I love this time of year! My giant family gets together, holidays provide an excellent excuse for me to spend hours making ridiculous amounts of food no one will ever finish eating, and I find it much easier to see gratitude around me. I drill it in my kids' heads that they have plenty for which they may feel grateful, but this year it's much easier than any other holiday season I can remember. We had Christmas in July.
We found ourselves looking for a new house last fall. The process of getting into and out of that situation could provide enough content for an entire season of bad soap opera, so I won't go there. I just knew I had to find a place I could afford in an area with schools I wanted my kids attending absent of cookie-cutter floor plans and throw in some real trees and neighbor kids. Piece of cake!
I looked at four houses. Then I found the perfect one! And a week later I made an offer on the ugliest, most neglected house I have probably ever seen sitting across the street. My parents thought I'd completely lost my mind, and the kids wanted to move into the "hide out" in the garage immediately. Three people told me I could do it--my realtor, a dear old friend, and my architect.
This isn't a DIY house project blog, although I would love to write that one too. This is about possibility and determination and friendship and showing up when a situation looks hopeless.
I had a plan, a mental picture of the end result, and a sledge hammer. What else could I possibly need? I didn't know it at the time, but I was going to need a few thousand miracles to get it done. And I got every single one.
The kids and I spent evenings pulling up parquet, chipping out tile, and knocking holes in walls. I gave Nate a sledge hammer and told him to go make a hole in the paneling in the den so I could see if there was sheetrock behind it. He looked at me like I'd surely lost my mind because he was pretty sure holes in the walls were on the Things I'm Not Supposed To Do List. So when I told him to go for it, he grabbed a Sharpie and drew a target.
As I started to share my plans with my family and a few friends, the ominous looks became increasingly frequent. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" Not exactly, but I knew it would work out.
And it did. I'm sitting in my new living room sans parquet, awful track lighting, a few walls, and nasty paneling this morning thinking about how the walls are full of love, selflessness, and a heaping cup-runneth-over kind of gratitude because I know there's no way I could've pulled this off without the people who pitched in when I needed help and made this place happen.
I will never forget the look on the guy's face at Home Depot when a co-worker and I picked up a bath tub during lunch one day wearing skirts and heels, we moved that sucker off the shelf, to the check out, into her SUV, and through my back door. I couldn't have pulled down all of the walls without a life-saver of a friend who crawled under and over this place to make sure the trusses would hold the roof. I couldn't have painted the 12 coats of paint on every wall and ceiling without my mom, my great aunt, and my brother who are still looking for their t-shirts that say "My sister renovated a house and all I got is this lousy t-shirt." And I still wouldn't know the front of the house had a stone facade if my dad hadn't have come over with two hedge trimmers as soon as I closed on this place. No exaggeration! It looked like color-blind Tarzan had been squatting in this place with a secret evil plan to unleash the mosquitoes he was breeding in the overgrown flower beds in an attempt to take over the world.
And that's not even close to the long list of people who showed up exactly when I needed something or someone to move forward.
Was I nuts? Maybe. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. See, I had no idea how many people here loved and cared about me enough to give up a weekend or significant amounts of blood to help me out. When I look around this place, I don't see just walls with new crown moulding or gorgeous new wood floors--I see the people in my life who showed up for me and my kids when we desperately needed their help and didn't even realize it.
I've always been one to point out to my kids how much they have to appreciate because the world they are growing up in tells them the opposite. In reality, the worst day of their lives they will still be living like kings compared to most children in the world, and it's important to me that they understand that. They don't, but someday they will. But I can promise you they take very good care of their house because they know how much hard work THEY put into building it.
So I'm beyond grateful this Thanksgiving week--not only for a fun house in an amazing neighborhood with kids we love running all over the place, but also for the knowledge that love, friendship, sacrifice, and a lot of great stories live in these walls. I'm so thankful that I live in a constant reminder that I'm not in this all by myself. And that is plenty!
This year, I'll look around the table and see people who aren't just family and friends, but those pivotal people in my life who hold me up when I can't do it.