There’s a large book somewhere in a box along with all my other childhood objects. This unfinished scrapbook was where I would carefully place ripped-out pages from magazines. The pages were not filled with pictures of teen boy crushes, hairstyles, or fashionable acid-washed jeans, but of faucets, bathtubs, balconies, and paint colors. To say that I was not your typical child, would be a fact. To say that I had big dreams as a kid, would be an understatement.
As a young girl, I longed for the day when I could build my own home. There was nothing I loved more (besides reading cookbooks) than going through a home decor magazine. Sunset Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Architectural Digest offered endless hours of escape from my suburban childhood. I loved dreaming about a romantic balcony that I could someday stand upon and watch the days slip in and out. Of course, they had to be complete with flowy white, floor puddling, sheer curtains. It is no wonder that as I matured, I was drawn to Italy, recognizable known for its rustic and romantic architecture and design. The young girl who would meticulously organize her mother’s linen closet and the heavily stocked bookshelves in her room loved the more minimalistic expression of home design. Growing up, my mother never failed to offer her family a sparkling clean home reminiscent of North European sensibilities. In our home, everything had a place and was stored away out of sight. The feeling was always fresh, uncluttered, bright and calming. Thanks to the teachings of my Momasan, all of her children are very organized and clean, except for maybe my sister’s bathroom, my brother’s car, and my laundry room. Everyone has their week spot, for my mom, it was the phone table. Back in the day when we all landline phones, our one house phone sat on a rattan and glass table by the couch, it was always littered with junk mail, writing pads for notes, and a coffee mug with pens.
My very first home purchase was a rather quick decision. The initial plan when we moved from Northern California to Las Vegas was to live with my mother in her newly-built house, save up enough money to move someplace else in the world and buy a home. When the newly-built home idea was nixed, my Albanian and I quickly went through five horrible real estate agents to find a HUD home (Housing Urban Development, basically a government repo house) in the fastest growing city of North Las Vegas. It was in a small gated community and we were sure we could make it our home. For the first two months, we didn’t have enough money for window coverings and we would dress in the walk-in closet and shower in a guest bathroom that had no window. Our Realtor gifted us a used gas stove since we had none and we needed it to pass the closing inspection. Nonetheless, we were never happier. As we started to play house as a couple, eventually the windows were covered with hideous homemade damask drapes and we started to select Tuscan-inspired paint colors for our grubby walls and eventually collected enough used furniture from friends and family to make it feel comfy.
Above is a picture of our first home (note, no European car brands yet)
And below, the Albanian putting in some sweat equity for our Tuscan painted home....a bit much?
Our second home quickly came nearly a year later when a new community was being developed adjacent to our current domicile. The builder promised a “European Community” complete with garage entrances hidden in the back of the home and the fronts adorned with balconies, patios, and views of the Las Vegas Strip. We excitedly yelled, "Take our money!" (suckers) picked our prime lot, our model style, extras, features, and standard builder flooring and cabinets, ooh la la! It was a wonder to walk through our home being built every step of the way. In no exaggeration, we deeply loved that home. That home became a shelter from all the sin in Sin City. We had pretty much every family member stay with us multiple times, and like all good Albanian families, for lengthy amounts of time. We were engaged, married two times, had two babies, and had the time of our lives in the warm spaces of that 1,900 square foot stucco box we lovingly referred to as "home."
Below is our second home, and a photo of when we became officially engaged for our second marriage.
Our Future Home
Currently, we live in roughly 2,500 square feet in what is known as Middle Tennessee, with a larger garden than we know what to do with (everything grows in Tennessee). Life has once again changed dramatically for us and we are exceedingly content with its numerous blessings.
Just as my Albanian turned 40 with me following closely behind, we are nearing the completion of yet another home. This particular home is hundreds of miles away, and was built with the help of WhatsApp, shoddy cell phone images, and the love, sweat, and tears of our dear family in Albania; specifically Pieter Viluni, our Uncle Peter. In a hamlet community of Velipojë, named Viluni Beach (see the family connection), and we are finally nearing the finished project of my dream home.
This project has been in the making for what seems like forever! It is not easy building a home when you can’t see it. It seems that the most monumental plans of my life such as my wedding(s) and now my dream home, have all been planned without my control and without much of my own voice. Considering I am still married 19 years later (depending on which wedding you count from), I am guessing that everything will turn out just fine, fingers crossed.
Below you can see the start of the foundation for our home in Albania around 2007?
For Part II of this story, stay tuned!
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