The Cabin

There’s a lyric in a song I love from Manchester Orchestra, “You made a pact with God: if you don’t move I swear I’m gonna make ya.”

It’s been a wild ride this past decade, working primarily out of empty space above a two-car garage in Vermont while doing the Philly/Vermont commute after launching Nature Calls. It involved lugging “agony art” up a steep, rickety ladder that my dad so kindly tried to repair multiple times after I repeatedly tested the weight limit before they agreed to me acquiring the lower level two-car garage as business grew and I took on larger projects. SO thankful for the chance to create different spaces in various states with a small piece of myself etched in to each project, all with the intent of someone else enjoying the space (if not myself) while avoiding working the traditional 9-5. I realized while trying to fit a square peg into a round hole for years that I’m not built for that. Whether a cozy bar area in a backyard, a set on a stage, a tiny house, or a basement remodel, it can be a refuge. A refuge IS a refuge, even if just to a party of one. And I’m a big believer that whatever you do with your life, no matter the season or the calling, it has purpose. It all has value. Just do it to the best of your God-given ability.

My mom put this sign in my shop when I first started out a decade ago.

Stepping outside my comfort zone in a place that, out of the all the places around the world that I lived or visited in 40 years, felt like home, I finally found healing and began to hope and dream once again for the future after starting to tentatively trust the recovery process. And I learned a great deal about myself.

I need the sea as much as I need the mountains.

I need community as much as I need isolation.

Vermont opened my eyes wide to a variety of hard life decisions: dealing with the consequences of your actions and the impact of others’, each opportunity taken or missed, every choice you made, every path you followed, your past failures, deep fears, and where you place your hope. It brought healing and hurt. It tore down and rebuilt. It was a place of sheer joy and complete terror, a rock-bottom with the Lord that I hated immensely and often angrily voiced to him but clung to as a lifeline all at the same time.  Yet at that very moment, when I couldn’t stand the sight of myself and couldn’t claw my way out even if I wanted to, I encountered an even deeper level of suffering that I never expected to experience in all of my life, no matter what I believed, questioned, or renounced. Still. He sought and found me. Me. I NEEDED to be in that place.  It led to such a beautiful, stripped-down version of unconditional love and profound relationship that I had would have never known otherwise. There is deep remorse for what led to that rock bottom, but holy crap. The level of love. That LOVE in THAT place.  You can’t measure that. You can’t explain it. And very few understand it, especially without judgement, no matter what you believe. But that level of brokenness and experience was worth. It. All. There is NO other love like that. All of that…just to know that kind of personal love from my Lord.

So here I am, so extremely uncomfortably raw in my new skin, wondering what the heck is next.

The tiny house movement took on a whole new meaning as I helped build my first TH while managing a larger home and renting it out successfully via AirBnB. The experiences building in VT over a decade helped me realize so much about myself, others, what I want and need, and why people downsize.

While on the tiny house job, I became a total minimalist. Donated most of my possessions, burned a lot of old stuff, regretting at least one fire, and only “attached” to a few things that I could pack up in my truck and drive away with – and that was even after selling my 5×8 trailer. In turn, it forced me to take a hard look at my co-dependency tendencies, abandonment issues, the people I had put my trust in, and why I had done so.

I also came to a quick realization that tiny homes are freaking incredible. I am hooked. I totally get why people downsize, especially after only temporarily living in a small section of the cabin for a few years. I want to be around for more things with my family. Continue to have this deep relationship with my Lord. Be present in the lives of the amazing family and friends who loved me through this season with accountability but also without casting judgement. Just simply loved.

You can have a home of any square footage, but if that home is not filled with love and laughter, you will eventually, most likely, want to downsize. At that point, you just want/need a place to dwell. A reliable roof over your head. You will live, love and laugh outside those walls. So you do what you have to do, to make a home a house that will someday be a home again — but for someone else.

Not only is the tiny house property for sale, but the cabin has been as well.  It was time. I did an overhaul on the decor and design, and it’s being sold fully furnished with the hopes that someone will want the ease of moving into a minimalistic, modernly-designed home without having to deal with the headache of getting furniture that fits the style here. Been there, done that. But that means that I’ve been quasi-residing in a house that was completely emptied of personal belongings except for everything that would be sold with it, furnished with most of my remaining artwork minus my overnight bag and tools. This has been my life for over four months now as I waited for a contract to come in.  It, in turn, resulted in me somehow choosing to completely check out of life. It’s been maddening, waiting on God in a vacant home.

