Tuesday, March 26, 2013

If Not A New 'Old' Cottage, Then A New Plan Of Action

The front of my house.

     “You're out of your mind!”
     How many times have I heard this? I thought that particular fact had already been established about me. I am out of my mind. I function well in that location. A trip back to reality is not nearly as fun. However, I am juggling mega doses of reality this week, dashed with a bit of fantasy, to make it all palatable.
     The comment above came from a well meaning friend when I gave her the latest details of my business arrangement with my new handyman and how I plan to pay for his work.
     Since I can't move to a cottage, as the universe has pointed out to me recently, I am dancing as fast as I can to see if I can sprinkle my old ranch house with more charm. My attitude adjustment the past few days is one of appreciation. Appreciate where I am, because I am in a wonderful location. Then see if I can spruce up the old place to love it as much as I think I will love another. I am so fickle with houses. I wonder if there is a house that will keep me true or will I always be cursed with being so restless?
     Once I decided to work on my own house, I realized I'd need more than a bit of fairy dust to get things in motion. My finances had been severely tapped with my year and a half as a shop owner. But the answer to finding cash was under my nose, sitting in the driveway. My vintage Corvette was the catalyst to make things happen. It has been pretty much parked under its California Car Cover since I bought it in 2008. The car that took me over the hump of turning sixty, three months after earning my widow crown, had served me well back then, and would bail me out now.
     I'd put as many new batteries in the Corvette as I had tanks of gas. Three. You can't let a car like that sit, which is exactly what I did. I needed my van to haul things, and the Corvette's only track history, was the opening chapter in my book on my first year alone. It was time for this grand car to have a responsible owner who would love it. We'd had our fling.
     In addition to my big dream of sprucing up my ranch house, I had a reoccurring nightmare. The old leak in my basement was back. With a vengeance. I'd ignored it too long. Now I had to face up to dealing with it before it grew into a mildew problem.
     The basement leak was getting worse with each downpour. The area had grown from a small puddle to a huge sweeping mass that came two feet out from the wall and curved around the room. A professional company, that would guarantee their work for life, wanted $10,000 to do the job. I tried not to cry. Their 'lifetime guarantee' seemed like a life sentence to me.
     I decided there must be a better, more creative, and cheaper way, to take care of the leak. I wanted more bang for my buck. I had a bucket list of things I wanted done in the house. A plan of action started to form.
     The key to all my woes and expectations could be summed up in one word. Handyman. I just needed to find a good one. There are no males in my life at the moment; no friends' husbands, no male friends, no boyfriend, and not even a bad date on the horizon who might have a hidden talent. I was on my own.
     Handymen hang out at hardware stores. It seemed a reasonable thought. I trotted down the street to the local hardware store and spilled my guts about the problems at my house.
     “We keep a book of business cards.” The gal at the register reached under the counter and pulled up a thick, worn, spiral notebook. “See if there is anyone in here. Feel free to take as many cards as you like.”
     The book landed with a thud. Within minutes I had a card in my hand. The slogan on it caught my eye and the range of work covered everything I needed.
     “Do you know him?”
     “No. But most of these cards belong to the guys who buy supplies here.”
      I didn't wait to get home. My cell was out by the time I opened my van door, and I was talking to a young man by the time my butt hit the van seat.
     “I do work for the owner there at the hardware store, and rent from a family member of his.”
     There were the credentials I like. A personal connection. Not with me, but with the shop. I could track him down if he did me wrong.
     An appointment to look at the leak in the basement was scheduled for the next day. The universe had sent me the perfect handyman, I knew it. I stopped with that call, and started on my list.
Basement leak
Foyer floor replaced
Bathroom redo
New light fixtures
Picket Fence
Curb appeal for front of house

