The Fat Hydrangea

Sara Michelle - Columbus, Ohio

Farewell 2018

Sara Michelle B.11 Comments

2018… Where to begin? It was hands down the hardest year of my life. I dealt with things I never imagined I would deal with as I watched the person I love struggle and sink into the dark depths of alcoholism and addiction. My world as I knew it rapidly fell apart around me. I dealt with wave after wave of relapses and the turmoil that comes along with it. The year was marked by an immense amount of exhaustion, worry, confusion and heartache. I was tested and stretched in every way as I tried to navigate my way through what was happening and had to make some incredibly difficult decisions. “Hard” really doesn’t even begin to describe it all.. the shock, the sleepless nights, the panic attacks, the breakdowns, and the tears…. It was a traumatic year for everyone.

But the thing about these types of life-rocking challenges, is that they truly show what you are capable of, what really matters, and who really cares. If you look for the lessons and keep the faith, the challenges can actually make you blossom, grow, and preciously grateful.

While in the midst of the challenge of my life, I look back and am really, truly proud of what I was able to overcome. I trusted my gut and did what I knew was right for me and the boys, even in the face of immense opposition and fear. I cared for three little boys as a single parent for the majority of the year. I made sure they were safe, healthy, and happy- and I’m proud to say they are thriving! I packed up our entire house, found a moving and storage company, and managed every step of the sale of our house and our move 2.5 hours away. I spruced up my resume, tapped into my network, interviewed three places and received three offers, and ultimately landed a job with a firm I am loving and that allows me to provide for my family while still giving me work/life balance. I found the perfect, happiest little house for us 10-minutes away from my parents. I did tons of research, made lots of decisions, completed oodles of paperwork, and made it happen. I researched and visited numerous daycares and found a place my kids and I LOVE! We all agree that school 3-days a week has been beyond good for the boys. They’ve made so many friends and are learning so much. I also found a nanny for the other 2-days who goes above and beyond to help me care for the kids and the house. I got us settled in our new home and into a really good routine. I created a new life for us that is actually working and we are doing ok.. better than ok! I also read every single book I could on addiction and tried desperately to understand my husband’s disease. Though I had my bad days and though I had to set fierce boundaries, I never stopped showing love, forgiveness, and hope for the person who was turning our life upside down. I never thought I could do these things.. I truly didn’t believe I was capable of any of it, but with hope, support, and faith - I actually did it all.

Dealing with the hard also makes you appreciate the good so much more. I learned how to soak in the good even if the bad is still there. (You HAVE to learn how to do that in this type of situation). And there was so much good. The boys each turning a year older and watching them grow… the big things and little things. Swimming lessons, soccer games, first words, first sentences, first steps, catching frogs, dancing in the kitchen, playing in the rain, reading books, playing in the mud in the lot, watching the construction crew build our house, playing at the park and going for walks, saying our prayers together, the million smiles, hugs and kisses… so many moments I will forever cherish. I also loved having the opportunity to live with my parents again until our new house was finished. They were so supportive and truly helped me get back on my feet - physically, mentally, and emotionally. They and the boys completely bonded and the time we lived with them will always be remembered as such a special time. My parents, the boys and I also took a trip to southern California to visit my sister over my 35th birthday in May. One of the highlights of my year was walking down the street in Newport beach and looking up and seeing my BROTHER who flew in from Chicago as a surprise! I cried when I saw him and I still tear up thinking about it! Best surprise ever. It was so good to get away, spend time with the people I love, do something FUN, soak up the sun, and breathe. It was one of the best weeks of my life and lifted my spirits so much. Before we went on the trip was probably my darkest, hardest time. My nerves were shot, I was beyond sleep deprived. I was burned out, depressed, and fragile, but I left the trip with hope, an ignited sense of motivation, and a feeling that things would actually be okay. I also just deeply appreciate and love this new house. I’ll be honest, though I knew I had to move, actually committing to selling the house and committing to buy this new house terrified me. It was so scary knowing there was no going back and I second guessed myself a lot. But I trusted my gut and trusted God and it seriously turned out to be the best decision I ever made. ‘Home’ has always been so important to me, and this place felt like home from the second they started digging the lot. I feel like the floor plan was seriously designed for us and putting my touches on it has been a joy. We are so happy here and I’m so thankful for all the wise decisions we made throughout our whole lives that allowed me to land in this perfect house at this perfect time.

