Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I have a dream... TO BUILD!

When Santa gave me a Barbie Dream House for Christmas when I was an itty bitty girl, I'm not sure that he realized exactly what he was doing to me.  Though I didn't realize it at the time, construction was already in my blood.  The Barbies and the outfits and the cute Ken dolls were fun to play with, but the Barbie Dream Home was the ULTIMATE piece of my Barbie collection.  For I had watched my father and his cousin Dale build our home.  I came of age using construction two by fours as imaginary Olympic-inspired balance beams.  I had not yet learned that girls can build stuff, too, but I was well on my way to discovering such a thing.   

I'm thirty-eight now.  I no longer play with Barbies, and to be quite frank with you I don't really follow fashion trends anymore.  I dress the way I want to dress, and usually I acquire the pieces of my wardrobe from second hand shops instead of Barbie's beloved shopping malls.  But I still have a bit of Barbie in my blood.  Like Barbie, I do love my closet.  But it's not the rows of shoes or the dresses on hangers that impress me.  It's the hardwood floors, the wooden walls painted a pale shade of mint, the cabinetry and the trim that I cut by myself!

I've still got a touch of Barbie doll in me, but not in the way that Mattel intended.  For I want to BUILD Barbie's Dream House for her.  Gone are the days when I combed Barbie's hair and tied tiny bows into her golden locks.  And gone are the days when I sat around waiting for Ken to show up in a convertible, wearing expensive clothes and gifting me with new dresses and diamonds and tiaras and chocolates and the latest trends in the perfume industry.

Tomorrow is my first day on my very first construction job, y'all.  I'll get paid to run a saw and build stuff!  I feel like I've won the lottery!  I'm just living the dream, man....

A few people have asked if I think it will be hard to be the only woman on the construction site, but I'm not worried in the slightest because I KNOW that I shall not fail.  I don't care how heavy the boards become that I must lift, or how high I must climb on a rooftop to get the job done.  I don't care how sore my muscles will be at the end of the workday, y'all.  You know what matters to me?  Doing what I love to do and watching people become wide-eyed as I kick some serious butt on the construction site.  Yes, I will undoubtedly make mistakes.  And that's okay, because mistakes are how we LEARN.  My goals are to learn, to grow, and to prove that sassy southern gals can be smart in their heads, pretty in their hearts, AND we can build really cool things. 

Ain't no shame in this game!  Life is meant to be lived, and by golly I'm gonna use this opportunity to SHINE for my Creator! 

But make no mistakes about it.... I do love Barbie's pink Jeep.  I actually own one.  It's a 1957 Willys Jeep, Pepto Bismol pink, and my dad bought it for me when I was fourteen years old.  I still own it, though it needs a new restoration.  I shall restore it, I can promise you that much.  And this former Barbie girl will proudly drive her pink Jeep to her job as an assistant carpenter one day.  It's just a matter of TIME.....

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Church of Christ Piano? Yep.

In the past four years, I have learned so dad gum much about living life to the fullest, construction techniques, re-purposing trash into treasure, and just being an honest-to-God friend to those in need that I cannot even imagine living any other lifestyle that the one we live now.

The kids and I have perfected the art of being a family of three.  We cook, clean, serve as carpenters, paint, sand, stain, polyurethane, build our own furniture and collect artwork that speaks to our souls.  And though our budget is tight (we choose for me to work part time for income and full time for US) our money seems to stretch so much further than it did when we were a "traditional" American family being supported by a nine-to-five. 

Last year we had something hysterical happen.  I had literally been asking God (and all of my friends) for a piano to put in the living room of our dogtrot.  Far and wide I searched, but all I could find was the occassional "this one needs a lot of work, but you can have it" ads on Craigslist and in newspapers.  I pretty much became the musical version of Goldilocks.  This piano was missing too many keys.  That one was missing too many strings.  The next one was missing too many keys and too many strings.  And then it happened.  I FINALLY found a piano that was just right.

The irony of my piano purchase was not only the price (a whopping twelve dollars and fifty cents) but also the LOCATION.  You see, the Church of Christ in one of our local towns was up in arms about their former pastor's piano being left in the parsonage.  Now for those of you who don't know anything about the Church of Christ, it's important for you to comprehend that they do not believe in using musical instruments in their services.  The piano, it seemed, was sacriligeous to them and they wanted it out as soon as possible.  Seriously.  I was told to "get it out of her as soon as you can because we don't want it here anymore."  I laughed out loud, but I was the only one who got the joke. 

