Real or Plastic?

In a lot of ways, this is my first “real” grown-up Christmas with the Dairy Man.

Last year we moved into our house a week before Christmas. For the next few weeks we could barely find our toothbrushes, much less decorate for the holidays. Our living room was a pile of piles and things were so chaotic and disorganized we almost forgot what time of the of year it was. Thankfully, a generous aunt and uncle let us borrow a fake tree from their attic and one of my mom’s coworkers donated a box of old ornaments. It wasn’t much, but this tree reminded us of Christmas, of family, of tradition.

I promise there’s a tree in there somewhere! And yes, we did nail sheets over our windows for a while.

Fast forward to this year. We’ve lived the farmhouse for almost 12 months and Christmas is just around the corner. We’ve painted, decorated, and put things away. The disorganized disaster we inhabited last December has become our home. Thus, it was time to get a tree.

The Dairy Man and I wrestled with a vital yuletide question newlyweds must ask themselves: are we real-tree-people or plastic-tree-people? Though we both like the idea of a real tree –the smell, the realistically green branches, the memories created whilst picking one out– we did not feel confident in our ability to …er… keep it alive. With the exception of the Dairy Man and Jersey the dog, I kill all living things I touch. I have neither the time nor the patience to remember to water things. Or, on the flip side, not to drown them. Our shrubs shrivel and our plants are plastic.

The Dairy Man isn’t much better. His horticultural successes are saved for the dairy. The corn thrives, but the hydrangeas suffer.

Clearly, the idea of chopping down a LIVE TREE and bringing it into our house gave us pause. My mind was nearly made up when I learned that you have to water the thing multiple times a day. Craziness. Though we loved the smell of pine and the idea of being real-tree-people, the reality was too cumbersome. Not to mention a fire hazard.

Someday we’ll have children. They’ll write Santa letters, craft ornaments out of popsicle sticks and glitter, and get a real tree. But that day is not today. This Christmas the Dairy Man and I welcomed a beautiful 7.5 foot fake Stanwick Pine into our lives and we’ve never been happier. I’ll admit we splurged a little to get the “real tree” look, but you can’t put a price on not having to crawl under a needle-riddled canopy with a watering can. It was worth every penny. And it’s gorgeous.

A handful of pine-scented candles takes care of the rest. Our house looks and smells like the holidays.

More than anything else, I feel thankful to be settled. After a few years of moving, moving, moving (from college house to parents’ house to apartment to our first house), I am finally home. When the Dairy Man and I sit on our couch and bask in the gentle glow of that realistic fake tree, we realize how far we’ve come.

Here’s to our first grown-up Christmas.

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Finding a Home

Not every little girl dreams of living in an old farmhouse.

Some little girls dream of wide open lofts, exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, sharp edges, chrome fixtures, and stainless steel appliances.

But sometimes that little girl may inadvertently marry a dairy farmer and find herself miles and miles from the nearest high-rise apartment building (and civilization in general).

Unlike many newlyweds, I didn’t have a choice when selecting our house. When you househunt with a dairy farmer, you buy a home that is either 1) on land he wants to own or 2) on a farm he wants to own.  The house is just an add-on, an extra; the real selling point for the farmer is the LAND. This was an impossible concept for me to grasp the first time I set foot in what would become our home.

Our house is many, many years older than I. The upstairs has no heat –apparently people in the olden days just slept under piles of blankets and raced downstairs in the morning to change—and the downstairs has no carpet. Originally the walls boasted wood paneling as far as the eye could see.

My first thought when I stepped into our future home was, “Oh Lord. It would be easier to just tear it down.” The house had been standing vacant for three years and it showed. There was a thin layer of dead bugs on the carpet; the water was yellow and smelled like rotten eggs; the wood paneling made the rooms feel dark and claustrophobic. At the end of the tour, I sat down on the dirty floor and cried. This house was not what I had pictured and I didn’t have the foggiest idea how to make it better. The Dairy Man tried to console me, but I hated this house.

I talked in a previous post about raining on the Dairy Man’s parade. Between you and me, it has happened a lot in these first few months of marriage as I try to adjust to all of the life changes. On the day I was weeping on the floor, lamenting the fact that I would be forced to live in this hellhole, the Dairy Man saw opportunity. He recognized the challenges that this old house posed (like um, hello, our refrigerator is in the wall), but he believed that it could be something great.

We would live in this house because it was ON the dairy. My Dairy Man could walk out the door and go to work. He could keep an eye on the cows and the employees at all times. I would see him more because he didn’t have to drive 10 minutes to the farm if something went wrong. This would be our home.

I couldn’t see any of those things at first. All I could see was the chicken wallpaper in the kitchen and the dark wood paneling. But this was going to be our home whether I liked it or not, so it was time to roll up my sleeves and stop complaining.

Home-ownership has proven to be a lot of work. My list of projects is a mile long and we’re not millionaires, people. But we were fortunate to have family and friends who helped us get things started. I’m so appreciative of all the wretched souls who spent hours at our house scouring bathtubs, scraping off wallpaper, sanding wood trim, painting walls, and making dozens of runs to the hardware store. The house will always be a work in progress, but we’ve come a long way.

This is not a home decorating blog. I don’t want that kind of pressure. We are poor newlyweds living in an old farmhouse. It’s better than it was, but it’s still not worthy of Martha Stewart. That being said, I am proud of the process we’ve made. This old house has come a long way. To prove myself, I wanted to share just a few before/after pictures of the rooms that are presentable.

Back entryway before:

Back entryway after:

Kitchen before:

Kitchen in-progress:

Living room before:

Living room after:

Bedroom before:

Bedroom after:

Little by little, things are getting better. Things are starting to look like “us.” For all its imperfections, the house is full of warmth and full of love.

This place has a long way to go, but I finally feel like I’m home.