Dream House

I am in the fortunate position of being able to afford to build myself a new house (well...perhaps myself and the bank). Having been to several 3rd world countries and knowing that there are lots of people in the world who don't even have housing, I felt a few pangs of guilt about this. I had a decision to make: rehab the old or build new. The cost to rehab my old house was going to be substantial. It was October of 2009. My husband had passed away in August from liver cancer. I was in the depths of grief and sorrow. I needed a project. I decided that if I had to plunk down a lot of money anyway, it was better to build new. I also decided that if I was going to build new, I was going to build green. My new house will be both beautiful and "green". I will share the journey and the adventure with you.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Re-wind, Back to the Beginning (again)

     As I was making some edits to the blog (and I LOVE the fact that it can be edited so easily), I realized I needed to fill in some of the details of THE BEGINNING. Rory had passed away in August of 2009 from liver cancer. As I mentioned in another blog, we had talked to a couple of builders, tossed around a couple of ideas about building a new house because he wanted a first floor bedroom and he wanted something that would be easy for me to take care of. I went to the Winnebago Parade of Homes in the fall of that year after he had passed. I was depressed, I needed something else to focus on. I was by myself. The economy was down. The majority of the builders who had homes that they were showing in the parade, were actually showing their own homes. Home building was at a low point and there very few customer homes to show, at least here in Oshkosh. One of the parade homes I stopped at was the home of James (Jamey) and Billie Jo Mathusek who own Gallery Homes. It was beautiful; one of the best on the parade. I had seen a couple other of Jamey's homes and I had loved those too. Jamey is both a carpenter and general contractor for his business. I was impressed with his work. Its kind of like having an artist whose work you like. However, I truly was at a low point of grief and was just going to pass through and leave; but, being a good salesperson, Jamey struck up a conversation. I told him I had a house I was thinking of either rehabbing or tearing down. He offered a great price per square foot if I built new.  I said, "Will it be nice like your house?" He assured me that it would.
     So I left. I thought about. I struggled with the loneliness of the house every night when I would come home from work. The dog had died, too--in June of that year. So it was just me and a large, ugly 8" fish that Rory loved and who was named Oscar (i.e he was an Oscar fish, so that's what we had called him. He had started small but kept growing by eating up all of the other fish in the tank). As I thought about the winter ahead, I was afraid of all of the things that I didn't think I could handle--the cold house, the pipes that freeze in the kitchen in January, the snowblower that I didn't know how to work, hauling wood and starting  fires in the woodstove (which I wasn't good at), and all the potential things that could break down. Worst of all, every inch of the house triggered some memory and some melancholy.
    So I made the decision. I went against the wisdom of many who say that after your spouse dies, you should not make any major changes for at least a year. I decided to build; and, to do that, I needed to move out. It took enormous effort, but through the next couple of months, I cleaned out every nook and cranny of the house. Everyone helped me to make the move--my inlaws, my family, my friends. On the final day, it was like Christmas. Rory's brothers raided the garage to snag up equipment and tools they knew I would never use, and my sisters and daughters grabbed things from the house. Many items went to a storage unit down the road. Good Will, Habitat for Humanity, the recycling places around town,  and an ever burning bonfire in the back got the rest.
   It was a sunny Saturday at the end of November. We ended by gathering in a circle by the lake, and saying a prayer of goodbye--to the house and to Rory. Before he died, he requested that his ashes go into Lake Winnebago. Caroline, Colleen and I, paddled out in the canoe to a point that is in line with the Jesuit Retreat House, and dumped his ashes.. As we did that, a small engine plane appeared in the sky above the persons left on shore and hovered above them. A reminder of  Rory, who loved flying.

Rory liked to land the plane in our "backyard' on Lake Winnebago during the winter
More on the tear down of the house in the next blog....


  1. Good background info, and I felt what you were feeling, Kris. Wish I had been there too.

  2. Also, just curious, what happened to the fish?!

  3. Thank you for capturing the memory of spreading dad's ashes in Lake Winnebago. Nice post Mom!

  4. Kristin, put me on the "Follower" list! I'm enjoying the blog on your brave adventure.
    - Pat Boverhuis