It's important to say that the piano had been defaced.  Kids had been carving their names into the wooded exterior of the piano for quite some time.  But it played like the dickens.  I'm telling you, I sat on the piano stool in the parsonage and pressed down those ole' black and whites, and I'll be dad-gummed if it wasn't love at first sound.  Pressing the pedals was like stepping into warm butter, only without the mess.  This puppy was a finely tuned instrument, it just needed a good tuning and a little bit of elbow grease to help ease it back into daily use.

I bought it right then and there, and my boyfriend (at the time) helped haul it back to the dogtrot.  It was ugly as burnt molasses, but I had a plan.  I wasn't content to have a normal piano in a very unique house, so I went through my collection of half-used paint cans from this remodel and quickly picked out a color palette.  What happened next was very simple.  It involved painter's tape, two paint brushes, and a fine coating of flat paint in strategic places.  When it was finished, we placed it beneath an enormous painting of a zebra and VIOLA.  Home Sweet Home became even sweeter.  For twelve dollars and fifty cents and about an hour and half worth of work.

You want to live the simple life and still get luxuries WITHOUT having to rob a bank?  It's simple.  Just use that noggin of yours and search high and low.  Think outside of the box.  An ugly piano can become beautiful with just a little bit of creativity.  And a little bit of creativity can chase the ugly out of any day.

I can't even begin to tell you how often we use this piano.  Preston was just sitting at it last night, picking out a song by ear (the way my grandfather learned to play) and my dear friend Bonnie has been coming over for piano lessons as often as possible.  You outta hear the notes of this beauty ring out through the dogtrot hallway and spill into the woods surrounding our home.  It really sounds like you've stepped back in time, y'all.  And I couldn't be prouder of our Church of Christ piano.  :-)

Monday, September 21, 2015

We found the cause of AUTISM, Y'all! Seriously!

We began this restoration in May of 2011, and I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined in advance exactly what this historic homestead would do for my family.

It has been impossible to blog up until this point, but now the blog bug has bitten for reasons far larger than the restoration of our homestead.  You see, we moved to the middle of the woods and began this restoration (or so we thought) to save money and life a more simplistic life.  Four years later, I am a single mother who doesn't have time to date, callouses on my hands, a whole new batch of laugh lines, and as of summer 2015 my family figured out the CAUSE OF AUTISM and learned how to cure thirteen year old Miles of his Sensory disorder!

I'm happy to announce that my child has been cured of his Autism Spectrum Disorder, but the cure places a very heavy load upon our shoulders.  You see, we KNOW why our species has developed Autism and other sensory disorders.  And we KNOW what must be done to turn this DISability into one of the greatest ABILITIES that mankind has ever known.  It is not going to be an easy road, but it is the road that we must take because humanity is literally dependent upon the distribution of the knowledge that our family has gained.

Sugar Creek, Louisiana is home to our little family.  And what a home it has become!  I have dropped more than forty pounds.  The kids have gained strength, wisdom, and maturity.  Plus they've shot up like weeds.  They're growing up quickly, and it makes me smile to see them turning into young men who understand morality and ethics. 

I've become a part time school teacher that teaches a class on OLD FASHIONED VALUES, a profoundly beautiful look into gardening, canning, home construction, animal husbandry, morals, ethics, and cultural differences between our ancestors and our present-day society.  And as of this week, I am going to work part time as an assistant carpenter.

Life is joyous.  The house is still not finished--far from it.  But we find joy in working on our home because we know that we're not simply restoring this house.  It is restoring us, too!

We host NATURE PLAY every other weekend right here at the dogtrot, and I am still surprised by the amalgamation of people who gather around our bonfire to sing songs, share wisdom, bask in the warmth of belly laughs and throw their souls into working together to solve the problems facing modern man. 

My family has begun a company that will literally change the face of housing in America.  We cannot wait to share with you the freedom that we have found by living life the old fashioned way, and I can guarantee that it will be a life changer for you if you allow us to reach our hands out and help pull you out of the abyss of hopelessness.

Here are a few photos of a few of the amazing friends and experiences that have helped to make our family's dreams come true.  We are blessed beyond measure, and we're thankful to God above that life is so splendidly beautiful.  Life is sweet at The Sugar Shack!

