Sunday, September 10, 2017

growth in neediness...

Hello?



Hello, anybody there?



Oh hi there.  It's me again.  Yes, I'm really back!

Well, sort of.

I mean, it's been crazy.  Like really, really crazy.

Moving is really hard.
Moving into an unfinished home is even harder.
Moving into an unfinished home at the most stressful time of your husband's year is even harder than that.

Y'all, we've almost been drowned by the storm surge of life these past 2 months.  And it just continues to rain.

I know the sun will shine again on the other side of this, but right now we are caught in the flood and desperately trying to hold onto any life preserver in sight.

So, we've officially moved to the River House.   Pictures will come later.  I've only grabbed myself a few minutes and a laptop to write.

(And did I mention it's been really hard?)

The four of us are still, 2 months later, camped out in the basement of the River House.  The kids share the only bedroom, and Marc and I have a mattress on the floor of the small living area.  We have a functioning bathroom down here, and the kids have sortof learned to take showers.  (though they are dying to take a bath again one day.  God bless our neighbor who invited the kids over to get a real bath.)

Upstairs, on the main level of the house, our kitchen is now almost complete.  We have a dining room table.  We have a lovely new sectional couch and area rug in the Great Room.  It's going to be amazing.

We also have piles of tools and obstructed walkways with construction material and moving boxes/furniture that can't yet be stored until there's a room with a finished floor.

Compared to last month, we're getting there!

But compared to normal life, we aren't.

The top floor of the house (our bedrooms and bathrooms) is still deemed uninhabitable.  Though we've hired a tiling guy and plumber up there this week, it's a disaster.  I originally thought it'd be Christmas before we'd be able to move to the top floor.  Now I'm hoping by Halloween my kids can have their rooms and a bathtub again.

Y'all, there is really something to this idea of having a "settled" place.  Generally knowing where your things are.

But these days, everything presents itself as a challenge.  It feels like a triumph to get dressed beyond jeans and a t-shirt (my daily wardrobe for these past 2 months).  It feels like a triumph to cook a meal (which to be honest, I haven't much).  It's a true accomplishment to get my kids out the door to school without forgetting anything.  (And also an accomplishment not to trip over construction stuff as you're trying to get out of the door.)

Day after day, the constant, chronic stress wears on you.  Emotionally, physically, spiritually.  We've both found ourselves under medical care and in counseling to make it through this flood we're under.

Though I don't want to, I'm learning how to reach out for help in various forms of support.  And then reach out again.  And in my own humility, reach out again.

I'm learning what it feels like to be needy.  Like really, ongoing needy, where your problems don't go away in a couple weeks.

I'm feeling more in common with my neighbors who are impoverished materially.  Though they are abundantly rich in community, and I have experienced my own deficit in relationships through this.

I'm learning how serious stress is.  Upon our bodies and our minds.  How important it is to manage and reduce it, if that's even possible.

I'm learning that money is important, but saving it isn't worth losing your sanity.  Cue the therapist bills, medical bills, and contractor bills.

I'm seeing how resilient kids are.  How they can roll and adapt to new situations with relative ease, as long as they're feeling nourished and nurtured.

I'm learning how I'm simultaneously tougher and weaker than I thought I was.

I'm seeing our own limitations.  And the beginnings of aging bodies that can't handle what they could in our 20's and 30's.

Moving here, stepping down from my job as worship director, sending Caroline to public school, were to be the beginning steps of "new life" for us.  (a separate post on Caroline's great start in her 1st public school experience to come...)

Transitioning into this "new life" has been somewhat tumultuous, but we have hope that brighter days are yet to come.



Sunday, July 16, 2017

the river house #15: it's moving time...

SO much has changed on the River House since I last updated!  And I really shouldn't be laying here blogging to you about it, but I've come down with a sinus infection from all of the dust this work has been kicking up, so I'm giving myself a few hours to slow down...

Where to begin.... well, we have walls now!  Drywall was a HUGE game changer.  I can't believe we sold our current house before we even had WALLS up in this home.  (Did I even mention we sold our house in 2 days with multiple offers?  Which is great and all, except when you are still renovating another house you're not ready to live in...) 

The timing has been nothing short of stressful, y'all.  Or maybe it's just EXCITING.  Adventurous, even!  Yes, adventurous.  We wouldn't life to be dull.

Somewhere in all of the chaos and stress, though, has been the rewarding feeling of seeing this project begin to take shape.  