The first deal fell through due to the buyer’s financial state, and it left me frustrated but not broken. Then the second contract just fell through last week due to a medical situation in the buyer’s family, and it left me floundering. Back on the market.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved running a BnB. It had been a dream of mine for a decade, and Airbnb made that possible on a scale that I was ok with. I have enjoyed being able to manage a space solely for couples instead of dealing with running an entire inn, even with the frustrations that came with running this “small” place alone. It has been booked solid since launching it almost two years ago and I thankful beyond words. It’s an incredibly property to live in, entertain, or rent. But it’s not my calling. I needed to move here to see that Vermont is NOT my home, to understand that the idyllic 40-year old dream was only a dream, and that reality was much different, and that it was ok. It served its purpose. Our family loved here. We made countless memories here with family and friends. We evolved here in a town that’s been part of the heartbeat of our family since the beginning. I grew up here in so many ways. I have come to Arlington for 40 years: it’s in my blood, and I’m leaving before I get to the point where I hate this place.  I knew I needed to say goodbye to this place for a long time now, but one of my major flaws is that I tend to hold onto things tightly when the Lord says to release. It’s time. I let go. If you don’t move, I swear I’m gonna make ya. 

I’m intentionally not on social media much anymore, and keeping up with a blog seems just as self-indulgent right now, so I haven’t been on here much either. Maybe one day I’ll find a passion to write again. But with all of the flowing opinions out there and the pressure to write or post or share to gain followers for a book deal instead of just writing because you love writing and the drama that comes with having a social media presence, I’m content keeping my thoughts close and not being a part of that. So, for now, I’m living beyond the pages and posts.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Put down your phone. Be present. Enjoy the moment. Make it a priority to make amends if there is anything unresolved. Live in peace. Forgive, even if someone doesn’t ask for forgiveness. Say you’re sorry. Don’t hold onto things that were meant to be let go. Appreciate the seasons in nature and in relationships. Examine the toxic parts of your own soul and focus on that kind of cleanse. And then move on. Don’t be afraid to trust God. All words I’m writing because I need that reminder right now.

I’m a huge fan of the TV show “Alone” on the History Channel. My parents introduced me to it last year, and I recently finished season 2, where the winner, a former missionary who happened to be from the area I lived in for 14 years, survived for 66 days on Vancouver Island alone. As he was leaving the island, he reflected on his time there. It sums up my time in Vermont.

“I do have a love-hate relationship with this place. You get up in the morning and you confront the realities of your situation. Some days it’s great, some days it’s horrible. But suffering has value. We avoid it at all costs. We would never want to go back and repeat it but it has value. It’s a part of life and nobody gets through life without suffering, nobody.

The question is: what do you allow it to do in you. You can allow that suffering to make you bitter, angry, just a wretched person. You know, you can allow that suffering to eat away at your soul, turn it on itself and just chew you apart or you can look for the deeper meaning it.

My philosophy on suffering is that God is trying to teach me something and I know that, I know that in the end, I get to keep those lessons and the pain goes away.” 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood

The Tiny House

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Happy New Year!

Where did 2018 go??

I disappeared for most of 2018 to build a custom luxury tiny house.  (Insert as many happy emojis here as possible.)

2018 was the first year stepping back from shows, festivals, and custom orders to be a full-time apprentice on a construction site…much different from putting in shop time, I soon came to learn. I was thrilled to be hired to help with the design process, be a carpenter’s helper, and to then decorate the interior and exterior space of this precious home.

I was told early on that I wouldn’t be coddled and would be expected to do the same work as any other helper – if not more – based on my experience, knowing full well I was trying my hand at a job most teenage boys twenty years younger were doing concurrently to launch their carpentry careers. My resume mattered as little as my age, gender, reconstructed shoulders, or pacemaker. What a terrifying gift and wonderful opportunity.

I often inadvertently reverse the words of Luke. “If much is expected, much is given.” I may never be able to weld or burn Lichtenberg beauties, but I was often reminded on the job, “Let your work speak for itself.” There will always be someone better than you. There will always be something to learn. There will be days where you mess up royally not matter how hard you try and you agree for the umpteenth time that you should be fired for botching basic math, for arguing that a framing square is NOT technically a square, or for chasing after a chipmunk with a handful of nuts instead of being readily available to grab a tool. Greatest lesson learned? Extend grace to others and just as much to yourself. Just compete against who YOU were yesterday and strive for excellence, not perfection. You’ll never know your limitations until you push past what YOU thought they were and who YOU thought you were.

