Selected readings from Church Sweet Home

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

When in a pandemic, do everything at a social distance.

So it is with book launches.

Second only to an in-person reading inside our chome is a Facebook Live video of me reading passages from the memoir based on this blog, Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul.

If you’re interested in me or the memoir or the guy who made it all most of it happen, check out this impromptu event we hosted on Tuesday evening to celebrate the launch of the book:

 

The event was “public,” so I might be mistaken, but I don’t think you even have to be on Facebook to watch it. It’s about 15 minutes long.

I’m an indie author, which means I don’t have a publicist. I appreciate any love you have to share. If you’re a fan and a maven, that is “a trusted expert, who seeks to pass timely and relevant knowledge on to others,” I would love for you to share the video or any of the following with your friends and family:

And if you read the book and like it, please review it wherever you bought it and/or on Goodreads.

And not to worry, I’ll keep you apprised of goings on at Church Sweet Home right here. In fact, I’m headed out (wish me luck and good health!) to collect some info this very afternoon to share with you later. Have a great weekend!

 

 

What home means in a pandemic

When I created this blog almost two and half years ago, “Church Sweet Home” came to me immediately as a clever name that encapsulated our goals for the old church we’d purchased to turn into our home. We hoped to turn a church into our home, sweet home.

The tagline required a bit more rumination: a blog about transformation and sanctuary.

The transformation was obvious. I told the story of how we turned a 126-year-old religious structure into a cozy home. I chose the word “sanctuary” for its double meaning: the sanctuary of a church, where congregants worship, is considered sacred. And sanctuary means “a place of refuge or safety.”

Sanctuary seems all the more appropriate in a world riddled with COVID-19 where home truly is a place of safety.

“Home” always evokes warm, fuzzy feelings, wherever home might be. No wonder, home, sweet home is a saying. We’re always looking for home, making a home, just being ourselves at home, reminiscing about home or trying to go back home. Home represented love, comfort and security long before lethal viruses floated through bandana face masks sending us to the hospital to die horrible, lonely deaths.

But especially in a world where simply going out for groceries feels like you’re taking your life into your hands, home is a potent balm for fear. Home is the only place in the world where you can relax. And breathe. Literally, it’s safe to fill our lungs with the air at home. It might not even be safe to breathe out there.

The mission statement we used when reconstructing the old church stated, “We strive to create a comfortable sanctuary in the modern world, built solidly and maintained orderly.” That is, we wanted to make “a comfortable place of refuge.”

The colors and textures I used to decorate the interior expressively fulfilled this purpose. I avoided reds, oranges and yellows because warm colors bring to mind excitement and caution. Very few pieces of furniture in the church could be described as “modern,” because sleek and angular are anything but comfortable. Instead, you can find a lot of creams and grays in our home, and we have furry carpets, cozy throws and soft pillows everywhere.

But more than the physical, I also try to practice peace at home (whether I’m in a former church or not). My husband will tell you I fail to do this often (I never raise my voice!), but peace is always the goal in any case. Home should be an oasis, a shelter in the storm; it has to be in order to be a “sanctuary.”

peace banner
On a background of falling snowflakes. How could it be more peaceful?

During demolition, we unearthed a little quilted banner tucked in amongst the Christmas decorations. It said simply, “Peace” with an appliqued bell. It had a bell! I loved it then because it highlighted a unique feature of our structure, the belfry (and it was made by a former parishioner, so it was special). But it also reinforced the theme I wanted to convey with the church: it should be a place of peace.

During the past several weeks of self- and government-imposed isolation, I have found a lot of peace. But I’m an introvert who has worked at home for years and enjoys creating worlds in front of my computer. I can only imagine how chaotic it is at home for families who are crawling the walls, trying to work and learn together in a claustrophobic space. Or how insecure home feels when the cupboards are bare. Or how lonely home is when all you’ve got is yourself, a bunch of frozen dinners for one and a Netflix queue. For some, a home, even a warm and fuzzy one, has become a prison, even if it is a refuge from infection.

I’m praying for those folks. I’m praying home can be all the warm and fuzzy things the word represents, a sacred place of refuge.

CSH Book Front Cover Only# # #

My memoir based on this blog Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul comes out tomorrow. The paperback is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Find the ebook at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo.

Church Sweet Home becomes a book

I started this blog because I’m writer. Having already written three books and thousands of blog posts, I sensed I had a great story, no matter how it turned out, and it needed to be documented.

Without knowing how it would end, I chose the unconventional approach of a real-time-memoir with the intention of turning my blog posts into a book. I’ve spent months polishing my prose and having it professionally edited, and finally, the launch day for the book Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul is coming soon. Mark your calendar: May 5.

CSH Book Front Cover OnlyIf you’re here, reading this blog post, you’ve probably read most of the story and you sort of understand it all ends well. I have hundreds of loyal readers who cheered us on through months of dirty demolition and construction, and I am so grateful for the moral support you offered with nice comments and Facebook likes on so many nights we were exhausted and feeling sorry for ourselves. You helped pull us through.

