The circus arrives without warning

Announcements, announcements, announcements:
A horrible way to die,
A horrible way to die,
A horrible way to talk to death,
A horrible way to die.
Announcements, announcements, announcements.

I think I learned this cheerful song at summer camp, but it might have been the Girl Scouts who taught it, I’m not sure. I also learned “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” in Girl Scouts, and now I know it’s not a song about ears. Trustworthy, indeed.

In any case, I have a couple of announcements. You may be dismissed if you’re not interested in talking to death.

First of all, our open house. I have told more than one visitor to the church we hoped to host an open house for former members of the church, our contractors and our neighbors on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

snowy church
Not a snowpocalypse. Yet.
Well, it’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and we’re not hosting an open house. In fact, we’re hosting a blizzard. Heavy flakes began falling just before 1 o’clock, and I would have been sick if I had tempted people out in this weather to see our church home. So, God was watching over our little project today, too, just as He has been all along.

We just aren’t ready to show off yet. The garage isn’t sided. Our entryway is unfinished. We haven’t even chosen cabinets for the walls on either side of the fireplace let alone installed them. I’ve hung only a handful of pictures. Pieces of furniture and our showplace rug are on order and probably won’t even arrive for entertaining at Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, I’m only half decorated for the holiday; we’re trying to locate a 12-foot tree that won’t cost us an arm and a leg.

And, of course, you saw the basement. Uff-da.

We still hope to host an open house, but probably not until spring (after the mud—can you imagine? On my white carpeting?). I’ll keep you posted, faithful readers.

And that brings us to announcement No. 2.

Exactly 361 days ago, I began this blog the day we closed our deal to buy the 126-year-old Methodist church. I have posted something—sometimes just a picture of my clever church sign—every day since then. In the blogging world, we call that dedication. I’ve impressed even myself.

But ever since we’ve moved in, I feel like I’m dragging out the memoir part of the story. At one time, I thought the open house would be the end of the story. But now I think move-in day is the end. Fortunately, with hundreds of blog entries, I have a lot of raw material to work with, and I’m going to have to do the hard work of crafting a satisfying ending. (I’ve done it three times before; I can do it again.)

So the memoir-in-progress is done.

But the story isn’t.

Church Sweet Home—the blog—will continue. Only I’m not going to write it in past tense, and the posts won’t be serialized anymore. No more “our story so far” and “tomorrow” teasers. Each entry will stand alone. I’ll show you our new thresholds, and the Hall of History photos and all our cool antique finds, and anything else having to do with Church Sweet Home.

But probably not a new post every day. If you’ve gotten this far in the horrible-way-to-die announcements, you’re what we call an avid fan. Thank goodness for you—your kind words and encouragement is what kept me going—and Tyler, too, some days. It’s nice to know someone cares. But I think most of my friends, or acquaintances anyway (Facebook lumps everyone together into the title “friend”), have long since hidden my posts about every last development at Church Sweet Home. Since we’ve rested on our laurels six weeks ago, there isn’t new news every day.

I should really get back to my other blogs anyway. There’s my blog about life in general as a Minnesota Transplant, my author blog and my blog about organizing photos; they deserve some love, too. I’ll still try to write something every day (because I’m a writer like that), it just won’t always appear here (feel free to subscribe to my other blogs, though—I love readers).

That brings us to the end of our announcements today. You’re a trooper, and I appreciate you. You are hereby dismissed.

# # #

Today’s headline is a line from Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus.” If you haven’t read it, you really should. It’s a magical story. Check out my book review here. In any case, here’s the full quote: “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

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Some of the best ideas come when you’re on vacation

Our story so far: My sister and her family paid us a visit, and after she praised all our hard work, I took the opportunity to show her how far we’d come with a before-and-after picture show.

# # #

Shortly after my sister and her family departed, Tyler sat down and relaxed for the first time in months. We both had long honeydew lists: Thresholds, paint jobs, trim work, furniture painting, decorating, missing screws, missing door knobs, furniture buying and more. I typed up my wish list for Tyler to do, and it was three pages long. On one hand, we were living in a semi-finished space.

church sign shape usOn the other hand, we had earned a break.

