Friday, December 12, 2014

Making It Mine


When I first came to Briarpatch before I moved anything in, it was depressing. I wanted my grandparents to still be alive and welcome me at the door. But when I really think about it, I can't imagine Grandma the way she should have been -- the younger, healthier Grandma. My memories of her are almost entirely from when she had already begun her long decline with Alzheimer's. I don't like those memories. They're painful and sad. I was hoping that when I moved in here, I'd be able to reconnect with the Grandma of my youth, but so far it hasn't happened. I'm grateful that I have at least one grandparent popping up all over the place, though. Grandpa is alive and well in Briarpatch.

Grandpa was a master welder, so I keep finding things he has made. There's a copper letter holder in a drawer. There are brass sticks holding together the curtain rods in the porch. There are little shelves he made in the entryway bathroom. I love finding Grandpa hidden away where I least expect it. And then there are more obvious things -- scratches from his dogs on the front door and scratches from his parrots on the window sill. There is evidence all over that Grandpa Was Here. I love it.

The main thing that was here from Grandma was the flower wallpaper in the kitchen. When I originally started picking at it, Ma got sad for a moment. She said Grandma loved this wallpaper, and Ma has such fond memories of having coffee with Grandma right here in this exact spot. Sadly (or luckily for me because WHOA that's a lot of flowers), the wallpaper was stained and worn out. We quickly stripped it off (and we had the carpets cleaned):


There was a built-in desk on the wall in the kitchen that took up a lot of space. I have fond memories of children's books being in the drawers when I was little. But I still asked Pa to remove it. I've been slowly learning that It's OK to Make the House Mine. It's OK to Change Things. All of my relatives have told me it's OK -- to toss the old and bring in the new. But I still feel guilty changing too much. We took the desk and put it out in the shop just in case:


Under the wallpaper was GREEN PAINT, which didn't surprise me because everything in the house is green. My grandparents? They must have had a very serious Green Obsession. I was busy on a work deadline while Pa stripped the paper, put something called TSP on there, threw up a layer of Kilz, and painted the room a buttery yellow I'd chosen at the store (THANK YOU, PA!!!!!):


The yellow is so beautiful. It's very hard to capture it in photos. This was halfway through the job:


I decided cherry red and yellow would be the kitchen colors. I found a gorgeous red panel at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but I only bought one because, so far in my renting life, I've only had single windows. I've since learned my lesson by trying each night to scoot the panel half an inch to the left or right to cover the window completely. I finally gave in and bought a second one. This dining room table is from Gran (Ma's mother), but the chairs are from Grandma and Grandpa. We used to bring them out of the entryway closet for large family gatherings. My parents have had them all this time, but now they've found their way home again:


When I was little, this phone was out in Grandpa's shop. It was rigged so that you could call the house from it so you didn't have to go all the way inside to ask Grandma a question. I've always LOVED this phone. I was so excited to find it still in the shop. Pa and I took it apart and cleaned the innards and put it on the wall. It's not hooked up, but I don't care. I don't use my home phone line anyway. My sister made the rooster needlepoint for me a few years ago. The farmie type art was found at a thrift shop. They all have pops of red to compliment the room:


I had to find a safe place for the plants, so I cluttered them all on a bookshelf. So far, Gretchen has been unable to reach them:


And then we have Gran's glass bookshelf -- further evidence of The Other Grandmother. It looks perfect where that old built-in desk used to be:


I feel like such a grown-up. I've never had a dedicated eating space in my home. Usually, the kitchen table is covered with miniatures or junk. I'm going to try very hard to keep this area tidy for any visitors. It's time to start new traditions and coffee dates. And maybe someday, someone will remember sitting right here -- with me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Thank You, Purina Pro Plan!


Shortly after I wrote about my experience with Purina Pro Plan food, I was contacted by a kind Purina Pro Plan rep who wanted to send my babies some goodies. Aw, so sweet!!! We got four food bowls, a snack holder, two food mats (that have already been moved to my new house), and coupons for Pro Plan cats treats. HOORAY! Unfortunately, I got caught up in my move and completely forgot to thank Purina Pro Plan. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Both cats are still loving the Purina Pro Plan Focus Urinary Tract Health Formula. Webster seriously BEGS for it each morning and will wander around the house chewing on paper and plastic until I give it to him. I'm so happy that he likes it that I don't even care. Anything to keep him from peeing in funny places!!