Instead of writing paragraph after paragraph to explain the massive changes that have occurred within our hearts and within our home and within our circle of friends, we'd rather just show you.  So here are a few pics that show a tiny bit of what we've been doing instead of blogging.

You see, we have BECOME the change that we wish to see in this world.  And we're so happy to MAKE THE MOVEMENT MOVE!

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Yesterday morning we saw a gorgeous lunar eclipse.  

The kiddos and I awoke before 5am on Wednesday morning and headed down the road to an opening in the trees that lets us see two different ridge lines from one hilltop.  We pulled over and there she was... the beautiful, shaded moon.... and the pre-dawn sky was so dark that the stars were shining down on us like spotlights from the heavens.  

Sugar Creek, Louisiana is unlike the rest of the state.  I was raised about an hour's drive away, in small-town Sarepta, and until I found this house in the woods I had no idea that there was a tiny region of my state that seems more mountain foothill than swampy bayou or pine-scented, flat-floored forest.  And it was here, in the rolling hills of a region of our state that is practically unknown to the rest of the world, that my kids and I found ourselves sitting on a hilltop nestled between two ridge lines and grinning beneath the blood moon eclipse of 2014.

It's magical to see the shadow of our planet being cast upon our moon.  Every time I have the privilege of seeing an eclipse I always feel like it's a blessing, and yesterday morning I had the distinct feeling that we were seeing something EXTRA special. 

Miles turned to me mid-eclipse and asked what ancient people would have thought about when they happened upon an eclipse.  Then he mentioned that he thought the Natives here had probably wondered if such a thing was a sign from God.

I grinned and gave my twelve-year old the surprise of his life by talking about the ancient Mayans and calendars so precise that make ours today look out-of-date.  We spoke of Poverty Point, and of Serpent Mound, and the mathematically and astronomically genius civilization (the Mississippian Culture) that walked these very lands long ago.  We talked about ancient Egypt (one of our favorite subjects) and other societies that loved the sky and had a thorough understanding of eclipses long before our european ancestors made their "discoveries."  And it made me think....

Many people today are taught lessons in school, such as lunar cycles and other wonders of astronomy, and never really take the time to truly understand the material that they're studying.  I've heard so many people talk of the blood eclipse as a sign that God is about to destroy mankind and usher in an apocalypse.  Why do we STILL, after thousands and thousands of years, assume that such an act of nature is a WARNING?  Maybe God just wants us to see the shadow of our planet every once in a while so that we may put our own existence into perspective.

The boys and I try to learn lessons from everything we go through in this life.  And this morning I'm thinking about the shadows that have darkened my world and blocked me from the light of happier times.   I've been through divorce.  I've lost people that I loved to sudden, unexpected death.  I've been cheated on, beaten, taken advantage of, and along the way I've made the conscious decision to LEARN from the experiences and grow as a person--and to never allow the personal eclipses that darken my little world to make me unable to see the sun when it appears again.  You see, I believe that we learn our biggest lessons and grow our spirits the most during hard times.  We don't always understand the shadowy things that happen in our lives, and if we're not careful it's easy to assume that shadows are "evil" or "eerie."  But like the eclipse of the moon, a little knowledge goes a long way.  

Is it not true that we learn the most valuable lessons from hard times?  I am the person I have become because of the wonderful AND the terrible things that have happened to me.  And I'm sure the same can be said about you.

I've noticed that most of us tend to focus on the shadows that fall across our lives and don't quite realize the true meaning behind it.  If I didn't understand science, I wouldn't have been able to recognize the reasons for the eclipse yesterday morning.  And if I didn't learn lessons from difficult times, I wouldn't be able to truly appreciate the good times.

Many ancient societies (and even modern ones, at that) saw eclipses as very foreboding.  They believed them to be a warning that God was about to punish the earth.  And though modern society hasn't fully learned to see eclipses as something profoundly beautiful, I am teaching my children to view the darkness as it sweeps across the surface of the moon and understand that we're seeing the shadow of something much bigger than us--we're seeing the shadow of our own home.  And what a beautiful shadow it is.....

With love,


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I AM CRYING this morning.

I am as tough as the square nails that we reclaim.  I've been through a lot in life, and as a result I've learned to hold my shoulders up and work my tail off when things get tough.  It keeps me sane, and it's the PERFECT character trait for a single Momma who is restoring a house with her young two sons.

