What a whirlwind the last twelve months has been! (I’m looking at you, 2020.) Through a tsunami of enormous events (not necessarily in this order): a deadly pandemic, one of the largest political divides which caused high levels of tension and debates were witnessed during the election, a global movement for racial injustice, devastating US west coast wildfires that burned millions of acres, coronavirus spread across the globe to more than 20 million people, the pandemic messed up our thinking when toilet paper aisles were cleaned completely out, the south had a devastating hit from twin hurricanes that arrived in the same week, and also we sadly lost many famous legends. There are many more events that could have been added to the list. But today my story isn’t about the year 2020. In fact, it isn’t even about a “year.”
There was a time when I lived in an old mobile home, as a single mother with my two young sons. Andy was my nine-year-old and Matthew was nearly two. My life felt chaotic in the cramped two-bedroom home with my amazing, but energetic boys. I had scrimped, sacrificed, and saved for years. I didn’t have much money, but it was all I had. So, a time finally came when I thought I might seriously consider selling my mobile home. I decided to list our house to “just see what happens.” As soon as I put a ‘FOR SALE by OWNER’ sign in the front window, the strangest thing happened. I received an immediate cash offer. I believe my decorating skills helped sell that old aluminum house for what I paid for it—nearly seven years earlier! This gave me a little bit more money toward a down payment on a bigger house. I prayed and prayed for something that I would love and was in my price range to pop up.
To help me in my efforts, I hired a real estate agent. I had only three requests: the house needed to be in a good school district, it had to have three bedrooms, and it had to have a big yard. The boys had only known mobile home community life with a tiny yard.
Incredibly, a brick ranch-style house, in a quiet neighborhood of older homes became available. Just as incredibly, I had just enough in my meager savings account to make the down payment on the three-bedroom house with a huge backyard!
From the moment I laid eyes on the house, it was “home-love at first sight.” I felt my throat catch and my heart race. The house wasn’t perfect, but it was a good price in a desirable neighborhood. The things that were wrong with the house were things I knew I could fix or hire out. I saw past the broken window in the master bedroom, the mailbox that was nailed to the middle of a louver shutter, the leaky kitchen sink, the worn carpeting (tattered holes throughout), and a fresh coat of paint was needed everywhere. My gift, my “decorator’s mind eye” was excited with all the possibilities. Each item on my prayerful, wished-for, hoped-for, longed-for checklist was answered in this home.
I signed the documents on April 10, 1989 which give me possession of the 1974 built house in Maumee, Ohio. I tried to contain my excitement and my tears of joy. The house address: 2021. Hence the story title “2021.”
This house was more than just a house to me. It was a symbol of all the things I didn’t have while I was growing up. It was a symbol all the things I wanted my sons to have, and all the things I worked so hard to overcome. The city of Maumee was known for excellent public schools. I was confident I could fix the house up to make it the most magical home for my two sons. I planned to fix the place up, over time, from top to bottom, all 1800 square feet. I had some long-term plans for this house, and this was long before I became an Interior Designer.
So, sorry for the long winded back story of this house, but I share it for one main reason: If I could do this, anyone can!
Recently, while sipping my nice cup of hot coffee, I spent my morning lingering over photos of this home. I hadn’t realized how much work I had done in it. But seeing the amount of changes that had happened over the years is certainly bittersweet.
Back in those hectic days I often worked long hours in a factory. During the packing season I was required to work 12-hour days, 7-days a week. I remember asking the Lord to grant me time enough to hold down a fulltime job, to do all the chores inside and out, join in my son’s games, help with their lessons, and keep up with the Scouting activities. When time allowed, I painted and decorated to make this house our home.
My sons and I became members of Saint Patrick Church of Heatherdowns. Besides attending mass every Sunday, I spent many more wonderful hours there volunteering. I volunteered my services year-round to many programs, including a 3-year term as Pastoral Council, I was a Eucharistic Minister serving communion, I worked at the summer festivals (you could always find me in the gym being a bingo runner), I was also a greeter at music concerts and the annual Christmas concert, and a “prayer partner” to either a new Catholic candidate or their sponsor. I asked the Lord to grant me enough heart to care, to listen and understand, to hug and hold, to tickle and touch, and to make a beautiful, loving home for my family.
I could write an entire blog post on all the things I did to this house. But the short story: I converted the attached 2.5 car garage into an enormous family room. Later on, I added an attached 1.5 car garage with an additional 20’x16’ finished workshop. I added an extra wide concrete driveway. In the backyard we added a privacy fence and new landscaping. My talented dad built a beautiful pergola that I had designed on our front porch. The new porch struck me as a great spot for relaxing. I thought about having rocking chairs so we could sit in the warm breeze as we watched the world go by. I painted large faux bricks on the garage walls and small bricks in both the workshop and bathroom. I used a suede paint technique to paint the living room.
So, did it pay off, you ask? Yes and yes! Fast forward to 2011 when the country was headed toward one of the lowest points of the housing market, it was time to list the house. Less than 10 days later, I received a cash-offer for the price I wanted. It was a little sad to walk away from the place I called home for 22 years. But I could not have been happier to pass the 2021 home on to the new homeowner. But it was also hard to leave the place I raised my sons. The reason I sold the home was because I moved to Florida the day after my husband and I married. I was ready and excited for the next chapter of my life!
Oddly, this pandemic proved to be a boost to the business I work for (in fact, our whole industry actually – real estate, construction, design – we’re all so busy, it seems). As people recognize how important it is to have a home they love and that functions, my coworkers and I have been inundated with new client requests. We are so excited to get to help so many more people this coming year with their homes!
But alongside all these exciting changes there has been an incredible amount of suffering and loss, and I want to say a enormous thank you to all our first responders, doctors, nurses, essential workers, teachers, and everyone else working to keep us healthy, safe, and hopefully, on the path to healing. The sacrifices these incredible people have made for our country is beyond measure. It’s hard to imagine life going back to normal, and that scares me. But I’m going to try to hold out hope that this global crisis will someday soon be something of the past. I hope that you and your families stay safe. And that 2021 will bring us all relief and joy, and the ability to be together again. When this pandemic is finally over with, let’s have a mask bonfire. Are you in?