Fireplace whitewash

I decided, before I went to bed last night, that I’d do all kinds of cool home-improvement type stuff while The Husband was at work today— maybe tear out the nasty shower doors in the guest bathroom, whitewash the fireplace, organize…stuff.

And then, I woke up. After noon. Oops.

So, I put a load of clothes in the wash and then the perfunctory facebook check… which lead to lots of Pentatonix-watching on YouTube all the way up to the time when Joel got home. Zero painting or organizing or demolition. The Husband, being the handy guy that he is, headed outside (after working—on a Saturday!) to pull weeds and chop down tree branches and whatnot. I felt guilty for sitting on my butt, even though snippets of Britain’s Got Talent was fascinating.

Whitewashing the fireplace seemed to be the most satisfying venture out of the available possibilities. Here’s what it looked like before:


This picture was taken at some point during Escrow. I’d admit—from the very first, I’ve hated this fireplace. I’m not a fan of wood burning stoves in the first place, and this giant hearth literally takes up a quarter of my living room. I have all kinds of (expensive) plans for knocking this beast out and installing a corner fire place, but for now, it’s got to stay.

When I first envisioned white washing this monstrosity, I found inspiration and tutorials all over pinterest. Mostly, I wanted my plain brick to gain some character, without being so whitewashed that it looked pink or…I dunno, washed out. Lots of tutorials suggested watering down latex paint to various degrees. The ones that seemed too white suggested one part water to one part paint, so I went with one part paint and two parts water.

I bought a sample jar of latex Cottage White from Valspar. The thing was under three dollars, which is awesome! I bought a little paint bucket too that had lines in increments of 4oz and used that. I poured the paint up the the 4oz line and then filled up to the 12oz line with water. Mix, mix, mix. And GO!


I started out trying to clean the brick with the same type of stuff you wash walls with before you paint, but I soon realized the futility of it. The fact is that brick just soaks up any moisture, and it was just as effective to wipe down the brick before I painted as it would be jumping through all kinds of hoops. Besides, if the paint flakes off later, it’ll just look more weathered and have more character. Yep.

The whole thing was really easy, if not a little awkward and very time consuming. Brush paint on half a dozen bricks or so, then go back with a rag and blot/rub out the brush marks. Half of my rag was wet (for smudging out lines that dried too much before I got to ’em) and the other half, dry. It worked really well, I think.


Oh—quick note: I stirred the paint pretty often. You could see it separating enough to look kinda swirly.

I’m telling you, the hardest part of this process for me was creating the randomness of it. My bricks aren’t as irregular as I’d like. They’re mostly smooth with fewer imperfections than is ideal, and this meant that unless I wanted them all to look the same, I’d have to do more paint in places than others, rubbing it off or allowing it build up. That’s where the wet rag came in: if things started to look too uniform, I just went back and rubbed around a bit.


Isn’t she pretty? I didn’t do the base. Why? Because my arms are tired. And the base is dirtier than the walls and top, so I’ll have to really wipe it all down first. I’ve got plenty of my paint sample left, so I won’t have to buy any more. 🙂 And if I slack off and never get it done, well…that’s okay too. 🙂

What do you think about the paint swatch, here? Is it a go? I want the wall to be kind of a silvery color. This has got a bit of green in it: paintswatch


What is escrow?

So, The Swan House is finally, really ours.

The escrow process was excruciating. For those of you who may not know, escrow is the part of a legally binding transaction where a trusted third party is contracted to manage documentation and the transfer of funds between two (or more) parties of differing interests. In real estate specifically, escrow ensures

  • a contract regarding the condition, sale, and transfer of property is established and adhered to by all parties involved,
  • that funds for the purchase of said property is transferred from the buyer(s) to the seller(s), and
  • that titles and deeds (is there a difference?) are transferred to the appropriate party/parties and publicly recorded.

All of that is to say that escrow is around to make sure the sellers get what they want, the buyer gets what they want, that at the end of the day it’s all legally binding, everyone is (more or less) happy, and that it’s all a matter of public record. It’s…extraordinarily complicated. Incidentally, escrow is also the cause for the deforestation of the world’s rain forests. I’m positive our relatively short escrow period consumed several reams of paper.

