Coronovirus – Cabin Fever!

I live in Virginia. I have been staying home, in happy self-quarantine, for three weeks now, since my earlier than planned return from the Land of Sunshine. I have been okay with that. I like my house, I like ordering groceries on-line, and the weather has been warm enough for backyard campfires and cook outs. I have had no urge whatsoever to leave. Until yesterday.

Yesterday the Virginia Governor made a public decree. Because people were not following his recommendation to not gather in groups during this pandemic, he did what any normal parent would do with his rebellious children. He sent us all to our rooms.

“Effective IMMEDIATELY ! All non-essential travel will CEASE!” We are allowed to leave our homes to exercise, get food, seek medical treatment, and work (providing we have a note from our boss defining our jobs as essential.) Everybody else, STAY HOME.

This mandate is in effect till JUNE 10! Oh, boy!

While I agree whole- heartedly with his decision, something awoke deep inside of me. I think it is called Cabin Fever!

Some people get it when they are snowed in during a nasty Michigan blizzard, risking their lives on icy roads to escape the Cabin Fever wall climbing clutches. Others get it at the mere suggestion of being quarantined. I thought I was immune to this but, alas, I am not.

We had a grocery order ready for pickup yesterday afternoon and I decided to ride along. On the way we stopped at the storage lot and unloaded a few baskets of summer clothing from the trailer. May is warm here and we will need those summer things before the quarantine is lifted.

It was fun to see the trees blooming and my pretty city in the spring-time. I haven’t been out to see it since before Christmas. And today, I wanted to do it again. There isn’t really anywhere to GO; stores, parks and beaches are all closed. I just wanted to go for a drive.

There is a big difference between CHOOSING to stay home and being MADE to stay home. I feel a little bit like a teenager in class detention; I wasn’t the one acting up but everyone gets punished for it.

I’m not sure what the cure is for Cabin Fever. I am pretty much a homebody and usually have no trouble entertaining myself. I may be writing more before the June 10 quarantine is lifted!

Coronavirus Dreaming

Our world changed dramatically after the terrorist attack on 9-11. I went through a period where my dreams were centered on the time before the attack, and I would wake up in the morning with the dream still swirling around in my mind, and then be snapped into reality after a second or two.

I don’t recall exactly when the new reality following 9-11 finally kicked in to my subconscious, but it eventually did. I didn’t fly very often but my husband was a frequent business flier so our family was probably more aware of the increased security procedures than most people were.

Since returning home from our winter in the Land of Sunshine, I have experienced a similar sensation. My dream life has been pre-COVID19 and waking up to the reality of self quarantine and government regulations have felt reminiscent of the days following 9-11. There is that moment, upon first awakening, when your subconscious is still spinning tales of your dreams, that all is back to normal and you plan your day’s activities. Then true reality sinks in and you remember that life is not as it was.

I think my subconscious has settled into the new normalcy. Last night I dreamed a quarantine dream; it was about everyday life, going on as usual, but we were all in quarantine. It was not a defining point in the dream, instead it was more like the wallpaper in a room – just a part of the background. We did normal life things that we have been doing the past two weeks while in self quarantine. It was not a scary dream, or a significant dream, or a Word from Heaven kind of dream. It was pretty garden variety as dreams go, but the one thing that I remember is that we were living our lives according to the new rules.

When I woke up this morning, my brain did not experience the “life has changed jet lag” that it has the past two weeks. My subconscious has accepted the fact that this, for the time being, is the new normal.

Despite the shifting sands of normalcy in this life,there is one constant that will never change. The Bible says that the Lord is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He does not change. He is the rock we can anchor our life upon and know that whatever happens in this life is just a flash in the pan of eternity.
God’s got this. We can trust Him despite of the circumstances around us.

Despite the circumstances, because Jesus Christ is my personal savior, I have a peace that transcends the uncertainties of this life. If you haven’t’ met Him, pick up a Bible during this time of self isolation and get to know Him. You will never regret it.