Perhaps the MOST exciting day was the one when my kitchen cabinetry was delivered!  Months of planning, months of waiting, and they were finally here!!!

EXCEPT.

They were THE.WRONG.COLOR.

All of them.  Creamy, buttery yellow.  I ordered crisp white.

You know what that means.

Another MONTH of waiting.

And our move-in date was a month and a few days away.

Expectations had to be adjusted.  And re-adjusted.  Always re-adjusting.

Dirty job
The bright side of this project has been our students and friends who have helped us along the way.  We couldn't have gotten this far without 'em.

There is just something to someone literally entering into your MESS to help.

We'll be forever grateful.
Floor delivery!
The kids have done pretty well through the craziness of this summer.  I took it upon myself to sign them up for various camps and VBS weeks, so they're having a blast while we're able to get some work done.  They've got sweet friends next door at the River House, so they haven't missed a beat getting to play with them outside.  



The goal by our closing date (next week!) was to have the 1st floor finished and then be able to work on the top floor.  

Well, that's not going to happen. (readjusting those expectations)

So NOW the goal has been revised to get what needs doing in order to to hopefully earn a CO (Certificate of Occupancy), and then work as we can when we can.  A CO would give us permission to live on the 1st floor, not just store our stuff there.

So we need running water.  And before you can get running water, you've got to tile your bathroom floor... 



bathroom vanity I found on craigslist

I had our carpenters put up the original 1901 trim around the bathroom window.  And when there's a coat of white paint on there, it's really gonna shine.

Remember that sinus infection I told you about?  Hmm, could it be from being in this house?  We literally had to change the air filter every couple of DAYS at one point.

I really think hell is going to be filled with lots and lots of SANDING.  Sanding little crevices like stair rails for hours and hours on end, covering yourself in black dust.  (It'll all be worth it, right?  Can't wait to see this finished in all its glory.)

I found a "new" old front door at an architectural salvage shop in Richmond that was similar enough to the original door of the house.  I had a contractor put some additional trim on it in order to match it even closer.

Then I painted it a slate blue color for now.  It'll change once we paint the rest of the exterior... maybe next summer?


 But for now, I'm liking my blue door.
 And no post about the River House is complete without a picture of my 2nd home for the summer: Lowe's.

Or as we call it, Slowe's.
So one month later, we had the flooring AND the cabinets stacked to the ceiling of the Great Room.  
And last week was when it became an HGTV show-- contractors swarming the house.... the trim guys, the cabinet hanging guy, the floor guy, the electrician, and the plumber (Marc), all working like crazy. 

And I'm running to Slowe's constantly for all of them.  Ugh.  I guess this adds "general contractor" to my resume?

Here's a quick glimpse of the front room of the house, which will be Marc's office and the most historical of the renovation.  We restored the original brick fireplace, used the original trim, we'll be refinishing the floors, etc.

So when I found this super huge and fun historic chandelier on craigslist, I thought it would make a statement and still stay in the right period.
Here's another glimpse at a beauty I found for the front entryway...  oh how I love light fixtures...
The floor guys, the trim guys, and the cabinet-hanging guys were literally dancing around one another last week.  And since the first cabinet catastrophe put me so far behind, my installer was kind enough to set my base cabinets FIRST in order for the countertop folks to come and get their templates made as quickly as possible.  

So that brings us to this past week!  A CO (Certificate of Occupancy) requires handrails around stairways: 


new handrails

industrial pipe handrail
One of my Pinterest-inspired projects was an iron pipe handrail going down to the basement.  On the river out my back window is a historic factory that makes industrial black pipe, so I thought it would be a fun and fitting tribute to make a pipe handrail.    (Not as easy as it looks... first I stumped my husband, myself, then I stumped the contractors, and after 4 trips to Slowe's, we finally got it and all my contractors were so impressed with it.)


So here's where things stand now with the floors in!   I only had to return 4. MORE. CABINETS.

Because the designer didn't account for my window trim (grrrrrr... these people... ).

At this point, though, my expectations are so readjusted that almost nothing will bother me.

I'm reeeaally excited about the special custom kitchen hood I'm designing.... can't wait to show you what I'm doing!

We've got weeks and weeks of caulking and painting ahead of us.  But I'm not going to think about it.

This project is making me go gray!!!  Haha, that's just paint.  But seriously, though.  It's been entirely too stressful.  I wasn't sleeping more than 5 hours a night, so I found myself crying in my doctor's office last week.  Sometimes meds are a wonderful gift from Jesus.

