Saturday, July 7, 2018

Part 4, Home Hill

What is it that makes one place more than another home to one?...I think it is compatibility.
Elizabeth Goudge,
from The Scent of Water

Have you ever fought for something really hard, trying to force open a door that stayed closed in your life, and then finally surrendered to it, accepting it only to find that the door soon opened with the slightest touch?

 [Home Hill]

That is what happened to me in my desire to come home to Tennessee.

[Our front porch, neglected so far but lots of potential,
gets the afternoon sun full force in summer.]

On September 7, 2016 while living in Florida I wrote in my journal, "Four of the loneliest months of my life...RH will pick me up this afternoon for a 3 o'clock appointment with our new dermatologist to see if this growth on my nose, near where the other cancer was, is malignant or not."

["Our" pond, actually our neighbor's but
he told us we were welcome to share it.]

That night I wrote that the doctor cut out from my nose what she said was a subcutaneous horn, most likely, from what she'd seen before, a malignant squamous cell one. 

[The view of the pond from our kitchen sink
entertains us daily. We've seen Canada geese
goslings born, mallard duck families,
a Great Blue Herron, large turtles.]

In three weeks I was to go back and discuss treatment after they received the pathologist report. 

[View from our kitchen window last spring.
The only thing there was a tree and a few things
previous homeowners had planted.
RH put a bird feeder by a pipe that stuck up from the
old well and some sunflowers sprouted.
We sat out in the grass last year and dreamed of having
a patio that I could sit on and watch our dogs play, a patio that
could be done inexpensively.]

I googled treatment and found that radiation or chemo usually followed this kind of cancer. I wrote: "Life on hold. Is this why we moved? For me to die in the sunshine state?"

[View from my kitchen sink now,
after all of RH's hard work.]

One week later I received a surprise call from the doctor's office. The pathologist report was back and showed that the growth was benign.

[Phase I: Now we have a beautiful patio in the shade,
done very inexpensively.
RH painted a garden table we've had for 40 years
and 4 chairs we've had for about 20 years
3 different shades of pretty green--
an idea I got from blog friend Tara Dillard.
Coffee in the morning and wine in the
evening taste better here than inside.]

I hugged Otis and Milo, crying and laughing, and called RH and then called or texted or emailed family and friends to tell them that prayers had been answered. 

[Free concrete tiles for the patio!
A customer at our family roofing and siding company
wanted these tiles removed from his roof that another company had
recently installed, to be replaced with the steel metal
shingles that we specialize in.
And he wanted us to get rid of them.
Recycling at its best and we love all the colors and striations in them.]

I thanked God for this answered prayer and vowed to accept where I was and be grateful for my life there in Florida.

[Phase II: An old cupola came to our garden for
a focal point instead of to the dump.
It covers the ugly pipe to the well.
RH and a son--our dear landlord--built a firm base for it
and laid out a small bed on each side for
perennials and herbs.]

Two weeks went by and I refused to let a single negative thought about Florida into my mind.

But on an October day that felt like July, RH came home from work and was very quiet. We sat outside on the back porch after supper and he told me that he missed living in Nashville.

He missed working with our sons there in the family business of 30 years. 

He asked me if I would still want to move back?

Would I? Is the pope Catholic?

[Phase III: The sand bed is ready to be tiled the same as the
small patio. RH is waiting for cooler weather for this 
large one, most of it in the sun.
Meanwhile the birds take sand baths in it,
something that is very cute to see.
BreeBree and James Mason are pursuing the pesky chipmunks.]

It took a village to move us back to Tennessee, just as it had moving us to Florida, and that village was family.

[The listing photo for the galley kitchen.]

It was a physical and financial drain on so many and I will always be grateful for the sacrifices our family made to help us come home. 

[It was obvious that the previous owners didn't do much cooking.
We do a lot of cooking, rarely eat out, and so we replaced the
refrigerator and range, and turned a coat closet into a pantry,
freeing up valuable kitchen cabinet space.]

