“So let me get this straight….you just built this house exactly how you wanted it and now you’re going to sell it?”
It’s a question we get all of the time and, if I’m being honest, it’s a question I dread, because I’m never quite sure how to answer it.
It’s a hard one to explain because unless you’ve been lucky enough (haha, lucky…that might not be the best choice of words) to hear all of our thoughts and ponderings and considerations of alternatives over the last year and a half, I’m not sure how I can explain it in less than 30-minutes.
The answer we usually give is an enthusiastic “Yes! We’re dreaming of a farm!”
But that’s only part of the answer.
The full answer is so much more complicated than that.
I sit in the passenger seat while Collin drives. It’s mid morning, the boys are at his mom’s, and I’ve been cleared to leave work for a couple of hours. On the county road between our home and the place we are now staying, a semi pulls out in front of us; on his trailer is a backhoe.
“There he is.” Collin says to me.
My heart instantly starts racing and tears flood my vision. I’m not ready for this.
We follow the backhoe down these familiar back roads and I look up at Collin, “I feel like I’m in a funeral procession.”
The rig pulls into our driveway and we park as quickly as we can—we know Jim and he’s a no-bullshit kind of guy—there will be no lollygagging when the machine comes off that trailer, he’ll get right down to business, but before he does we want to pull the chest from Grandpa Bruske out of the basement. It’s heavily damaged, but with a little love we might be able to bring it back to life.
Collin wiggles through the broken out basement windows, and he and his dad somehow manage to pull the large antique piece of furniture out. Just as they set it down on the lawn we hear the first loud boom.
I stand motionless for several minutes. I had hoped for a moment of silence before this began, but that was not to be, we’re here and this is happening. Bundled in a gray hat and scarf that my mom rummaged out of her closet, my new (to me) Columbia jacket hangs open (my pregnant belly is just big enough to prevent me from zipping it). There is a thin layer of snow on the ground, and with each movement the backhoe leaves his mark on the earth. It’s cold and I’m so thankful that people have given me these items to wear.
Our house is tan, light brown in color, but the tops of the few remaining walls are scorched, charred black streaks run jig jagged down their upper portion—evidence of the hot, hot flames that ravaged the place just a few weeks earlier. I watch as the scoop of the machine raises high in the air and then comes crashing down on the very little that’s left of our first home. Cloth diapers spill out of the dresser that was still standing in our bedroom, bags of sweet corn and frozen apples appear in the wreckage from our freezer, and few pictures and pages of otherwise ruined books litter the walkway. It doesn’t take the backhoe very long….four large dumpsters later and life as we knew has been completely erased.
The fire took our home, our cat, and all of our personal belongings…but it did not take our hope.
We all survived, our dog survived, and the baby in my belly was showing no signs of distress. We took solace in these things and trusted that God had a bright future planned for us.
Over 2-lb burritos (no joke!) in a little restaurant downtown Collin and I decided that we would rebuild. We would rebuild our home and our life, bit by bit. I had a job that I loved, one that was steady and reliable, even if it required long hours. Collin’s work was less steady but came with more flexibility. The two were a perfect combination.
With the knowledge of what wasn’t working in the old house we rebuilt a home that works for us. When we started out we had no intention of building a “dream house” but we realize now that’s exactly what we did. We built our dream house. One that allows us plenty of space to entertain and enough room to raise three little (but soon enough big) boys. One that we could add more children to in the future if we wanted.
“We have a realtor coming to look at our house tonight.” Lori, our (amazing) cleaning lady had just gotten here and was rummaging through the supply cabinet.
“No! You are not moving…” and then her eyes brightened “you’re building a new house aren’t you?”
It took me several minutes but I gave her the shortened, condensed version of our long-winded story. I didn’t cry but the tears were right there, as they usually are, when I talk about this.
She looked at me with mothering eyes and shook her head “It’s okay.” She told me, “Plans change.”
She summed up in two words what we’ve been trying, but fumbling, to explain over the past several months.
We had no idea when we rebuilt our life around my income and Collin’s schedule that in the future I would no longer love my job—some days I wouldn’t even like it. I didn’t anticipate how much my heart would ache when I sent them off to school, for the first time in the care of someone other than family, and they would cling to me at drop off. If they were not all out crying there were always tears and fear in their eyes. They wanted nothing more then their Mama and I wanted nothing more than to whisper “I’ll be back soon, you’ll have fun.” But I couldn’t say that because I wouldn’t be back soon. It would be all day and into the evening before we would see each other again.With tears in everyone’s eyes, each morning I had to go, I had to pry them off of me so I could get to work. I had to leave the one (three) things that fuel me and give purpose to my days to go to the one thing that drains me, physically and mentally each day, and when I come home at night I am exhausted, I have nothing left in me to give.
We also had no idea that being the “default” parent would leave Collin unfulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, he is an amazing father who is so hands-on with the boys. He has more patience with them then I could ever dream of, but Collin is a workaholic. His drive and passion comes from working. When he comes home after a long day of physical labor, as tired as he may be, he gets down and plays with the boys, he helps with homework, he wrestles them and makes them laugh. He has even more to give because his days have been fueled by the thing he loves.
When we stepped back and took an honest look at our life it clearly screamed to us “What are you doing?? You’ve got this backwards!!”
But it’s not as easy as just switching places.
The hard truth is, we can’t have the life we dream of and also have the house of our dreams.
Mark came out last week. He is a long-time friend of Collin’s and has a passion for real estate. Nothing of what he told us came as a surprise: there isn’t a huge market for this type of house but there are specific buyers. I don’t want you to be discouraged, but this might not sell in one season. These are the things I think you should have done before listing it.
Despite this, we walked away feeling more encouraged than discouraged; we’ve always known the challenges we would face if we decided to sell. We were not thrown for a loop but instead felt confident that our initial thoughts were right on the mark. We felt good about our decision to have him come out and motivated by what he had to say.
Despite the generally good feelings we were having, that night as we put the boys to bed I started snapping at everyone.
“What’s wrong?” Collin asked me.
“I’m just stressed out. I’m stressed out.” I didn’t even try to make myself stay awake through the bedtime routine, I knew all I wanted in that moment was to go to sleep. I wanted my brain (and my heart) to stop thinking (and feeling).
I woke up at 4 am the next morning, up early to finish the boys’ Halloween costumes, I wrapped my robe around me and came out to the living room to stoke the fire. It was quiet and I was alone—I love this time in the morning. As I sat down on the couch I felt the first tear slip down my cheek, and before I knew it I was crying.
I wasn’t stressed, I was sad.
I love this house. I don’t want to leave it. Collin and his dad put all of their sweat and energy and love into building our first home and six years later put all of their sweat and energy and love into building our second home. This place, our house, our land, this spot on the earth that we’ve lived now for nine years is full of so many memories and joy and excitement. It’s also full of a lot of pain and difficulties and hurt, but it’s all of this combined that makes it so special. It’s all of these emotions entwined that makes me love this place so much.
I know which thing I want more—the shot at the life of our dreams or the house of our dreams—but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy choice to make.