So what's crazy is that as of 3 days ago, we're now LIVING in the basement!!!  Closing on our other house isn't until next week (the 28th), but Marc will be out of town that week, so we wanted to get settled and into a routine before he left.  

So it's this week that we need to pack our ENTIRE HOUSE because we're moving all of our stuff next Saturday!  (Is this as stressful to read as I'm feeling typing it?)


Our little abode in the basement
So this was our first night camping set up!  We brought over the essentials.  The kids are sleeping on beds and Marc and I tried the pull out couch one night.....

....theeeeen we moved our bed over the next day... ha ha  

There are advantages of moving one block away... easy to run back for things you forgot to bring over.



This is my kitchen for the next length of time, you guys.  I am missing that dishwasher... 

But believe it or not, I think we're doing better being over here.  We're all sleeping well, and though it's small, at least it's organized.  I have to tell myself it's not for forever.  I can do this.  

The semester is quickly approaching and Marc will be getting back to RUF full time.  We had hoped we'd be much farther along, and we really could use an army right about now.  We'd covet your prayers (and help) this week as we try to wrap things up at the other house and get everything moved over here. 

To be continued....

Monday, May 29, 2017

white mama at the black barbershop: more than hair...



Okay, I'm super embarrassed to show y'all this first picture of my son's hair.

Life has obviously been a little crazy between selling our house and working on the River House, (more on that in a future post!) so as you can see, Jameson's hair has not been our first priority.

I was almost too mortified to take him in ANYwhere, and I really shouldn't have taken him in without washing his hair at home first to help loosen his incredibly tight curls for picking out.

So the barber,
loving his first shampoo at the barber shop
whom we love and have seen before, started working through Jameson's hair with the pick, and I could see Jameson doing everything in his power to hold back the tears.  (As I internally beat myself up...)

At that point, the barber took him for his first shampoo.  (I guess he realized it was a lost cause to get that pick through the boy's head.  Smart man.)
After the shampoo came the buzzers.  (or are they called the clippers? I don't even know...)  And at the back of Jameson's head are the tightest little curls that whatever-it's-called yanks and pulls when the hair gets long.

Jameson couldn't hold it in anymore.  He bowed his head and let the tears flow.  My poor guy.

The barber ran to the back room and rushed back with a chocolate bar for both of my kids.  #barberforthewin

Tear-stained Jameson devoured the bar, and the barber and I continued chit-chatting.  Occasionally he would direct a boisterous question to Jameson, and Jameson (being a shy version of himself) would usually just answer with a soft, enunciated "yes."

Then the barber turned to me each time and imitated Jameson's little voice saying "yes" and laughed to himself.  He said he couldn't believe how "polite" Jameson spoke.

I laughed.  Jameson didn't exactly know how to get his barbershop talk on.

And then that big ol' wave of white-mama-of-a-black-son insecurity hit me, for more than just hair.

My son is going to be teased for how he speaks.  He'll likely be teased for a myriad of things just because he lives with a white family.  He'll have to suffer the consequences for his deficiencies in black culture because of me.

I left that barbershop painfully aware of my whiteness, and of my son's lack of blackness, if that makes any sense.  

I can give my son so much-- food, clothing, a loving home, a family that's crazy about him, lightsabers galore, and even a good haircut-- but there's a big piece missing in every adoptee's life.  
(Especially in a transracial adoptee.)

I can't give Jameson the connection to his birth family.  And I can't give him his racial and ethnic heritage.  

That may not sound like a big deal to some, but Jameson comes from a very strong and beautiful cultural heritage.  Marc and I are always seeking for ways to bring more of it into our life, both for our sake and for his.

Since we have serious cultural limitations, we are praying that some of our dark-skinned brothers might take him under their wing.  I am praying for more racial representation for him in the church.   I want him to have real-life role models that can talk to him about what it means to be black in America.  That may not be something that he feels he needs now, but it's something he'll know he missed out on later. 

You guys, transracial adoption is about SO much more than learning to do hair.  

It's committing to a journey that will literally lead you places you never knew you'd go.  

It's coming to grips with your own insecurities and incapabilities and mourning losses your child doesn't even yet know he's facing.  

It's being willing to give up your comfort and even your people for the benefit of your child.  

It's a path that isn't for everyone.  

It's the most challenging (and simultaneously the most rewarding) thing I've ever done.  And I'm only 4 years in. 

May God give this little white mama the grace to know how to do it well.





Saturday, April 29, 2017

the river house #14: selling, staging and sexism...