You'll be glad to know that I won't write here any of the three months of my journal entries documenting each day that passed as we waited while our youngest son and daughter-in-law drove several times to Nashville looking for a house to buy for us and then went through the hours of paperwork required and inspection and finally the closing.

Yes, that's right, we have the sweetest
landlords ever!

[RH and his brother built the open shelving I wanted,
making all the corbels themselves, and the pretty rod and hooks
hold all our All-Clad and iron skillets,
freeing up even more kitchen cabinet space.]

Another son flew down to help load trucks and drive us back, and our daughter and son-in-law in Florida took time away from their jobs to drive vehicles also, then flying back home. 

[RH and I have learned to work very efficiently together in a
galley kitchen, even with two dachshunds under our feet.]

Meantime, work was being done on the house before we returned, a new dishwasher installed, a safer path for me to walk on outside and the bathtub being converted to a low step in, all for my safety.

[If you want to know what accessories I love,
then this sweet old picture and frame from Goodwill
should give you a clue.]

And the third son, our firstborn, brought his wife and sister-in-law here the day before we moved and spent a whole day cleaning the house from top to bottom.

Best family ever, right?

[My bedroom; the biggest project in here was tearing down a bad ceiling
and installing bead board. New ceiling moulding and a paint job.]

When we drove up the driveway to Home Hill in January, 2017 on one of the coldest days of the year, the yard and roof dusted with snow, I knew this 1935 farmhouse was home.

[My bedroom is not large but it is room enough
for me and two dachshunds and my reading chair.]

I was home. Otis and Milo were home. 

I was in love with a house again.

RH, not so much, not at first.

[RH's bedroom. The knotty pine walls and ceiling in here 
made all his western things look better than ever before.]

He was exhausted and he was cold and he wondered how we'd ever get by with one bathroom.

[My writing room. BreeBree is in there guarding it and
heaven help anyone who tries to come in except for her mommy
and James Mason. 11 pounds of dachshund can be ferocious.]

We sat down the night that all the family left, in the large room that was paneled in the beautiful wood boards that pre-dated the 1950s pine paneling in the Pickwick pattern that was in his bedroom and my writing room.

[The listing photo for the large room that much of our living is done in.
It was slightly underwhelming with its furniture lined up around the walls.
But I studied it for two months and knew exactly how it would work.]

No lamps were unpacked, no pictures, no mirrors, no books.
We were surrounded by cardboard boxes.

[Remember when I asked your help in naming this room?
Well, it became the dinning room, the breakfast room,
and the sitting room, depending on which part we were in.
The harvest table, with both leaves in, seats 10 comfortably,
12 in a pinch. All we have to do is pull it out from the sofa back.
The breakfast table is over by the red curtains.]

I told him, "Give me a month. I promise you that in a month you'll think it's pretty and cozy...

[This red leather Ethan Allen sofa that we ordered 14 years ago
will last us our lifetime. We love it as much now as we did when
it was brand new. 
The black and white ticking Ralph Lauren pillows are 14 years old too.
I simply turned them inside out to hide the ruffles when we moved here
because this is not a froufrou house.
The blue and green 100% wool hooked rug was $19.99 at Goodwill and I stood guard
over it until RH arrived to put it in our basket. It suits the house
better than the braided rugs I first thought the house would need.]

Let me get our things unpacked and lamps around and curtains and mirrors hung, I told him, and you will love it...

[Mirrors helped tremendously, 2 large ones, 1 medium one and 2 small ones.
All in one large room.
A storm door installed both here and in the kitchen let in even more light.]

I promise you," I said.

Guess what? Now we both love this house!

And we hope you like it too.

Most of you know that we lost our dear dachshunds Milo and Otis to leptospirosis last fall. We thought we'd never recover from losing them. And we didn't. But we went on to adopt BreeBree and James Mason and discovered once again that we are dachshund people. 

A house is just not a home to us without a dachshund or two in it. 

I know that many of you understand that. And I think that those of you who have visited here since our days at Valley View and saw the old 1920 farmhouse we lived in there can easily understand why I felt like I was coming home when we moved into this old cottage on a hill that at one time was the only house around for miles.