There’s tons I don’t know about escrow (I was confused for most of the process, let’s be honest) and I’m sure it involves a lot more than what I’ve listed above. If you want to know more, Google it. Wikipedia isn’t entirely reliable, of course, but this wiki article helped me get some understanding of the process that caused me to lose sleep at night and time at work.

I’m told our escrow was relatively painless compared to what it might have been. There wasn’t any litigation and besides the need for a couple of extensions due to repairs that had to be done, most everything happened on schedule. The problems we did have were due to dealing with government agencies (The Swan House was a Fannie May foreclosure and our loan was funded by the USDA) and the fact that the company that did our escrow work is over 300 miles away. Escrow and Title is usually something that happens locally; it’s just easier to do business face to face. Instead, we were all communicating via e-mail with people we’d never met and who, really, could care less about our case. Their caseload priorities were established upon the nearest close date and up to the very end, we weren’t high priority at all. When we were down to the wire, trying to close, it became a mad-scramble to get things done last second because they just didn’t prepare in advance.

It felt messy. We felt like things were completely out of our control because honestly—government agencies can do whatever they want, even if that means disregarding the contract that is supposed to be legally binding. There were times we felt neglected and taken advantage of. In the end, it all worked out—we got our house, everything was paid for, and we didn’t end up spending too much more than we expected.

Don’t get me wrong. Not everything went belly up. Our real estate agent, Sue, was amazing and fought for us every step of the way (I think she might have mafia connections, actually). She explained every bit of the process to us newbs, and looked out for our best interests. Our mortgage broker, Darryl, made sure that our loan file was pristine so that the underwriters and USDA had everything they needed to establish our loan.

(I still think these people are mad for loaning us this kind of money. Mad, I tell you.)

It was all so stressful. It’s amazing how life events reveal things about who we are in truth; Joel and I learned that we suffer from temporary bipolar disorder under extreme stress. TBD. Similar to SBD…but different. We said bad words, thought bad thoughts, and honestly considered telling the bank to take their foreclosed house and shove it in a very uncomfortable place on several occasions. In the end, it all worked out and God gets the ultimate praise for it. Finally, The Swan House is in our names and we have her keys.

Time to get our DIY on.

Joel started today by replacing the locks on all the exterior doors. He did such a good job. 🙂 The doors will eventually be replaced, but at least we know we’ll be safe and sound behind our dingy, dented doors—doors that we own. It’s legit.



The House on Swan Lane

Sometimes it’s difficult to believe how stark the contrast can be from one moment to the next—how life can change in an instant, in the time it takes to blink.

Sally Sparrow agrees with me.

Sally Sparrow agrees with me.

It’s been a little over a hundred days since the last I posted on blackfield. What has changed, you say? Only everything! We’re buying a house—a very, very, very fine house. Erm, there won’t be two cats in the yard (far as I know, anyway), and I can’t remember the other lyrics to that song so I can’t tell you how else The House on Swan Lane differs, but I’m guessing it does in some insignificant way.

I ramble. Never mind.

The point is that we hadn’t planned on buying a house. I mean, at one time, when we were newly-ish married and reasonably-sized houses in the area were priced at around 500,000 dollars, we had despaired of the possibility. Then, either as a coping mechanism or the realization that owning a home was a terrifying responsibility (no, really), we decided we weren’t really interested in buying; we’d be completely content to rent (I rhyme!) for the rest of our days. It really didn’t seem like such a bad deal—I mean, you pay your rent and when something breaks, someone else pays to fix it as long as whatever wasn’t your fault to begin with. With the minor stuff, the husband does the work (which is awesome and sexy…very useful) and we don’t have to deal with the landlords at all. No big deal.

A few years later, when the housing market imploded and real estate prices were dropping like the sky was falling, still—this did not inspire in us the desire to own a home. We were in quite a bit of debt (not so much we couldn’t pay the bills, but enough that we had little-to-no margin) and we quite honestly couldn’t imagine that any sane bank would be willing to loan us any significant amount of money after so many financial institutions struggled under the fallout of high-risk loans gone wrong.