COVID19 – White Nights

The night before last I had insomnia. I was bug-eyed and wide awake until after 5:30 am. It reminded me of a bout of insomnia I experienced about 10 years ago when doctors discovered a growth on my thyroid. I tried to not think about it during the day and felt like I wasn’t freaking out with future tripping “what ifs”, but still experienced a four night insomnia storm leading up to my biopsy. I think it was a deep, subconscious anxiety about what they might find that kept me wound up and unable to sleep. Everything turned out fine; lots of people have benign growths on their thyroid, especially as they get older. But sometimes, it is malignant, hence the anxiety.

A friend of mine in Tennessee experienced insomnia last night and shared her frustration on Facebook. Sleeplessness is unusual for her. She works hard during the day and typically sleeps well all night. Many of her friends chimed in to her post, sharing that they, too, were experiencing insomnia. It must be something going around.

In retrospect, I can look back on my white nights prior to my biopsy and attribute the sleeplessness to anxiety created by the uncertainties of the thyroid growth. I couldn’t break it down to that at the time because I was caught up in the storm.


There is so much uncertainty about life and the future wrapped around this Global Pandemic and I suspect many of us are experiencing insomnia driven anxiety during this time of self quarantined isolation.

We can just try to soldier on and cope as best as possible, or we can take action when insomnia disturbs our sleep. I am not talking about taking sleeping pills. They didn’t work for me when I was in the thyroid insomnia storm. A sleep aid can sometimes force our bodies into an artificial sleep pattern but they don’t address the root of the problem. Looking back, I can see that I was afraid of what the biopsy might find. I refused to address the fear and pushed it down, out of my mind instead of releasing it to God.

When insomnia strikes there is usually something else going on beneath the surface that we are not surrendering to God.

Recognizing the attack and addressing the root cause is the first step to overcoming. Satan, the enemy of our soul, looks for these chinks in our spiritual armor and uses them to distract and derail us. He doesn’t fight fairly and never wastes an opportunity to keep our eyes off Jesus.

I have a suggestion if you are experiencing sleepless nights, or if you want to take some preemptive steps. Before you go to bed, set up a CD player, MP3 player, tablet, or other music playing device next to your bed. Load it with soothing worship songs. Have earphones handy if you share a bedroom and don’t want to disturb your partner.

When insomnia strikes, play this music softly and focus your mind on Jesus. Consciously relax and rest your body. Choose to relax your mind. Focus on the words of the song. Demonic forces flee when Jesus is worshiped and God is glorified.

Tell God what is bothering you. Be honest. He knows it already and is there to help you through this. He loves you and wants you to rest in Him and trust Him despite the circumstances swirling around you. Remember, God’s got this.

I pray that the peace of Christ floods your spirit, and floods the spirits of all who are dealing with many uncertainties in this season.

COVID19 – Quarantine Buns

My husband and I entered self-quarantine one week ago today, because we had left an area in Florida where there were growing numbers of community acquired cases of Corona virus. Our home is comfortable and we have food in the freezer so nobody is in a panic at our house.

Temperatures were in the unseasonable high eighties yesterday and the weather demanded summer-like food. My frozen burger patties were slated to be grilled when I realized I didn’t have any buns. Under normal circumstances this would have been resolved by a quick trip to the local grocery store, but we are in quarantine. Fortunately I have ingredients and decided to try my hand at making hamburger buns.

I googled several recipes for these buns, finally deciding on one where I could use my bread maker to do the kneading. I loaded the wet ingredients into the hopper, followed by the dry, topping it off with my yeast, turned the machine to a dough setting and left for a three mile bike ride. When I returned, I gently lifted the dough, rolled it into 1/2 inch thickness and cut uniform circles with a drinking glass.

These little rounds rested on a sprayed cookie sheet for an hour where they doubled in size before being baked for @15 minutes in a preheated oven. Once cooled, I broke them apart, sliced them in half, and enjoyed our burgers.

The buns have a slightly denser texture than the flimsy, low cost buns I usually buy. They taste more like fancy, artisan buns. I guess they are!

As we are all locked down, this is a great time to experiment and try new things. You may just discover something you love!

Watching COVID19 – Fleeing Florida

My husband and I spent the winter in Florida this year. We packed up our little 16 ft travel trailer and headed south shortly after Christmas. Virginia winters are chilly, sometimes there is even snow. We chose to escape winter for many reasons, one being the lure of summer-like temperatures.