We planned a brief business vacation tied to a family wedding in Nashville, so we decided to make it a road trip. All that sitting around took a toll on Tyler. “Oh, my aching back” became his refrain. It was as if his body knew it finally had a chance to break down so it did.

And then we both came down with colds it took days to shake.

And then Thanksgiving came. And went.

The universe was giving us a message: Take it easy. The work will still be there when you’re ready to take it up again.

# # #

Tomorrow: An announcement. Or two. Read them here.

No matter how long you’ve traveled in the wrong direction, you can always turn around

Dear reader, we have taken a break from the memoir-in-progress to assess the accomplishments of the past year. My husband and I closed on the 126-year-old Methodist church just shy of a year ago, and the changes have been immense as regular readers have seen in the parade of before-and-after photos in the past week and a half. Whenever possible I used the same perspective in the “after” shot as I did long ago in the “before” so you really could see the transformation. We’ve seen all the good stuff by now. Today, I’m sharing a look at the “progress” in the basement.

basement before
When we purchase the church, the full basement with 10-foot ceilings looked like this. Many a church dinners must have been held down here, and not long before we took ownership, the local Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry was taking care of the hungry out of this space.
basement November 2018
The basement looks like a construction zone, paint booth and staging area today. The kitchen–gone. The paneling–gone. The suspended ceiling is long gone, and the tin ceiling hidden beneath it was carefully removed (some of it reused). Shiny new duct work has been run throughout. At some point this winter, we hope to transform this area as we have the rest of the church.

Tomorrow: Wack to bork. Or not. Read about it here.

Balcony scene

Dear reader, we’re taking a break from the memoir-in-progress to assess the accomplishments of the past year. My husband and I closed on the 126-year-old Methodist church just shy of a year ago, and the changes have been immense. For the next couple days, I’m telling the story in before-and-after photos. Whenever possible I’ll try to use the same perspective in the “after” shot as I did long ago in the “before.” We’ve walked through most of the church, but we’re almost done. Today, we look at the balcony.

balcony before
When we bought the church, there was no balcony, only a hidden choir loft. As we were poking around during the showing, there was a dark opening on the second story. Tyler fired up the flashlight and I took this picture of the space between the ceiling and what we thought was the roof (it’s really a second ceiling–there’s another space above that before the roof).
end of balcony after
Here’s a look at that same space now. We removed the first ceiling and drywalled the second ceiling (there’s a thousand dollars worth of blow-in insulation between that ceiling and the roof).
balcony other way before
Tyler built a balcony extending from the second story room(s) and choir loft. This is the north side of the balcony.
balcony built before
And here’s a shot from the north to the south. (This was a scary picture to get because I had to walk to end of the balcony without any railings.)
balcony after
The is how the balcony looks from north to south today (or this evening– this is evening light). We carpeted the plywood (because there was no original floor to refinish) and assembled a sitting area in the center of the balcony.
balcony other way after
This is the north side of the balcony today (day light). I can watch the TV on the fireplace from the chair on the right. This is a great place for an introvert or a teenager to catch their breath during a gathering–can still hear and see the action downstairs but doesn’t have to interact. I also think it would be a great place to put a live band if we ever have a big blow-out party.

Friday: Before-and-current photos of the basement. See them here.

The bell tolls for thee

Dear reader, we’re taking a break from the memoir-in-progress to assess the accomplishments of the past year. My husband and I closed on the 126-year-old Methodist church just shy of a year ago, and the changes have been immense. For the next couple days, I’m telling the story in before-and-after photos. Whenever possible I’ll try to use the same perspective in the “after” shot as I did long ago in the “before.” We’ve walked through most of the church, but we’re almost done. Today, we look at the belfry.