And I couldn’t have done this all without my amazing family and friends. I knew they were amazing before but wow, did people step up to help. To physically help with the boys, to help me move, and to pick up the pieces of my heart that were broken into a million pieces. My parents who just stepped right in and were my absolute rock. My sister and brother who countless times stopped what they were doing or stayed up with all night on the phone as I was crying, analyzing, or worrying. They always gave me perspective and hope, and talked as long as I needed to talk. Not sure they got any work done in 2018 but still ;) Even being hundreds and thousands of miles away, it always felt like they were right there with me. (They were!) I was so blessed by friends and extended family who booked flights and came to Cleveland to stay with me, no questions asked. They just showed up and took care of us and made us smile. My dear friends who constantly checked in on me, asked how I was “REALLY” doing, listened, cried along with me, and directed me back to the light. My next door neighbor who would pop over every couple of days to watch the boys so I could squeeze in a quick uninterrupted shower! The friends who loved on me full well knowing I didn’t have anything to give in return. The blessing in all of this is that it has stripped away the superficialities and deepened my friendships beyond measure. Even just the kind words and outreach from people who I haven’t talked to in years or the wonderfulness of some of my friends I met through this blog who I’ve talked to online but have never even met! It has meant SO much. Every thoughtful message and every act of kindness was like a candle being lit in the dark. Never underestimate the impact your kindness can have on someone- truly. Even the smallest, tiniest little things. I am truly blessed by how much light the people in my world brought to me the last year.

I’ve learned more lessons than I can even count, but here’s a few: There is good in every day and you have to choose to focus on the good. It’s really, truly, okay to ask for help. You are capable of far more than you think you are. Even at your worst, you can move mountains. You are loved more than you believe you are. Being vulnerable sets you free. In every challenge there are gifts. Allow the joy to break through the grief. Love is always the answer.

And FAITH… There is too much for me to even say on this topic and I’ll dive deeper into it all at some point in time, but two things for now 1) I seriously made it through this year by the grace and strength that can only come from God. Hands down. No questions asked. 2) I’ve never seen more “signs” from God than I saw in 2018. Too many things fell into place too perfectly. I truly believe God was looking out for me and laying out the path ahead of me.

I didn’t see 2018 coming. If you would have told me at the beginning of the year what I’d have gone through and where I’d be now, I wouldn’t have believed you. I wouldn’t have imagined this in a million years. (It is honestly still difficult for me to process that this is my life.) And while the year was clearly marked by immense heartache and hardship (that I’m still struggling with, by the way), I’m also very thankful for all of the good and all of the growth that came out of it. I’m a better person because of it. A better friend, a better mom, a better me. I truly look at the world differently now, and there’s a lot more beauty, appreciation, wisdom, and hope. My understanding and view of my life and purpose on this earth is just so different and deeper now. In the sense of how much I’ve learned and grown, I wouldn’t even want to unwind or reverse things. “The gifts of grief” I heard someone say recently, and it is so true. And that is what I choose to take away from the year, the gifts.



New House Kitchen Design

Kitchen, New HouseSara Michelle B.Comment

One of the rooms I'm most excited about in our new house is our kitchen! I'm actually going with a similar vibe to our previous kitchen because I loved it so much. (In fact, I'm 99% sure I'm going to do the same Silestone Snowy Ibiza Quartz countertops!) and a subway tile backsplash (although I may do all white grout). The major difference in styling is that in our old house we went with oil rubbed bronze fixtures and hardware, and in this house we're  going with satin nickel. As I mentioned before, I'm going for a less traditional, more light/bright feel and I think the lighter fixtures complement that vibe.

In terms of the details, I picked out these beautiful Harmon Pendants from Restoration Hardware to go above the island. They just arrived... I can't stop looking at them! They will be the gem of the room! I also ordered these beautiful Riviera Counterstools  from Serena and Lily. They were the first thing I bought for the new house and I feel like set the fun blue/white vibe I'm going for! Love them. (In fact, the whole house is going to have a LOT of Serena and Lily details! The store is my current obsession!) We're also doing the Kohler Whitehaven farmhouse sink and the Moen Noell Kitchen Faucet (We had a similar Moen faucet in our old house and it was the best). We're also going with Kitchenaid appliances. So excited! It's truly better than Christmas!

The catch is that we are doing these details AFTER we get ownership of the house. The upgrades from the builder were just not 100% what I wanted, and quite frankly, they charged a freaking arm and a leg for them! So, we really only upgraded the cabinets with the builder.  We are doing the backsplash, sink, countertops, and light fixtures as upgrades once we move in. It's kind of a pain, but I want it to PERFECT and so I have no doubt it will be worth the hassle and the wait to get it exactly the way I want! Plus it feels good to pay for these things with cash rather than roll them into the mortgage and be paying interest on them. (I know, I'm a nerd). Anyway, what do you think?

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I literally fall asleep dreaming about this kitchen, lol. :) 

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Construction Progress

Sara Michelle B.Comment

The house is really coming along! I'm SO excited! Less than two months and we will be living there.. Now that it actually LOOKS like a house, I thought I'd share some construction in progress pictures so you can get a better feel for the space and see how far it's come!