First stop was a six week stay at a private campground in Florida City, the gateway to the Keys. Our Florida State Park pass gave us access to all of the State Parks in the Keys and we visited many of them, bicycling around the parks as well as the local communities. We soaked up sun, swam in the waters, and hung out enjoying the beautiful scenery and weather. At the private campground, we participated in many activities, made friends, and were very sad to leave when our time was done.

From there, we headed north for a two week stay at Jonathon Dickinson State Park by the Atlantic Ocean. Florida’s state parks are in high demand, despite their limit of two week stays. We were fortunate to get in at all, as reservations must be made 11 months ahead. We logged miles on our bicycles on the park’s many trails and enjoyed campfires and nature. Our time ended and we moved to a private resort in Ft. Myers for the final month of our trip.

By then, we were starting to see news stories about a killer virus in China. Then reports started targeting cases in Florida, all travel and cruise related. Florida takes the COVID19 virus very seriously and nightly news reports stated how many cases were identified, where they were contracted, where the people were recovering (hospital, nursing facility, or their homes) and how many cases were being monitored for development. We kept a social distance from folks we met and didn’t participate in any group activities. Florida’s first COVID19 death occurred in a local hospital.

Our daughter back in Virginia was very concerned, especially as the news reported more and more cases of COVID19 across many states. She wanted us home!

We, however, were enjoying the 85 degree sunshine and were reluctant to trade that for 50 degree drizzle in Virginia. Besides, our campsite was paid until the first of April, with no refunds. We figured we weren’t in any danger to just stay in place.

There were only a few cases of travel-related COVID19 in our area when my husband surprised me by asking me to write out a 4 week menu for the two of us using only shelf stable foods. I don’t usually cook with shelf stable food, and figured we could eventually use it for our hurricane supplies. I didn’t think we had any reason for concern. We then purchased this food and stored it in a big plastic bin in our van. His reasoning was that we might be quarantined in the campground for a month and this way we would be prepared. I keep a pantry at home, but certainly didn’t pack food for a 12 week trip in our little trailer. We tend to visit the grocery store every couple of days, picking up milk, bread, meat, and whatever else that is running low. The shelves were full, the store relatively empty, and we gathered our lengthy list with no problems.


One week ago today we were the lone mini golf players at the resort’s golf course, arguing with our daughter by phone, trying to convince her that we were fine as she was trying to convince us that we were not. We had plans to meet friends at a restaurant the following day, but that evening Florida announced its first community acquired case of COVID19 in our area.

We prayed for direction and peace. Odds are, this wasn’t a huge threat to us, and prepared to make the 45 minute drive to see our friends. As I was getting ready, not thinking about anything except applying make up and fixing my hair, the voice of God spoke to my spirit. Clearly, I heard, “It’s time. It’s time to go home.” and a peace flooded over me. I told my husband it was time to go home and he agreed that we would leave in the morning.

We headed out to meet our friends, and on the way I developed a raging sore throat. It was almost instantaneous. With only three miles to go, we cancelled, turned around, and headed back. My husband made one stop at a drug store to buy a numbing throat spray for me, and we quickly packed up our campsite and started the drive back at 2:30 pm.

On the road we learned that three more community acquired cases had been identified in our area. This is no longer a virus limited to those who caught it while traveling over seas; it is now real, it is a pandemic, and it is in our backyard!

Because we were coming from an active community acquired area, we began practicing self quarantine while on the trip home. Usually we stop and eat at restaurants, use the public facilities and take stretch breaks. This trip was different. We used the facilities in our trailer for bathroom and meals, avoiding people as much as possible. My husband used disposable gloves for pumping gas and copious amounts of hand cleaner.

We are home now, our trailer is unpacked and returned to storage, and we have settled in for a two week isolation. Every day on the news, we see stricter regulations from our government and watch more and more businesses close. Our daughter is working from home and her computer equipment is spread over our dining room table. My husband is working on the kitchen table, filing our taxes and watching the stock market tank. I am spending lots of time in my home office, reading the Bible, writing and praying.