There is so much I could say about the job, give insights that they don’t show on the shows, share the triumphs and struggles, but this 8’6″x 20′ house on wheels speaks for itself. So instead of me going on any longer, here is the build in pictures. So thankful. So grateful. So exhausted. Time for a vacation!

I absolutely adore this little home.  Meet “The Hemingway.”  Soon to be listed/for sale.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood, tiny home, tiny house

Adirondack wedding decor

Despite taking a break from shows/festivals this year and limiting custom orders due to my current job, I was excited to help create custom pieces for an Adirondack wedding this past October. I met this sweet couple at Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks last year during Columbus Day weekend while I had a booth at the harvest festival there. From barn wood signs to cupcake stands to a custom cake stand, it was such a breath of fresh air to get back to my roots and to work for this amazing couple. Hard to believe I’ve been in business for almost a decade; it’s been a reflective fall as I’ve thought about how the job and my skill set has changed over the years!

The bride recently sent me a few photos from their wedding. More to come!

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Posted in Reclaimed wood

Pallet wine bench w/ matching end tables

Last year, I was traveling almost every weekend in the summer and fall due to a heavy show schedule. It was wonderful to meet new clients/friends, reconnect with old ones that I usually only see once a year, and sell some pieces. But it was also an unrealistic schedule to maintain as I traveled and worked weekends, then spent the week days rebuilding inventory for the following weekend’s show.

After nine years of doing shows/festivals in New England, NY, and PA, I have decided to take the year off and not do any shows. Yep. None. Nada. Zilch.  I thought I would be nostalgic about it, but at this point in my life, I’m just really excited to have weekends and holidays off. I’m reminded constantly to have more balance in my life in all areas. This is the start of executing that.

So…as a huge work project is wrapping up soon, I’m starting to take orders for late summer and fall.  I recently built my biggest pallet bench so far: a three-seater for a lake house in Cambridge, NY for wonderful clients I met at a fair last fall. After dropping off the bench, they then asked for matching end tables. (Signs of a happy customer!) One of the great things about working with pallets is how sturdy they are for small or large projects!

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Please contact me if you are interested in having a custom piece designed out of pallet wood, barn wood, or other reclaimed materials. Most orders will be completed in 4-6 weeks.

Thank you!

 

 

Posted in bench, pallet loveseats, pallets, Reclaimed wood, rustic decor

The “Flitch-n-Stitch”

I haven’t taken much time recently to build non-custom pieces, but yesterday, I did it out of necessity. Somehow in the past year, I turned into an antique sewing machine table hoarder. How that happened, I have no idea.  The many iron bases I was storing for future projects were taking up precious shop space now needed for larger projects.  There was also this huge slab of cherry with a flitch in it. When I say huge, it was 9 feet long. A bit tough to store upright with the 8′ shop ceilings along with all of the other slabs and barn wood.

So, I took the circular saw and got to work.  Seven feet of that slab was going to an outdoor bench project, and that left me with the two foot flitch section. It just happened to fit perfectly on one of the sewing machine table bases (not all sewing machine tables are the same height, width, or depth).  I painted the rusted iron base black, sanded and lacquered the flitch, and attached the two with bolts.

It makes a great end table or beefy little bench!  I love it when things work out.

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Posted in Reclaimed wood, rustic decor, rustic table, Wood slab

Farmhouse Window

With a little patience and the right materials, you can turn any old window into an antique mirror:

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Posted in Reclaimed wood

Escape

Happy New Year, friends! I know; I have been M.I.A. for most of the summer and fall (and now winter…where does the time go?!). Besides having the most busy show year ever with events almost every weekend in various states, I was pouring every last bit of energy, time and resources into a special project in Vermont.

For years, I have dreamt of owning and operating a bed and breakfast. I bought the books. Researched. Traveled to the Caribbean, looking at properties to invest in and calculated the risks. And I then landed in the place that always felt like home; the one place in 38 years that brought me peace and healing. The place that never failed to foster my creativity, no matter where I was in life.  This is where Nature Calls, LLC was birthed years ago. Where it grew. Where it morphed in an entirely different direction this past year.  And for once in my life, I didn’t overthink it. I just trusted the process and went along with it with blind faith. I was stripped down to the core, and now God is rebuilding what was left after being refined to that painful extent.