     It was just the beginning. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I had to stop the leak and I had to stop looking at houses online. My house needed a facelift if I was going to be content. From my files on my computer I printed out all the photos of houses, fences, and rooms I loved best. So many darling cottages, all in rainbow colors. My house would never look like those cottages, no matter what I did. It was a brick ranch. A moment of doubt started to creep back in.
     STOP! I yelled at myself. Attitude adjustment. You will love your ranch house, you will love your ranch house...repeat after me...
     My handyman showed up the next day, exactly as scheduled. He was young, early twenties, and, frankly, quite adorable. His experience started as a kid, working with his family's construction business. He'd moved here to be close to his girlfriend who in college on a scholarship. There was a nice, easy going, competent way about him. I figured we could work well together.
     After he looked at the foundation and took measurements, we headed back towards his truck.
     “What year is that Corvette?” He pointed to the tarped vehicle in my driveway.
     “'79 Stingray.” I felt that flush of excitement come back talking about my muscle car. The car always has that effect on me.
     “Man. I've always wanted one. Can I look?”
     I watched him remove the car cover and a thought took shape in my mind. Dare I say it outloud?
     “It's a beauty!” His hands ran over the car with such intensity I decided to speak up with my crazy thought.
     “Gonna sell her to pay for the work on my house. I have a long list of things I'd like done here, other than the leak. Maybe we could work out a trade...”  I paused and caught my breath.
     The car had saved my life when I thought my life ended with the death of my husband. It kick started the new me. Maybe it could do the same for a tired old ranch house.
     “You're joking, aren't you?” He looked at me in disbelief.
     “Nope!” I smiled and saw his face light up. If the car was going to go, I'd like for it to go where it would be appreciated. If I didn't have to deal with a bunch of buyers kicking tires, I'd be thrilled. Cliche as it sounded, this would be a win-win.
     “What price are you talking here...and I'll give you my lowest hourly charge...” He had a huge grin.
      “Let me get my work list, you take a closer look at the car, and we'll pull a plan together.”
      The universe has wrapped its arms around me again. I can't wait to see how all this goes. Am I falling in love with my ranch house all over? Or am I smitten with change in the air. Perhaps it is not that I want a cottage to move to, but the need to move more in my own life. I’ve been much to sedentary this year. The wind is now sweet with expectations as I wait to see what comes next. I am in the reality I love best, creating and dreaming.
      Yes, I am out of my mind. It is my favorite place to be.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Time On My Hands

      I have all the time in the world. Time is running out. I am not sure which statement is true for me. Of course, none of us knows how much time we really have, I learned that when my husband died five years ago, but for the most part when you are younger, the world opens up before you full of opportunity. Time is endless.
     This summer I apply for Medicare. That thought stopped me in my tracks as I was looking at a hens nest in Monroe, Georgia, at a favorite antique shop. A perfect addition for the cottage in my mind. My cottage, with a few acres for my animals and farm fantasy. See, my acreage is growing. Now I use the words a few acres, when a post or two ago, I required only an acre of land with my cottage. I bought the hen's nest for my yard in Decatur, but in my mind, I had it hanging on a shed on my cottage farm, away from my dogs, and full of chickens.
     Sixty-five. That is not old, but is it too old to have the fantasy I can do everything I think about? Could I live on a few acres by myself? At my age? Do I want to? Or is my fantasy life because I am searching for something else, and I don't know what it is yet. The cottage in my mind is a good escape from other realities I don't want to face.
     It is also not a new fantasy. I've had a house fantasy since I was young.
     At one time I rented three storage units full of old painted cottage furniture, five complete bedroom sets, painted in the late 1800's with flowers, and other scenes. I was single then, divorced. I had not yet met the man of my dreams. I had my dream I would open a bed and breakfast. My furniture stash showed I was sincere with my thoughts. My antique dealer friends loved my craziness. I kept buying and storing furniture that traveled from Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania to Decatur, Georgia, for my passion, my dream I would need it all at some point. I spent money like I had it. You don't put a price on a dream. I had all the time to make it real.
     Then I met a man. My life changed. I still bought furniture, until I realized there was no more room in my storage units, and I could buy a car with the cost of three storage units, climate control units. My furniture may have originated in the late 1800's and outlived anything I knew, but I wanted it kept free of mildew, rats, and any other natural disasters that could befall a cottage chest in a damp, dusty climate. So I paid more for climate control. At least I was cool when I went to check on my treasures.
     My true love had no desire for a bed and breakfast, quite the contrary. He was a mid-century man. My plans changed to go with my life change when I moved in with him. I became an antique dealer, rather than a hostess at my own establishment.
     The late 1940's ranch house became another type of storage unit. I brought furniture, paintings, fabrics, and lovely cottage antiques, into my house to wait for the next big show. My house was in shambles. Twenty-five years of mid-century surrounded by old painted furniture stacked three deep. I dreamed still of my cottage, my farm, my bed and breakfast.
     I never dreamed my husband would die at age sixty.
     My hours, days, and nights were filled with finding a new life. Mid-century left my house, and my old painted pieces moved in. I decorated. I wrote. I self-published a book on my first year as a widow. I opened and closed a small shop.
     I never stopped looking at homes. Married I always picked up the latest 'Homes and Land' magazine everywhere I went. Now a widow, single, I called agents.
     I looked at houses in Lilburn, Georgia, where my shop was. I found one I loved and grieved when someone else bought it. The same when I moved my shop to Lawrenceville for all of five months. A small house on two acres close to my shop fascinated me. Pine walls and high ceilings. I wanted to move there. But it was on a main street and I worried about traffic and my dogs.
     When my shop closed and I moved to antique malls in Monroe, Georgia, the little town caught my heart. Should I move there? If you've read my earlier posts, you've followed my house insanity.
     I haven't moved any where. I am still where I've been for thirty years.
     Now I will turn sixty-five. I will have a Medicare card. I've avoided AARP for years, but I can't escape Medicare.
     Does that make me too old to be on my own on a farm?
     My dream won't stop. The latest issue of Country Living magazine features a change of life to a farm. At first I thought it was a single gal, then read she was married. Is it easier to move to a farm with a mate? As a single female, who is getting older, are my options limited?
     I don't see myself as old. Most folks don't either (or if they do, they are kind and don't mention it when I speak my folly!)
     Time. Only time will tell where I land. I want to land on the dirt, on my feet, and not six-feet under it. In August, when my Medicare card becomes a reality, you will still find me up on realtor.com, chasing my dreams with the vigor of one much younger, and the wisdom of a gal who has learned how to keep dreams alive.
     You will also find me drinking a Margarita and celebrating that life is good no matter where I live!