Every day we see more and more reports of deaths from this virus, accelerating numbers of cases and growing restrictions. We were fortunate to arrive home before domestic travel bans are implemented for civilians and military families. We hear the ever expanding time lines of projections when this siege will end.

We join the rest of the world watching COVID19.

Back on my Feet

Frankenstein shoe

The saga of my broken foot continues.  The month off my feet has passed, aided by a bout of the flu that left me too ill to get out of bed for the final two weeks.  I did not accomplish all of the great things I had planned to tackle during my sojourn, but am thrilled that my doctor has given me permission to lose the crutches and knee scooter, at least for now.

I wheeled in on the knee scooter for my one-month-off-the-foot check up and x-ray, and was told the discouraging news that nothing had changed.  He then said that he really wants to do surgery to remove the chip but had decided to listen to the other doctors whose council he had sought and would give me some time to try healing without drastic measures.  Instead of the walking boot I asked for, he recommended a new pair of special shoes. They are basically leather casts that I can take off when I go to bed, similar to those old fashioned white leather baby shoes so many of us forced our toddlers to wear back in the day.  Thankfully, they don’t look like those old fashioned baby shoes!

The specialty store that my doctor recommended only carries the shoes in a medium width. Having a very narrow foot, I once made the mistake of buying a regular width shoe and allowing the shoe store to “pad” the inside to snug it up.  Not only was it miserably uncomfortable, my toes bruised from sliding down to the end of the shoes.  I have found that  most shoe stores do not stock narrow widths.  Regular and wide, yes, but not narrow.

I talked to a salesman on the phone and he did his best to encourage me to let him pad the shoes, because “most people who say their feet are narrow, really aren’t THAT narrow and can wear a regular width.” The shoes I needed were $165 a pair, and although he could order me a pair in a narrow width, it would be a full two weeks before they arrived.  I needed a pair of narrow shoes now.

After thanking  him I pulled out my computer.  Amazon happened to have one of the two recommended styles in narrow and my less favorite  style was on sale for $83 a pair.  Economy won over fashion.  I ordered them and they arrived in two days.  As much as I like supporting small businesses, I couldn’t justify the two week delay and the huge price difference.  Score one for big business.  Sorry, little guy.

These special shoes do not flex.  I call them my Frankenstein shoes and feel like Herman Munster clomping around in them.  But, I am able to walk around my house, stand, and go up and down stairs the traditional way!  I am able to cook, clean, and live my life again.  My feet get very tired after I have been up and around for most of the day;  I suspect it is from adjusting to the new properties of the shoe and  to being back on my feet.

My doctor made it clear  that I am not released to walk for exercise, and  I have noticed the ankle of my broken foot feeling much weaker.  Driving around the block burned  like fire.  When I first put on the new shoes, I felt like I was walking with a small stone in my shoe about where the chip has broken off.  Now, after a week of wearing them, I no longer notice the “stone.”

Per the doctor’s orders, I am not to go barefoot.  I do not need a brace for sleeping or showering, but need to get my shoes on as quickly as possible and wear them all day long.

After another month, I am to report in to the doctor and he will assess whether or not he gets to do surgery.  Based on recommendations I have heard, I am in no hurry to rush down that road.  I am mobile and I am confident that it IS in the process of healing.

I am also a firm believer in the power of prayer and different prayer warriors have prayed specifically for a healing touch on my foot.  God has supernaturally healed my body before, as well as the bodies of other family members, and I am confident that He will do it again.  The Bible says “Blessed are the feet of those who bring the Good News.”  This little setback is just an occasion for my God to dazzle the doctors when He shows His stuff.

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Myself—On the Shelf

Sometimes circumstances force us to the sidelines.  We don’t understand why.  We hate being out of commission.  But, sometimes, the only response is compliance, as difficult as that may be.

Are there any other shelf-sitters out there?

The saga of my foot injury continues.  It was rapidly improving  after the “Snap, Crackle, Pop” incident.  No longer swollen or bruised, and no longer constantly aching.  Sure, it would get tired after a long walk and ice baths felt amazing, but there was lots of improvement over the mess it had been in July.  A nurse friend suggested I get an x-ray, just be sure, but I was pretty sure that would be money needlessly spent.

