Saturday, August 2, 2014

The 30th Anniversary of Tiffanie's Death

I've thought a lot about how I would acknowledge this sad anniversary.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to revisit this painful part of my childhood by writing about it but for some reason I feel compelled to.  This event affected our entire town of Columbus, Texas, and I know I am one of hundreds that were devastated by it.  This is just my story.

Tiffanie and I were best friends from the time we were little.  Our parents were friends and we grew up together.  I have good memories of going to their cabin, fishing, playing in the barn, girl scouts, the playground at school, going to choir and GA's together and dove hunting with our dads. Honestly I was a crazy, emotional little girl (haha) and she put up with me.

This is us at church.  I think we're between three and four years old here.
Crazy to think six years later we would be having her funeral here.

Us at our friend Donna's birthday party.  I think we're around four to five years old.  I think it's funny we're all wearing dresses for a birthday party!

Here we are on a float with our Brownie troop for a parade. Pretty sure this is 1st or 2nd grade.

 It's so hard to put into words how she was.  I think all of us who grew up with her can just simply say she was the kindest, sweetest and most endearing friend.
We would laugh because she was short and I was tall.  She had brown hair and I had blonde hair. Both of our birthdays were September.  Mine the 2nd and hers the 24th.  And people always spelled both of our names wrong.

 On the last day of school of 4th grade she gave me a decorative plate that had a poem titled FRIENDSHIP
on it:

Within the garden of my heart
Where flowers of friendship grow
There are blossoms of remembrance
Forget me nots so blue
And purple velvet pansies to tell my thoughts of you
And roses that will always bloom whatever be the weather
whose fragrance is the memory of days spent together.

That would be the last time I would ever see her.

On August 2, 1984 Tiffanie 10, her sister Donley 3, her brother Cliff 7, two of her cousins, her mother Robbie 35, and her grandmother Wanda 55, were traveling down Highway 36 through Brazoria planning on going to Galveston.  At that time 36 was a two lane highway. There were stop signs at the entrance ramps.  A man driving a dump truck ran the stop sign. Her mother swerved and when she did an 18 wheeler hit them head on.  They all died instantly except for one of her cousins who died on the way to the hospital.

On the morning of August 3rd the phone rang and it was one of our friends.  She said have you heard what happened?  Tiffanie died in a car accident.  I just remember saying you're lying. You're lying.  About this time my mom walked into the room and said put the phone down.  I think my mom took the phone and hung up.  They had found out the night before but were waiting to tell me.  My dad had to go somewhere that morning and they wanted to tell me together.  She said I'm sorry it's true. I remember my little sister standing there in shock, staring at me.  My mom was hugging me, I was crying uncontrollably. That was the moment my childhood ended.

I remember the next day my Dad took me into town to buy me a fish.  I can laugh about that now. Like a fish was going to help make it better.  At the store (Winn's) there on the check out stand was the funeral notice.  I remember thinking nothing will ever make this better.

At the funeral walking into the church was so surreal. This is where we went to vacation bible school, GA's (girls in action) Sunday school and then I was at her funeral.  It just didn't seem possible and yet there were four caskets at the front.  Tiffanie's had her girl scouts sash on a wreath. I spotted one of our teacher's across the aisle with her finger on her nose.  She had told us in class whenever she's about to cry she puts her finger on her nose and that stops it.  My sister had fallen asleep on my mom's lap with her head back and mouth wide open and I laughed. (Which, by the way, set a precedent for laughing at inappropriate moments for the rest of my life.)  I had no control over my emotions. I was all over the place. I don't remember anything about the service except that I was looking for her dad and didn't see him.  I know I walked out holding my dad's hand and crying after it was over.

At the burial I finally saw her dad and he was sitting under the tent in a black suit. He looked completely in shock. I remember thinking how is he going to go on after this.

Then...we went home and it was kind of like now what.  I didn't know how to act.  My parents didn't know what to say or do with me.  My aunt Janet had come to see me and we were sitting in our yard.  We looked up at the sky and I said I would never believe in God again and I will never step foot in another church ever again. All she did was hug me and let me cry.  Years later she told me when I said that I scared her to death.  Luckily God is bigger than our anger and can take us being mad.  It took until 7th grade but I did come back around.

A month later I turned 11.  It hurts to look at this picture because I know how much pain that girl was in behind that smile.  I remember thinking I wonder by my 12th birthday if I'll feel better.

A lot was going on during this time period.  My Dad's family owned business was dissolving and there was a big feud.  I was close with my family and it hurt to see them all turn on each other.  Then my dad moved to the DFW area to start a new business and we lived apart.  It was very hard.  When school was about to start I did not want to go back. I didn't know how I was going to face a first day of school knowing she wasn't going to be there.  I don't really remember much of 5th grade except for just being sad and angry.  Sixth grade was somewhat better but then we moved to Dallas the summer before 7th grade and my world was turned upside down again. My grandparents had lived in Columbus since they were in their 20's and my parents in turn had lived there their entire lives.  It was a huge thing to move but ultimately it was the best decision.  My dad's business did very well and it was a way of starting over.