It wasn’t until we began to be very frustrated with living in a condo attached to other people’s homes that we reconsidered our position.

One day at work, a friend of mine began to talk about re-financing her home. She said that over the course of her 15 year term loan, she saved a whopping $200,000. My eyes bugged out, of course, and I wanted to know how all that worked. I didn’t know anything at all about interest rates, you see, and how they are lower now than they have been since just after the great depression. All I knew was that 18% interest rates on my credit card means that I paid a lot more than 500 bucks for that camera I couldn’t wait to save up for back in 2003—the camera that I don’t even have anymore.

To make a very long story a little bit shorter—the bottom line is that I got tired of paying a thousand bucks a month for a two bedroom shoe box I hate living in when I could pay a couple (okay, a little more than a couple) hundred bucks extra for a three bedroom house with a garage and a yard that I’d OWN, with money loaned nearly for free at 3.5% interest.

(It’s not free of course; we’re still talking in the hundreds of thousands paid in interest, but still—that’s nothing compared to what we’d owe at 5% or 7 or 8.)

So, we’ve done everything we can to pay off debt. We found an amazing real-estate agent and a mortgage broker guy that works hard for us. We found a house we love and Escrow has nearly closed on the deal. The place has so, so much potential and it’s going to be fabulous. In the coming months (and years, probably), I hope to share with all of you the process of making The Swan House a home. Sound good to you?




In the spirit of consistency, I’m here again. Yay!

I had the opportunity to eat dinner with the lovely Renee and Trena at Odyssey tonight. I wish now that I had taken a photo of our time together (or of the food, at least), but alas, it slipped my mind. It was wonderful, though, to sit and listen to mature women talk about raising kids, about home-making and home-owning, about financial planning and security. These are things I’m sorry to say are somewhat foreign to me. I didn’t grow up prioritizing much of anything—mostly, life was day to day, taking it one step at a time, accepting what life hands you. In some ways, that lifestyle has made me flexible and easy-going; it’s easy to roll with the punches when that’s all you’ve ever done. I didn’t have a savings account, or a five-year plan, or long and short term goals. There was just today and then maybe tomorrow.

Now, as Joel and I diligently work toward the goal of debt-free living and the light is (sort of) shining at the end of the tunnel, I realize that there’s a whole world of possibilities out there, and responsibilities, too. Owning the home that we live in makes all kinds of financial sense, though to be honest, the idea of being staked to a single place on the planet indefinitely terrifies me. I’ve lived in this little-ish town for the last 20 years, and just the fact that I could go somewhere else if I wanted helps me to get through the days when I feel trapped, like I’ll never be able to escape this place. It isn’t that I hate it here, quite to the contrary! I love my friends, my family, and my church more than I can possibly express. Still, there are times when I long for rain and green and rocky northwest shores and I wonder…and long.

“Those times” tend to coincide with triple digit temperatures.

Anyway. The point is that I’ve come to the realization that I(we) have to change how we think about time and money and planning. There’s something to be said, I suppose, for going with the flow, but…I’m a grown-up now, and I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck anymore. There are things I want of course, material things, but mostly I long for the freedom to be generous. I want to know that I’m blessing God with how my money is used. I want to be intentional about how it’s spent, not constantly making decisions pertaining to the future based on how I’ve spent money in the past. Maybe that means buying a house, or adopting, or tithing 20, 30, 40% of my income. I kind of hope it means all of those things, one day…

And, I wouldn’t mind maintaining my Starbucks habit.



I’m feeling it— the IPNYS. The Inevitable Post New Year’s Slump (and I apostrophized [do you like that? I think just made it up…or maybe it already exists] that because it’s a reference to New Year’s Eve, not bad grammar, thankyouverymuch).

I feel melancholy. I don’t know if it’s because my depression pops up for short stints on days that I least expect it for no discernible reason, or if it’s just that I’m missing the holidays and want them back. It’s frustrating, because when I feel like this, I want quiet and solitude and it feels as though I’d crawl out of my own skin to get it—through sarcastic, mean, nasty, and violent means, if necessary. It’s not a happy way to be for anyone involved. I just want to be left alone—something that is not conducive to a happy marriage when my happy spouse loves to whistle and sing and cuddle and watch TV. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s wonderful, and I know this. I do. On any other day, I’d welcome and cherish it.

