Going through all my photos for 2013, it is hard to believe we could pack so much into one year! Along with our usual activities like running in races, teaching English to refugees, visiting family, and traveling to watch Julie run, we had two additional major events. I will divide those into separate posts.
If you have not been around us for long, you may not be familiar with Friend Family Qualities. First, we hate to make decisions. Second, we are cautious when it comes to spending large amounts of money. Third, we don’t care to do home DIY projects.
So, when Gregg’s brother, Doug, asked if we wanted to buy a 113-year-old house in their hometown, you would think we’d just say, “um…no.” Instead, Doug gathered all the details, sent us tons of pictures, and in his wise, calm manner, talked us through making a decision.
Gregg has long dreamed of owning a house in his hometown, a small borough in the mountains of south west Pennsylvania. Sadly, once we were in a financial position to consider a second home, real estate prices had shot up, killing the dream. Yet, this house was affordable, and there was money set aside for such a time as this. We began getting excited about the possibility of going home more often and for longer periods of time.
The pièce de resistance was when we saw the kitchen window view. There are beautiful fields and mountains behind the house which captured our hearts immediately. I still find it hard to believe, we bought a house, sight unseen. Never would we have predicted doing something so “rash.”
At the end of March, we eagerly traveled 13 hours to see whether we had purchased a jewel or a disaster. Seeing beyond the cobwebs thick enough to rival Disney’s Haunted Mansion and other work that would need to be done, it was a perfect mountain home for us.
We hadn’t been in the house for more than 10 minutes when Doug and I had to know, were there hardwood floors under the carpet? YES! I was beside myself with excitement. Gregg, not so much, knowing that refinishing floors would be a lot of hard DIY work. Either way, the old, rippled carpet had to go ASAP.
We were also curious to see “the mystery room” upstairs which had been overlooked during the buying process. It is eleven feet long by seven feet wide and the window had been covered by siding. In 1900, residents of this home use an outhouse. When upgrading to indoor plumbing, a large bedroom gave up most of its floorspace for the new bathroom.
Speaking of which, on Sunday, we returned from church to find the upstairs bathroom had flooded the kitchen below. Welcome to ‘This Old House’ and the beginning of many DIY projects, many of which we accomplished in the first year.
We sanded and refinished the dining and living room floors, which delight my heart every time I see them. Niece, Emilee, and I tore out a shower in the mud room to make room for a washer and dryer.
I helped Gregg and Doug mix, pour, and smooth concrete between the road and sidewalk. This was helpful when the grass driveway was muddy or icy. Note to self: this is a job worth paying someone else to do.
Gregg found trash and treasures in the attic, basement, and two sheds, places this Florida girl avoided whenever possible. After we cut down bushes, I learned to identify and avoid poison ivy. Gregg boarded over the old well, caulked around the windows to keep out the frigid winter air, and I worked to make the house cozy.
We had fun, too. I became “the orphanage mom” to neighborhood children who played on our front porch. Gregg and I enjoyed a firepit we built, saw deer at dusk, ate lots of fresh-picked corn, ran on the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage rail trail), celebrated Julie’s high school graduation, saw Emilee run middle school cross country, and saw Julie run in her first college cross country meet.
Emilee and I made sock monkeys and tried to raise tadpoles. It was fun and fascinating to see their legs come out. I learned the hard way that at some point in becoming frogs, they need a place to get air in order to survive.
Our mountain home is a place where we receive a breath of fresh air. It helps us to survive.