Meanwhile, I'm moving into my new house and out of this one, so almost everything I own is gone. I needed a new "toy" to distract the pet mice and see if Alice would stop attacking Pippa, so I grabbed the closest "new thing" and put it in the play bin. Erm, it was the Pro Plan bowl... So I bet Purina never thought they'd see this, but Agatha LOVES the bowl. Agatha is the grey one that is peeking out of the handle area on the bowl. She is crazy about nesting in there:


But anyway, back to the meows.

Gretchen says thank you so much!!!!!


And Webster says, "Thank you for saving my bladder!!!!!"


It's always nice when a company recognizes your pets. I wasn't expecting these goodies, so I'm very grateful. And soon, the bowls will be in their rightful place in the cat feeding area -- with perhaps the exception of that one white one...

It's hard to deny this face:


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For fun kitty pictures, see #MyGreatCat on Twitter or follow @ProPlanCat.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Meecer Introduction Fail


The reason that I went to get Pippa in the first place was to be a buddy for Alice. Ever since Charlotte died, Agatha has been over-grooming Alice. Like pulling her hair out crazy barbering. I felt sorry for Alice because I could hear her yelping in pain each evening. I would go over and rattle something to try to distract Aggie, but that would only work for so long. I really didn't want another mouse so soon. I took Charlotte's death quite hard. I'm also trying to move, which makes everything 100x harder. But like a good mousie momma, I went and got a new friend and put her in the quarantine tank for three weeks and tried so very hard to make it work out. Sigh. We're having problems.

I first read the whole Introduction section on the Fun Mouse site. I cleaned everything top to bottom and dabbed vanilla on the meecer's rumps. I put some new toys in the bin along with ones from both of their tanks so they would each have familiar items along with new things. I held my breath and went for it.

At first, all went well. As you can see from the photo above, Alice started sniffing Pippa right away. You can see on Alice's back how she's now missing a ton of fur from Aggie over-grooming her. I was starting to think her entire back would be bald if Pippa didn't get in there soon. I was mostly hoping to distract Agatha on Alice's behalf. Of course, as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished -- especially on Clark Street.

The pictures aren't fantastic because I'm moving so all of my lamps are gone. The guest bedroom was dark, and we were all sitting on the floor:


Alice seemed friendly enough for a while. Agatha didn't seem to care that much:


Agatha was way more interested in the cat food dish I had put in the tank:


Alice was very excited about Pippa's hamster bath thing. WHEE NEW TOY:


But then something clicked in Alice. Something that said: I WANT TO KILL THIS WEE MOUSE. And then it was ON:


Alice began nipping, squeaking, and barrel-rolling with Pippa. The poor baby didn't know what to do about that, so she just hid in the corner. Agatha came over to investigate and smell things. Agatha is getting old. I don't know how much longer she'll be around. If she dies without Alice having a buddy, Alice will probably die soon after from depression and loneliness. It's very important that Pippa and Alice get along.

Here, you can see the size difference. Pippa is only around two months old, so she's very small. In the photo, Aggie has gone underneath her, so Pippa is actually sitting on Aggie. Agatha is over a year old, so she's quite large. She has "winter fur" right now, and she's less shiny and more scruffy than she was when I first got her. Ever since Charlotte passed, Agatha has been much nicer. She's still the Alpha, but she lets me hold her and pet her, and she's more docile now. I was hoping she'd welcome Pippa nicely:


Nope. Not so much. Alice came back in for the attack:


Agatha simply tried to escape the whole situation:


For three solid days, Alice attacked Pippa. It was CRAZY attacking. Like stalking and hunting. If Pippa got on the wheel, Alice would go get on the thing next to it, crouch like a cat hunting in a field, and launch! If Pippa tried to eat, Alice would attack. If Pippa tried to drink, Alice would attack. If Pippa flinched, Alice would attack. If Pippa was asleep on top of the coconut, Alice would attack. Violently.