It’s just that today, I’ve just got my bitch eyeliner on. It’s the makeup I wear when I want to surreptitiously communicate that I’m not in the mood to deal with people’s…happiness. It’s like a blinking neon sign that floats over my head if you see it for what it is. I’ve never really mentioned the causality of that before, so…there you go. Now you can run for cover when necessary.

On days like this, I’ve got a startlingly low level of self-control when it comes to what proceeds from my mouth, and I hate it. I want to be kind. I want to make Joel laugh and just enjoy life. Instead, I feel frustrated with the futility of everything. I become a dog-kicker. Not literally, of course.

I don’t have a dog.

Not many of you are aware that I experience this regularly—or perhaps, if I am worse at controlling myself than I think, all of you know. I’m disinclined to care at the moment, which I know for a fact is temporary(ephemeral). I do care. Just…ignore me and file all of this away in your “things I’ve learned about Keri that I’d rather not think about” file. In the meantime, I’ll make a concerted effort to feel comforted by getting this all out on “paper” and move on.

Which brings us to my Life Journal.

I’m a few days behind, which I am, at present, attempting to rectify. I’ve just finished Wednesday’s reading and I wanted to post this before I move on to the rest. I’m determined to catch up before today becomes Sunday.

The Weakness of Another

Selected Scripture:

“Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.”

-Genesis 9:20-23

Observation and Application:

Ham (maybe he was mean because of his terrible name) was happy to capitalize upon his father’s weakness by making a joke of his (sinful)condition and exploiting it. Maybe he was hoping to garner his brothers’ favor by making them laugh, probably hoping they’d agree with him since he (Ham) was the youngest and likely to hold the least esteem. Maybe Ham had suffered some insult or injury at the hand of his father and simply wanted revenge by making him look bad (Noah certainly demonstrated an ability to do that on his own).

Whatever it was, Ham’s decision did more to show the quality of his own character than that of Noah’s, which is something I need to remember when faced with the unsavory behavior of those close to me.

It isn’t that Shem and Japheth did the right thing by simply covering up their father’s problem; certainly, no good comes of ignoring sin or counting a man sinless just because they’re your elder. For the purposes of this entry, I’ll set that issue aside; I don’t intend to conjecture upon what should be done in the aftermath of such shameful behavior, rather, what I need to focus on today is that it’s never okay to openly expose the weakness of a person for the sake of elevating your own status. In protecting their father from disgrace, the two righteous brothers went so far as to protect Noah’s disgrace even from their own eyes. They could have gone barging into the tent; they could have thrown a blanket over him and beat a hasty retreat. That’s probably what I would have done, and I don’t think there would have been any sin in that. The point, I think, is that they went to extreme measures to keep Noah’s fall from grace on the down-low. The respect they held for their father was clearly evidenced, and what they had to gain from his fall entered nowhere into the equation.

I was talking to Joel yesterday, just before dinner, about a mild conflict I had experienced with a member of my team at work. I shared in lengthy detail about the nature of this person’s failings related to the particular conflict, how I was frustrated about various aspects of this person’s character and personality…you know, generally ranting and venting about things I’d no right to think or feel, let alone say.

Just as I had run out of steam, Joel had finished washing his hands so that we could have dinner. We were standing in the kitchen, holding hands, and he began to say grace. I honestly have no idea whatsoever what he said beyond giving thanks for the food because I was immediately struck with the truth of what I had done. Here I was, literally standing before the Father, and it occurred to me that I would never have possessed the courage to say to Him what I had just vomited all over my husband. Just like the Accuser of the Brethren, I had exercised what I perceived to be my right to expose the weaknesses of this person just because I had been annoyed and frustrated with how his mistakes (and subsequent denial of those mistakes) had affected me. Oughtn’t I to have more grace than the Accuser?