photo from the web

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Til The Cows Come Home

Any one home? I'm back. (photo from the web)

Such a fun phrase, til the cows come home!  It means for a very long time.  It is slang we use a zillion times for so many things. The phrase goes back before 1829. For instance, in Scotland, cows in the highlands are put out for common grazing where there is plenty to munch. In the fall, the cows head home because food has become scarce. (from Wiktionary)

The cows came home for me last week.

My dream of moving to a cottage was squelched for the time being. My cow that came home was the reality I am not moving. It has taken a good bit of time to reach this decision.

The Cottage In My Mind blog is new, but I have been out to pasture for quite a few years, thinking I would buy my little cottage and move.

I finally talked to a mortgage broker and the delusion I could keep my house in Decatur, and qualify for a new mortgage on another piece of property, was put to rest.

Kindly, but firmly.

I have to sell my house before I can buy another with a conventional loan. Most people do that, but most don't have six dogs. No realtor wants to show my house full of dogs, or so I've been told. It would be a nightmare, as I well know. I know my dogs.

There is owner financing, but hard to come by.

I've exhausted myself trying to think how this would work. The cold hard facts can't be ignored.

I was sad. It hurt. My dream was not within my grasp. I've had my heart broken more by old houses I've loved briefly than by men I've loved longer.

Houses have always been my passion.

A Victorian cottage, or small farmhouse, is always flirting with me. No matter where I am, the allure reaches me.

At a book club meeting last Saturday it was suggested I might enjoy the book A Year On Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball. It is a fictional story of three women without men, their children grown, who take on buying and renovating an old farmhouse. Right up my ally.

The author's bio made my heart race. She lives in a renovated barn in the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains with her dogs, four I think. She enters them into agility contests. Add to that she has over 80 published works of fiction. She is living my dream.  I was envious of her lifestyle, without even knowing about her. My life in my  house with my dogs seemed to pale in comparison. Once again I cheated on my house, with another I had not even seen.

"I want to be her!" I wailed to the head of the meet-up group later, after I'd bought all the books in the series on Amazon.

"We all do." Her reply was so simple.

Simple and true.

Some folks want a big mansion with all the high end perks. There are those of us who want the cottage, farmhouse, bed and breakfast, you name it, the elusive dream that comes with the ownership of such properties. I don't think about the work, the renovation, I just look at the final product. It is the life I want.

Or is it?

Sometimes I wonder if I am running in place and getting no where. My cow coming home made me stop running and start thinking.

What if I could turn my ranch house into the cottage in my mind?

I've lived in it for thirty years. It was built in the late 1940s. So it has some nice age. I've spent so much time thinking of leaving it, I haven't thought about what I could do to stay here and fix it up.

Old houses have ghosts. I have my own ghosts here, caring and loving ghosts. Memories of my late husband come back to me in the late night hours. My three beloved dogs ashes are in the back yard. Perhaps it's time  I learn to live with my own ghosts rather than to take on new ghosts some place else. My ghosts don't keep me from living my life, enjoying my house. I just think other ghosts are more exciting. You know, the grass is always greener ghosts!

"Why would you move?" I am asked that question when I tell friends and strangers I am looking at houses in a small town forty miles up the road. "Your location is perfect. Are you nuts?"

I am nuts. On many levels for many reasons. The universe keeps me sane. Keeps me in balance. I just need to read my signs better. I thought the universe wanted me to move when I found the Craftsman bungalow that stole my heart, then crushed it, as I realized the yard was too small for my dogs. (Was that only a week or so ago? How fickle I can be. I was ready to look at another house this week.)

But the universe sent me to a mortgage broker who spoke the truth and changed my pace.

My ghosts, my dreams, my reality. I need to find a way to live with them all. I am not moving any time soon.

I am happy in my house with my dogs. How do I always manage to forget that?

It is time to take my energy and work on my house. Let's see how that goes! Meet my house below. Watch for its changes!

My average 1940s/50s brick ranch. Not a cottage, but something to work with!

View of the front yard from steps. Not all my land, part of a right-of-way on the side.

My split rail fence is mostly on the ground. The water company repaired a leak on their side of the meter and jack hammered up the end of my drive. The new concrete is an eye-sore.

My herd will include some handymen! Stay tuned.....

Photo from the web