How Making a Home Can Be Your Unmaking and Being Locked Out Can Mess with Your Plans

November has never been my favorite month. Watching helplessly as the beauty of fall is stripped away by rain and short days and cold nights can be downright depressing. The only bright spot in November is Thanksgiving.


Thanksgiving has always been my holiday. My brother gets Christmas, my parents used to have Easter so I took Thanksgiving. Turkey with all the trimmings, laid out with my mom’s china and with all of us crammed around three tables, Thanksgivings with family are a cherished memory.

Last year was our first without my mom, and I lost it while saying grace. This year, I’m not taking that risk. This year, we’re joining 45 million Americans expected to hit the roads for Thanksgiving, traveling to Tennessee to share the holiday with our two youngest sons. (Don’t worry, the homestead is well-guarded.)

Perhaps it was poor planning to undertake a major home remodeling project in this dark doorway to winter, but we have been plotting and planning for a couple of years and it was time. We have lived in our 120-year-old brick farmhouse 26 years. During that time, we’ve pecked away at improvements in other parts of the house — bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen — and made some structural upgrades in roofing, doors, windows. But the family room remained untouched save for new coats of paint on the ugly paneling and fresh carpet as needed.

I don’t have to wonder why we waited so long to tackle this space. It’s not part of the original house, but was added on sometime in the 1980s, laid out on a slab of cement a step up from the kitchen and library space. Tacked onto a corner of the federal-style structure, it’s kind of an “after-thought”.

It’s also the heart of our home.

The family room is where I nursed babies on the day we came home from the hospital, tucked into my grandfather’s rocking chair or ensconced on the couch. The only carpeted room in the house, it’s where our sons learned to crawl then walk, where they held sleepovers and spread Legos over the floor. Our family room has been the space where friends gathered after dinner, where the boys made music and wrote stories, where they did homework and watched Lord of the Rings.

There was mild protest when we presented the remodeling idea to our sons, all four now grown and living elsewhere. Taking out the octagonal port-hole windows in favor of wide double-hungs, adding a patio door that opens onto our actual patio, pulling the carpet in favor of laminate and — the greatest offense — removing the fake beams and ceiling tile to install a smooth drywalled ceiling. None of these plans pleased the majority. However, it needed to be done and now it’s happening.

I wasn’t prepared for how this project would unravel me — in more ways than one. This has been my world during November (did I say it’s my least-favorite month?):

  • Chaos prevails as everything from the family room has been shoved into other rooms.
  • Drywall dust now covers all surfaces and my vacuum sweeper and I can’t keep up.
  • Strangers are showing up at my house at 7 a.m.
  • Lots of dollars are vanishing from our savings account.
  • My husband is experiencing TV withdrawal (okay, me too).
  • Those sweet memories are swirling in the dust and debris and I’ve been nearly undone.

I know this will be a good thing. I keep reminding my husband and kids how clean and fresh the room will look. And, we’ll create new memories in this beautiful space.

But mostly, I’m preaching to the choir. It will take more than a few Christmas gatherings, a lot more family Thanksgivings and maybe someday a couple of grandkids to restore the heartbeat of our family room. In the meantime, I know that home isn’t a room, it’s the people in it and I’m thanking God in this week of gratitude for my people.


My month of marathon blog posting was both challenging and rewarding. It was a great warm-up for working on my novel along with other NaNoWriMo participants. But, an unplanned error behind the scenes on my blog wound up locking me out of this space. Hours of internet research and frustrating online and voice conversations with techie types were to no avail. So, I turned to a real person in a real office and within a couple of hours, he had solved the problem. The company also created a new look for my blog and here we are. Back online and all dressed up. Taking a break from the blog wasn’t my plan for November, but forces beyond my control thought otherwise. So happy to be back in this space for the holidays!

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