors are like anyway.

The green room. AKA - office. Trevor has this thing with interesting shades of green for his offices, our past two offices were subjected the same paint fate. But you know, I like it. This particular shade, if accented right, could even pass as a baby's room? (Insert opinion here and NO I'm not pregnant.) We just bought a fabulous desk at Costco but are waiting until Trevor's parents are gone (they arrive later today for six days) to set it up because it will not leave room for the bed. Oh, and do you like the nice pile of paper garbage I left for you all to see?

Our little princess's room. Cribs are ghastly bits of furniture to place in a room and we arranged this room five times before Trevor and I were mutually happy.

Trevor's and my haven. We can scarcely contain ourselves over the excitement of the size of our room. We can actually arrange the furniture in several different ways! Our previous bedrooms were all like jig-saw
puzzles where each furniture piece had only one possible spot and one angle in that spot.

The ensuite air-jet tub. The bubbles that thing produces are incredible! Lay back, hang on, and prepare to get water everywhere. Reading a book is a delicate task with the jets running but what can I say, my tub talents are amazing.
More about our bathroom: to left of the tub is a door and through that is a little room that is exclusively for the toilet. This was an insistence of mine. My toilet activities are private and I wanted the rest of the bathroom usable when such toilet activities are necessary. Hence, toilet house (as we have affectionately termed it). Directly across from the tub is the counter with his and her's sinks, another brilliant luxury. We have no mirrors yet but that's unimportant, who really wants to look at themselves anyway?

Last but not least: the master closet. It's not an easy thing to take a picture of a closet but imagine the left size as big as the right with a 6 level shoe rack behind the door. This closet is a woman's dream! Like the kitchen, everything is neatly put away and there is still tons of room. I sense shopping....who wants to come?

There you have it.
Well, I've not shown you the main bathroom, a bathroom is a bathroom but if you really want to see it let me know, or the basement. The basement is a maze of everything I didn't want upstairs and only at the drywall stage so it's not very exciting either, then again I did take a picture of our hallway didn't I? It's next winter's project.
This is the fruit of six months of stress and hair pulling. I'm lucky I'm not bald after this ordeal. We are truly and extremely happy with our home. It is everything we wanted. There is still lots to do but we're in. I can't wait to add the personal touches like candles (I can hear Trevor jumping up and down with glee at this one), other decorative bits, curtains, photos, and art work. That's the fun stuff and I want to take time and enjoy finding the perfect things.

One question that I know people want to ask me but are too polite to do so is:
"How in the world did you afford that house with you only working two days a week and Trevor only substitute teaching?"

I will answer that one soon.

I'm serious about the house warming party and the wine, it will be in early March we hope. If any of you are in Southern Alberta, Canada - let me know!