It’s humbling (and terrifying) to see one’s self in that sort of light, and to realize that you’re like the enemy of God on any level. Suffice it to say: I’m learning my lesson. Next time you hear me complaining about the failings of someone, just give me a little slap. Well, maybe not, but you know what I mean.

New Year’s Stuff.

Happy New Year!

How was 2011? Good? Bad? Meh?

Mine was…well, better than 2010, and that’s good enough for me.

We’ve seen the beginning of God’s amazing work in healing PRCC after the passing of our beloved founding pastor, Greg Ellis, into glory. New life is blooming under the pastoral care of our new shepherd, Shawn Penn, and it’s wonderful to see our sanctuary filling up again. I love my church family—every single member—and I look forward to walking with all of you into His will.

I’m almost fully recovered from a long stretch of debilitating depression that lasted nearly two years, and I think my marriage is beginning to recover from that, too.

I’m a different person than I was; it’s amazing how protracted grief can change who you are. I’m no longer as loud and boisterous and outgoing as I used to be, and while some of you might wonder how that’s even remotely possible, those who have known me for awhile see the truth in that. I enjoy solitude and long for peace and quiet in my free time, and I’m beginning to learn how to be a gentle and quiet spirit. I’m still a long way from that, mind you, but I’m closer than ever I was before.

I’m worse at keeping in touch with people than I used to be, though, and I see how this is a serious problem I’ll need to face in 2012. I can’t be a good daughter/sister/friend/group leader if I never return phone calls and texts. What started out as “just wanting to be left alone to my own devices/misery” has become a negligence I can’t justify. So, if you’ve been on the receiving end of this, I want you to know: I’m trying hard to be better. Habits caused (and reinforced) by emotional distress are really, really hard to break, and I’ve never been good at intentionally changing anything about myself. Well, unless you count my hair color or the number of holes in my face.

All in all, I’m looking forward to who I’ll become this year: a better wife, friend, employee, group leader, and christian. Tall order.

I’m hoping to finally beat menometrorrhagia, or at the last resort, have my freaking uterus cut out. Six plus years of almost constant bleeding and countless trips to numerous doctors has me begging for a solution—just about any solution. Hemorrhaging, missed work, and trips to the ER are so last year. I’d rather forget all of that in 2012. I think I can honestly say I’d be okay with not having biological children as long as this mystery bleeding stops, and conversations with my husband about adoption are happening more frequently than ever. Bring it on.

Joel and I officially became God parents to some of the most amazing kids on the planet in 2011, and while the prospect of losing our best friends and suddenly  becoming parents to four grieving kids is absolutely terrifying, we are both humbled and pleased to have the honor. Dave? Krissy? You’re not allowed to die, okay?

From left to right: Bethany(4), Joel, Keri(me!), my nephew Joe(5), Elaina (10), Aaron(13), Sara(7), Dave, and Krissy.

These people, and so many more, are dear to Joel and I. They truly are family, and I can’t wait to see what the new year will do for all of us.

It’s gonna be so great.

Good morning! / Morning is a relative term

It’s not quite morning any more, but it’s my day(week) off and I got out of bed late. Anything that happens before breakfast is “morning.” So there.

I haven’t gone anywhere today; in fact, I’m still wearing my pajamas (more or less). My hair doesn’t look too aberrant, though I’ll admit I haven’t brushed it. I’m sure I’ve got nasty breath and I’m still wearing the socks I had on yesterday. The point is, I haven’t done much more than get out of bed and there hasn’t been much opportunity for sin. I’ve somehow managed to muck things up already, though, so here it is:

I am hideously selfish with my time.

Every now and then, I’ll receive a text from a friend or family member (like I did this morning) who wants to drop by or hang out. To be completely honest, I don’t want to go anywhere or hang out with anyone a majority of the time, particularly if I’ve managed to have the house to myself. It’s certainly an introverted way to be, and those of you that have known me for the better part of a decade or more will be surprised at the hermit tendencies I’ve developed in recent years.

(Incidentally, I’d be interested to hear what any of you think about permanent personality change in the wake of extreme emotion over prolonged periods of time, like severe depression or even joy.)