The Fun Mouse forum let me know that fighting is NORMAL, but it was so brutal to watch and listen to. Pippa took to hiding on top of the coconut and never leaving it. If someone came up there, she'd sit on her hind legs with her front paws up in a submissive stance and freeze while the other mouse smelled her. Then Alice started attacking Pippa up there, and they both kept falling off, which made me worry they'd break some bones. Still, I left them in there together. They have to work it out on their own. It's very important. I've learned on the forum that meece have their own dominance hierarchies, and you have to let the colony work it out on their own if you can. If no blood is drawn, it's OK -- no matter how bad it looks or sounds. So I had patience and waited. And cringed.

Yesterday, after another long day of packing and loading and unloading a bazillion belongings, I noticed Pippa had bite marks on her tail. While nips are OK, biting hard and not letting go isn't a good thing. I put Agatha in the play bin, left Alice in the tank, and pulled in Pippa close. The little thing was SO excited to be out of that tank! She seriously hadn't left the top of the coconut in days. She kept sleeping up there and would slide off in her sleep, which was so sad. She'd scramble back up there to safety and cling to the rope while Alice went at her. But in my arms, she was her little self again. Ears up! Happy face! FREEDOM! But all bitten up. Some fur is missing in a few spots, but it's mostly centered on the tail. I could clearly see puncture marks.

I hemmed and hawed over what to do. Everything I've learned about mice says to let them work it out. Stay out of it! But the situation was growing worse by the moment. The leader of the forum is always reminding us to listen to our guts. What does your gut say? My gut said: Save Pippa. I decided to give Alice one last chance. Whenever I go to get the girls out of the tank, Alice won't come near my hand. She flees and acts like her fur pants are on fire. But if I take out Aggie first, Alice freaks out. She'll go to the edge of the tank and start hopping until I put my hand in there. Then she'll climb on quickly so she can be reunited with her sister. I had already put Pippa in the play bin with Aggie when I picked up Alice.

ME: Listen here, Alice. I went out and bought an adorable sister for you and left the poor thing all alone in a whole new quarantine tank for three weeks JUST FOR YOU because your back is bald, and your sister is getting too old. I'm doing this out of LOVE. I'm trying to move, and I'm stressed and tired, and it's the HOLIDAYS, and I'm turning into a raw nerve because you're being so mean, so I need you to CALM DOWN. You're supposed to be a FUN PET!

ALICE: . . .

ME: I need you to be NICE to Pippa. I know you have it in you.

ALICE: . . .

ME: For reals now, you be a good meecer. I'm going to put you in. BE. GENTLE.

And then Alice flew off my hand, ran straight to Pippa, and barrel-rolled her all the way around the play bin. I scooped her up and put her back in her old tank, which was sitting next to me on the floor of the now-empty guest room. I put in some food, put in fresh water, fluffed it up, made sure the wheel spun, and left her there. Your turn for quarantine, baby.

Meanwhile, Agatha and Pippa played for a while, and then Aggie attacked Pippa. Aggie has been attacking Pippa once in a while, but it's in a totally different way than Alice. Aggie is clearly trying to HUMP Pippa, which is her way of showing she's the Alpha. It's harmless, but it's annoying to the humpee. Agatha regularly humps Alice to keep her in line as the Beta. But now that Pippa is so wound up from Alice, she totally freaks out if Aggie comes near her. I decided that I'd just leave them together in their tank alone for a few days to see what happened (I'll get a clear time line suggestion from the Fun Mouse forum). I suspected that Aggie would quickly accept Pippa if given the chance. Agatha is very nurturing -- she obviously LOVES to groom other mice -- and has jumped in front of Alice a few times to stop her from chasing Pippa. I felt the matriarch might diffuse the situation and give Pippa some reprieve.

ME: Alice, you're on your own, girl. You're officially in time out.

ALICE: . . .

Since 90% of my furniture is gone, I had to put Alice's tank on the last remaining tall bookshelf with Felipe the fish to keep her away from the cats. Then I put Aggie and Pippa back on their normal bookshelf, which is the only one that still has books in it to keep it from becoming top heavy. Then I sat and watched for about an hour.