  I still continued to struggle with the what ifs of August 2nd. What if one of the children had needed to go to the bathroom it would have delayed them or vice versa.  If the driver of the dump truck had stopped for coffee or not it would have changed his arrival time at that moment.  If the man driving the 18 wheeler had pulled over for a nap or something to eat it would have changed everything.  Why did it all line up so perfectly?  That haunted me for a long time.  I use to think when I get to Heaven I'll have all these questions answered but I have a feeling when I get there the why won't matter anymore.

Mr. Lewis went on to re-marry a year later and eventually had two daughters.  I am so happy he was able to go forward with his life.  In 2000 I wrote to him and told him that I've never stopped thinking of him or Tiffanie.  I came to visit him in late 2000 and he got to meet my oldest son and my daughter, who was also born in September.  I'm so glad I was able to do that.  He eventually died in 2006 of cancer and is buried along side them.

I do not know what happened to Robbie's brother.  I don't know how you deal with the unimaginable pain of losing your mom, your sister, your nieces, your nephew and your own sweet children.  I've thought about them so much over the years.

I know the name of the man who caused the accident and have chosen not to publish it.  He was arrested for vehicular homicide.  I do not know if that charge was reduced.  I looked him up on public data one time and he had applied for a license in 1985.  So, I'm guessing he didn't serve much if any time.  One day years later I was talking to my dad about him and how much anger I still felt.  He said, Shelley, back then these were just hard working men trying to provide for their families.  It was a simple accident with horrible consequences but still an accident.  That really helped me especially when I started driving.  How many times have we been distracted and made a stupid mistake driving?  I myself have accidently run a stop sign.  My heart dropped.  I don't know if he really was a good man but I choose to believe he was.  I can't imagine living with the guilt of causing an accident that killed seven people.

As for me I feel like I've lived most of my life since waiting for the rug to be yanked out from under me.  I met my husband when we were 17.  He really helped me heal.  I felt a little less broken when we were together.  He showed me how to live care free without being self destructive.  I've never given him enough credit for loving and putting up with me.  I love you, Joe.

Her death left me with a lot of fear and a need to live for right now because it could all be gone tomorrow.  It sounds like a nice sentiment to "live in the moment" but living in the moment out of fear can cause you to make some bad decisions.  The future deserves to be planned for and I have not done a very good job at that.

I wish I could say I grew up to become a great child psychologist, or an awesome teacher, or started a foundation in her name, or has led me to do great things in her name but nope. I wish I had some great words of wisdom of why bad things happen or why God doesn't stop bad things from happening, nope, none of that.  All I know is that we live in a fallen world.  We are not perfect.  We screw up and make bad decisions and mistakes but God is always there to help us through.  Being a Christian does not immune us from the world. I love the line in Step by Step by Rich Mullins:
"If I stand, let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through and if I can't let me fall on the grace that first brought me to you"

I'm a wife, a mother of three, an aunt, a sister, a daughter, a friend, nothing extraordinary to the world.  No big accomplishments to speak of.  Just a woman who tries to tame fear of the future, raising her children the best she can, a woman who's had more than her share of cake (just ask my thighs).

Another Rich Mullins song, Hold Me Jesus, that has given me so much comfort and is so me:

Well, sometimes my life 
Just don't make sense at all 

When the mountains look so big 

And my faith just seems so small


So hold me Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf 

You have been King of my glory 

Won't You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark 
It's so hot inside my soul 

I swear there must be blisters on my heart


Surrender don't come natural to me 
I'd rather fight You for something 

I don't really want 

Than to take what You give that I need 
And I've beat my head against so many walls 
Now I'm falling down, I'm falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band 

Is playing this hymn 

And Your grace rings out so deep 

It makes my resistance seem so thin


You have been King of my glory 

Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Swiss Avenue Mother's Day Home Tour 2014 Part 1

I love, love, love this event!!  If you're not familiar with Swiss Avenue in Dallas let me give you some information!

The following is from the website:
"At the turn of the last century, Robert S. Munger, a successful cotton-gin manufacturer and forward-thinking real-estate developer from an influential Dallas family, had a pioneering vision.  And a unique plan.  In a city where zoning had yet to be practiced, on any scale, Munger conceived the idea of building a planned, upscale residential community, just east of downtown.  His development, Munger Place, was the first deed-restricted neighborhood in Texas.  And at its heart, he would build an exclusive enclave of grand and stately homes along Swiss Avenue, stretching from Fitzhugh Avenue at the east, to La Vista Drive at the west.  
Swiss Avenue became the first paved street in the entire city of Dallas.  The surfacing material selected was bois d’arc block (horseapple tree wood), known for its extreme density and durability.  A trolley line was installed to provide residents with convenient transportation to the downtown business and shopping districts, and a railway spur track was laid in what is now the alleyway between Swiss and Gaston, allowing residents who were well-heeled enough to own private rail cars to simply board at the rear of their homes and travel to anyplace the rails could transport them.  

