I was born in February 1986, I was home schooled and I was raised on my family’s golf course and my grandparents’ (retired) dairy farm in northern Minnesota. I bought a house in Oklahoma when I was 19 years old with the plans to renovate it and sell it for a profit with my boyfriend at the time and that story goes: I learned how NOT to do a renovation and it didn’t work out. So (as all children do seem to do from time to time when their plans don’t work out) I came home alone with my tail tucked firmly between my legs, heart broken, pissed off and broke in August of 2010. That year turned into a landmark year for my mom and I, in the next two months my family sold almost everything (including the golf course) and my folks got divorced. Everything changed in that two months, every certainty, every belief, every plan I had ever had for the future – absolutely vanished.
So then I grabbed my freedom by the horns and engaged in total fun. Everything I had missed by being home schooled. Everything I had missed by being tied to someone from another state for six years. What can I say? I had a lot of catching up to do! I had a lot of chapters to add my story! During that time I also finished and published my first novel (I’m a writer and I’ve been a member of the non profit the Jackpine Writers Bloc since I was 14, I’ve also been a book designer for nearly that long and I also took up web design as well – its all just too much to go into here so here’s my web/print design business website: Web Services of Park Rapids and my author website: The Official website of author Tarah L. Wolff)
This story has a real sad note too though – during 2010-2013 I lost three dogs and my two Grandmas – I got back home just in time to experience a load of grief and I literally did all I could to drown it in alcohol. I went through several boyfriends (definitely the good, the bad and the ugly) my mother said one day when it was all over that she was glad my “high school and college years” were done. I couldn’t agree more. There was just so much sadness to get through from the golf course all the way to Oklahoma and the last time I held my grandmas’ hands or touched my three beloved dogs. By the time the summer of 2013 rolled around I was tired of partying and totally over men and ready to start working toward something again.
With the passing of my grandma Charlotte my mom and aunt began the clean out of the 100 year old house, barn and out buildings. There was A LOT of furniture, far more then any of us had ever anticipated. Nobody knew what to do with any of it, no one really wanted to sell it but my aunt and mom took the few pieces they had room for (they kept everything my grandparents’ had ever made as they retired from farming to wood working) and then there was me, hand raised, grinning in shock at myself, I wanted it all. I had no idea why but my heart just burst! As long as I lived there would be no selling a single beautiful old piece, every single one of them would be a part of my story somehow!
And so we filled one whole stall in our garage and in August of 2013, almost exactly three years since I came home for good from Oklahoma, I embarked on my furniture refinishing adventure. It saved me. It gave me hope. It filled my heart when I was down and my hands, having done nothing but hold cigarettes and glasses of alcohol for the last three years, learned again how to create, mold, nurture. My body ached and creaked, my fingers tingled and I had purpose again and it was wonderfully hard work. And right then, now that I had sworn off men and dating, a man I used to know drove up my driveway. I was filthy, covered in dirt and stain and sawdust, looking like hell (with a similarly bitchy attitude, I’m sure) when Joe got out of his truck to see what I was working on. We sat in the only projects I had completed at that point – my grandparents’ old rocking chairs and I never wanted him to leave.
In April 2014 Joe and I began the adventure of the renovation of the 100 year old farm of my mom’s childhood, of my childhood, of all the years of my grandparents’ lives. There was tremendous struggle and many ups and downs, things Joe never knew he was signing up for, but he never wavered, even when I had lost it completely during plumbing problems and staircase building, he stayed and he worked hard for me, for us. He asked me to marry him when I was dirty and tired and looking my worst, with nail gun in hand and ancient sneakers on my feet, just as the leaves were turning in September of 2014 a year after we started dating. I took my work glove off so he could slide that beautiful ring on my finger and, of course, I said YES! With almost nothing hired out, we finished the electrical and the plumbing in December 2014 (8 months since we had started demo) and then we started sheet rocking like our lives depended on it. We moved into that old house, which had sheltered so many members of my family, and began our lives together. The old blog was devoted to that renovation, those fifteen long months and endless nights, and it seemed only fitting to retire it on move-in day. I will keep it forever, a digital scrap book of our labor, but the house is done being “renovated” and it is now our home. This new blog is devoted to the designs of each Room by Room, to the Before & Afters of the furniture that fills our house and the Tips & Tutorials that got us there!
Yes, you can do anything you put your mind to, male or female. Houses, furniture, none of it cares how old you are or how strong you are or whether you know the difference between a reciprocating saw or a jig saw. These are old trades and there may be no more satisfying a thing then the creation of a home, a room, a bathroom vanity, a saved rocking chair that was destined to the dump, a saved dresser that went from a beast to a beauty. This is the good stuff, the best of stuff, this is the stuff that gets under your finger nails and fills and nourishes your heart as well as your body. These labors transformed us just as deeply and completely as all of the transformations we have created along the way.
I hope this blog, and all that we’ve done, may inspire you to start your own adventure someday! Email me any time with questions you might have whether it’s how to get pvc glue out of your hair or how to install a new window!