And then, it happened; a collision with 60 pounds of furry force bent my toes backwards and bathed me in white hot pain.  Barefoot, in the recliner, my foot collided with boundless puppy energy.  This time, the constant throbbing didn’t go away after a couple of weeks.  Because there was no additional bruising and no noticeable swelling, I self-diagnosed that I probably had something out of joint from the latest collision and called my chiropractor.

After hearing my litany of injuries to my foot, she wisely refused to see me without a foot x-ray and sent me to an urgent care center.  Still loudly insisting it was only a sprain, I submitted to an x-ray.

20992884_10212770999046247_36019243525522514_n brokenfoot

You don’t have to be a radiologist to see what is wrong with this picture.  I broke the knobby end of the toe bone at the joint.  The Urgent Care Dr. suggested I call a Podiatrist.

The Podiatrist looked at the x-ray and listened to the long, complicated history of the foot injury and thanked me for bringing him such an unusual and interesting case.  This is not a normal injury.  He sold me a “Magic Boot” to stabilize my foot, told me to come back in a week after he had consulted with other specialists, and told me to “cut back on my normal activity.”

I am very active.  I hit the ground running in the morning and usually do not sit down till around 8 pm for a couple hours of television before heading to bed.  But, in obedience to the Dr.’s orders I  swapped out my running shoe for the magic boot, stopped mowing the lawn with the push mower and taking the dog on 3/4 mile walks.

He was not happy with me when I returned.  I was still feeling my pulse in my foot when I went back to his office and he asked me why I hadn’t cut back on my activity.  I said I had, but apparently not enough.  Clarifying, he told me “I want you to stay OFF YOUR FOOT.  Sit when you could stand, crutches or knee scooter when you could walk, and no stairs for the next TWO MONTHS.”  This means no shopping, no driving, no walking.

If I rest my foot completely, there is a chance that I can avoid surgery.  The body may form a fibrous scar around the broken chip, which will look funky in future x-rays, but should be functional.  If I don’t rest it enough to form the scar, I will need a complicated surgery to not only remove the chip but to attach ligaments back to the parent bone with screws and pins, bringing an even longer and more difficult recovery period.

Did I mention that my bedroom and my office are on the second floor?

I am reminded of the joke about the old lady who broke her leg and couldn’t climb stairs for 3 months.  When her doctor finally removed her cast and granted her permission to climb stairs again, she said, “Hallelujah!  It has been so hard to shinny up that drainpipe every night to go to bed.”

I’m not shinnying up drainpipes, but I go up and down the stairs on my bum, lifting myself with my arms, chair dip style.  I have crutches for the upstairs of my house, and a borrowed knee scooter for the downstairs.

What can you do with no hands and only one leg? It is surprisingly tiring to get around with these aides. and very limiting.  Cooking, for example, requires many trips around the kitchen just to gather ingredients and utensils, and because I cannot get as close to the stove as I need to, there is lots of leaning.  I haven’t figured out how to maneuver loading  the dishwasher or oven because of the weird angles from the scooter, and the fact that I need one hand to steer it.

Fortunately my daughter and husband have graciously jumped in to assume my share of the house-hold tasks.  I am grateful to family and  friends who have given me rides to and from events, and have brought me meals and drinks. I think these devices should come with drink holders, or I should buy one of those hiking bladder backpacks.

So I am spending time “on the shelf.”  This is a rare opportunity for study, reading, painting, and prayer.  Prior shelf times have always been followed by headlong plunges into busy seasons of ministry and I don’t suspect this is any different.  It is a time of healing, for my foot, and a time of preparation for the what ever is waiting around the bend.

 

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Snap, Crackle…and…POP!

Accidents happen. They come out of the blue, unplanned and unexpected. They disrupt your life, cause injury, and make you painfully aware of your own destructibility.

I was at a family party, celebrating the second and fourth birthdays of granddaughters two and three. The family was gathered at my son’s table, finishing lunch and laughing as we visited. In one smooth move, I scooped up the used party plates and was in the process of pivoting around in my chair while standing up, planning to deposit them in the trash container behind me. Instead I landed head-first in my niece’s lap! Somehow I managed to get a foot tangled up with the leg of my chair and the table leg.