First and foremost, I'm SO excited that the siding is going up! I absolute love the crisp, white Hardie Board. It is beautiful and durable! We will also have brick along the front which will be painted white. Finally getting the white farmhouse of my dreams!


Next is the family room. I am so excite for this big, open space being adjacent to the kitchen and eating area. Also, once we move in, we are installing a fireplace and built-ins- including two bench seats, along the back wall. Our builder only had the option to put in a corner fireplace, which isn't my favorite, so we decided to do it after construction and do it exactly the way we like it. It will be a lot of work but I think it will be worth it. Stay tuned! 


Next is the kitchen! So excited for a brand, spankin' new kitchen! I'll do another post about the design plans for this next!


Here are the entryway, stairs, and the room in the front left is the den. So excited to turn that into a beautiful office space! 


It is so fun to see the house take shape! I knew I would like building, but it turns out that I actually LOVE it. It has been so fun to go up to the lot every couple of days and see what changes they are making - big and small. Plus it just gives me an immense appreciation for all of the systems that go into a house to make it work. Having NEW electrical, NEW plumbing, NEW ventilation, NEW windows, NEW insulation, etc.,  just feels so refreshing. (I think coming from a house built in 1940 to a brand new house would have that effect on anyone!) 

It has also been really fun to dream about the design. We are actually at the phase where we are starting to place orders for fixtures and furniture, so the dream is SO CLOSE to becoming a reality! I'll try to share more throughout the process because it has been so much fun and it's awesome seeing it all come to life. Stay tuned!

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New House Floor Plan!

New HouseSara Michelle B.Comment

So as I mentioned here, we are building a new house and I cannot wait to share it with you -  starting with the floor plan! I absolutely LOVE this floor plan. I feel like it has everything we need, and nothing we don't. I love the layout and the flow. It's the perfect little home for our family! 

While I loved our old 1940's colonial home in Cleveland, there are so many features that excite me about this new house that we didn't have in our old house. This includes:

  1. An open concept. I'm SO excited to have an open kitchen/dining/family room. I absolutely love that I will be able to keep an eye on the boys while I'm in the kitchen, since I spend SO MUCH time in there. This will make parenting and cooking 1000x easier. Also, there are so many windows along the back of the house (which faces south!) and paired with the 9 ft ceilings, the space feels so big and bright. 
  2. A home office. At our old house, I had a desk on the third floor but it was so dark and either really hot or really cold (depending on the season), that I never really used it. Having my own office space on the 1st floor will be so amazing and I can't wait to have all of my books, inspiration, files, etc. all organized. It is one of the rooms I'm most excited to decorate! It will have french doors at the entrance and it has a huge window that overlooks our front yard, so this will be another bright room. 
  3. A split staircase. This is another thing that sold me on this house. My boys are RAMBUNCTIOUS and I'm holding my breath every time they go up and down the stairs. I love that in this house, the staircase isn't so steep (And yes, I will immediately be making and installing baby gates like we did in our old house! However, the older two are getting more independent and can pretty much go up on their own, but I'm still nervous about one wrong step and a fall! This makes me breathe much easier.)
  4. Four Bedrooms on a single floor. Each boy will have his own room. This is MUCH needed! The older two seem to have very different sleep schedules. One is a night owl, one is an early bird. I think they will both get more sleep not sharing a room. 
  5. A master bathroom. Hallelujah. No explanation needed!
  6. 2nd floor laundry room. After doing laundry in the basement for 8-years, this is my idea of heaven. Especially with potty training three boys! Ha! 
  7. Walk-in closets. After living in a house build in the 1940s with really, really small closets, I am so excited for all of the storage this house will have!
  8. A huge basement. It might sound silly to those of you that haven't lived in a really old house before, but I love the idea of a fresh, clean, open basement. The one in our old house was tight, dark, had gross carpet, and was never really used other than for storage and laundry. This will be a much needed playroom for the boys in the winter! 
  9. NO formal dining room or living room. I plan on dedicating an entire post to just this concept, but I love that this house does not have a formal dining room or living room. I just really didn't need it, didn't want it, didn't have furniture for it, didn't want to clean it, etc. I could go on ;) And I will eventually! But I LOVE that this house has 100% truly useful spaces for our family. 
  10. An attached garage. I always tell people the hardest thing about having three kids is getting them in and out of the car, especially in the winter. I have NO DOUBT that having an attached garage is going to make this so much less painful! Bring on winter! (Just kidding, not ready for that QUITE yet!)

The one thing our old house had that I absolutely INSISTED we have in our new house was a mudroom. That was the most functional room in our last house and I love that we have another one in this house right off the garage. Absolute necessity with kids! 

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Can't wait to share more with you soon, including construction pictures showing the progress of the build! I didn't want to post every minor update, but it is REALLY coming along and I am so excited to show you what it looks like now! Stay tuned!