We are up to our necks in houses, houses, HOUSES!  

Y'all, it's crazy.  It's the hot time of the market, so we need to get our current house up for sale.  

But the only problem is, what if it sells?!

Because if it does, then this is what I currently have.  

(and if you can't tell, that's not exactly live-able)

We are STILL insulating and fixing all the other thousand little things that need doing in order to get drywall.  

BEFORE: replacing the rotted wood on the back porch
AFTER: the porch is painted and the yard is landscaped
But first, in order to get listed on the market, we've had to switch our energies into our current house.

 I planted flowers for that extra pop of curb appeal.
Speaking of curb appeal, each year the city's Easter festival is in our neighborhood, and literally thousands of cars drive by our house that day, so it was important for us to be looking spiffy as we announced our house was coming for sale soon!

So in a typical day, I literally go from exterior work...

 ...to interior decluttering...


















...to hanging insulation at the River house...

It's too much, you guys.

Moving is hard enough.

But renovating one house while staging and selling (and ultimately packing up) another is too much.

And to make matters worse, we fired our contractor.

(What?!?  I know.)

Yeah, we're now on our own with no help.  Just when we probably need it the most.

I could literally write an entire blog post about the interchange the morning I fired him.  It was so, so bad.  It was just me and him, but thankfully our intern, Audrey, heard part of it word-for-word and was there for me after it was all said and done.

What started as me calmly expressing some concerns about the hours that he was reporting quickly (so QUICKLY!) escalated into him using loud, threatening language.  I was caught in a situation where I was trying to keep things professional, and it was like I was talking again to my explosive young children who often don't have the capability to use calm words.  Except this was an adult.

When his buddies drove up on the street, he stormed out to talk to them, which provided me the opportunity to attempt to stop physically shaking.  But when I heard his inappropriate comments to his buddies about us, and then about ME BEING A WOMAN, that crossed a line.

So when he walked back in to speak to me again, I calmly confronted his choice of words about me as a woman.  And his sexist response only dug his grave deeper. ("Oh," he said as he cocked his head to the side and wriggled his fingers in my face, "that's because you women have FEELINGS.")  I was still trying to logically figure out some of his pricing discrepancies in order to resolve the situation, but it was like an animal who had been backed into a corner.  He was flipping out, threatening to quit, attacking me.  It was time for him to pack up.

What in the world, y'all?  How does he think he can treat someone that way?  Um, no.

So it's a new day.

We'll figure it out.

It's nice that my house is pretty stinkin' clean as we go on the market Monday.

But keeping it that way with my two children is going to drive us ALL crazy.

To be continued...









Sunday, April 23, 2017

precipice...

I'm standing on the precipice of "Old Life."  (if you didn't catch the post on "old life/new life," read here.)

Most things still aren't yet settled into place, but they're coming.

Changes are around the corner.

Our house goes on the market next week.  (if that's not stressful...)

We received the letter in the mail that Caroline did NOT win the lottery system to get into the small public school where we felt God's leading.  God, what are You doing?  So we're on a waiting list and hoping to hear something as soon as this week.  We continue walking by faith through this wilderness-of-sorts.

Other steps towards "new life" are approaching that I'm not able to share publicly just yet.

But as I'm catching glimpses of "new life" on the horizon, I'm finding myself an emotional wreck about stepping away from "old life."

It's like I'm moving within my own city to another world.  And like any move, there are gains but there are losses.

Right now, I'm mourning the losses.  I am crying at the drop of a hat as things hit me.  There are people and things about "old life" that I just want to bottle up and take with me into "new life."  Thankfully, I'll still be in the same town and can see them, but I'm not naive- with change, it won't be the same.

On the other hand, I'm afraid that my dream of "new life" isn't going to live up to my hopeful expectations.  (nothing ever does!)  And I'm afraid I'll look back and kick myself for leaving "old life."

Although my head knows it's the right direction for our family.  Though we don't know the destination, I know it's the direction God has clearly been guiding us.

But knowing something doesn't take away the emotions I'm feeling on this precipice.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

the river house #13: all things unseen...

It's Springtime at the River House!

A sweet woman at church came months ago to plant some bulbs in the backyard.  One day we'll have nothing else going on and can tend to the yard...






My amazing handyman hubby
But right now, we're tending to all things unseen.

Heating and air conditioning.
Plumbing.
Electrical.
Framing.

Oh framing.  I think we've been framing for over 6 months now...

