My Bill Done Bought Me a House

“He makes his home where the living is best.” Latin proverb

I grew up with dreams of getting married, having children and buying a home. In 1979, Bill and I got married and six months later, at the age twenty-three, we bought a house in Tarboro, North Carolina. It wasn’t an extravagant house by any means. It was a small, white, wood frame, two bedroom home with one bath and a floor furnace in the hall. It cost us $23,000 and to me, it might as well had been the Taj Mahal. We did what many couples seem to do; we got a nice dog named Muffin. Every day, Bill would sing this song to her: “Oh do you know the Muffin Girl, the Muffin Girl, the Muffin Girl…Who lives at 1100 Chapel Street?” Our mansion. Our dream.   It was time for a baby.

John was born three years after we were married. I quit my job so that I could be a stay-at-home mom and all of a sudden, finances got pretty tight. We sold the house for $29,000 to pay off our debts and moved into a nice rental home on a pretty street with brick homes. Life was good! We then got pregnant with Natalie and moved into the house next door because we needed more space. Once again, we were renters.

When Natalie was almost two years old, we left Tarboro so that Bill could pursue Christian Education Administration at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. We put everything we owned into a U-Haul truck, said good-bye to the corporate world and went out on “Bill and Donna’s Excellent Adventure” to see where God would take us. In Virginia Beach, Bill got his education and Donna got another baby, Stacey. What was next for this family of five?

New Orleans! We lived in three different abodes, one a pretty little town home set in a garden courtyard. The courtyard had thick, jungle-like greenery and trees I had never seen before, making up a type of exotic forest. Everything about New Orleans was different. The people talked like they were from the Bronx and they had Mardi Gras! The food was fabulous and I learned to cook Cajun delicacies. But I felt as if I was in a different country! My fourth child was born there. Jeremy. I think some of the music from New Orleans seeped into his soul. We always left each city with a piece of it in our hearts.

In Atlanta, we stayed in a Christian retreat center just outside the city. We had rustic rooms that looked like kid’s camp bunk rooms. The children thought that they had died and gone to heaven. They could jump on all the beds and run and play all over the expansive property.  We were the only ones staying there for months. It was almost like a vacation.

Orlando was our home for nine years and we lived in eight different places. At first, we lived in a condo on beautiful Lake Lotus. This was my first Florida home and my best remembrance of it is looking out of my sliding glass doors on the first morning up and seeing the mist rise out over the lake as a tiny boat sat on perfectly still water.  Some snowy white birds were on the shore and I thought to myself, “I live in Florida.” I smiled to myself for weeks, thinking I was the luckiest girl on earth.

We moved our growing family and tribe to what we called the “blue house.” It had four bedrooms that were filled to the brim with life. The first morning we were there, the older children went to school and by the time they got home, I had the house entirely decorated. Pictures on the walls, my cross stitched master pieces prominently displayed for all to see. I remember that Natalie walked in after school, looked around and said, “Momma! You put up our ways on the wall.” She automatically felt like she was home.

When we got married, I began cross stitching. I decided not to read as much (I was an avid reader) but to do something during my spare time that showed the work of my hands. During my pregnant and nursing years, (eleven or twelve years) I was a cross stitch artist. I spent so much money on custom framing that I could have made a down payment on a small house! Bill was always fussing about it, but I decided that my artwork would be a legacy for my children. No matter where we lived, that art decorated our walls. The day my last child, Cody was born, I stopped doing it and began to read again.

My last two children, Isaaca and Cody were born when we lived there. They were rare, Florida natives. Our family was complete. One dream accomplished!

Later, we lived in two other nice homes on lakes, one of which I actually caught my boys playing with baby alligators at a retention pond in the neighborhood. Next, I got to live out another dream of mine by living in a log cabin. We weren’t in the mountains but in Florida! I thought it must be the only log cabin in Orlando. The neat thing about it was that Bob Ross, the artist on T.V. lived next door. He was the kindest man. He took care of wounded squirrels and birds. One time, he showed Bill and me his basement studio and his 19th century art collection.  I know you’re jealous! It was so cool!