But this morning something got through to me and I felt the tears rolling down my face.  You see, yesterday the kiddos and I launched an Indigogo campaign to raise the funds we need to finish up this old house.  And this morning we opened up our Indigogo page to find that someone had anonymously given $100 to our cause.  With the way we are with money, to us $100 is the equivalent of at least $1,000 to most Americans. The kids and I stretch every cent so far that ole' Abe's eyes bulge before we spend it!!!!

Miles, Preston and I have been talking about staring an indigogo campaign for THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK for at least six months now, but we didn't because I was afraid that nobody would contribute a cent and that I would feel silly for bothering everyone.  But then I started reading Alice Hoffman's THE DOVEKEEPERS and a single line in this wonderful novel made me change my mind.  The main character points out that when you're quiet and you never ask for anything, that's exactly what you'll get.  I knew, after reading Alice Hoffman's words, that I needed to get over my ridiculously egotistical pride and let everyone know that we NEED your help.  We WANT you to be a part of the history of this house.  And we are asking you to help because if we don't ask, you won't ever know that we need your assistance.

Below you'll find the link to our Indigogo campaign.  If you're thinking about investing in our future B&B, please know that you don't have to pay until the end of the campaign. I'm serious when I say that EVERY. SINGLE. PENNY. HELPS. TREMENDOUSLY. The boys and I are working our bootays off, but we simply cannot building chimneys, install a septic system, or snap our fingers and have plants suddenly appear around the house that we're restoring every day.

Miles, Preston and I worked on our deck furniture until the sun got away from us last night. We literally used every single second of the setting sun to finish cutting angles because the two sides of the bench were not squared off properly.

Perfection is dang near IMPOSSIBLE when one works with reclaimed wood. But I'm learning to compensate for warped pre-civil war wood by celebrating the uniqueness of our work. NOBODY has another bench like this one. At eight feet long on one end and nearly twelve feet long on the other side, I smile with every nail that we set because I know there will be thousands of amazing conversations that happen on the bench that we're building. And the total cost on this project has been a whopping $30. (The price of a big box of nails.) We're using wood we reclaimed. We even got away with buying only $30 worth of nails because we even REUSED the square nails we salvaged before we bought any new ones to finish the project!

Think about it, y'all. If we can build nearly 20 feet of gorgeous seating, two decks and a dividing wall for $30, then imagine what we are gonna do with the $100 contribution we received on indigogo!

So to whoever you are, you amazing anonymous donor who gave us a big smile and lots of HOPE this morning, we THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOMS OF OUR HEARTS!

If you wanna contribute, visit our campaign at

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Thank you, JAMES JOYCE!

The word on my bathroom door haunts me. I STILL don't know for certain what it means, though I've tried (and had others try) to decipher it.

*********Eye twitch.***** 

What does it mean? 

*********Eye twitch.*****

So this morning, whilst suffering from the all-too-familiar eye twitch that accompanies the crazy word on my bathroom door, I found myself on the computer.  I went straight to my handy online latin to english translator, which every good southern gal uses daily (yeah, right!), and gave the letters a whirl again. Only this time, something weird happened. I already KNOW for sure that trans means "to cross into." So I typed the letters "magnifican" and accidentally hit search in Google instead of the online translator, and look what popped up:

JAMES JOYCE in his book ULYSSES: "Is that then the divine substance wherein Father and Son are consubstantial? Where is poor dear Arius to try conclusions? Warring his life long upon the contransmagnificandjewbangtantiality."
Okay. So let me get this right.... James Joyce, in classic literary genius, penned a similar word in ULYSSES, his most famous book????

I did not expect this connection.

I proceeded, at said moment of discovering a possible connection between my bathroom door and JAMES JOYCE, to almost faint. With my mouth gaping open and my eyes bulging almost out of their sockets, I scrolled down through the article.

What came next more than upped the ante.

There it was, plain as day on the page. THE WORD on my bathroom door, in all of its ridiculously long glory. TRANSMAGNIFICANTUBANDANSIALITY.  On the internet.  So on a website that highlights the work of James Joyce, the LAST place I would have ever thought to look for the origins of my door, I learned some of the history behind the word that has vexed me so.
I STILL don't know what the heck it means. But I do know that TRANSMAGNIFICANTUBANDANSIALITY has just intrigued me yet again. And that, my friends, is freaking awesome.

Here's a link in case you wanna take a peek at the word origins:

Saturday, October 4, 2014


A few pics that THE SHREVEPORT TIMES photographer Jim Hudelson and reporter Maggie Martin captured during our interview.....