There's just a TON of work to be done
before any walls go up.
Work that you take for granted in a finished house
when you can flush a toilet
or turn on a light switch
or not have your ceiling cave in on you.
(that's always a nice feature)

Entryway
It's work that's hidden behind your walls,
and will remain unseen.

But boy, if it's wrong, you'll know it.

So it probably doesn't look like too much has changed.

(I have to tell myself as I watch all the money drain out of my bank account that it has.)






framing and more framing




We got our fridge!

We had the wall custom built to recess the fridge to be in line with the countertops (you can see the green tape line on the floor).  This will save us space, we didn't have to spend a billion dollars to get a countertop depth fridge, and we still have all the room of a standard-sized fridge.

Here's a sneak peek at the cabinet layout of the kitchen.  (minus the cool custom hood I'm going to build above the stove)

I can't wait to see this view in REAL LIFE.

And speaking of views, I can't wait to see THIS view of the river as I'm soaking in my jetted tub.  (which we found new off of craigslist- yay!)
Restored original brick fireplace in front room
The exciting news is we have now passed the BIG inspection on all things unseen (HVAC, plumbing, framing, and electrical), and it's on to insulation!  (also unseen, but also very important!)

Which sounds great and exciting, until you have to go and pick up a gazillion bags of the stuff... 


I seriously hit my low at Lowe's.  Now we call it "Slowe's."  I used to like the place.  But what I thought would be a 30 minute errand turned into a 3 HOUR+ ordeal just to pick up an online order because they couldn't figure out their new system and slipped up with a TON of miscommunication. I lost all patience at the very end when the security guard wouldn't let us leave with all of the insulation and my son was screaming bloody murder because he was hungry and tired because WE DIDN'T HAVE A PRINTED TICKET (that the front desk couldn't print for us, of course, because they couldn't figure out their new system).  

Uggghhhh.... you get the picture, right?  Misery. 

beginning insulation
 Nevertheless, now we have insulation, and we're doing it ourselves to save a few thousand bucks.

 Here you see Marc joyfully demonstrating the insulation process.

It's pretty tedious with all of the cuts, but here's what a finished wall looks like.

And once we finish and pass inspection for insulation, guess what's next?

Drywall, baby!

So if anyone wants to come over and learn the skill of insulating, you are more than welcome!!

to be continued...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

the big things...

I feel like I'm working on "big things" right now-- rehabbing the River House, working to be a catalyst for a multiethnic church plant downtown, starting a "Be the Bridge to Racial Unity" discussion group, performing across the city with our band-- "big things" that change our city and our world.

I'm so passionate about the things I'm doing in the city, and I love what I'm doing.  More on that another time.

But there's really only TWO "big things" in my life.

Her.

And him.

 So here's what's big around here...

first day of preschool
My baby boy has now started preschool!

We were going to begin next fall, but the preschool we chose thought it best that Jameson started getting used to the routine of school now with a month left to go in the school year.

















first day!


And he is just eating it UP.  He LOVES his school.  In the first few days, he's already made two friends that he talks about all the time.  I can tell he is being so stimulated educationally, and it's exciting to see him grow and mature into this phase of life.  The preschool director told me he's so pleasant and super smart.
But as you know, preschool is exhausting work.

Especially when you've got to get home to have lightsaber battles.

I love these two!
Caroline is having an amazing school year in 3rd grade.  She continues to be at the top of her class academically though we've now entered the point of girl drama with a few friends.  I guess that's just part of the growing process.

She's doing an after-school math club once a week, gymnastics once a week, and playing outside in the yard with neighborhood kids almost every other waking minute.  This is my social BUTTERFLY.

She just lost her 16th tooth. (she's counting)

And can you believe, the Tooth Fairy forgot to come the night she placed her tooth out and wrote a letter!  (#parenthoodfailure)

The next evening, Caroline came up to me, "Mom, I'm just gonna put this in your room so you won't forget again."
(hahahaha!)










*SO* happy the recorders came home
 Another parenthood milestone was the day the school sent home the recorder last week and my ears went ouch!

But y'all know my Caroline.  She's an excellent musician.

So thankfully, it didn't take too long before all the ear-piercing shrieks turned into controlled, decipherable notes.

Whew.










her first persuasive essay
And you know what? I'm not the only one thinking about "big things."

When other classmates were writing persuasive essays about "why we should have a class pet" or "why we should get an ice cream party," my sweet girl decided to write "Why We Should Help the Homeless."

I could not be a more proud mama.


I'll update you all on all the other stuff going on, but wanted you all to know about the truly BIG things in our life.