For me, the best thing about the house was the front yard and porch. I planted beautiful fern and caladium beds flanked by multi-colored impatiens in the front yard in the deep, green shade. I loved to drive into my driveway, sit in my car and look at that loveliness and from time to time, glance over at Bob Ross’ house. It satisfied me.

Of course, I’ve written about the apartment complexes we lived and ministered in. That certainly satisfied our desire for adventure but it also taught us that no matter where you live or who you live around, you find that people are just people. I recall that our son Jeremy made friends with a Haitian boy, Marcus, in one of the complexes. They played together every day and made a fort on the corner of the property with trash they found lying around the neighborhood. It was probably nicer than some of the temporary homes in Haiti. I hated that someone tore it down one day. There were two broken-hearted little boys!

Orlando entertained us all the time. In one house near Kissimmee, every night at 7:00, you could see the fireworks from Disney, Universal Studios and Sea World. It was the Fourth of July every day! At the apartment complex in “the hood,” you could see helicopter light shows all the time. They always flew low over where we lived, seeking out car thieves, drug dealers or murderers. We were Christian adventure junkies!

Miami was interesting! We lived in a condo at a resort right on the beach. Bill sold time-share out of it by day and did Spanish speaking church services at night and on the weekends in the conference rooms. Our apartment had two bedrooms and a sun room. There were eight of us and most of the kids slept on pallets on the floor. We felt as if God had given us a year’s vacation! After that, we got to stay for several months in an apartment in a flower nursery. That was odd, but hey, the place was loaded with nature’s colors and beautiful birds lived all around us too! It was so tropical. Plus, there was a great Cuban restaurant across the street at the gas station. Did I tell you Cuban food was one of my favorites?

I loved Miami! It was blue and aqua and green and white and it smelled of all kinds of foods and it was the only place where I had ever been where you could stand on a street corner and hear car radios blasting in at least three different languages at one time. Sensory overload! It was glorious!

The next place we lived was Alabama, God’s Country! We lived there for nine years and served in a church with the loveliest, kindest people we had ever met! We lived in one house for eight years, the longest time we had ever stayed in one home. The kids really grew up in that house and over time, it became a showplace to me. I planted rose gardens and dug flower beds in red clay, as hard as cement. I added truckloads of black, rich soil to the red dirt and mixed it with my hands every year and miracle of miracles, the flowers were stellar! My pride and joy! My little bit of heaven!

I had an artistic friend, Candice, who came and painted in free-hand, lyrics on my walls. I had a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song, “Our House,” painted all around the house, over the fireplace, the piano, dining table and chair railing down the hallway. It was our mantra. It made us all happy to see it and we smiled every time we walked by the beautiful, free flowing words. That house held so many dreams in it…It was a magical house where our kids came to live there as young children and left as adults.

The children all moved to Nashville, Tennessee because music was calling and they had dreams to live out. When that happened, I had a breakdown. We were leaving Alabama too, and they were all in a new town without me. I felt as if my life had been pulled out from me. My life was a beautifully, set table and someone yanked the table cloth out from under it.

But God had plans for us. Bill and I went to Sneads Ferry, North Carolina to work, after twenty eight years of ministry life, at my cousin and her husband’s real estate company, Treasure Realty. Our lives had completely changed and in my heart I thought it was only temporary. Bill and I desperately wanted to be in Nashville. We made plans pleaded with God to let us go…open the doors…get us near our children. They were our home. We just wanted to be near them.

And somehow, it didn’t happen. Nothing worked out for us. There was not even a crack of door opening anywhere. So…

We lived in lovely places in Sneads Ferry. Twice, we lived in condos on the beach. For a little over a year we lived in a garden home and since last March, we’ve lived in my cousin’s downstairs apartment in their home on the Intra Coastal Waterway. Not too shabby! God always gives us the best places!

We’ve been here for three years now and I have to tell you, after a while, we just chose to be happy.   I can’t tell you the day I decided to do that but we thought, “At our age, we need the stability of work. Also, we are celebrated here and people love us! We have other family members near us. What’s not to like?”