The culprits: chair and table leg.

I think I managed to hook my little toe on the aluminum chair leg, bending the last two toes skyward. The remaining toes smashed against the table leg, pressing them downwards. Imagine a circus strongman ripping a phone book in half down the middle. Now exchange the phone book for my foot!

My foot immediately inflated and discolored. I could still wiggle my toes, so I assumed nothing was broken. It wouldn’t “flex” and I had a funny bump on the sole under my little toe, but I could still put weight on the heel and hobble along. Wearing a shoe was out of the question, but I managed an over-sized flip flop. Wrapping my foot in athletic tape provided some support and helped quell the throbbing pain and the swelling gradually decreased.

Tutti-fruity colors; the nail polish is hiding the bruises UNDER the nails.

I have broken a toe before and the remedy was to “buddy tape” it to the toe next door. I figured I was in for a long six weeks and was grateful that it happened in the summer so I didn’t have to try to wear real shoes. I slept with it elevated and outside of the covers to avoid the weight of blankets.

A nurse friend suggested that I probably should get x-rays and cautioned that if I broke the socket, I might need surgery. I was leaving the next day for a week-long trip and figured I would see a doctor when I got home if it wasn’t any better by the time I returned home.

Our first night of the trip was spent at a charming, rustic 1940’s style Lodge on Skyline Drive. No televisions in the room, no a/c, and no elevators! The down comforter on the double bed gave the room a European feel.

Our charming room at the Lodge.

We climbed the steep, double flight of stairs and I hobbled down the hall to our room. The narrow room could only accommodate a full sized bed, instead of a Queen or King, and the right side of the bed was only about a foot from the wall. I opted to sleep on the bathroom side, despite placing my sore foot on the center of the bed.

Sometime during the night I woke up yelling and moaning. Deep asleep, I must have gotten my foot wrapped up in the bedding and thrashed it into my husband’s leg as I tried to kick free of the covers. I remember feeling a “POP” as I hit his leg, and a white-hot flash of intense pain.

But in the morning, my foot was fine! I suspect I had dislocated my toe in the accident and the night-time impact realigned it. God’s chiropractic adjustment! God restored my foot during the night. The throbbing pain was gone, my foot could flex again and the odd lump under my little toe had vanished. I can walk again!

Isaiah 52:7 says “How blessed are the feet of those who bring good news.” One week after the “adjustment,” I am only dealing with minor bruising and muscle strain but am well on the way to full recovery.

Flipping the “Dog House.”

Why I haven’t been blogging for the past two and a half years….

The house-hunting ordeal had begun again. This was not a new game for us; we had lived at 16 different addresses in our nearly 40 years of marriage; this was not a corporate move as many of the prior ones had been, but finding a long-term home after retirement. And, after years of major renovations in the homes we had purchased, my handy-man husband had stipulated he didn’t want to buy another house that needed work!

We began looking on-line, ruling out hundreds of homes before ever driving by or stepping inside them. Wrong room lay-outs, not enough bedrooms, awful kitchens, no garden space in the back yard, lack of garage, or just out of our price range took its toll. Finally we narrowed the list to about 30 homes and contacted a real estate agent who drove us around for weeks, only to have us turn our thumbs down on all of them.

It was discouraging. This community has thousands of homes for sale, but every single one of them had some major flaw that eliminated it from our consideration. After all, this was not a house that we would need to resell in a year or two when the company needed my husband’s skills at a new location; this would be a permanent home until we were too fragile to live on our own.

One sunny Sunday afternoon, as my husband settled on the sofa for an afternoon of football, I dug back into the internet searching and discovered two “Open House” homes in an area we liked. He was involved in watching his games so I went alone.

I fell in love with the first house. From the moment I walked through the front door, I liked everything I saw. (Remember, we were looking for a house that wouldn’t need any work!) And this one was a beauty! There were no worn, dirty carpets to replace; there were no textile floors at all. All of the floors and even the stairs were finished in wood. It had real wooden cupboards in the kitchen.