What is this? Pippa is running on the saucer? She LURVES her saucer! Now she can run! RUN RUN RUN!! A few times, Agatha waddled over and attempted to hump Pippa, which caused some wild shrieking and flying around. But overall, it was quiet. Meanwhile, Alice spun like mad on her own saucer. Where did everybody go? And Gretchen looked confused that the Psychotic Mouse Show had temporarily ended. Poor Gretchen. She loves watching the chaos.

I went to bed and slept well for the first time in days because I was NOT woken up all night long by the sounds of mice screaming at each other and tumbling around in the tank. Sweet sleep, how I've missed you.

This morning? Well, lookie here! Girlfriend is feeling confident:


Agatha watched peacefully:


And even welcomed Pippa INTO the coconut:


I'd only seen Pippa go inside once before, and it did NOT end well. She's used to sleeping on that piece on the very top next to the cord:


It's hard to see, but Pippa is IN THERE with Aggie. Aggie started grooming her, and they nested in together:


My crusty black heart filled with JOY to see those perky ears peek out at me:


Don't worry, Little One. The bully is gone for now:


Seriously, how can you not love that face?


But in all seriousness, it's been extremely stressful. I'm not sure I'm cut out to be a long-time mouse owner if this fighting continues permanently. I don't do well with these things because I'm overly attached to my animals, and I project human emotions onto them and then worry incessantly. I can own it. I tried to get some good photos of the bite marks on Pippa's tail so you can see the straw that broke this mouse owner's back. You can see the red puncture marks if you look closely:


This view only shows one side, but the other side is covered, too:


This is the first time I've seen Pippa "hang out" in the food bowl since meeting Alice. Usually right about this time, Alice swoops in like a hawk on meth:


And Pippa got to take her time at the water bottle, which hasn't been happening, either:


Meanwhile, the bully is snoozing in her old tank. I really don't like Alice right now. I had NO idea she could be this violent. I'm hoping a little time away will make her realize how lonely it is without those other meece. When I feel like she's calmed down a bit, I'll reintroduce the kids:


And how are the meows doing? Well, they're confused. They want to know where all of the furniture went:


And Webster, after a brief remission, has begun scratching the crap out of his ears again. We'll be going to the vet next week for more steroids:


When I lived in Chicago, Webster used to play with bare walls a lot. He would stand there or roll around with his tail POOFED and meow like crazy. I have no idea what he loves about bare walls, but they're apparently quite intoxicating. Now that the bookshelf that used to be in this spot is gone, he's been all over it:


But I'll be sure to leave their cat perches until the very end. I only have so many sunsets left (Briarpatch doesn't have a view to the west) so we'll watch them together:


After all of this madness, I think we've all earned a bit of relaxation, so we're going to be lazy -- and hopefully quiet -- today. I just walked past Agatha and Pippa's tank, and the coconut door is covered with newspaper. Both meecers are missing, which can only mean one thing: They're snuggling in there. YES!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tales of the Pink Bathroom


I want to thank all of my loyal friends, readers, and lurkers (triple bonus points to lurkers) for your wonderful support about my new home, Briarpatch. As you can imagine, it's been an exciting/overwhelming experience to be back in my grandparents' home after all this time. Last weekend, over 20 Blondersons filed through and looked in every nook and cranny, which was very fun yet also a WHOA I NEVER HAVE VISITORS WHAT'S HAPPENING?! kind of experience. Luckily, I didn't have to feed them. Or let them sit anywhere because there's no furniture.

*crickets*

It's not as simple as moving out of Farmhouse Villa and moving into Briarpatch because the old house needs some work. The people who lived there before me smoked. I'm not going to knock them for it because I smoke, too. But methinks they might smoke a little more than me. There were at least two of them, and I just have myself, so that makes sense. Anyway, the point here is that the walls are a bit stained. Ma washed some of them with an ammonia/water mix, but it didn't cut it. So I'm painting! Well, Pa is painting while I'm sitting over here at Farmhouse Villa knocking out the end stages of my massive work project. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: My parents are fantastic. Love you, Nerds!!!

