Making an Uneasy Peace with Process

When we made the arrangements to rent our chalet we knew a July 1st finish date would be pushing it. Our friend built this “cabin” himself fifteen years ago. It was a rustic, basic affair. There was electricity but no sewer, no running water.

This winter when we met our friend (he was our telemark ski instructor) and found out he owned a chalet near the the ski hill and that he was renovating it with the intention to rent it, we were very interested.

We had been looking for a place to live and the search was proving difficult. We were invited to our friend’s chalet, while skiing one day, and loved it the first time we saw it, sans running water. It has good bones, as they say, and it’s located in a fabulously beautiful location - on the side of one mountain over looking another mountain with a fast flowing river running between. (Eastern mountains, you'll keep in mind.)

Like a crush, we wanted it from the first time we saw it, but there was no internet service available out this far. No internet is a deal breaker for a family who depends on the internet to work (& play). Damien investigated satellite internet options. The findings were disappointing.

Undeterred, Damien dug deeper and discovered that there was a new satellite in space, literally. And that this satellite was newly available to Canadian customers in our neck of the woods. We were able to find internet access at the level we need for work and homeschool.

We took a leap of faith, again. Trusted that the satellite internet coverage would be sufficient (we have heard horror stories about satellite internet) and we committed to our friend to rent the chalet. Having steady renters gave our friend the deadline he needed to get the work done he had intended to do all along. It was a good arrangement for everyone.

And with those arrangements in place we moved to Montréal for the month of June, crossing our fingers that the details would work out in the end. Late last Saturday we arrived to our new chalet. (I think I’ll call it the ski chalet to differentiate from our first chalet rental.)

It’s a gorgeous home. Our friend has the amazing ability to make creative ideas happen. He’s done beautiful work in this space. There is so much we love about the home itself, never mind the fabulous location.

Do you hear a but coming?

It’s not finished yet. And we’re living here. An unfinished house isn’t really that big of deal in the grand scheme of life. Our home in Maine wasn’t really ever “finished” either until just before we moved out, but it also wasn’t a construction zone. 

As a builder’s daughter I grew up living in renovations. The smell of sawdust and new wood is in my blood. But it’s funny how my childhood memories don’t include dirty floors, mice, construction dust that settles on everything, and boxes that can’t be unpacked because whole rooms are taken over with saws and two by fours.

I’m so thankful for the work that our friend has done and is doing to finish our living space. And really, I have running water, electricity and a great kitchen space - what more do I need?

(Honestly, what I need right now is living stability. No more moving!)

Living in construction is hard for “a place for everything and everything in it’s place” person like myself. I like putting my life in neat. tidy. boxes. I like to organize my time and my belongings. 

In fact, the more my overall life gets unpredictable - like all our moving this past year - the more I like to box and organize the little things, to still feel I have some sense of control in my life.

This past week I have struggled with my control issues - big time. My poor family. Truly, I’m tired of moving and just want to settle in. Mess and disorganization in my physical environment is creatively and mentally draining for me.

I know what I’ve said about mess and creativity. You can’t nurture creativity without opening your life to mess. But I like the mess to be put away at the end of the day. I have more peace going through the natural mess of family living knowing that at some point, soon, it will all be cleaned up. The crafting mess, the sewing mess, the kitchen mess, the construction mess.

I’m currently living in a state where the mess will be cleaned up… eventually. I will be able to unpack the soap making, school and craft supplies… eventually. I will be able to hang my children’s art (that has been packed up for over a year) on the walls … eventually. We will be be able to host friends and family… eventually.

I bide my time and wash the floors, and count my many blessings. Seriously. This isn't a trite practice but a way of focusing my attention on all I have to be thankful for. Friends who are renting their beautiful ski chalet to us, a mountain home where we can hear the river rushing night and day, and a view that many people get to appreciate only on vacation.

It’s all good. Even if it’s not all done.

« Time to Live Another Adventure
The Big Question Is... »
  • Jennifer

    Jennifer on July 9, 2012, 12:52 p.m.

    As someone who has moved 11 times in 8 years, adding 4 children along the way, and far from family, I can empathize. It's so hard to balance what you know you want and what is good with human personalities and desires for stability. And mess and disorder are trying to even the most patient of saints. Praying for heaps of grace for you...


  • Michelle

    Michelle on July 9, 2012, 12:56 p.m.