Munger’s building restrictions stipulated that the homes on Swiss Avenue had to be at least two stories in height, the exteriors constructed of brick or masonry, they were not permitted to face a side street, and each residence had to cost at least $10,000 to build, a hefty sum at the time.  No home could be constructed ‘on spec’, all houses had to be built and occupied by their intended residents.  
Prominent Dallas families embraced the concept, they hired nationally renowned architects to design and build their showplaces.  These included Bertram Hill, Lang & Witchell, Charles Bulger, Hal Thomson, Marion Fooshee, C.P. Sites, Marshall Barnett, and W.H. Reeves, among others.  
In 1973, Swiss Avenue was designated as Dallas’ first historic district.  On March 28, 1974, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is an official Dallas Landmark District.

Today, Swiss Avenue stands as the finest example of an early 20th Century neighborhood in the entire Southwest.  Its eclectic mix of homes, spanning its 2 ½ mile stretch, represent virtually every popular residential design style of the day, including Mediterranean, Spanish, Spanish Revival, Georgian, Mission, Prairie, Carftsman, Neoclassical, Italian Renaissance, Tudor and Colonial Revival.  It has evolved from one man’s unique experiment in planned urban development to become a living testament to America’s architectural diversity."

So off we went on the tour!

House number one!

This prairie school design was built in 1914 for 16,000.  It was built for Texas rancher, Thomas W. Newsome by architect C.P, Sites.  Four years later it was sold to Mentor B. Terrill founder of the nationally known Terrill School for Boys, which later became St. Mark's School Of Texas.  Through the years the home served as a halfway house for recovering alcoholics and as a boarding school for blind boys.  Today it is a single family residence.

My favorite part of the house has to be the beveled glass transom windows on the first and second stories.  When you walk in through double doors there are two rooms.  On the left is the winter parlor with it's original rock wood fireplace.  On the right is a summer parlor.

In the rooms are detailed mouldings which is not true to the prairie style nor are the Grecian columns that were added in the 40's. Unfortunately we were unable to go upstairs. We were bummed.

Along the way there were classic cars on display.

This gorgeous house turned 100 this year!

It wasn't on tour but they did offer a photo op spot!  Here's my sister and I sweaty and gross.  Ha!

We also passed by the infamous 4949 Swiss.

Designed by noted architect, W.R. Reeves, the mansion was built in 1918 for $25,000 by “saddle baron” John R Tenison. Later it was owned by the William W. Caruth family,  a name still  prominent in Dallas land development and real estate.

The impressive 7,000 sq. ft. Prairie-style home – which has a third-floor ballroom where Maddie Caruth had her debutante ball – achieved most of its fame and notoriety when it was owned by the John Logan family from 1949 to 2004. The home was purchased by the Logans for $17,500, a discounted price because it already needed repairs. 

"Back in her day, Logan daughter Mary Ellen was a blond beauty and fashion model who was named by Life Magazine as “The Most Beautiful Woman in America” and posed for an elegant art-deco statue on Fair Park’s Esplanade. Mary Ellen Logan Bendtsen – the daughter of a Sanger-Harris men’s clothing salesman – also was an accomplished  pianist and held court in the music room at 4949 Swiss. Her husband was said to be a Danish Baron, also a pianist, and some remember “dueling pianos” between husband and wife on occasion. Mary Ellen also entertained at the Adolphus Hotel – President Harry Truman was in her audience one evening – as well as other Dallas supper clubs and country clubs. As you might guess, invitations to the beautiful mansion on Swiss were prized."

Sadly in Mary Ellen's elderly years she "befriended" by two swindlers who (on her death bed) had her make them her sole beneficiaries 
Thus ensued a battle between her daughter and these two con men.

In the end the daughter won and the house sat empty and was then sold. 

The whole house needed restoration.  I hope eventually it will be put back on tour!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Old House Dreams

Wow I can't believe it's been over a month since I posted anything.  I really thought it had only been about two weeks.  I've been one busy lady.  The living room is coming together and looking pretty dang awesome!

