25: Building a Dream

25: Building a Dream

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Building a Dream

Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes.

~Author Unknown

For as long as I can remember, one of my dreams has been to build my own home. In my mind, I saw myself on this beautiful piece of land with sweat on my brow, dirt on my nose and a hammer in my hand as I pounded nails, laid block, sawed, painted and performed other acts of manual labor to physically create, foot by foot and wall by wall, my very own home. At one time, back in my really idealistic days, I not only wanted to create my own house, but I wanted to create everything in it — all the furniture, the rugs, the curtains, a stained glass window here and there. I figured if I was going to dream, I might as well dream big.

Since I’m the kind of woman who has had my own workbench and power tools since I was eighteen, I didn’t really think this was an out-of-reach plan for me. I’ve been known to go into my garage on a weekend and create a new piece of furniture just because I’m bored.

I couldn’t find any local schools that gave courses in home building or even carpentry, so I did what I could to get free home-building “lessons.” I participated as often as I could when our local zoo had community builds. During those builds I worked side by side with many local contractors and carpenters, and picked up a lot of hints and tips from them. I also volunteered several times with Habitat for Humanity. Both of these experiences were great ways to get free, firsthand training in construction practices and to also feel the joy of building something meaningful and lasting.

I always kept the dream-home idea in the back of my mind, but I never did much to pursue the dream for the first forty years of my life. I needed the right soul mate to pursue the dream with me, a man like my early crush — Mark Harmon — who said in a magazine article that he wanted to meet a woman who could live happily in the woods. A woman who was comfortable with sawdust in her hair and sweat dripping off her nose. All my life I had wanted to meet a man who thought like that. Instead, I met men who wanted me to wear high heels and make-up, and who thought they should be the ones who owned the tools.

Fate finally brought me my dream man at the same time that fate engineered an inheritance for me. At the time, I was writing articles for the Home and Garden section of the local paper and the stories I heard of other people’s adventures building their own homes finally pushed me into action.

Little did I know what an overwhelming and complicated process it would be. Little did I know that the process of building a home is not so much sweating and swinging a hammer, but making hundreds of decisions to take all the ideas you have carried around for forty some years and make them fit together and fall into place to become a house.

We did find our perfect piece of land. It was so perfect that I almost hated to clear any of it to make room for the house, but I was itching to actually live there.

And then came another challenging part — drawing up our plans. It’s easy, when you are a kid, to draw a house that you would like to live in. But trying to draw up your own plans as an adult is very complicated. Will the rooms be big enough? Or are they too big? Are there enough closets? Are the hallways wide enough? Are the windows in the right places? Where should the electrical outlets go?

My partner and I complimented each other well in this process. I have always been frugal, with simple tastes. My tendency would have been to spend as little as possible and end up with a house that was too small and built from shoddy materials. My better half thinks more logically about these things. He knows that you get what you pay for and it is better to build too big than build too small. He ensured that we got the quality of house that we wanted. And I ensured that we did it as inexpensively as possible.

I spent a lot of my free time looking at building magazines, visiting building websites, shopping for doors and windows and flooring, and even switch plates and doorknobs. I couldn’t drive down the street without examining all of the houses I passed. And I found out really quickly that most of the things I had pictured in my dream house were way out of our budget. Unless you have an endless supply of money, building a house is a lot about compromises.

As for the actual construction process, we subcontracted most of it. I did lay a few blocks, just to say that I did. And I stained all of the wood trim and doors myself, and we have a lot of wood trim. My husband and his friends framed the interior walls, and he and I put cedar siding on the front and back porches.

During the whole process, I learned a lot about house construction but I also learned something more exciting. What I learned is that the dream is not the house of wood and block and glass and tile we built. The dream is my better half, my significant other, the person who accepts me with the sawdust in my hair and the sweat dripping off my nose and the dirt on my chin. It is not the house we built together that has made my life so exciting and fulfilling; it is finally finding the right person that I wanted to build that house with. And it is not so much the building of the house as it is the life and the future we are building. I think that was probably the real dream all along. I just never really thought I’d ever find it.

~Betsy S. Franz

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