Our dream list included a formal living room, formal dining room, large kitchen, family room with a fireplace, at least four bedrooms, a screened back porch, and a space in the backyard for a garden, a two car garage and a shed. And this place had it all…almost. The only thing missing was the screening on the covered porch in back, but that was an easy fix. It was at the high end of our price range but was the first house that actually fulfilled our list and it was beautiful.

I then drove a couple of blocks to the second Open House listing. Pots of dead plants peeked out from under the overgrown shrubbery and long grass grew from the multiple cracks in the driveway. The door was missing from the mailbox and the screens were tattered. Paint was peeling from the front porch and door trim and the front door and garage door were painted a hideous purple. Things didn’t improve much when I walked inside.

The floors were covered in original builder grade carpeting that was nearly worn through and filthy. The walls had recently been spray painted in a flat white, complete with paint runs down the walls and on the dusty, faded window treatments. Most of the window glass had broken seals and were completely fogged. The kitchen was big with a nice floor-plan but the condition of the appliances, cabinets and flooring were a complete distraction. Two of the four bathrooms had new ceramic floors, but the other two floors were worn and torn. Even the registers were bent and rusted.

Upstairs bedrooms still sported the original builder grade paint and an accumulation of all the dirt and abuse from the day it was first purchased by the original owner. Outdated light fixtures missing globes, filthy carpet, dirty walls and cracked door frames adorned every bedroom and peeling thermafoil cabinets in the bathrooms.

No shed or screened porch in the backyard, either. The two car garage didn’t even have an automatic door opener and was filled with boxes. The man door to the side yard was rusted nearly through.

The house was a wreck. I didn’t spend much time looking at it, mentally contrasting it with the jewel a few blocks away. My husband heard a glowing review of that house when I got home but was told, “Don’t waste your time even looking at the second house; it is a DOG!”

We went through the “Jewel House” a couple of times with our agent. And my husband’s engineer eye pointed out flaws that I had overlooked. The shed was too small, the backyard wasn’t large enough, and there was a foreclosed, crumbling house right next door. The street was busy, with lots of cars parked alongside because the driveways were so short.

We continued the hunt, but our selection was rapidly dwindling. So, we finally expanded our search to include “houses that may need some work.”

We toured houses with buckled floors, mold issues, holes in the walls and ceilings, and some that needed major foundation repair. Even despite these major flaws, we never found a floor plan that we agreed on. We wanted a house with a downstairs bedroom and bath so when we are too rickety to maneuver stairs, we would have a bedroom on the main floor. Surprisingly, they are very rare in our community.

Finally, he said, “Let’s go through the ‘Dog house.’” And, as he toured the house, he said, “I like it!” I groaned. Sure, it was livable in its current condition, because a family had lived here for years, but it was a wreck of a house.

There was a bedroom and full bath on the main floor but there was no shed and no screened porch. And, there was WORK everywhere! We debated its pros and cons at length, but I reluctantly agreed to making an offer when he asked, “Would you like it if it had wood flooring throughout, a new kitchen, a privacy fence, a shed, a screened porch, and modern light fixtures?” “Well, sure. It would be like a different house then.”

Despite not wanting to take on another home remodel project, we agreed on the floor plan, the neighborhood, and the largish sunlit back yard. We are not afraid of doing hard work and have the know-how to do many things ourselves so we placed an offer, subject to the house passing a home inspection.

The inspector said the house was well constructed, better even than some of the homes in surrounding neighborhoods, but refused to turn on the microwave oven because the plastic back of the box was melted off from an interior fire, the dishwasher flooded the kitchen floor when we tested it, and the carbon monoxide alarm rang continuously. A separate heat pump inspection revealed a cracked heat exchanger and owner’s bypass attempts that were pumping toxic gas into the home whenever you turned on the heat.

We threatened to withdraw the offer if they did not replace the heat pump and surprisingly, they installed a new unit. The appliances were ancient, and we decided not to make an issue out of something we would be replacing anyway.

In our area, the seller must vacate the house of all possessions before the final closing. The purchaser makes a final walk through the property, viewing it empty, and has a final opportunity to change their mind and withdraw the offer. And the sale nearly fell apart at the closing table.