Anyway, what happens more often than not is that I hurt the people I deeply care about by acting like I haven’t the time for them. I am busy, it’s true, but not so busy that there aren’t spare moments for the people I love. I’ve never been good with balance—knowing how to give only as much as I receive so I’m not feeling wasted(dessicated,decimated) at the end of the day. I end up feeling like I couldn’t possibly give more, even if my offering has been a pittance compared to another’s. Time, energy, ministry—it all requires something of a person to give these things, and I suppose it’s been a long time since I felt I possessed the reserve and courage necessary to pour myself out for anyone but myself and my husband.

Not to mention I’m a lazy bastard.

So, how to fix it?

The answer is so obvious to the believer—cookie cutter perhaps, even if it’s totally contrary to how the rest of the world works. I’ve got to be filled before I can give, and that will require time and commitment on my part, not more free time and rest. It’s gonna take just…fellowshipping with Him(mind the capital h) so that I can receive the fulness of what I need.

It’s not always easy for me to wrap my mind around the idea that the Father’s economy isn’t always intuitive, however absolutely true it is. A day has got to come when I realize I am the least important person there is.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:1-8, Contemporary English Version

Not sure if I’m brave enough/ HONESTY.

So, I’m talking with my brother just now…telling him about this blog and what I want it to be.

My intentions started out simply enough; my friend Kim asked if I journaled about my experience with “infertility” (I only put it in quotes because it’s an ugly thing to name for real). She suggested that I need an outlet. I don’t know that it ever really occurred to me that I should—journal, that is. All my rage and confusion and hurt exists whether or not I let it outside of me, and the way that I bleed isn’t something most are comfortable with hearing about. Never mind the fact that I tend to hide the extent of my suffering (I hate defining it as such) from my husband because I know he hurts, too. I don’t want to add to his burden.

It occurs to me that we’re honest to varying degrees with the various people we encounter. I tell the ladies in my group things about my struggles that I may not tell my husband or other close friends. I abstain from sharing certain preferences or aspects of my personality with members of my church family because I fear their judgement where I am completely open with non-believers or believers I know to be more accepting. Does that make me a hypocrite? Two-faced?

I don’t really know.

I’ve never seen it as dishonesty; the fact of the matter is that some people’s ability to love a person is based on what they are willing or unwilling to accept, and if you want to have a relationship with some individuals, you must (to some extent) be what they expect you to be. Some souls, braver than I, are unwilling to compromise. Is that truly possible, though, when you want to live at peace with all people? I’m not talking about major sin here—I’m talking about dyeing your hair or saying “shit” instead of “shoot” or having a tattoo.

I love tattoos. This is a subject at the center of a great deal of controversy in the church and most believers in generations older than mine insist emphatically that it’s a sin to mark your skin in such a permanent way. I won’t go into why I disagree with this belief because it’s an age old debate, and theologians more brilliant than myself have defended my preference in ways better than I ever could.

Artists in all cultures on all continents for millennia have used their God given talent to give expression to faith, identity, and fidelity to one’s people. Those who wear this art on their skin are brave enough to say, “This is who I am. My identity will never be (can never be) hidden.” The assurance that requires! The absolute commitment to truth and honesty regarding the self is astounding and admirable, particularly if you’re religious and belong to a religious congregation of some kind, where not all your peers are of like mind.

…which brings me back to Blackfield.

The truth is that there are things I believe or have to say that members or my church family won’t agree with or appreciate, opinions that will be unpopular. I’m a group leader, and to be honest—I’m afraid of looking like the kid who doesn’t have it all together. What if they don’t want me to lead any more? Sometimes I use profanity; sometimes I’m too afraid to trust God; sometimes I indulge in things I know aren’t right. Those are things many believers do.

Most of us hide that, though.

So, here’s what I want Blackfield to be. I don’t know if I’m brave to wear my inside on the outside, but a blog won’t do anyone any good if it isn’t real—least of all me. I’m going to post my bible study snippets, I’m gonna wrestle with my life experience, and I’m just going to write my life.

It isn’t going to be pretty…but I’d like to think it’ll be real.