    All I heard was "soap making supplies". Just kidding, but not really. :) I can feel your pain. I like everything in its place too. Chin up! (eyes closed) M


  • Misti

    Misti on July 9, 2012, 1:21 p.m.

    While my house is nowhere near as in a state of construction are yours, it has some issues too. Part of it is that my husband works out of town right now so when he starts a project he isn't able to finish it. And I'm like you---I like to have some semblance of control and tidiness.

    Good luck and I'll be rooting for the construction to be over in no time!


  • Birdie

    Birdie on July 9, 2012, 3:23 p.m.

    I guess this is a time for you to practice growing patience. I myself am not so good at that when my home is in chaos.LOL Hang in there. You have a peaceful nest to look forward to.


  • Teri

    Teri on July 9, 2012, 5:29 p.m.

    Oh Rene - I do feel for you. My personality is very much the same, and it does take a toll on your peace and energy. But oh how you are building virtue! Truly. The more we are required to make sacrifices the more we realize how hard it really is to do so with a loving spirit. Every day - faced with circumstances that you just want to be over, you have the opportunity to say: how can I respond to this in a loving way? And right then and there you get to realize: were it not for [the situation] I might not ever have had a chance this day to think about Love. I know from reading your blog, though, that you know this already. :) Here's to construction finishes ASAP!!


    • Teri

      Teri on July 9, 2012, 5:31 p.m.

      aargh - Renee!!


    • renee

      renee on July 9, 2012, 6:06 p.m.

      Amen Teri. This is refining fire and I'm writing about that for Outsideways. And what you say about responding and growing in love is so, so true. Thank you for reminding me and joining with me in recognizing the eternal spirit work that goes on in these circumstances (which is what matters most to begin with).


  • Anastasia @ Eco-Babyz

    Anastasia @ Eco-Babyz on July 10, 2012, 1:11 a.m.

    The place is gorgeous! I would love to live someplace like that. :) Look at it this way, at least you're living in a construction zone with grown children, imagine the nightmare of a place like this with infants and toddlers! ;)


  • Robina

    Robina on July 10, 2012, 1:15 a.m.

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    Transition is hard. I empathize with you because I don't do well in liminal spaces either. That being said, it does offer a good period of time to not be "on auto pilot" and that can come with some benefits as well. It often doesn't feel like a silver lining when I'm in it, but I can say that now!

    Good luck! The house is beautiful even if it is still under construction.


    • renee

      renee on July 10, 2012, 2:02 a.m.

      Liminal - good word! I'm reading a book of blessings right now that also attests to this space. This "in between". 


  • Jennifer

    Jennifer on July 10, 2012, 2:57 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing photos of your unfinished space. I love the blue walls (we'll just ignore the blue tarp outside. Soon enough, it will be done, and you will settle in. Here's hoping you can get a lot of time outside now to help counteract that crazy, out-of-control feeling. Hang in there!


  • Rana

    Rana on July 10, 2012, 2:57 a.m.

    Oh Renee, I know how you feel with that everything in it's place and a place for everything. It drove me crazy when we were under construction or destruction as my daughter says when we first moved into our home. Just keep looking to the future when it will all be finished. Hang in there Mama! The place is really cool btw.

    P.S. I had the weirdest dream about me cooking beans in your kitchen the other night, and our kids jumping on the trampoline in the yard...destined for a visit? Who knows? Maybe!!


    • renee

      renee on July 10, 2012, 10:45 a.m.

      Yes Rana! A visit. Come! We will be extending a public invitation on the blog for people to come visit when our life is properly in order and the house is finished. 


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on July 10, 2012, 6:55 a.m.

    I can hear myself talking through you... I love the mess to be put away at the end of the day and cannot function in long-lasting mess... I always told JF that I knew of one thing I would never do and it was to build our own house, because I could not do it, unless, we could afford to live somewhere else (which isn't realistic either)... What a lesson in letting go of control. I am exactly in the same boat (not for the same reasons), but on the level of health and money and education in general. It's not easy, but I am already reaping the benefits of it, and seeing the joy increase around me... and in me. Love, Catxxx


  • heather

    heather on July 10, 2012, 9:55 a.m.

    construction zone or otherwise, this home is beautiful! i can't help but think (selfishly) about the beautiful lighting for your photography that we all get to enjoy. but i do sympathize as well, i'd be flustered. i think it's that work/school at home piece that makes it extra hard to be patient. you don't exactly check out and go to the office each die while the sawdust flies. hang on though (i know you are), it's going to be fantastic!