During their pack out, someone had backed a truck into the garage door, and smashed it to the point of being unusable. We said we wanted a new garage door; they said it was like that when we placed our offer. I produced photos and our agents began to negotiate. I was ready to walk away from the table; the sellers were not happy that they were forced to replace the heat pump and did not want to replace the door. Finally they said that one of their helpers had backed up too far and smashed in the door and would give us the money for an equivalent door. Tense emotions calmed and we closed the sale.

We were moving into the “Dog House” but the overwhelming amount of work prevented us from making that move right away. We began stripping carpeting from all the floors, tearing up the worn hardwood in the entry, and taking down the dust-caked, paint smeared window treatments. The first week of home ownership was a flurry of appliance shopping, meeting with window repairmen, and multiple trips to the landfill. We hired a company to repaint interior rooms, and it was one of the best decisions we could have made.

The upgrades were not all cosmetic; there was rotted subflooring that needed repaired, and holes in the walls, as well as places where the plaster had fallen off from moisture damage. The house looked much worse once it was emptied, and we found surprises that were hidden by the worn carpeting.

We had purchased new stainless steel appliances and had no sooner arranged for delivery when the refrigerator died. The grease caked stove was the only appliance that was still functional when the new units were installed.

Instead of selecting solid hardwood flooring, we decided to install a laminate throughout the house, based on scratch and dent resistance reviews. We have installed and lived with solid oak hardwood floors in a previous home, and found them to scratch and dent easily. We had installed premium laminate flooring in the condo we were currently flipping and were impressed with the durability, feel, and luxurious appearance, as well as the ease of installation.

We figured it took roughly three 8 man-hour days per room to install the flooring and my husband, my daughter, and I tackled the project. We lay flooring in the critical rooms, like a bedroom and storage room so we could vacate and sell the condo, slowly moving our belongings out of storage units as flooring was finished in each room. Basically, we camped in the construction zone.

When the flooring was finished, the furniture brought out of storage, boxes unpacked and life began to settle in, we received a letter about a class action lawsuit concerning our flooring selection. We needed to test it for formaldehyde gassing as it might be a health hazard. After thorough testing, the flooring was deemed acceptable.

A five ft long tick list hangs on the side of the refrigerator. It details all of the things for each room, from replacing the rusted air vent covers, replacing window treatments, replacing the outdated light fixtures, replacing the paint crusted, mismatched door hinges and knobs, to replacing the torn screens and broken window panes. As we finish and item we scratch it off the list.

We purchased a shed from a company that delivered it to our lot, hired a contractor to build the screened porch on the back of the house, and hired a carpenter to install a privacy fence. I tackled the peeling thermafoil on the bathroom vanities, peeled them off with a heat gun and painted them. The guest bath on the main floor has been stripped out and upgraded.

Instead of putting bandages on the awful kitchen cabinets and worn out kitchen floor, we decided to gut and replace everything with new flooring, custom wood cupboards, and the prettiest granite countertop I have ever seen.

Two and a half years later, most of the rooms are done, but we still have some big projects to tackle. One bathroom is still untouched, sporting its 1980 wallpaper and broken acrylic shower stall. We are in the process of insulating and dry-walling one of the two large unfinished rooms, and still have one exterior door to replace.

The “Dog House” has essentially been flipped. It is beautiful, welcoming, and prettier than it was when it was new. We host weekly Bible Studies and it is a place of ministry. My daughter said, “You have flipped the “Dog “house. What do you get when you flip the word Dog? It is now the ‘God House!’” You can’t get any better than that!

Forget Me Not!

I hate forgetting passwords! Having multiple email accounts, ever changing passwords, and a hectic life makes for a cocktail of confusion whenever the rare quiet moment hits and I can write…only to find myself locked out again…and again…and again! I usually walk away in frustration but today I persevered and conquered the beast!

Now that I have recovered the proper formula, I am determined to do better.

For the handful who still “follow” me, I am not dead! I have finally surfaced from under the mountain of moving boxes and sawdust and all of the complexities of moving cross country.

Stay tuned. There is more to come, I promise!