You might be asking, why would I read this book if I followed the blog? Well, here are five reasons you might enjoy the book as much as you liked the blog:

  1. The book has an all-new prologue about abandoned churches.
  2. The story has a proper heart-warming ending.
  3. All the those annoying “our story so far” and “tomorrow” teasers are gone.
  4. You’ll find out how the real budget compares to the Tequila Budget.
  5. If you’re technically challenged or just too impatient to click through all the blog posts, you can page through the story easily and at your own pace.

I suppose you might know some people who would enjoy the story but aren’t blog readers. Voilà, a book is a nice gift for your friend.

So stay tuned for all the information you need to get yourself a paperback or ebook of Church Sweet Home in May.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to share updates about the renovation. I have a few in the archive, and we still have projects ahead of us.

Again, thanks for reading.

 

Shake that booty

As I pondered news to share here about progress we’ve made on the church, I realized I never shared before-and-after photos of the west side of the church.

This area of the old Methodist church received a lot of attention last summer when we sided the garage and finished repairs to the belfry.

Here’s how it looked “before” when that functional-but-less-than-pretty fire escape was still attached:

fire escape after new windows
This picture was taken after we replaced the windows. 

Note the distinctive architectural feature between the first- and second-story windows. After finding the original wooden shakes on the fluted portion of the belfry, Tyler suspected wooden shakes were also hidden beneath that aluminum siding on the west side. So he had You-Can-Call-Me-Al remove the siding, and behold, the original shakes.

west side revealed
Removing the aluminum siding revealed wooden shakes in the peak and between the windows.

The wood shakes were in pretty good condition, and we wondered why on earth they were ever concealed. They desperately needed paint. You-Can-Call-Me-Al replaced about 20 of them. Tyler rented an articulating boom to make the belfry repairs, and You-Can-Call-Me-Al also used it to fix and paint the west side.

west wide articulating boom
Useful tool, that articulating boom.

You-Can-Call-Me-Al painted the wooden shakes a similar color gray that we painted the stone foundation. Those century-old shakes soaked up the latex.

west wide after
A few pieces of white siding are missing on either side of the center fluted area in this picture (let’s be honest, in reality, too). Still, a huge improvement.

The west side turned out so well, we decided to copy the fluted peak and shakes on the new-construction garage, too.

west side garage match
Note the fluted peak of the garage. These shakes are a man-made substance manufacturered in rows, not individual wooden shakes like on the west side.

If you look carefully at the belfry, you’ll see the new spire. I’ll share more about the installation of that spire in a future post.

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CSH Book Front Cover OnlyIf you enjoy renovation stories or more specifically, this renovation story, mark your calendar. The book version of this blog, Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul, will be available May 5. Stay tuned for details.

Book review: Homebody gets the creative juices flowing

I found Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave to be filled with dozens of ideas I could implement in my home right now.

How to style my kitchen counters. The value of houseplants. Texture, texture, texture.

Home BodyI’m already a big fan of Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” fame, so I knew I would love her interior decorating book. But it was a little bit of a relief reading it, because I’ve already incorporated so many of her ideas in Church Sweet Home, and it would have been way to late to adopt a new design style now.

She begins by identifying a six different design styles and how they can be mixed to varying degrees in any type of house. From traditional farmhouse to modern condo (alas, no converted church). Then she walks through a house’s rooms and describes ways to design them as they are or redesign with a remodel. She even addresses pantries and laundry rooms!

Each room chapter begins with a look at that room in her own farmhouse, which is a big treat for any fan of “Fixer Upper.”

As much as I love this book, what amazes me is how some people hate it. Fifteen percent of reviews on Amazon are one- or two-star reviews. Their biggest complaint is about the lack of color in her design examples:

  • “The colors are all dull and boring.”
  • “Lots of pictures mostly white, black and gray decorating. Very boring after a few pages.”
  • “Devoid of color and filled with repetitive accessories and design motifs, it will be a very expensive mistake for anyone to try to copy her tips in their entirety without putting a brand on your house as 2015-2020.”

I’m a little bit mystified as to why people would buy Joanna Gaines’ book if they don’t like Joanna Gaines design style which was actively promoted on five seasons of “Fixer Upper,” through the Gaines’ online and bricks-and-mortar store Magnolia Market and at least a half-dozen product lines through major retailers like Target and furniture stores. How did these dolts miss it?

Besides, Joanna writes this in her introduction on how to use her book: “This part is really important: As you go through this book, remember that your home should be a reflection of you.”

Hello, if you like sunshine yellow and crimson red, your home should reflect that. Joanna Gaines likes black and white so naturally her home and the homes she designs reflect that. She creates cohesiveness by designing whole houses, not designing houses room by colorful room. It makes sense that she would use a limited color palette to tie the chapters of her book together, too.

(Plus, the book isn’t only black, white and beige. She’s got gold pillows and navy cabinets and red wool rugs on many pages, and because she decorates with plants, there’s green all over!)

Instead of using a rainbow of color, she uses a rainbow of other design tricks: “If you are sticking with a limited color palette, mix up your material choices to highlight interesting shapes and textures,” she writes.

Joanna Gaines likes rustic wood beams, jute rugs, canvas bedding and nubby pillows. Her interior design is interesting because of the shapes and textures. Not because of the color.

If you like a design style that edits its use of color and mixes up everything else, you will find lots of inspiration. I can hardly wait to apply some of her ideas to my space.