I wanted to tell you about a blog I've come across called

I could seriously sit at the computer all day and look through it.  Here is what Kelly says about her blog:

"My name is Kelly, the owner of Old House Dreams. This is a blog featuring old homes I find for sale across the nation.
I’ve been fascinated with houses since I was a teenager. I was the girl that grabbed real estate magazines to cut out my favorites, adding them to my scrapbook of nonsense. As an adult I bombarded my moms email with houses that neither of us could ever buy, just enjoyed looking at.
In 2009 I started Old House Dreamer (later changed to Old House Dreams) to share my finds. 15+/- hours a week are spent searching every state. I like to stick with houses that are about 70% original but will post some, including remuddles, as long as it retains some charm. I no longer accept house submissions, sorry.
I hope this site inspires those that are thinking about buying an old house to take the plunge, help those that are restoring or to day dream about what could be."     

She also has this site very well organized.  There's even a way to create a favorites list!
Please, check it out!  If you're a lover of old houses you will love this blog!
Here's a recent house posted today!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Living Room Dirt

The living room is coming along.  I now have all of the sheetrock down on the walls and ceiling.  I knew it would be messy but I just didn't know how messy.  

In my first post I explained that normally when a house had shiplap boards they were not really made to be seen.  A muslin/cheesecloth type material was nailed with little tacks onto the wall then wallpapered over.  This wallpaper looks like actually someone painted over it.  I'm just going to guess in the 50's or 60's.

Whomp whomp...I found past electrical outlets that left big holes.  

The trash cans were filled many many times.  I'm sure the trash men are cursing my name.

Where there use to be a window

How the wallpaper looked after the sheetrock was down.  In a few places it looked like someone had applied tape over it.

This is what the back looks like

It looks like some type of water damage maybe?

I knew taking down the sheetrock and wallpaper would be the worst on the ceiling but it's one of those things that you know is going to be bad but you're praying it won't be.

So you make your teenage son go first:

The sheetrock itself wasn't as bad. But when the wallpaper was pulled down about 50 years worth of dirt came down too.

It was this really fine black dirt.  The kind that you sweep and sweep and it's still there.  I had to get out the shop vac and do it that way.

The ceiling is in very good condition.  There are spots that have some gaps so I applied Great Stuff to those. 

Primer!  I'm painting the walls white and I'm going to just polyurethane the ceiling.

To fill in the holes I sprayed Great Stuff again and then used wood filler.

I'm almost done painting now!  I can't wait to get my furniture back where it goes. Another project that I can't believe I actually did.  Words cannot describe how disgusting the dirt was.  My daughter wouldn't even go in the living room.  Ha   Final painting pictures coming soon!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Making some headway in the living room!

More like making a total mess. My son is helping some of course him being grounded has worked in my favor. Amazing how fast teenagers work when you tell them they can have their phone back sooner if they help.

Here are some updated pictures. I'm actually trying to post this from my phone because I'm still having computer issues.

Pretty awesome condition considering it's 104 years old.

This is the old wallpaper. 

One of the strangest things I've come across so far. I'm not sure what happened here. The wood itself is in excellent condition. It's like this section was a replacement. On the other side is the bathroom. I think this is where another window had been and they sealed it off when the bathroom was put in. But why the wood looks like that I don't know.

Little piece of the original wallpaper.

An example of the mess we're living with.

Hopefully by the next post my computer will be fixed!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Laundry Room Overhaul

After living here two years and doing countless other projects like painting the entire exterior I couldn't wait to get my hands on the laundry room.  On the exterior of the laundry room wall was the last part of the exterior to paint. I called it "our hidden shame".  

The outside:
See beautifullness to the right and ugliness to the left?

On the right is original siding and the left is 80's masonite siding.

First up I had to re-paint this mess and add insulation



Next up and I couldn't wait for this: tear out this horrible 80's, rotting, ant infected masonite siding:

My plans were:
Remove siding
Replace light fixture
Replace the two cheap windows with one vintage window (craigslist find $20)
Replace the door jamb and add replace french door with a vintage door (local salvage shop $75)
Add a stained glass vintage window to the left of the door (craigslist $25)

On the other side of the wall is the laundry room. The plan in there was:
Replace 80's paneling
Re-paint ceiling and walls
Make-over window from laundry room to living room.
Re-place ugly bi-fold door with a vintage screen door (craigslist $30)

Buh bye ugly cheap windows:

They weren't leaving without putting up a fight though:

Rotting door jamb

Rotting masonite siding.

Nasty going down, pretty going up!

Here's my beautiful window!

Framing it out

View from inside

Finger nail injury.  The drill slipped and cracked my nail.  It took months for that to grow out.

We got it in!

We had to replace the door jamb.  Look how disgusting it was.

And a partially rotted sub floor..

My husband had to help with that part.  We cleaned it out then added more wood.

New threshold and our pretty new door jamb installed!

Our vintage door.  I stripped it down to bare wood then re-painted.


I stripped all the hardware

The window is in, rotting door jamb replaced, hardware re-painted and door hung!

Our vintage window.  I stripped it too.

50's blue under those handles.  I used stripper and went down to bare wood.