There are many rooms and many projects, and I find there's very little time for me to truly help. I can't move very much because of my bum back. I can't treat formerly-wallpapered walls because I have no idea what TSP is or why it's needed. (Ask Pa.) I've already cleaned cupboards and done laundry and my very first load of dishes in THE DISHWASHER (!) and scraped old contact paper from the kitchen cupboards, but I'm really quite useless. Seriously, I am. And my father enjoys working on the house because it was his childhood home, and he wants to make me happy. And my mother loves a good cleaning project because that's always been her way of helping me. So even though I have had enormous Guilt Days while I'm sitting here working, I know they're working on Briarpatch because they care. I'm very, very lucky.

*feels loved*

The one room that I'm going to try to tackle on my own? The master bath, otherwise known as Grandma's Pink Bathroom. This bathroom is attached to my new bedroom, and it has some silliness involved. First of all, there are white and pink tiles on the wall, what appears to be window shutters as cabinets, and GREEN CARPET. Seriously? My grandparents must have had a wicked obsession with green. The walls behind the wallpaper in the kitchen are green, the whole living room is green, the bedroom carpet is green, and the dishes I have from them are green. So much green.

The green carpet is coming from the bedroom into the bathroom. WHY, GRANDMA, WHY??? I suppose it was warm? I dunno:


The pink and white tiles are comforting to me because I remember them from my childhood:


They even have glitter in them:


But then the record screeches to a halt. There's a border. NOT A BORDER!!!! Does anyone remember the baby animal border from my bedroom here at Farmhouse Villa? That thing never did come off, so we painted over it. You can't see a line anywhere on the wall because the border is stuck on there that good. Same issue in the new house. This puppy isn't coming off:


And imagine my disappointment when I realized the bathtub really was as small as I remembered it. We tall people never get to enjoy baths:


I didn't take a picture of it, but if I stand up in that shower, the shower head comes right up to my chin. Good times. And the toilet? There was a lot of blue toilet cleaner in the water, so Ma flushed it. It was like a slow-motion car crash. I yelled, "MA, NEVER FLUSH A TOILET IN A RENTAL WITHOUT A PLUNGER!!!!" Too late. The water climbed and climbed and climbed, and the blue water came precariously close to the lip -- just a mere foot from all that green carpet. Luckily, we dodged a bullet. But I promptly taped the lid closed with painters tape and told Pa: "I need a new toilet." I have already lived with a bad toilet -- The Black Toilet. I'm NOT doing it again. I have no problem forking over the cash for a new throne. 

Oh, the life of a renter. I've been renting since I was 17, people. That's TWENTY years of renting. I'm taking control and buying myself a normal loo.

[Before anyone suggests that I have my new Landfather, who is my Uncle and Godfather, too, pay for these things, I'll shut that down. Uncle has taken care of this house on his own for 17 years. It's my turn now. Trust me, it's a great deal.]

So right at this time, my parents are buying most of the supplies I need, and I'll be paying them back. This means I have to be very picky about my purchases and projects. Even though I've been watching HGTV and DIY, I have been able to control mahself and be realistic about my financial situation. Sadly, most of the run-down parts of Briarpatch are staying as-is. The old lady is getting a face lift mostly from paint, window panels, the ripping out of MONSTER FARMIE bushes, and bizarre, nothing-matches decor from Yours Truly. I'm actually pretty excited about the challenge. How can I spruce up this room without spending more than $20 at the thrift shop? Things like that.

At the beginning, I was a sad sap. I cried because I missed my grandparents. I moaned at the amount of work. I recoiled at the stained carpets and GREENness of everything. I wallowed that my favorite doorknob to the back porch (which everyone else calls the front porch) was missing, so now I have to use pliers to get in there. I was nervous about all of the packing and the retraining of meows and the telling of my Landfather and kind neighbors and rental agency that I was bailing. And Real Life work is so busy! All of it was just too much. I was a total Funbuster.

But then Pa and I went to Home Depot together.

We were there for paint. Pa was in the beginning stages of a cold, so he wasn't feeling well. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and amount of sh*t in the store. I avoid big box stores whenever I can, of course. We were there for Kilz and paint for the guest room, the kitchen, and the dollhouse room. The end. But you know how Home Depot goes. You always find MORE THINGS. So while we were wandering around waiting for our paint, I discovered something magical: peek-and-stick tiles. YES!

As an experiment, I'd already yanked up a little piece of all of the carpet in the house just to see the hardwood and convince my father to pull up the carpet. Um, no. That's a lot of carpet. It's also a LOT of hardwood. After watching HGTV for a few weeks and seeing what restoring hardwoods really means (work $$$$ work $$$$ work $$$$$), I gave up. The carpet stays! (Even in the Green Monster!)

The bedroom has hardwood under the green carpet, but the bathroom has old, gross white tiles. Nasty tiles. Not tiles you'd want to walk on after you just showered. I had already reluctantly given in and told Pa I'd leave the bathroom carpet alone. But then I was in there again, and I noticed how nasty the carpet was between the bathtub and the toilet, where water has no doubt been spilled over and over again. I decided I was going to rip out that bathroom carpet and put down tile if it killed me!

So when I saw the peel-and-stick in a nice white/grey faux marble that will match the other tiles in the bathroom, I eyeballed Pa. "Should I do it?!" He shrugged. It was up to me. (I love Pa, but he's sooooo not good at decorating advice. Engineering/construction advice? Hells, yes!! Paint colors? Tile colors? No.) I was alone in my decision. After weeks of stressing about money for projects, I threw caution to the wind and grabbed my $30 box of tiles. I plopped them in the cart and did a little dance.

Me: "Do you think I'm crazy?"

Pa: "No. It's just good to see you excited about something."

And that's when I realized I needed a MASSIVE attitude adjustment. I felt like a total a$$hat. I'd been moaning and worrying and crying and stressing and freaking all this time, and Pa was trying so hard to make me happy. How was I repaying him? Stressing and freaking and letting my anxiety disorder and depression take a hold of my neck and drag me down in the pit. NO MORE!

THIS IS A FANTASTIC THING THAT IS HAPPENING FOR 8,000 REASONS!!! IT'S A LOT OF WORK, BUT IT WILL PASS, AND THEN I'LL BE SOOOOOOOO HAPPPPPPPYYYYYY!!!!!

I honestly thought Pa was thinking I was dumb to get to the tiles because he had this funny look on his face. It turns out he was just sick. He was also probably really tired from HELPING his annoying, stressed-out daughter. But it also turns out he was surprised to see me do a little happy dance in regards to the Pink Bathroom.

That's just sad, people. I'm supposed to be MORE GRATEFUL and HAPPY. But you know me -- I hate change. I keep working on it, but I'm just not any good at it. But once I get used to an idea, I'm all in. As of right now, I'm 110% in with Briarpatch, Green Monster and all.  I totally am. It just took me a while to get there. Poor Pa. I'm sorry, Pa. I'll make it up to you with home-cooked meals when you're done painting the kitchen. I promise there will be no poison in them.

So back to my fancy tiles. I'm taking control of the Pink Bathroom and not letting Ma or Pa get their helpful, dirty hands in there. Well, I do need Pa to help me with the shower extender thing and the new shower head (I'm raising the shower head by 6 inches thanks to one of these), but then I'm doing it all myself. Well, except the lifting of the toilets. OK, fine. I'm doing like two small projects by myself in here, and Pa is doing the rest.

First, I need to rip out the carpet. I've asked Pa to do the cutting because I don't do very well with box cutters, and I am TERRIBLE at cutting straight lines. I'll need a nice, straight line on the edge of the bedroom carpet so I can install a threshold later. Then I'll tear out the carpet!!!!!! And put down these beauties:


As you can see, they look very nice against the pale grey walls:


Then I'll magically find the perfect shower curtain and bath mat to bring new life to the room. And the best thing of all? Right before that herd of Blondersons rolled through last weekend, I went around the house to turn on all of the lights and open all of the doors. While I was turning on the lights in the basement, I spotted something pink. I found a few pieces of the pink and white tile from the bathroom. Upon further investigation, I discovered A WHOLE BOX OF THE TILE. You know what that means? One boring, winter day when I'm snowed in and twitchy, I'm going to cover up all of that ugly bathroom border with brand new pink and white tiles. OK, fine. Pa is totally going to have to help me. I'm pretty sure installing tile takes more than tile and duct tape. But at some point, it WILL happen.

*does happy dance*
*thanks Universe for wonderful parents*
*daydreams about how beautiful the Pink Bathroom will be*

Monday, November 10, 2014

Storytime with Blondie


Once upon a time, there was a little redheaded girl who lived in the country in Iowa with her parents and her older sister, Dorothy. They lived on a country road that was filled with their family members. Grandma and Grandpa were right next door, Auntie, Uncle, Chicago Cousin, and Eagle were across the street. Great Aunt and Uncle Blonderson were down at the end of the road. And so this little girl's childhood was filled with farmland, family, and beautiful Iowa sunsets.

The little girl grew up and eventually went to college in Iowa City. When she was 19, her grandfather was killed in a car accident, and her grandmother died three weeks later from a combination of Alzheimer's and grief. The girl had always been emotional, nostalgic, and ridiculously attached to her grandparents. She wanted to move home after college and live in their house. "No," her father told her. "You want to go explore the world. Grandpa wouldn't want you to move back here. Go, and be free."

So the girl spread her wings and flew away. She lived in Portland and Chicago and made a life for herself away from her small town and family. But after 13 years of city jobs and career life and love gained and lost, she found herself seeking the simple life again. The quiet, Iowa sunsets called to her.

She moved back to Farmsville and immediately wanted to move into her grandparents' house all over again. Uncle owned the house, so surely they could work something out? But there were renters there -- long time renters. Good renters. And so the girl found her own little Farmhouse Villa and settled in. Seven years went by.

One night, the girl went to eat dinner at her parents' house. Her father looked into her eyes and said, "The Universe has blessed you." And then the girl's jaw dropped open as her father shared the news. "You're moving into Grandma and Grandpa's house." The renters were moving. The house was available. The rent was a really good deal. The girl FLIPPED OUT WITH HAPPY!!!!!!

But as the news sunk in and a little time passed, shock and excitement quickly turned to fear. What if something's wrong with the house? Her grandparents had been dead for so long, and no one in the family had been inside. What if the foundation is crumbling? What if there is mold somewhere? The girl's anxiety disorder and depression turned on her. Surely something so good can't happen to me. Only Stupid Things happen to me. I won't believe it until I see it. My glass will stay half empty.

So the girl went on with her life and worked and watched television and did not pack a single box for fear of jinxing herself. A month and a half went by. The girl's anxiety and impatience grew. She started to severely annoy her sweet parents with fears, worries, and elaborate fictions. But every so often, she allowed herself to dream. I could have a garage. I could have a washer/dryer AND a dishwasher. I could have THREE bedrooms -- a whole room just for miniaturing. I could be next door to my family and bathed in my grandparents' love again. 

One day, the girl got a call. Her father had the keys! It was time to go look! The girl flew out of Farmhouse Villa and sped across town. She cautiously walked in the door. Despite looking in every nook and cranny, she couldn't find her grandparents. Her heart was broken. But she did find new things -- potential spaces for her own life. A new life. A better life. And so, just like her grandfather had done all of those decades ago, she stretched out on the living room carpet and heaved a huge sigh of relief.

I'm finally home.


And down in the not-crumbling basement, where the younger version of the girl had always been afraid to go, was a special gift left from the previous renter. He and his wife had moved into a small apartment in the neighboring city, and he didn't have room for many of his old belongings. So he had left one there for the girl, knowing she would enjoy it. She did:


The Universe had blessed her.  

It was meant to be.

It would hurt too much to keep calling the house "Grandma and Grandpa's." It would leave a door open for fresh grief. It was best to hold the memories of what once was in her heart but to make the house hers now -- with her decor, hobbies, and lifestyle. As she looked down the road that once again held five Blonderson families, she thought of how similar the area was to a large bunny warren. Hmmmm.... Interesting. Gazing at the overgrown bushes that hadn't been trimmed in at least a decade, the name flashed through her mind: Briarpatch.  

Yes, it shall be Briarpatch. Because even when my father yanks these bushes out with a giant piece of farm equipment next spring, we bunnies shall remain:


I wonder if I can get all the way moved in by Christmas? We'll see...

And so the girl, who was now a woman, had finally found her way full circle. And it felt wonderful.

The End

The Beginning