It was a little unappreciated by the previous owners, I thought, but had so much potential. Now when I walk around and see all that we have done in the house and RH outside in the 2 1/2 acres, I wish they could see it, see what a little loving and care did for their old house. 

And I know that the very first owners, the farmer and his wife that built this sweet cottage back in 1935, would be pleased to see that it was still being loved today.

She had loved it at first sight; and now, as it companioned her day by day, she made her impress on it as it made its mark on her. She fitted into it as a body slips into a new and shapely garment made to measure, and went on her way warmed and protected and subtly changed. For it altered her, as a garment can alter personality, giving fresh confidence.
Elizabeth Goudge in 1939's story of a woman
and her house,
The Middle Window


  1. You seem to have found the perfect cosy home. With all your books and your dachshunds, I would feel right at home. Our friends just returned from Germany and brought us a plaque that says in German "A home is not a home without a dachshund to love." I'm so glad that you found a home to give you
    joy in a place where you belong.

    1. I love your dachshund plaque! Our daughter gave me a chalkboard dachshund for my birthday that all my family signed. I won't erase them! Give your dachshund a kiss for me, she's a girl, I think?

  2. Dewena, I love your happy ending. It is obvious that Home Hill is where your heart has always been. We are do-it-yourselfers, too, and the work you and RJ and your family put into your backyard makes it all the more your own. What a beautiful job they've done. Your house is sooo cozy and I bet whoever enters feels like they are getting a big, warm hug. Wishing you many happy years there!

    1. Thank you, Karen! Our long road did lead home! I'm so thankful for that.

  3. I'm sitting here with no words. none that seem good enough. because you are talking about so much more than just finding a house. this is the essence of making a HOME. and restoring souls. and faith. and family.
    and it's beautiful. in every way. everything fits. because it knows its important place in your life. your LIVES. I'm so happy for you. truly bone~happy! and wow. well look. even though they're not good enough I had words anyhow! LOL XOXO

    1. Thank you, Tam, I know how much you wanted this for us. Thanks for being there in the trenches with me all that time!

  4. So glad to read this post of your taking a house and making it your forever home. I like the patio work outside also, a wonderful use of those old roof tiles. Your patio table and chairs look like a delightful place to sit and have coffee of a glass of wine.

    You have put your heart into your new home, using things that you have loved and enjoyed for years.

    Happy Summer for all of you ~ FlowerLady

    1. Thank you so much, Lorraine! The best things are the old things and the re-loved things, aren't they? Now if we can only get some roses growing here like the Flower Lady's!

  5. Oh, Deweena... how you write.

    1. Thank you, Mary Ann! But I write much too long posts and I promise the next few will be very short!

    2. Oh no, never too long! I think a lot of us like these long, detailed ones! :-)

    3. You are too kind, Melanie! But thank you so much.

  6. I enjoyed every word. I laughed so hard at "Is the Pope Catholic ?" LOL

    What a lovely story about your journey. Your patience, your love in each other and your faith.
    Thank you for sharing your photos with us, your home is lovely. I love the outdoor space.

    1. Thank you so much, Carla! And I'm glad you love the outdoor space, from a gardening wizard, that means a lot!

  7. Sometimes God leads us in a few different paths before we land on the right path in our lives. I am so happy you found your way back home and the family helped you so much. That is such a blessing. I know how much you missed Milo and Otis and I am happy you found love again in your heart for Bre and Mason. They have the best new mommy and daddy. Milo and Otis are smiling down that you once again now that you have found love again with Bre and Mason. I love your pretty home. Glad you feel at home now. You deserve this happiness and more in your life.

    1. Thank you, dear Kris. I too believe that Milo and Otis want their mommy and daddy to have dachshunds to love. We're so thankful to have these two in our home. They are a joy to see together, they are so bonded.

  8. I often wonder how to respond to your posts; you write so eloquently, so straight from the heart...I almost yearn to know you personally because you are so 'real', and I am positive you could lead me to a way of looking at life through my heart and soul. And following along my path with those feelings and insight.

