The big garages, with a little house attached.
One of the things that made it easy to travel full-time was that we had a great option for a home-base. “You couldn’t have written a better plan,” Michael often told people.
For the past 4 1/2 years, we were fortunate to use my mom’s house as a base of operations. She had a large, 14 room victorian house. Since my dad was a semi-truck driver before he passed away, there was a large gravel parking pad in front that was perfect for our bus. The space was plenty big to share and mom worked during the day, so we could get our projects going while she was a work, and we repaid her hospitality by cleaning and cooking a family dinner in the evening. She loved the time to see her grandkids.
This situation was about to change dramatically. My mom retired this winter. She is engaged to be married in May. She and her fiancé are trying to figure out how to combine two households into one. Then he will retire, too. Things were changing in our family as well. In 2016, we used her home 55 days out of the whole year. Those days were spread throughout the year - 10 days, 4 days, 2 weeks, etc. In 2017, our time home was measured in months, instead of days. Our living situation was in transition, but so was our touring situation.
This past May, I remember sitting with Michael on the porch. He said, “In just a few months, our bus could be sold, our house could be sold, and we could have a new baby and be on tour again - with Charity rocking the drums and a cool new show. The thing is, it could totally go the opposite direction. In two months we could be still fighting mechanics about the bus, we could be stuck with a mortgage payment on top of touring, the baby could have medical issues, and the tour could fall apart...I hope it all comes together.”
It was clear that God was trying to do something - we weren’t sure what. We worked our way through the waiting. Work. Wait. Pray. Trust. There were definitely moments when we thought it was all going the other way.
- We got the bus out of the shop, but we were fighting the warranty company for payment.
- The house didn’t sell right away, and we continued to drop the price to attract new buyers.
- Fidelity was born and we waiting in NICU as they ran tests and tests and tests.
- The new show as mostly working, but the main lighting brain had to be sent back for a warranty replacement.
Then, things slowly started to resolve. The situations were not ideal, but we at least knew what we were dealing with.
- Michael was able to sell the bus, but the new owners had trouble with it right away and often called him for information and advice.
- The house got an offer on it, but the buyer’s requested a large roof repair. The realtor helped us negotiate our way through the repair and sale.
- Fidelity came home from the hospital, but got her diagnosis of Prader-Willi Syndrome, a life-long condition.
- We played the first show with Charity on drums. (No “buts” to Charity’s drums. She rocks it!) Michael still had a lot of finishing touches to put on the lighting, and our booking has several gaps in it.
Michael and I remembered that conversation from May. “It almost went most the other way, but I feel like we are on our way out of it.” It was like that sentence ended in a question mark. We were trying to convince ourselves. Sometimes we have this great weight or tension and it’s hard to pin-point where it is from. We had a great peace about playing music and traveling with the girls, but something was still unsettled.
We had our eye on real estate in Effingham. Now that our St. Louis house had sold, maybe we could afford a little house as a home base instead of using mom’s. Between her retirement and Fidelity’s diagnosis we knew the long-term goal would be for us to have our own home-base, but everyone was willing to work together to share the house as much as we needed until we found something. We needed a house that could accommodate 9 people, but be affordable and small enough that we could manage it while we were on tour. There seemed to be few options, and most of them were less than ideal.
One came up that we thought would be perfect. It needed some repairs, but had a small living space and a large garage, which we wanted for studio and rehearsal space. We started dreaming about all the freedom and flexibility we would have if that house worked out. Then we looked at it. STRONG NO. The repairs that it needed were far beyond what we were willing to take on.
Surprisingly, it was like our world came crashing down. Michael said, “I think I didn’t realize how much weight I was carrying about the living situation. I think we should move this up on our priorities.” We could now pinpoint what was unsettled and worked toward resolving it.
We looked at every house for sale in our price-range. There was nothing. We expanded our price range. There was nothing. The unsettled feeling got stronger. We went to the chapel more. We tried to put our work where we did feel peace - in playing music with the girls.
Work. Wait. Pray. Trust.
Then we got an e-mail from our realtor. “They just gave me permission to tell buyers the price the bank will take for this house. It’s in your price-range, but it is still listed at the higher price. Look at the garages.” It was a little 3 bedroom ranch house with a 24’ X 24’ garage that they added another 24’ X 30’ garage attached to that.
Michael’s response was, “Looks great, can we see it today?” We were trying not to get our hopes up.
As we walked through the house, it was almost move-in ready. There was about a week’s worth of small repairs, painting, grouting, and trim-work. The owner’s had started a remodel and not quite finished it.
I thought, “We could be moved in by Christmas.”
Michael said, “This is nice, do you like it?”
We went into the basement and it was terrible, yet great. There was brown 70’s carpet on the walls and ductwork. Dark paneling to make one room. It was comically hideous. BUT! It was dry and the ceiling was tall enough to properly finish. We would immediately move into the little 3 bedroom one bathroom and then finish the basement to upgrade to a 5 bedroom 2 bathroom house! We started to get excited.
Then the garages. Oh, the garages. Michael had spent the summer in a 24’x24’ garage - building and rehearsing a show. We needed at least that size. He stepped into the first garage and liked it. He stepped into the second one, looked at the realtor and said, “I think this is the house for us.”
We knew the price the bank would accept. We knew we could do it. We made an offer that day and prayed the inspection did not come back with any surprises. It didn’t and we got the “tiny house with the big garages” as our new home base!
The closing date got pushed back, so we didn’t quite get moved in until after Christmas. I teased the girls, “In the new house, I’m going to give you coat hangers!” They all cheered. I was teasing, but it really was a nice perk. In the bus, they had to fit their clothes in a small cubby.
We ordered a full-over-full bunk bed for girls and a trundle bed for the boys. We started bring over stuff that we had crammed in storage at mom’s. Board games, snow clothes, old music gear from past shows, our current music gear. We were surprised at how fast we filled up the garage. For people who “lived in a bus” we sure had a lot of stuff.
Now it is time to get it all sorted and settled. We have a great sense of peace and excitement about the future!