Little by little, I began to see myself in Sneads Ferry. Bill and I started looking for a house, not to rent but to buy! I must announce that we found one.   We saw it on a Sunday and within a few weeks, it was our house! We are over the moon ecstatic about it! After thirty-two years, we are home owners again!

We are having the inside painted now and we will move in a few weeks. I can sit on the front porch and actually hear the ocean roaring from a half mile away. When we lived in Alabama, we lived right off of Interstate 20 and at night I would lie in bed and hear the big trucks rolling down the highway traveling to and from Atlanta and Birmingham. They sounded like the ocean’s roar to me and I would pretend I was at the beach, going to sleep under the oceans hypnotic spell.

I don’t have to pretend anymore! It is the ocean and I have a big front porch! Come and sit with me and let’s visit!

My brother-in-law, Keith used to always tease me and ask, “When are you guys going to stop renting houses and buy one?” I’d always answer back, “Don’t you worry about it. My Bill is going to buy me a house one day.” It became a family joke and as some of my Southern friends would say, “Donna’s Bill done bought her a house!” I just may have to have Candice come up and paint some free-spirited words on my wall or just put the old ones back because: “Our house, is very, very, very fine house.”

photo (1) photo (2) photo (3)

 

Oh, and by the way…Nashville is never out of the picture! One day, Nashville. Me and You…Just you wait and see!

 

 

Here’s a couple songs….enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Peggy Williams
    Apr 06, 2014 @ 22:57:49

    O, Donna, I’m so happy for you! The house is lovely, just what I would imagine for you. And you will fill it with your “treasures,” those things that are uniquely you. I’m so sorry for the bittersweet memories from Alabama. You and Bill and the children were so loved by so many of us, and we miss you but are so glad that you stay in touch. Holly has never gotten over that loss, and I doubt if she ever will. You will never know how much you and your family meant to her and still do. The Crosby, Stills, Nash song is one of my favorites. (It seems you always pick what is a favorite of mine or one that becomes a favorite.)
    I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of the house as you decorate it.

    Reply

    • themuseinme
      Apr 07, 2014 @ 01:48:09

      Peggy, you make me cry with your kind words. We love our Alabama people so much! I can’t imagine what our life would have been like without you all. Give Holly our love…always will love Holly! I’ll send you pictures as things progress. Come and see us!

      Reply

  2. Gina Cova
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 00:14:33

    Thank you Donna. With the mention of each house you lived in brought back the memories of all the houses me and the boys lived in. I am so happy that you have now got your home. Each house you made into a home for your family. I love each of your stories, they bring my own memories back to me. Thank you. I know that you and Bill will have a wonderful time in your new house. You are so missed.

    Reply

  3. Keith Batts
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 02:39:23

    Just to add to Donna’s beautiful story. Her sister Jennifer and I (a mere 4 kids)
    have been homeowners for
    32 years– and still have a 26 year mortgage (on the same house) sadly lol.
    Regardless Donna and Bill are what we (couples) all should probably strive for …solace in a song, peace in a sleeping child’s face,
    laughter for no particular reason,
    believing when it’s hard
    ,cherishing having too many to feed
    , crying for failures,for un-realized plans,un-made beds,pallets in buses,in vans,in car ports -I digress….
    Bill and I have been the kind of best friends that don’t have to talk for years and the commonality of our brother-in-law-ness lets us pick up right there and his jokes still semi-amusing,confusing and confounding by all comical standards
    I paraphrase ..zee
    But our secret,
    Here is the root of root and the bud of the bud
    The sky of the sky of this thing called life
    We picked these two fabulous (girls) -who agreed to “make our Lives!”
    Not designed,not perfect but scattered with what every set of couple seeks.
    And what makes Bill and I feel good is “we ” got it and it’s worth 32 years of house hunting for that wonderfully talented sister-in-law to so eloquently share w,hat sounds like a great life .

    Remember we can’t control how other love us but we can control how much we love them…..so do it recklessly. #stickwiththischance

    Reply

    • themuseinme
      Apr 07, 2014 @ 02:49:27

      Keith! Why do you make me cry before I go to sleep??? You are the sweetest brother-in-law I have (and that’s not by default.) Jennifer and I chose well! We both have it good and you guys make sure we do! Love you and my sweet sister!

