Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thankful on November 10, 2010

Warning: This might be a long one.

For eighteen years the Corbin-and-Michelle-Johnson-family lived on the side of a mountain. OK, OK, it was a lovely mountain, in the summertime. But Michelle is not a mountain woman. As I begin this post, I realize that I may sound whiny, wimpy and ungrateful as I describe this part of my life, but please understand that I must express these feelings so that I might convey the magnitude of the joy I feel now.

Our living conditions on that mountain were not easy for me. In fact, as I look back, I actually think I was able to muster incredible strength from somewhere very deep, strength that not everyone might have been able to find. I'm eternally grateful that there was strength to be found.

Our home on the side of the mountain was a five hundred square foot "cottage". It had no heat source, beyond a wood stove, so for twelve of those eighteen years, we heated with wood. We would wake up each morning, able to see our breath, with ice sometimes 1/4" thick on the insides of the windows. I remember layering our babies with two or three blanket sleepers at night, because I was so worried about them kicking off the covers! As the years went by, the mountain pushed on our house, causing large gaps in the door and window frames. We would do our best to fill those gaps, with foam or wood or stuffed-in old rags and towels. Finally, for the last six years we were there, we were able to get a pellet-stove, which meant heat all the time (as long as we kept the pellets well stocked) including while we were away at work and at night. No more coming home and spending an hour trying to warm up our house and pipes!

The winters were especially difficult. We had more than our share of three, four, even SEVEN foot snowstorms (I am completely serious). On time to work in the winter? Are you kidding? And the funny part was that no one ever believed we were digging out our endless driveway of two feet of snow when they had only a one inch sprinkle in town. The seven foot snowstorm required a week and a front-end loader. Did I mention that we had no power that week?!! I digress...I reluctantly became an expert at tire chains. Always such a joy to lay under a car in a skirt on the way to work. And my children could tell you story after story of our car spinning 360 degree-style down Hidden Valley Road (and yes, it was an all-wheel drive).

Our intention as a young married couple was always to move on, to something more practical, as our children came into the world. But when the children came, so did unemployment and a depressed economy. So we made do. Through the years, we often saw glimmers of hope that we would be able to make a change, Corbin's growing business, my ability to go back to work and not just try to make money from my kitchen. But year after year after year, those hopes were squashed by the unexpected. Broken down cars, my lovely illness with it's therapy and hospitalizations, months without paychecks as Corbin's business became established, several surgeries, bigger and bigger school fees, ridiculous commute expenses, cancer and broken down shoulders, and the list goes on and on. We couldn't seem to get ahead. We had no choice but to try to make a home out of the cottage. So we stuffed Iver in one little attic bedroom, Shakira in the other, and Corbin and I made our bedroom out of a futon in the living room. We did our best. There was a point where I thought that this was how it would always be. I would have to be OK with never having our kids friends hang out at our house, with Iver and Shakira wanting to spent their time as teenagers at their friend's houses, with never having the privacy of our own bedroom. I would just have to brace myself every winter to climb into the well house and thaw out the pipes with a blow dryer. I would always have at least a thirty minute drive to go anywhere. We would constantly be fixing the many things going wrong with our taped together old house.

Then came 2007. That is when life REALLY got difficult. I addition to everything I have mentioned, Corbin and I each had an hour commute to and from work, that was getting longer and longer, and more expensive with record gas prices. Iver and Shakira were both in high school and had MANY places to be. Iver had begun to drive, so I had that lovely mother-worry about his long drives up and down the mountain late at night. And, we were just not seeing each other. We would get home around 7:30 at night, try to put something on the table for dinner, then fall into bed, only to start again by leaving at 5:00 the next morning. None of us were happy. So we began to pray for a miracle. We knew that's what it would take.

And just like that, things began to fall into place. Our children were not upset with the possibility of being uprooted. Our income now allowed for a modest house payment. We set out looking for a new home IN THE CITY! It took awhile, as we looked at many neighborhoods, homes, and schools. One evening, Corbin left five excited messages for me while I was in a yoga class. He had found our home!

