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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Coming Around Again - 20 years later

Some things are just meant to be..... 

30 years ago I bought my first house.  
It was at 130 N. Maple in Green Bay.

I loved that house! It sparked my love affair with old homes!  While living there, I sold real estate in Green Bay.  I always enjoyed showing and selling the older homes to my customers.  I really appreciated the lovely one that I had the good fortune to own.  Although I lived here for a while with my ex husband, he moved in and out a couple times until I finally divorced him. Then I took over ownership of the home on my own.  It even had an apartment in the upper level that helped generate rental income for me!

(fast forward 10 years) 

 I met Steve 20 years ago.....
 and while we were dating, 
he built me this lovely birdhouse to match the house.

Two years later, when we got married, we decided that we should start a new life in a new house of our own.  Even though my ex husband didn't live there all that long, it was still "my" house not "our" house to start our marriage in.  Plus we had my two girls and his two boys, and needed a larger home with more bedrooms when the boys came to visit or live in the summer months.

Soooooo  I sold the house and we built another home together up in Oconto. We left the birdhouse behind, on a post in the backyard.  I always REGRETTED letting that birdhouse stay with the house for the new owners.

 But it's one of those things you can't go back and do over... 
or can you???

I had to run up to Green Bay for a doc appt this afternoon.  I thought about driving past my old house BEFORE I went to my doc appt.  But naw... it would be a tight squeeze to get in a few pics and then get over to the doc's office in time.  I decided to go AFTER my doc appt.   Boy oh boy am I ever glad I waited!!!

Doc appt went well, and I got out about an hour later.  I drove over to my old house and snapped a few pics... the house is looking great.  I was snapping away and a lady in the upstairs unit stuck her head out the window and asked if she could help me?  (probably wondering what was I up to snapping pictures of her home?)  The pic wasn't the best because of all the sunshine and shadows.  She came out to talk with me a bit when I told her who I was etc. 

She told me how much she loved living in this house, and how she was a renter in the upstairs. We chatted all about the house and the things around the neighborhood. I asked about the backyard and told her how I planted the 3 trees, and built the gazebo etc. and then I asked about that birdhouse.  

Well.... get this---------   just last week her son knocked birdhouse over, since the post had rotted off in the ground.  Part of the roof had broken off, and she told the landlord that it was damaged and her son had done it.  Well, the landlord told her to just toss it out in the trash and don't worry about it.  She hadn't had time to put it out earlier today with the city trash pick-up so it was sitting in the garage until next week!!!  



She led me back to the garage
and let me put it and the post
safely into the trunk of my car.

I thanked her profusely over and over,
which I am sure she thinks I am some kind of nut now.

I gave her my business card and drove away,
with tears streaming down my face.

Imagine all the little things that had to fall into place for this to happen:
  • Always regretting not taking it with us when we moved, and never forgetting about it.
  • Her son broke the post and only the corner of the roof came loose, but not really broken, happening just last week. Not next week or next month.  
  • Landlord saying to toss it, and not decide to repair it. 
  • My having a doc appt. in Green Bay just this week.
  • My deciding to stop by there after my appt. was over instead of before.  What if she hadn't been home earlier? 
  • Her not getting around to putting it into the city trash pickup this morning and having to wait until next week.
  • Her glancing out the window at some nut lady taking pics of her house?
  • And crazy old me, wanting the danged thing?????????????  PRICELESS! 

As I drove home,
wiping my tears,
wondering how to present this to Steve...

Should I fix it up myself and give it to him on our anniversary at the end of the month?
Nawww I couldn't wait that long!

Should I take it out and set it on his workbench and not say a word?
He might not see it for a day or two and that would drive ME nuts!

Should I just drive up and have him stand there while I open the trunk?
BINGO~! ! !

Soooo I decided to film his reaction as I opened up the car trunk.....
and got the video portion of my cell phone handy.

Here is a video clip
(listen closely to what he said!)