      Reply

  4. Carmen Griffin
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 02:41:56

    Donna, thank you for sharing your family’s delightful journey. I am thrilled that you have a beautiful new home. I am sure many wonderful memories will be made there. And yes, I expect one day it will be you and Nashville. Thank you for allowing us to travel along with you and enjoy. We miss you and Bill tremendously, but know that you are blessing so many others.

    Reply

  5. kim waites
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 15:04:46

    It’s evident to all who meet you that God has made His home in you. Hope your new place is a refuge for all you choose to invite in, but especially you.

    Reply

  6. Morris &Jan Hunt
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 15:24:52

    Donna…. Jan and I are so happy for you and Bill. I wish to thank Jesus for bring the Birds into our Christian life. We are so blessed to have experienced with the Birds so many trying times seeking God the Father. The Birds pursuit of filling Gods purpose in their life made a very profound effect within my family. Even though my flesh still rises at times, my spirit man knows how we should live our life being a blessing to other people of all nationalities. I thank Jesus for the pain and suffering I put myself through learning how to be more like Jesus. I will allways deeply love the Birds. I can see Bills smile and hear the song in his heart as he walks around singing. Donna you are so special. You know they say: all great men have a great wife. Donna that’s you a beautiful wonderful example of how a woman can be a mighty woman of God as a perfect spouse. I enjoyed reading your blog. Enjoy! Love from the Hunt Family.

    Reply

    • themuseinme
      Apr 07, 2014 @ 15:32:27

      Morris, I can honestly say that we think of you guys all the time and talk about your wonderful family! We have some great memories of Orlando and you guys are in so many of them! If I had a garden of friends, you guys would be the sunflowers standing tall against the fence! 🙂 I love looking at your beautiful daughters on Face Book. They are beautiful inside and out and they are growing into the women I knew they would be. You and Jan made a beautiful family! Please give Jan my love! She’s always been close to my heart! Love you guys!

      Reply

  7. Annette Weller
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 18:06:55

    Donna, don’t know if you remember me. I am the “Silpada” lady. My daughter Lindsay and I spent a weekend with you at Linda’s home at the beach. I believe you had just started your blog when we were there. It was a wonderful weekend and you touched my heart. We had a couple talks and a couple walks together looking for sea glass. Congratulations on your new home. You are correct when you say that your house is a very very very fine house. As I’m sure you know, home is where you land. Sending hugs your way! Annette Weller

    Reply

    • themuseinme
      Apr 09, 2014 @ 00:12:23

      Of course I remember you, Annette! We had a great weekend together, didn’t we? I wear my Silpada ring everyday since I gave my ring to a daughter-in-law. I get many complements on it! LOL I hope you are doing well and that your business and your daughter’s charity are as well. Come back to the South and visit us. The sea glass is calling!

      Reply

  8. Alice Regan McLane
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 20:16:03

    Donna it is no secret that God has blessed you with many gifts, and your writing is a true testament to that. I love reading your stories. The way you describe your journeys I feel like I’m right there with you. So beautiful and heartfelt. Continued blessings in your new home. Looking forward to the next chapter.

    Reply

  9. Natalie
    Apr 07, 2014 @ 22:01:05

    Just “our ways” in a van home your children once had…

    Reply

    • themuseinme
      Apr 08, 2014 @ 01:16:52

      This is precious to me on so many levels. You guys lived in the house of dreams an played your love songs all night long for me…only for me. Love you!

      Reply

  10. Carol Gibson
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 13:47:02

    Bill done good!!! It looks like a porch you will love. I’m living near I20 now so I must remember to think of the interstate noise as ocean waves. I love you and BIll so much and miss y’all like crazy.

    Reply

    • themuseinme
      Apr 08, 2014 @ 14:31:54

      Thanks, Carol! We love you too. The trucks going by (and there are many of them aren’t there?) are like waves crashing on the shore one after another, after another…Enjoy your beach sounds and come and sit on my porch with me and enjoy mine! 🙂

      Reply

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