    • renee

      renee on July 10, 2012, 10:47 a.m.

      I am in love with the light and large windows and even in love with blue walls! I feel so blessed to live in this gorgeous space. And yes, the fact that we live and work in our home - all day, every day - does contribute to the tension I feel around construction mess. There is no escape!


  • San

    San on July 10, 2012, 10:52 a.m.

    This place is beautiful, goodness knows what it will be like when it is finished!

    I too find outer chaos unsettling for my spirit, so sympathise greatly.

    Hugs to you during these unsettling days.

    San x


  • Shelley R.

    Shelley R. on July 10, 2012, 12:30 p.m.

    At least the world outside, teeming with creation, is not under construction. And although there may be mice out of doors, there's not feet of construction cords, boxes of half-spilled nails, and painter's tape. Maybe your breaks from "work" can be found underneath another blue ceiling which has no bounds.

    Even still, oh my. I just cleared out half of our kitchen yesterday so my husband could tear out some of the ceiling and wall to find a leak--we moved our pantry unto our 'school' shelves in the dining room and packed craft supplies, canning jars, science stuff, hosting dishes, etc. Then, after the first phase of destruction last night, he let me know that he wants to have it air out at least until October so the wood dries well. I knew this would be temporary, but not in the "handful of months" category of temporary. The blessing I see for you though, is that from what I gather you or Damien are not the ones responsible for finishing the chalet off. And I would think that your friend would be motivated to work hard on your behalf.

    May each day offer you moments of joy and above all--rest.


    • renee

      renee on July 10, 2012, 12:34 p.m.

      Always the poet Shelley (which I love). And yes, our friend is very motivated and honestly, things are happening faster than if it was Damien and I doing the work because our friend is very skilled and has tons of tools (and knows how to use them!)


  • Heather

    Heather on July 10, 2012, 3:54 p.m.

    Oh Renee, even from the pictures your new home has such an amazing energy. I wish you so many happy moments and memories made in such a special place. I love reading about all of the risks and adventures that you take with your family, you are such an incredible spirit.


  • Leanne

    Leanne on July 12, 2012, 4:45 a.m.

    Your home is beautiful!!! (Outdoor photos would be nice..hint. hint.) I am sure you have a must be saying through the rollercoasters of life is... "This too shall pass." Soon everything will be just as you want it, and the dear Lord put you in the midst of the next season of your life!!


    • renee

      renee on July 12, 2012, 11:20 a.m.

      Oh yes, I have a fridge! And outdoor photos of the house will not be posted soon, but someday. It's a construction zone and there is absolutely no green on the ground - just rocks and dirt - because of installing the water and sewer. I have this thing for posting beautiful photos. They can be real, but they have to be beautiful also. When I see that in my outdoor photos, I'll post them (smile).


  • Francesca

    Francesca on July 13, 2012, 8:18 p.m.

    I've read your recent post, and know you're much further along in the process by now - wonderful! From here, I find amazing to see how easy and quick it is to build a house over there, where wood is the main material (and no heavy stones that need chipping, or mortar and bricks), where there is space and land available, and where (presumably) one doesn't need years of waiting for permits. Also, I'm too going to look into that satellite internet magic!


    • renee

      renee on July 13, 2012, 9:32 p.m.

      Speaking of wood - there is just so much wood here. We burn all the scrap wood and we are burning a lot this week! There is so much space and land here to build and live, but we're fairly rural and remote. Canada in general, except for the big cities where most people live, is rocks, trees & water. Rich in these resources.  I can't speak for other places but there is a lot of building freedom here, which we appreciate. But... no English library! So we gain some and lose some. 


  • Beccy

    Beccy on July 27, 2012, 5:35 p.m.

    I discovered your blogs somewhere along the road this summer, and this post specifically speaks to me. We are a military family that moved a TON with babies and toddlers, amd then bought our first home and have been doing constant projects and renovations since we have lived here, but all the projects take too long because of my husband's constant deployments. I find that as mess and uncertainty and chaos increases, so does my need to control and micromanage. And my inability to be creative in the midst of it... Working on all those issues. I love that you have been blessed with such a beautiful home in such a beautiful location. :o). So many of your goals resonate with me, and I love that you are farther along on your journey and you are willing to share and let us strangers benefit from them. Thank you so much! :o)


You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.