A Project to Die For

Some days the excitement buoys me up, motivates me, inspires the energy to do things no 73-year-old woman in her right mind would touch. Here I am in the deep freeze of northern Minnesota, working physically harder than I’ve ever worked before, manifesting yet another dream.

I’ve been retired for twelve years. I finished building my house in Bali in 2015.


That’s not true.

The skilled Balinese crew, men and women, created a stunning residence while I watched. I may have painted a wall, but other than designing the structure and the space, engaging myself in actual labor was against the law. I was required to pay Balinese workers to do it.

My home there was spacious and light-filled. It looked over a river valley dotted with tiled roofs, rust-red against jungle green. I could hear my neighbors chatting and laughing and I drooled over the scents wafting from their cooking.

Then, of course, Covid happened. I told that story in this post https://wordpress.com/post/writingforselfdiscovery.com/22362. If you care to go there with me, click the link.

Because of the pandemic, I hadn’t seen my children and grandchildren for two years. The pang of missing them sat in my body like wet cement. In September 2021, I was finally, fully vaccinated. I flew to the U.S. and reconnected with family. When it came time to catch the return flight to Bali, I couldn’t. Waves of memories of monkey trauma and loneliness wracked my nervous system.

I haven’t gone back.

Instead, I’ve spent the last 6 months in northern Minnesota on the family farm building another home. This time I’m fully engaged in the physical process. My body is regularly taxed to its limits and beyond. Working with my sister and brother-in-law, I’ve dug trenches for electrical cable, installed insulation, screwed sheetrock to the walls then mudded, taped, and sanded…

…sanding is nasty business!

I’ve foamed gaps, caulked crown and base moldings (up and down, up and down, up and down the ladder) and, with the immense help of my tireless sis and bro-in-law, laid laminate flooring all the while repeating the mantra…My body aches but not my heart.

Some days I used every ounce of willpower to make myself work, dreading the rigors of the task I’d left unfinished. What I judged would take a week, often took three or more.

Each phase of the project melted into the next, but plumbing was an ongoing puzzle. I have no well and my sleek, Separett composting toilet needs no septic system. A 50 gallon tank under the sink is the source of water. My brother-in-law mulled, sketched, erased, and watched one how-to video after another to come up with a workable system. He’s been installing it with the help of my sister while I marvel. I’ve seen lesser works of art in the MoMA and I told them so.

Then my sofa came and changed everything. It was softness in a harsh, backbreaking world of work. It was the beacon of hope, the light at the end of the tunnel, the promise that one day in the not-too-distant future I would live in comfort here.

Each time I set a move-in goal, the date arrived and passed. I’ve quit doing that. It will be when it will be – could I hope for Valentine’s Day???!!!

Building this house has become a project to live for. It’s made my body strong. I know my home from the studs to the electrical face plates and everything in-between – a more intimate relationship than I’ve ever had with anything alive or inanimate.


The fun begins. I get to shop for things I love that will enhance my 399 sq. ft. home. That will be so much more satisfying than the fortune I’ve spent on lumber, electrical wire, screws, and nails. I couldn’t believe the price of nails! Home Depot has been the go-to destination for all my purchases for months. I’m so ready for a change.

And for those who wonder how I’m faring in the deep freeze of a northern Minnesota winter after tropical Bali?

The experience surprised me. All I knew from living and working in Minneapolis pre-retirement, were endless months of dirty sepia. Here, 200 miles farther north, unbroken white undulates across open fields and meets a frosted black treeline. Soundless. Boundless. Reflecting the sky as it did this morning….

At minus thirty degrees, I dress for the weather and brave the cold.

It’s an adventure in a culture far different than Hindu Bali, a culture of rural farming and Scandinavian roots. It feels distantly familiar but mostly new since the last close contact I had with it was over half a century ago. The people have changed. I’ve changed. But the place has not. This farm was my father’s joy. His sweet energy permeates the land. It’s good to be here. Very, very good.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kim Armstrong
    Feb 01, 2023 @ 22:23:30

    Loved reading your update. I can’t wait to see your lovely home all finished. I’m sure it will be as beautiful and eclectic as your one in Ubud.

    I am now living my dream having brought a home in Penestanan Kaja and almost finished the renovations. If you ever feel the desire to visit the land of the gods you are most welcome at Villa Sungai 🙏🏼🤗❤️

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Carol Taylor
    Feb 01, 2023 @ 22:31:28

    I’m enjoying your house project. You can be proud of all your accomplishments. I’m in Texas and we have freezing temps and ice. Almost as bad as where you are!

    Liked by 1 person


  3. rickerw
    Feb 02, 2023 @ 08:15:12

    Well, I have done all that and it makes a huge difference. You are home. We finally were able to buy the house of our dreams in Surabaya and spent 6 months on renovation, with a wonderful result. Finally, don’t have to move any more! Fond regards, Ricker

    Ricker Winsor

    https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00GU143TW https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00GU143TW

    https://rickerw.wordpress.com/ https://rickerw.wordpress.com/

    https://soundcloud.com/ricker-winsor/popular-tracks https://soundcloud.com/ricker-winsor/popular-tracks

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Linda Catherine
    Feb 04, 2023 @ 16:08:03

    I am so thrilled to hear of your home progress and your soul and body’s growth through your building process! My Jr. High friend lives in Minnesota and I was concerned that your adventure might be too much. Wow have you ever made it a haven!
    Thank you for the post and pics. I am turning 75 and your energy empowers me! Sending peace and love your way! Linda Catherine

    Liked by 1 person


  5. Anonymous
    Feb 07, 2023 @ 12:31:23

    Love this! Great job. It’ll REALLY be yours. Well, and your sis’ and husband’s 😂😂

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: