The Cross House

2015. The Year-End Update. WARNING: It’s a LONG update.

Since buying the Cross House it has been the best of times, and the worst of times.

Well, not THE worst. But year #2 was kinda grim.

 

2014: THE BEST OF TIMES

Work on the Cross House began on March 1st, 2014.

I always knew that 2014 would be the honeymoon period. For two reasons:

1) I was in love with the house. LOVE. Love, baby!

2) All the work for the first year was financed. So, even though the money (a scary amount) had to be paid back over the next thirty years, it felt like Monopoly money — not quite real, and, therefore, not terribly painful to spend.

As it would prove, 2014 was the best year of my life. I had a ball. A ball!!!!!!!! Every day, I could not wait to get to the house. Every day was a new project, a new discovery, and a new accomplishment.

Gosh, it was wonderful. I smile in recollection. SO MUCH FUN!

To learn about the house was as exciting as learning the deep secrets and hidden spaces of a new lover. Is anything quite as intoxicating?

I was also startled and a bit stunned to discover that everything I was doing was on a very public stage. I have done home restorations over the decades but each was, well, a rather back-stage effort.

The Cross House though, as I discovered, occupied center stage and with a big bright spotlight shining on it.

Golly.

There was so much attention and questions and curiosity and compliments that it occurred to me: I really have to start a blog. Which you are now reading.

The blog itself became a whole other THING in my life, like having a child unexpectedly. It, too, needed to be fed and tended to.

Golly.

I also fell in love with blogging. HOW did I start blogging so late in life? I could have been doing this years ago!

During 2014, my big old house standing on center stage went from seemingly abandoned, with dirt-streaked windows, and years without light shining through its windows at night, to teaming with life, with gleaming restored windows on the main facade, a new paint job on the main facade (recreating the 1894 colors!), with porch columns restored and recreated, structural shoring in two areas inside, and countless other large and small projects, all of which I detailed in my 2014 year end report.

 

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Painting the tower, September 2014. Crazy, man, crazy!

 

2015: THE WORST OF TIMES

Year #2 proved a total contrast.

Most of this year I have been tense, worried, and scared. While I knew 2014 would be the honeymoon, I had not expected 2015 to be so…grim.

CAVEAT: I wish to stress that I am still madly insanely crazily in love with the Cross House. There is zero doubt in my mind that buying the Cross House has been the best thing I have ever done. Indeed, I feel like my whole life has been waiting for the Cross House. It is a powerful awareness.

The year began with tension about the big grant I had applied for. A lot hinged on getting the grant. Would it be approved? And for how much?

The days ticked by.

Then, on February 15th, I did a blog post. The grant was approved. And for the full amount.

BIG WHOEE!!!!

But life did not work out as expected. Life of course often does this. Ain’t life a minx?

Even though the grant was approved, it wasn’t…really. You see, the state legislature had to approve the annual budget before the funds could be dispersed. And the legislature could, could refuse to allocate the funds.

In short, the Cross House was approved for a grant…which could later be rescinded. Big friggin’ eek.

I was told not to worry about this remote possibility, but as long as it was a possibility, I could not ignore it.

I was also told that approval would be forthcoming by the end of February.

February ended however and with still no approval. My tension level spiked.

Then, as anybody who has paid attention to Kansas this year knows, all hell soon broke loose with the state budget. A veritable perfect financial storm, unprecedented in the history of Kansas. I am not kidding.

I had scheduled a party at the house to celebrate the grant, and picked May 1st as the party date. For, surely, the grant would be approved by then. Right?

It was not. But I could not cancel the party (deposits paid, etc.), which was lovely, even though I was the only one who did not enjoy it as my stomach was in knots.

With each passing day, and still no approval, the knots grew tighter.

The days of May passed. No approval. My stomach now felt filled with concrete.

Then June began. And its days, too, passed. And passed. And passed with no approval.

Now even my lungs started to seize up.

Then, on June 23rd, approval came, and I did a post called Living With Anxiety.

I felt too shell-shocked to really FEEL happiness. Intellectually of course I was doing cart-wheels, but emotionally I just felt numb.

Then I learned that getting approval was a whole other thing than actually getting the funds. Because the grant is a government program, there is, not surprisingly, a ton of paperwork to be done.

More months dragged on. And on.

On November 11th, all the T’s had been crossed and all the I’s dotted, and I received the final final final approval.

By this time I was on life-support at the hospital. Just kidding. Although it felt like that.

While the emotional cost of the grant is nothing I had anticipated, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind as to its importance. The grant will:

  • Put new roofs of the towers, porches, and rear extension. The main roof is OK.
  • Flashing will also be done around the three towering chimneys (stopping, it is hoped, three long-term leaks).
  • All the built-in gutters will be relined.
  • About thirty of the forty stained-glass windows will be restored. Oh. My. God!
  • Exterior siding, long missing, on the east and south facades will be replaced.
  • Numerous clear-glass windows will be restored.

 

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The triple stained-glass windows in the upper stair hall. These windows are now being restored. They should be back in place in January, and I anticipate being quite emotive.

 

Another HUGE issue with the grant is that only reimburses. So, I have to pay for all the above work first, then the grant will reimburse 80%.

Ugh.

There is no way that I can just write a check for all the roof work, so I had to arrange for a loan from my bank. Big whew.

All the rest will be paid out-of-pocket during 2016. I will have a small chunk of work done, pay for it, get 80% reimbursed, then go ahead with another small chunk, and so on. As long as there is cash flow, all…this…should…work.

The idea of all this financial scrambling is, ah, tension inducing. But it must be done.

 

In March and April, a massive amount of work was done to restore the fabulous radiator system to full operation, and I did a post on the work. I love my radiators to perhaps an unnatural degree.

Then the invoice arrived. I gasped. I choked. I felt faint. And was altogether pixilated.

Luckily, I was allowed to make payments, and the last 10% should be paid off next month. W H O E E! Of course, until the invoice is fully paid, all other work on the house was necessarily suspended.

So it has just been me working on the house since May.

The quiet has, I will admit, been kinda nice.

 

In the fall, I did a post on all the work done so far in the year.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all have a crystal ball, to see our futures and then make decisions accordingly?

By the end of the spring, I was itching to get started on painting the north facade of the house. The west facade was completed (whoee!), and I was eager to begin on the highly visible north facade.

Then a person told me they wanted to rent the carriage house, and my eager plans were dashed.

I refocused my attentions to the carriage house, and the Great North Wall Adventure was abandoned.

While a lot has since gotten done on the carriage house, I did not anticipate the emotional response to shifting my attention.

The following is hard to explain.

With all that has gone on in 2015, the #1 issue which affected me was the decision to abandon painting the north facade. Somehow, and this is the part which is hard to explain, not painting the north facade caused a sorta blanket of depression to cover me.

I know, weird.

Painting the west facade in 2014 was incredibly nourishing. Every day I would stand back after many hours of hard work, after climbing up/down three stories of scaffolding, and just smile. Wow! Every day my beloved was looking just a bit better. In time, my beloved was looking gorgeous!!!!!!!!

And this proved deeply, powerfully, intoxicatingly nourishing. My soul felt filled to the brim with joy and pride and satisfaction. While the whole project has this effect, the exterior painting proved to magnify the effect. The results were so visible and evident.

It’s a thrill, for example, rewiring a room. But the effort cannot compare to the aesthetic power of seeing the original 1894 colors return to the west facade of the house.

 

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1999.

 

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2014. This image makes me burst with joy.

 

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A favored image. I burst, and remain astonished that this is mine.

 

Because I do not own a crystal ball, I made, in retrospect, a mistake in not scaling the Great North Wall. I belatedly understand that all the stresses in 2015 would have been much easier to bear if I had spent the last six months being deeply and powerfully nourished by the visual drama of the north facade being made gorgeous.

In short, we all have internal batteries. These batteries need to be constantly recharged. While the work on the Cross House this year has been nourishing, and has kept my batteries charged, the batteries have not been charged enough to compensate for all the stress. At the end of the year my batteries feel less charged than they did in January.

I think painting the Great North Wall would have charged my batteries to maximum.

And then some.

 

The stresses of 2015 have not all been related to the Cross House. My lighting business dipped a bit, which is not surprising considering my extreme focus on the Cross House. The dip has been but 10%, but this nonetheless has had an impact, for 10% less is still less. More would be better!

There has been another matter which has been draining my soul for over two years. This was resolved a few weeks ago, and I thank God.

In the spring, something horrific happened to a creature quite adored by me. No, I will not go into detail. I thought things were getting better, but I lost Herbert this month. Even writing these words makes me cry.

Goodby, Herbert. I loved you.

 

I have a physical testament to the stresses of 2015.

In February, I had lost an incredible 17 pounds during the previous six months.

As of today, I have gained every pound back. Sigh. Big sigh.

 

2015: THE GOOD NEWS

There has been good news in 2015.

Although the grant has been unexpectedly stressful, I am deeply, intensely, wondrously grateful to be awarded such an honor. Even now I think: Wow! WOW!

A major thrill in 2015 was the fact that I managed to get my entire library into the house! Wow! Geez! ZOUNDS! Today, not a week goes by when I don’t walk into the library, with three of its walls lined with floor-to-celing shelves and all brimming with beautiful books, and pause for a moment, smile, and gently rake my hands along the many book spines. Ahhhhh, bliss.

A particular additional pleasure has been bringing the house alive for…yikes!…political nights! I am a political FIEND and have been inviting friends over to watch the Republican and Democratic debates. It has been a thrill seeing the house come alive for these brief hours. The house is made for people and events.

After more than two years of work I managed to get my eCommerce store finally online. INCREDIBLE. I am elated; agog even.

There is also a new Facebook page for my business.

The Cross House is a powerful magnet, and I have developed several friendships with people I met because of the house. This has made my life much richer, and I delight in these new relationships.

 

2016: WHAT TO EXPECT?

In 1994, during my dark years of the early 1990s, a friend gave me a gift to a well-known psychic/astrologer/tarot reader.

The reading proved quite interesting. And vexing.

At the end of the reading the psychic got really excited, and stated that in my fifty-ninth year, I would — she paused, and then breathlessly exclaimed — get everything I ever wanted.

Ahhh…well…uhmm…gee, that sounded great, but that was TWENTY-TWO FRIGGIN’ YEARS IN THE FUTURE!

I had to wait twenty-two years for this great news to manifest?

Twenty-two years?????????????????????????????????

I felt sick at the news.

Yet, yet, yet, next year IS twenty-two years later. Amazing.

In my life I have been told things by psychics which proved utterly preposterous. But, occasionally, some predicted futures proved eerily correct.

And my own intuition actually saved my life on one dramatic occasion, and proved stupendously useful innumerable times (I will never forget a voice mysteriously telling me: “Ask David for twenty”. The results astonished).

So, I think there is something valid about all this, even though I remain a skeptic.

Thus, I will step into 2016 breathless with a cautious anticipation.

 

A year from now I hope to report:

All the work funded by the grant has been completed, or soon will be.

My business will have increased.

I managed, somehow, to get the hopeful tenant of the carriage house INTO the carriage house.

And I, yes, I, will be living in the Cross House by the end of the year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy mother of God zounds!

For most of my adult life I have been single. This has never been troubling to me, but when I read about the adventures of Amy and Doug, I experience a punch in the stomach. This impossibly young couple is restoring a fabulous old house, which they, enlightened souls they be, blog about. When I read the posts I cannot help but wonder how much easier my life would be, and more rich and joyous, if I were sharing the experience of the Cross House with a kindred spirit. Indeed, since buying the house, I have had a subtle intuitive message: You will be sharing all this with a husband. Golly.

Since buying the Cross House a vital concern has been: how to protect its future? I have had many ideas, but one idea is rather powerful. The idea is actually underway, but I cannot reveal it for about six months. The idea makes me breathless with excitement.

A year from now I will weigh 175lbs.

As of this writing, I now know and understand that painting the Great North Wall is of vital importance. Vital!!!!!!! And nothing, not rain nor hail nor finances nor breaking a leg nor being kidnapped by aliens will prevent me from scaling the great north wall and painting it. So, the BIG Adventure in 2016? THE GREAT NORTH WALL, damnit!

 

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Yep, the great north wall. With scaffolding previously erected in, to date, unrequited anticipation…

 

CONCLUSION

2015 has been, well, ok, pretty awful. However, I have had worse years. Like 1985 (which even today strikes terror in my heart). And 1992 through 1995 (three nails-on-a-chalkboard years).

As difficult as 2015 has been though, I am deeply aware of how lucky I am.

The Cross House fills me with an intense, enveloping, and nourishing joy. I wrote this previously, but every time I step into the house I feel good. I should not admit this, but I often hug the house and say: Thank you. Thank you.

I am fifty-eight, and still healthy. I am grateful.

Life fascinates me. As do the people in my life. I am grateful.

My business is successful. I am grateful. My business is kinda cool, too. I am grateful.

My very old cat, Gilda, is still with me. I am grateful. I am praying that she hangs on long enough to enjoy the marble-topped radiators of the Cross House in winter. If so, she will be very happy.

 

Gilda. My favorite ever cat.
Gilda. My favorite ever cat.

 

12 Responses to 2015. The Year-End Update. WARNING: It’s a LONG update.

  1. You’ve had quite the stressful year! Sorry about Herbert.

    I admit, I clicked on the photo of the front of the house and just stared.

    This upcoming year is going to be way better than 2015! I just know it. 🙂

  2. Everything worthwhile is worth the struggle. Your passion & commitment to this fabulous piece of history is a rare thing. Enjoy the journey. Afterall, smooth seas do not make good sailors!

    You’ve got what it takes to navigate these waters. Soon, very soon, you’ll be on the other side (probably looking for the next treasure to save with a wicked gleam in your eye!!)

    Hugs & triple vanilla cheesecake tomorrow! 😉

  3. Thanks very much for sharing, Ross; I love your update. If I believed in God, I’d say God Bless You. 🙂 Yes, 2015 was one HELL of a year for you; I noticed that my stomach started to go into knots in sympathy while reading about your grant “journey”, so can totally empathize about how you felt actually living with all that grinding uncertainty for way too long – it’s a horrid way to live. I’ve been there much too often for my own comfort; I keep telling myself as a coping mantra (often through clenched teeth), “if I can figure out what’s going on, I can figure out a way to handle it”.

    I am SO SO sorry about Herbert’s passing – so sorry. xox Such a heart breaker, this losing someone we love. I have lost some beloved humans this year, and it just sucks. I’m glad that Gilda is still with you.

    I think you’re right on about the need to recharge our internal batteries with beauty, in whatever form, to help us cope and to bring us joy…and I think you’re right in believing that once you get the Great North Wall painted, it will be a huge gift to yourself. I felt the same way about the Herculean task of scraping our house (clapboards) down to bare cedar (the clapboards remarkably, to me, still looking brand new, after 114 years), priming it all, painting, and then tackling all the casing & trim…all while hanging off a very tall ladder (couldn’t use scaffolding b/c we’re on a hill – sigh….) All the prep work was truly a BEASTLY BEASTLY job, but I kept telling myself that it was a Zen thing – to keep focused on small bits of progress (often a a 12″ x 12″ square took at least half an hour to get clean – no joke – argh!) I also would turn my mind to what these walls had witnessed in their 114 years, while my aching arms & hands kept working. It took me 4 solid years of working from Spring to Fall to get it (almost) completed; I need to get a 2nd finish coat on the trim this year. So – you will LOVE! having the Great North Wall finished and looking as beautiful as the rest of her.

    I am delighted to hear that your intuition tells you that at some point you will share Cross House with a beloved; awesome! For me, it has been such a good thing to have a partner to share these old house dreams, and other dreams, with – I am so thankful for my beloved husband, David. You are such a gem, Ross. A person would be lucky to have you as a husband.

    I loved to finally see a pic of the library, with its gorgeous wall color and all your books on shelves. I’ve been waiting for months to see a glimpse – thank you.

    Thank you also for sharing your journey with us/me. I love reading everything you write, and you are in my thoughts and my heart. Happy New Year, dear Ross!

  4. Happy 2016 Ross! May the year ahead be fulfilling and prosperous in everything for you!

    Reading your posts, this one, especially, always warms my heart. I was so touched to know that someone else “hugs” their old house. My 1781 home, “Stagfield,” these past 22 years come February, has been been my dream come true sprinkled with more than a few nightmares along the way. Though I know I’ll never have it exactly the way I envision before I pass it along to the next “steward,” it is enough to feel this old home “hug me back” every time I walk into it.

    Looking forward to my 59th year ahead, too, and reading about yours. Warmest regards.

  5. Happy New Year!! I too, am very sorry that 2015 was a rough year for you. There is nothing worse than the anxiety of worrying about money, and the pain of losing a loved one. I totally understand!!

    But if I may…..I want you to know that 2015, because of you, was a very good year! First of all, you continue to save a house that was also a home to me for many years. I loved this house! And when my Aunt and Uncle owned it for their 20 some years, it was my second home. And because of you, this house will live on! Thank you!

    Because of your blog (both 2014 and 2015) I have learned wonderful things about this beloved house. Thank you!

    And also, because of your extreme kindness, my Family Bible was restored to us this year! If it hadn’t been for you, that part of my family history would have been lost. You are a very kind, and gracious man! And I will never be able to thank you enough for this kind act.

    I look forward to 2016 and the continuation of reading your blog, and watching the restoration of The Cross House. I wish you many, many, long years of living in The Cross House and enjoying everything it has to offer. It truly is a wonderful house! Growing up in that house was a memory that I will never forget!! Thank you for being the wonderful person that you are and for saving that house. Happy New Year!!

  6. I wish you a very happy new year! I too am ready to say goodbye to 2015.

    I have been living vicariously through your blog and experience with the Cross House and saving other significant structures in Emporia.

    You have a very funny writing style and such a positive outlook, I look forward to your updates and other musings.

    No doubt you will find a willing partner in crime this year! How amazing that wasn’t a possibility until a few months ago. I found my husband when I wasn’t looking!

    Celebrate your accomplishments tonight! You deserve it!

    Cheers,
    Drew

  7. Oh my goodness. This post is amazing, just because it’s so honest and real – and GOOD. I hope you know that you ARE sharing all of this with all of us (the husband can come in due time, but for now, we’ll all enjoy having you all to ourselves!). I am so elated to be on this journey with you, sharing some of the same struggles and highs with you. I HOPE HOPE HOPE sometime in the next couple of years, we can meet face-to-face – how fun would THAT be? And thanks for calling us “impossibly young” (spoiler alert – we’re almost 40! Shhhh.)

    You are LOVELY. And I am so glad to know you, and that house is so lucky to have you. As are all of us.

    Happy New Year!

    Love,
    Amy (& Doug)

  8. Well now, that was a lot of living, I guess we all did, lot of bumps in the road but we are all still here well happy and eager to move on.

    I love the Cross House, and through you it lives and breaths. So what if everything isn’t on schedule. You saved her and we are all here to cheer you on. If you need to paint to make you happy by all means paint. Keep your eye on the prize and keep us posted. We can handle the good with the bad. We wait for the next post.

    Happy New Year Cross House, this is our year to shine.

  9. Happy New Year, Ross! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It’s funny, isn’t it, how different our lives can be but so similar. One reason I love reading your blog and a few others who are restoring old houses if that same sense of being called out to by your house, to love and take care of it and feeling it respond in kind. I saw my little old house and wanted it right away. When I come home, I know I’m home and it cares for me as I care for it (her?). I’m more of a yard person and seeing the trees and shrubs I’ve planted and the lawn disappear into beds of pine needles and hearing birds over the noise of city traffic, I don’t know what to say, but it makes me tear up and , yes, feel hands on my shoulders. I’ve heard a voice telling me to keep going when I wondered how i would ever make it. And, yes, as much as it is hard to trust again, wishing I had someone to share this journey with me. God bless and keep us in this new year and always.

  10. Thanks everybody for all your kinds words and support.

    I hesitated to write this post. It has a dark quality which is not typical of my postings.

    But, I was wary of painting a false picture of what it like to take on a house restoration. While I remain THRILLED about this great adventure, it is, in addition to the deeply nourishing good times, also painful and difficult at times.

    Luckily, the former significantly outweighs the latter!

    May it always be as such.

    And love helps.

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