    So much more to comment on, but above all, I am so, so happy you are finally home.

    Sending a warm hug,

    Jane x

    1. Jane, thank you so much for what you've written. I worried that this series might be too personal. It brought back a lot that I had tried to block out because when we moved here I didn't even want to think about what had happened. Stumbling across pictures of our time in FL made me realize that my story now doesn't make much sense without that included in it too.

      But the next few posts must be short and lighthearted!

  9. Quite simply, I love your home. It’s the home of a woman who knows what she likes, who scoffs at trends and embraces all that she loves, both materially and otherwise. Your use of color and pattern is perfectly executed, and it all comes together to create a warm and inviting space anyone would be thrilled to call home.

    You were meant to be there. In THAT home and in THAT yard. You rescued it and it rescued you. A true match made in heaven ❤️

    1. I'm smiling so big reading this, Doreen! I feel like Sally Field at the Oscars. Thank you, dear friend. I especially love the "you rescued it and it rescued you." You get it!

  10. These posts about home are like reading part of a well-loved novel. You have quite the knack for story-telling, my friend. I have gone over this post several times, just to catch all the details and bask in its loveliness.

    Your Nashville house and property definitely says home. It is comfortable and beautifully decorated with its pops of red and tons of coziness and full of personality. I am amazed by how much your family helped out. I love my family (well, most of them, lol) but they just don't help out like that. When Brian and I moved into this house 28 years ago, we moved ourselves - except for the help of one friend. Brian went to work the next day and I was left to unpack everything and get everything set up with a two-year old in tow and being 5 months pregnant. I ended up exhausting myself to the point of heavily vomiting and getting sick. Wasn't a pretty point in my life. Anyway...I do have one question for you: how do you keep your stainless steel sink so shiny? :-)

    1. Oh my, Melanie, that must have been terribly hard!

      I'm so glad you like my house. I love yours too! And in answer to your question, I stopped using commercial sink cleaners and now only use baking soda that I keep in a shaker jar with a few drops of Young Living Thieves essential oil in the middle and a drop or two of grapefruit oil. And then after I scrub and rinse that I just use vinegar to wipe down any water spots. Years ago I followed a method that used bleach and hot water and then cleansers and then windex. Yes it was shiny but at what cost to my lungs, right? My daughter-in-law taught me how to do this safe way.

  11. Look at that husband of yours, making a pie!!

    Well, you certainly got your reward, waiting for him to come around to the same feeling you had. What a loving response you had as a wife, to be patient with his dream, and to give thanks as best you could.

    Before my husband retired, he talked about moving to another state, to a place that would be strange and new, and probably not "me." When it was a possibility in the future, I just thought, "I'm sure I could live anywhere and be happy." But when he retired and was content to stay here, I was so relieved and thankful. Since becoming a widow not long after that, I am so, so, glad I am in my place that I have made ME over the decades, in the state where six generations of us have lived now, still near those of my old friends who haven't themselves moved away, etc. How hard that would have been, if we had recently moved to a faraway place when he became sick and died?

    Praise God, that you are back in your home territory and in such a lovely spot and house. It wasn't fun living as a refugee!

    1. Gretchen, I am very glad that you are in the "place that I have made ME over the decades"! But I know that you would have made any place into a home.

  12. Your new home is so colorful, cheerful, cozy and obviously filled with love. You are blessed to have such a giving family. Your children were raised by amazing parents! Can't help but think of the song from Hello, Dolly - "It's so nice to have you back where you belong!"

    1. Oh I love the Hello, Dolly song, Amy! Thank you for reminding me about it. And yes, our family is amazing!

  13. This is a true Love Story!
    I know this because I need more a Kleenex.

    1. Oh, Christine, that's so sweet, the only time I would want to bring tears to your eyes!

  14. You are truly blessed with a wonderful family.
    Home is where the heart is, and I feel you are finally home.
    My good wishes

    All the best Jan

    1. They are the best, Jan. RH and I are truly blessed.

  15. Beautifully written, Dewena. I love the captions under the photos and how you intertwined them with your story. I love the house and I know you do, too. Most of all I know you love being home again. Gosh, I love a happy ending!!