And now... because I loved this house, and because it's my blog....   I am going to post a bunch of pics to let you see how special this house was on the inside (and why I love old homes) 

I bought it in Nov of 1985 and moved in
during an ice and snow storm.
My friend Connie wiped off furniture as it came through the door,
and friends Gary and Mike hauled everything through the slogging snow and slush.

The next morning it was like a fairyland!

When I first bought it,  it was the traditional English Tudor colors of brown and cream.  I later painted it with a lighter cream stucco with hunter green and burgundy trim as it is now today. Here is a photo listed on the Wisconsin Historic Homes website, where it has been listed as the "Hans Christensen Home".  I googled but never found out anything more about him. This was taken before I owned it.  This house was built in 1928. 

Our first Christmas a month later was pretty special.  
I had sweet little electric candles that stuck in each and every pane
 of the french door style windows across the front of the house. 

I had a beautiful woodburning fireplace
with a richly colored tile hearth

 (My kids still use those same stockings to this day)

Each side of the fireplace had built-in curio cabinets
with glass shelves and lighting. The hardwood floors were awesome
and each of the window panes opened up like little french doors into the room.
Those hot water radiators were so cozy to warm up on,
and the kids would lay their mittens and socks on them to dry.

Double sets of palladian shaped oval french doors led from the foyer to the livingroom
and then from the livingroom into the diningroom

The formal diningroom had an original light fixture
that we found stuffed in a box in the basement.
It matched all of the wall sconces in the house.
Why it was stuffed down there, I had no idea.
I cleaned it up and put it back to it's restored place of glory!

The previous owners also stuffed a set of the french doors,
and both of the curio cabinet doors into a corner of the basement!   
Strange!  I think the doors got in the way of the furniture? 
 I didn't have a lot of furniture, so I brought them back up again 
and put them into place where they belonged! ... hahaha! 

A built-in china hutch graced one corner of the diningroom
with the same style to the glass as the french doors 

My girls had the cutest little bedroom
and I sewed all their curtains and bedspreads.
(that is baby Heather in the crib!)

The bathroom was a dream come true, with original ceramic tiles,
 pedestal sink, big huge ceramic knobs for the tub and a great tile floor!

 The kitchen was soooo sweet!
Remember, this was the 80's so I painted it Country Rose and Blue! It had the most adorable little breakfast nook with built-in bench seats.  The radiator ran underneath the trestle style table and would keep the feet warm on cold winter mornings. It faced East so the sun would come in the mornings and light up the room. The big huge farm sink and the old wooden cabinets were so quaint.. it even had a built-in ironing board cabinet. 

In the backyard, I built a gazebo!
here it was halfway through completion and before we put up the privacy fence.

 Here is the gazebo, years later, with grapevines for the roof covering.
You can see the little birdhouse in this photo, from the backside!

Yes, this house was pretty important to me, and I raised my girls here on my own for many years.  It was hard as a single young mom, but I managed to scrimp and save each month to make those payments and be a landlord at the tender age of 25.  My girls grew up safe and secure in their own home, and not bounced around from apartment to apartment like a lot of kids do after divorce.

Although I would never want to live there again, it was a great house.  I wouldn't want it back for a number of reasons.  The neighborhood is deteriorating, the mess of being a landlord is not fun, and not having enough room for our motorhome is a third reason.  We had all to do just to squeeze in my 27 ft motorhome, and later a 33ft travel trailer. It was tight in that little backyard, how could we fit in a 40 ft motorhome like we have now?  Our home now is much better suited for us in so many ways.  

Nope.. it was a great house,
and we will remember it fondly.

And now I can think of that home each time 
I glance at the soon-to-be-rebuilt birdhouse
 that will grace the yard 
of Our Old House now here in Chilton.


