Terri Kaiser

My husband and I bought a fixer-upper 26 years ago and guess what? We're still fixing.

We innocently thought two or three years and we'd have the place looking like the peaceful haven we envisioned. That was so funny of us!

We started with one of the best moves we made — a new deck and screened-in porch. We had been raising our kids in town and thought the outside was important to enjoy this new life in the country. Until that time, the house had a yellow loading dock from a factory parked next to the house to serve as a deck. The floor of it was covered astro-turf that was ripped here and there, and in one corner was a mountainous pile of sand for the cats to pee in. Are you cringing yet?

Moving inside, the half bath was the worst room in the house. It appeared clean, so why was that room in such rough shape? The carpeted floor had stains and the heating vent nearly rusted through. The vanity looked like it had been in a war. It wasn't until two neighbors stopped by and explained that the previous owners raised chickens in that room. Well, I nearly hit the road with that one!

The kitchen was a 1960s ‘step-saver,’ which meant it was very small. The carpet — yes, carpet in the entire house — smelled of sour milk. The smell didn't bother us so much right away, but it wasn't long and our noses trained to it like a beaver to a birch (the previous owners had a stuffed beaver on the fridge). Clearly, we had to move that room up on the list of to-dos.

Honestly, I lay awake many a night wondering what we'd gotten ourselves into.

But then, one of the cats had kittens in the barn and that night, with all of us crowded around her marveling at the miracle, I wouldn't have traded that moment for anything. Then there were the nights we'd kneel on the couch to look out the living room window to count the number of deer in our yard. We enjoyed the bounty of the apple trees and a big piece of sky at night. The best thing the previous owners left us? Barney the beagle. They couldn't take him, and we gained a new member of the family. Barney was one of those dogs you just knew was smiling all day long. He was our buddy and I miss him dearly.

So our move came with challenges, but gifts all the same. We plunked down our hard-earned money on a wing and a prayer that the potential we saw would materialize at some point. Now, those visions we had have, for the most part, come to fruition. My husband has his garage and trails in the woods, and I've unleashed my need for flowers with a vengeance. The faded brown siding is now white with green shutters, and the inside is cozy and inviting.

Patience is, indeed, a virtue. I watch these home remodeling shows and am truly impressed at the way they reform an entire house in the span of thirty minutes. Okay, I know it takes months for them to work their magic, but months? Yikes. We had to rely on our well of patience mightily for years. I think you need to live in a house, or a room, for a bit to know what will really work well. Just like life.

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