    1. Thank you, Kim. I love a happy ending too and am so thankful for ours!

  16. wow wow, what a great post and all - some how I lost your link when I changed blogs and saw it again over at Low Carb Diabetic. What a story - and how beautiful everyhthing looks. Congrats on that benign diagnosis. I will be back to catch up as I love the way you decorate and your family sounds so wonderful and supportive. A reflection of you as parents.

    1. Thank you, Sandy! And I've noticed that I have several blogs listed twice on my blogroll from when they've changed blog hosts, always afraid I'll delete the right one instead of the right one so I've just left them all there. Yours is probably one of them so I'll have to trace you down too!

  17. A lovely post with some lovely good news. I'm glad for your good health report. Glad you are back where you feel home. Wishing you many happy days and years ahead. xox

    1. Thank you, Brenda! And I appreciate the wishes so much. I actually had a bad report last summer for another large skin cancer but lab tests showed they got it all, for which I'm very thankful. Another checkup coming up this week so I will be glad to see what they say this year. Best to you!

  18. A person's health, certainly, is the most important thing in one's life. It is a gift. What a surprise, though, when your hubby told you that he wanted to move back to Tennessee - another present, one that you had secretly wanted for a while - to return to your beloved and beautiful mountains.

    Naming your new cottage 'Home Hill' is SPOT ON, Dewena! You have such a knack for finding exactly the right words for everything you describe, whether it be your thoughts, your feelings, or your surroundings.

    It is obvious that Home Hill is 'pretty and cozy', just as you promised RH, but more than that, it is 'YOU', since you customized it to fit your personalities, your needs and wants, as the wonderful excerpt illustrates.

    This may be Part 4, but as always, your talent for telling stories makes us hope for more!


    1. Thank you, dear Poppy, you know how much these sweet words mean to me. And thank you so much for always being along for the tough parts and the good parts. Love you bunches!

  19. I am so happy it came back negative!!! Health is a gift one cannot buy! I am also so very happy you finally home again at last. It is a beautiful home and love how you have made it your own. that red couch is the bomb! I am so grateful you found Home HIll's.

  20. This is such a heartfelt post. The pictures of your new home and your descriptions of it show how happy you are to be back in Tennessee. It is really where you belong. Your family is certainly the best to help you out so much. There are so many spots there that I love...the red sofa, the pond, the pineapple outside. You have truly made it yours. It was the right thing to leave Florida where you were not happy and come back home.
    I am so glad that health wise things worked out for you. I have had basal cell carcinoma on my scalp so I know things like that can be worrisome. Dewena, you just sounds so happy and I am so happy for you. And it’s nice you have the two furry kids to keep you company.

  21. I love your home and love seeing all the pictures...sure enjoyed this post! Wow!--all the changes you've looks so nice. And it looks SO SO SO WARM AND WELCOMING. I just love how you've arranged it all and how you've decorated. I also love the green of the outdoor table and chairs.....those look great. Actually, they do look brand new, don't they? I'm so glad you are happy in your heart with where you are MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE, doesn't it? I speak from experience too. Charleston has my heart and I don't ever intend to leave here. When you know where you're supposed to be, you just know, right?

  22. I know this four part series is old, but I'm catching up and I had to comment. I understand you so much, my dear friend. You brought tears to my eyes while I was reading and I kept nodding my head... Florida definitely didn't suit you. I'm so happy you found "home" and I hope you never have to leave it again.


RH and I love your comments! They are sent to my email for moderation first but I do hit publish as soon as I read them. A few commenters' comments are not sent to my email for some reason but I try to visit that section on my design page twice a day to see if they're hiding there so I can publish them. I went the first 3 years of blogging not knowing that was there and when I discovered it there were many pages of old comments that never got published. I was so embarrassed and contacted recent ones but hid in shame from those who had given up long ago.

In these busy days I appreciate so much when you take time to comment. Thank you so much!