  1. Some things are just meant to be, aye?? Your old home is beautiful but so is your new home. AND do you know what Mum said?? She said Steve's beautiful?? What's with that? She loved his reaction when he opened the car boot. Too funny. You are such a lovely couple. Mum's think you were meant to be too, aye??
    G'day Binney and Finney ..... how's things??

    1. Thanks for your wonderful comments CharlieDownUnder! You are quite a dog to get your Mum to type for you on each of my blogs. I am so honored to have you here, and read your comments aloud to Finney and Binney (who both think you are awesome!)

  2. I can see how much you appreciate the beauty of the wood, the style, and the whimsy of tese great old homes. Some would gut the place and modernize it. Some, like you restore with love.

    1. Yes, I always hold my breath when I come around the corner in case someone has gutted or changed the house or the windows etc. I know the feeling because my teenage childhood home in Michigan has been torn down. Now I drive by there and see just the lot and the new garage the neighbors built on it, surrounded by "our" apple and pine trees from when our house stood there. It's sad. It's another reason why the gals who sold us this house now in Chilton are happy ... we haven't gutted or changed much here either. Actually on Friday, one of them is coming over to take a look-see again and pick up some donations for a charity benefit she is doing. So glad she can "come back home" again too.....

  3. I think it is so wonderful that you have such good memories of your life in this home even with all the struggles. It's a beautiful house but so is your new house and you are doing such an amazing job of making it a home.

    1. Yes, there were some tough years and my ex was a very angry and mean person. But on top of it all, I always felt it was my home, and not necessarily much of his. Honestly, he never wanted to help with any projects or fix anything or even pay the bills to live under it's roof without resentment and complaints. Far far cry different from the wonderful man I am married to now! I am so blessed to have Steve in my life! When I first was dating him, he got all his buddies together to help re-roof the whole house (with those very steep gables!) and he helped put up a big privacy fence, fixed the garage and refinished all the hardwood floors before I sold it! What a guy!

  4. What a beautiful home, and it was a lot for a young Mom to take on, but you sure did a wonderful job of it. I'm amazed you got the birdhouse back and the sequence of events that led up to it. Great post.

    1. This morning I had to PINCH myself to be sure it wasn't a dream.. .and look again at that sweet little birdhouse setting there waiting to get fixed up. I will repaint it once he is done with the roof, and then coat it with a layer of thick varnish. I am not sure if I want it outdoors in our yard now, or keep it inside of our house to preserve it?

  5. This was a sweet sweet story, Karen. I truly loved seeing your home, both now, and in the days when you were a young mom and learning a bit of your history. So tickled that you got the bird house back. What a wonderful way to save a sweet memory.

    1. Thanks Sue... I sometimes blather on and on in my blog, but I kinda had to so i could share the story. I know to some folks, it's "only a danged 20 year old beat up birdhouse" but to me it meant so much more! Funds were tight when Steve started dating me, and he could make the most wonderful thoughtful presents for me.... I have quite a few more handmade things from him) that I treasure with all of my heart. And leaving that birdhouse behind was a regret for sure. Now it's back in my home and always in my heart!

  6. Karen, I love these kinds of stories! Synchronicity! I'm happy for you. It was meant to be.

    1. THATS THE WORD I was trying to come up with! I could not remember it...... SYNCHRONICITY!!!!! Thank you!!!

  7. Wonderful memories. How nice to have a little piece of it back :-) PS, Good Job doing all that on your own!

    1. Thanks Debbie.... and for the compliment! It was hard to start doing things "with" Steve and letting him be part of the team. I spent so many years having to only rely on myself that it was a struggle within to realize I could trust him, lean on him, and have him be a vital part in my life. Now we lean on each other!

  8. That is such an AMAZING thing to happen. All the steps it took to work out perfectly, it was truly meant to be. And thank you for posting the photos of the old house. That was the frosting on the cake for me.

    I always enjoy Charliedownunder's comments to you! :)

  9. Congratulations on a wonderful event in your life. I can feel your excitement from your blog. WOW.


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