For those of you who worry about my isolating tendencies, trust me. This whole experience has taught me that (wo)man cannot live on communing with feral animals alone. As much as I loved Diesel and have been trying to domesticate the other chipmunks, spastic red squirrels, and innocent-eyed juncos, I know. I. Know. It may have taken longer than you thought fitting, but…may I gently remind you that people progress in timeframes applicable to their own healing journeys. I just hope that you extend grace, not just to me, but to others in your life whom you may feel should be further advanced on their journeys than they may be. You can’t rush the process. Leave that timing up to God. But if God is tugging at your heart, hopefully you’ll be there when those loved ones emerge on the other end in whatever condition they may be in. That’s all they need. Just for someone to be there. In the trenches. Letting them know they aren’t fighting the war alone, even if you don’t understand their battle.

Where have I been for most of 2017? Creating the largest work of art I’ve ever made. Nestled on the side of a mountain in Vermont, lovingly creating this space while wrestling with learning to love myself, and by the grace of God, through it all, continually taking another step in recovery and trying to create something beautiful from the ashes. Ironically, or not so much to my Lord, Easter Day of 2018, I will celebrate 1 year of total recovery from my eating disorder, something I haven’t known since 2000. 18 years. Something that almost killed me too many times to mention. The thought of experiencing that freedom each day free makes me well up. Driving all over upstate NY and VT to reclaim the precious barn wood and shiplap that generous people were offering and then repurposing it into functional walls and ceilings while hearing exceptional life stories from those who donated those materials and the lesson of “I create all things new” echoing in my ears. (EVERYONE has a story worth hearing if we just give people a chance…)  Developing relationships with people in this small town to find trustworthy tradesmen whose work ethic matched my own and whose craftsmanship brought me to tears. Where locals supported my dream and showed up, knowing this girl with a big dream needed a hand when she was too proud to ask for the help. Where friends from back home rightfully questioned and challenged what the HECK I was doing with my time and resources, continuously keeping me in check. And where my loving Lord kept quietly affirming in the chaos, “I have you. I’m holding you so tight. Trust in me. Trust the process. I. LOVE. YOU. Stop doubting that. STOP.”

This cabin has been in my family for years. This town is the town where our family grew up vacationing together. My parents had enough money when they were first married to either buy a pop tent or go out for dinner; I am thankful they chose the tent. That decision led to family vacations at the campground instead of trips to Disney, and it instilled something in me that I will treasure until I leave this earth. “There is pleasure in the pathless woods…” I learned early on that God wasn’t confined to the four walls of a church structure; God was living and breathing in the very canvas that He created. And from a young age, I learned that God spoke most to me when I was in His creation…just him. Me. Nature.

And now I have the opportunity to share this beloved piece of earth with others. That’s why this space means so much to me. I was given the opportunity to transform an unused space into something that others could experience, and hopefully, love. I poured my heart and soul into this living gallery in a way that I never built, designed, or created before. I collaborated with Vagabond Craftworks, a highly talented, rustic industrial craftsman who blended my reclaimed, rustic style with his high-end, Manhattan loft-meets-Montana cabin design.

And it miraculously worked.

Every slab and piece of wood was picked in person, the outcome of scouting out craigslist leads and discovering precious treasures. Every concept was poured over. Every design thought out for the comfort and happiness of future guests and the integrity of our work. Every discarded barn wood board and shiplap scrap from the dump, repurposed and given new life and turned into something beautiful.  And I couldn’t be more happy or proud of the final product.

“Escape” is truly that. An escape.

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You know you are happy with something when you want to live in that space.

The amazing photography is courtesy of Maya Rafie (you can follow her at @mayarafie on Instagram! She is an incredibly talented artist based out of Boston). The finished product is something that far exceeded my initial vision. Rustic meets industrial. Manhattan meets VT. It’s a one-of-a-kind living art gallery, available for people to enjoy if they need to get away from the busyness and chaos of life for awhile.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds. But I trust the process. And right now, I’m the happy host of an air bnb that is bringing a small amount of joy to others and a great amount of joy and healing to myself. There is so much to do in every season if you choose to venture down the mountain, away from “Escape.” But if you need a place to hole up for a bit of time alone or with a significant other, this has it all as well.

Unwind. Relax. Escape.

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I’m thankful beyond words that I’m booked every weekend through the end of February.  I love this place, and love sharing the joys of it with others. To book your “Escape,” please visit https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/20818283?location=arlington%2C%20vt&s=sWpNLqMR. Check out the discounted weekday rates if you are looking to come skiing/boarding!

I look forward to hosting you! Thanks for embarking on this journey with me.

 

Warm regards,

Melanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Reclaimed wood