door to belfry before
The belfry has an interior entrance on the second floor. It’s that open door near the center of the picture, which was taken when we first toured the church.
belfry door after demo
Here’s that space, at a slightly different angle, after demolition.
belfry door with floor done
This is the guest bedroom, with the belfry door, after we finished refinishing the floors and painting. You can see we switched out the door to the belfry so it had windows (this door came from elsewhere in the church).
belfry door after
And here’s how this wall of the second floor looks today.
belfry interior with books
Once you open the door to the belfry, it doesn’t look a whole lot different than it did when we bought the church (thus, no before picture). It’s a lot cleaner, but we haven’t installed trim or painted; I’m envisioning a bank of book shelves on the left and a window seat on the right. The bell rope is new (it’s hanging there to the left of the doorway) and the window is new.
belfry window before
Here’s how the window looked in the beginning. It was covered on the outside with siding. Tyler guessed that hole there was a bullet hole (but wouldn’t a bullet shatter the pane?). I think I can see a face in the upper right pane, can you? (It’s not me — my reflection is in the lower right, beneath the bullet hole.)
belfry-window-after.jpg
Here’s the new window, uncovered by siding, with a view of the neighbor across the street.
belfry exterior before
The exterior of the belfry when we bought the church hid a lot of sins. The roof below the bell was rotted, and two of the eight piers holding up the bell were rotted so it couldn’t be rung. A number of squirrel skeletons littered the roof area (but no bats!)

 

belfry-exterior-after.jpg
The belfry looks a lot different from a year ago. The siding has been removed (though not yet replaced), and the decorative detail on the upper part revealed. The window makes a big difference. And the bell can be rung safely again after we shored up the interior structure (neighbors will tell you I ring it every time I have visitors).

Today’s headline is a partial quote from 17th century Christian writer John Donne. Here’s the entire passage: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Tomorrow: The balcony (just wait until you see that before photo!) See it here.

Allow the fires of transformation to burn away all that doesn’t serve you

Dear reader, we’re taking a break from the memoir-in-progress to assess the accomplishments of the past year. My husband and I closed on the 126-year-old Methodist church just shy of a year ago, and the changes have been immense. For the next couple days, I’m telling the story in before-and-after photos. Whenever possible I’ll try to use the same perspective in the “after” shot as I did long ago in the “before.” Today, we take a look at the guest bedroom.

second floor bedroom before
I’ve shared this perspective before, but to remind readers: This space on the second story had been a choir loft, a bedroom for the pastor at one time in its history, the pastor’s office, a Sunday School classroom and a meeting space.
guest room after demo
This shot, at a slightly different angle, shows the space after most of the demolition. You can see the choir loft railing (with the center chunk removed). That cross-hatch pattern of two-by-fours was also removed when we raised the sanctuary ceiling so we’d have more headroom on the balcony.
guest room framed in
Again, a slightly different angle, but this is the space once we had the bathroom framed in.
guest room sheetrocked
And here’s the space with drywall.
guest room floor done
And here’s that glorious pine floor, refinished with a couple of coats of clear polyurethane.
second story bedroom
And here’s how the guest room looks today. I have decided I am going to turn the rug the other way and put a love seat on the end of it, facing the bed, to better define the space.
lucy's door with knob
This is a close-up of the door to my granddaughter’s playhouse, a 5-by-8 space under the eaves just off the guest bedroom. We repurposed the door from the other side of the eaves, and Tyler found the perfect miniature ceramic doorknob for it.

Today’s headline is a quote from Health Ash Amara, author of the Warrior Goddess book series.

Tomorrow: The belfry, inside and out. See it here.

 

Piles of paper out, toilet paper in

Dear reader, we’re taking a break from the memoir-in-progress to assess the accomplishments of the past year. My husband and I closed on the 126-year-old Methodist church just shy of a year ago, and the changes have been immense. For the next few days, I’m telling the story in before-and-after photos. Whenever possible I’ll try to use the same perspective in the “after” shot as I did long ago in the “before.” We check out the guest bath today.

bathroom wall before
I’m not entirely sure what this room in the church was. It was filled with a decades worth of Sunday School lessons and choir music. But it also had a gas heater. Maybe the walls were erected after the heater was installed.
bathroom wall after
We tore the old wall down and built a new one to enclose the guest bath. From the beginning, we knew we would locate a bathroom here because it’s directly above the master bath which is directly above the old church kitchen in the basement, and it was easier to run plumbing here. To the right, you can see part of the doorway to the balcony.
inside bathroom before
This is the old storage room before.
inside bathroom after
This is the inside of the bathroom now. A bit of work is still required. We’re missing vanity drawers, we need another coat of paint and the tub needs a surround, but we’re getting there. Given what was in there to begin with, I suppose the space could use a little reading material, too. Once we opened up the choir loft, heating the space was no longer an issue.

Tomorrow: Guest bed. See the transformation here.