We visited it that weekend. Scary neighborhood, I thought, but the beautifully remodeled house was like a dream to me! We could just stay inside! We decided to fast and pray about it...find out for ourselves if this was the place we should be. That Sunday, we took our kids to the church building we would be attending if we were to make this move. We all loved it immediately and overwhelmingly. Then next morning we called our realtor and put together an offer. Several hours later we found out that an offer had already been made and accepted the day before. I was devastated. I gave up. But not my Corbin. We had received an answer to our prayers, and he was determined to figure something out.

Corbin learned that the builder who had done the home we fell in love with was working on another property, several blocks away. He hesitantly agreed to let us meet him there.

We went under contract on our home when it was just a shell. It had been gutted and was being completely rebuilt, a 110 year old house on the outside, brand new house on the inside. I have absolutely no vision. After all of the run-down old houses (the ones in our price range) I had been looking at for months, I should have been frightened and discouraged the moment I walked through the door. But I wasn't. This time I felt incredible peace and joy. I felt immediately that this was our home.

We have now lived in this home for two and a half years. THERE HAS NOT BEEN ONE TIME I HAVE WALKED THROUGH THAT DOOR AND NOT FELT THE SAME PEACE AND JOY THAT I FELT THAT FIRST DAY. I love our home on Marion Street. I love the diversity of the neighborhood, the entertainment that provides. I love our next door neighbors. I love my adorable little porch and the gigantic trees that shade the front yard. I love the teeny-tiny bit of snow that we get in the winter. I love my garage. I love the ten minute drive to work. I love our crazy little church. I love that we have an awesome space for a garden. I love my bamboo floors and big chocolate moldings. I love my exposed brick walls. I love my gigantic kitchen with concrete countertops. I love my fabulous garbage disposal and my dishwasher. I love that my children have their own big beautiful rooms with tall ceilings. I love Iver's eight foot door. I love that we have two bathrooms with beautiful fixtures and flawless plumbing. I ADORE our master suite! I love my closet. I love that, when I'm a bit chilly, I can walk over to the thermostat, push the up button twice, and get marvelous warm air blowing out of the vents! I love the experience my children had at east high school. I love the amazing people who are their friends. And I love that those friends love to hang out at our house!

I know that eighteen years on the side of a mountain helped form all four of us into the people we are now, and for those experiences I am truly grateful. But for the miracle of our little home on Marion Street, I am giddy, crazy-thankful!


  1. Your blogs always make me cry. I have never missed having you and your family gone from that little house on the side of the mountain because I have always been so grateful that you finally had a home. I don't have to worry anymore about those drives up and down that mountain. So, I, too, am very grateful for your little house on Marion St. It is a fabulous, wonderful, welcoming home. Love, Linda

  2. Seriously, always make me cry too! Love you!

  3. Incredible writing. You should publish

  4. I hope that you make a book one day :) It would be a fantastic read! I am happy for you and your house in the big city.

  5. Fabulous post! I love everything about this!

  6. I do like your house a lot, coming from the enginerd in me. Something about it is very aesthetically pleasing. I'm glad to see you've found your home in da ghetto.

  7. fabulous. Thanks so much for sharing! You are an amazing woman. How truly blessed you were to be able to live like that, and how blessed you are now. Chelsee always talks about how wonderful your place is and how jealous she is!!!

  8. Wonderful :) And so is your family and your home! (Also love your Sunny Dishes!)

  9. Thank you for sharing, your honesty is uplifting and refreshing. Your words are so real, so easy to relate to, what a talent you have. I'm glad I happened onto your blog, its nice to be reminded what a great person you are. Cindy and I were talking about people we most admire and she said to me that you are one of the most Christlike woman she knows... not hard for me to believe, love ya :)

  10. Those 18 years on the mountain were the perfect training for your next 18+ years with us in Capitol Hill. The city constantly pushes on our ward and there is never enough foam or rags to plug all the gaps. Thank God people like you, Corbin, Shakira and Iver show up with your blow dryers to help hold back the cold.

    So glad you traded your cottage for ours.

    Jon W