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Highland Cemetery, Dakota County, MN

Dear Diary,

You learn a lot about a culture (or in this case, an era of time here in my county) when you read about how they treated their dead.

Nestled on one of the busiest corners in a tri-city area stands the historic Highland Cemetery. In the 1800s, it was associated with a church that was located across the street, but was eventually destroyed  in a tornado.

The new church was rebuilt in a neighboring city, leaving this cemetery to get lost to time.

This spot feels out of place, as it's next to my grocery store, affluent subdivisions and a 6-lane, high-traffic road. It's not the calm and peaceful setting to lay people down for their eternal rest. But, because of the effort and expense required to relocate, the cemetery remains as is.

People were interred here through 1886. At the time, religion was a cornerstone of people's lives, and it imposed a rather strict set of "guidelines" to follow to ensure a place in heaven. People also didn't understand the complexities of mental illnesses, so suicide was considered a sin.

Behind the rows of well-maintained graves is a dirt path that cuts its way into the woods. Where the ornate headstones were bathed in sunlight, this section felt depressing and gloomy.

Then suddenly, in a small leaf-and-moss-covered patch, stood the headstones marking the burials of souls once considered to be "in limbo," and "morally problematic."

Y'all. I was deeply saddened to discover these were the graves of babies, who passed away before they could be baptized, and therefore, were deemed "unworthy" of a plot on the consecrated ground.

Those poor, sweet, innocent babies ... who failed to meet the "guidelines" set by men of the cloth, because of something beyond anyone's control, were therefore disrespected in this manner.

Among the babies' headstones was one belonging to a man believed to have committed suicide, and also deemed "unworthy."


Over 130 years have passed since that time period, and thankfully, so too has that belief system. The church now recognizes the seriousness of mental illness, but I still feel continued improvements are necessary for the church to better serve as a place of comfort and sanctuary. The graves of those babies break my heart, their burials reflecting more so on the cruelty of a system aimed at control rather than acceptance.

The church once associated with this cemetery has tried to make amends with the people it disrespected. Knowing what they now know, church officials made a pilgrimage to Highland to conduct a healing prayer ceremony, where they asked the souls for forgiveness. While I appreciate the effort, it doesn't change the fact that this was a society that abandoned its most vulnerable members for their own conveniences, rather than offer any sort of assistance or alliance.

(The headstone of an infant, who was fortunate enough to have been baptized prior to her death, because she was buried among those "deserving" of the consecrated grounds.) 

(You can see the roof tops of the homes in the neighboring subdivisions.) 

(The busy intersection that disrupts the cemetery's peace.)

Today, Highland Cemetery is regarded as a historic landmark, offering a testament to the fact that as human beings, we can do better. What was once acceptable, is no longer.

Outdoor Lights + Living Situation

Dear Diary,
For the first time in my life, I have a front porch.

Where the Tri-Level had a stoop, and our old apartments had a cement pad, HERE - I have this ...

(I plan to find a funny door mat, but that's a post for another day.)

With Lake Marion nearby, I want to incorporate that easy feeling associated with lake living. For some reason, to me, that translates to lanterns and Adirondack chairs.

A pair of them, right there in front of the large picture window, with a planters stool in between so Nick and I can set our chilled drinks down as we take in this serene view, or observe two crazies burning off the last of their energy.

I love city living. I love the energy and the hustle, and working in a city center does translate to my professional successes. When I return home in the evenings to this? I take a deep cleansing breath, and it feels like everything just melts away. I never imagined I'd love my Isolated Acreage Life so much, and I'm so thankful we get to live here.

We get to live here!

Here's our current porch and outdoor lighting situation:

I want to replace the rest of the exterior lighting with a more lantern-style fixture.

We'll bring home a pair of Adirondack chairs once we find a good price point. The porch also has recessed lighting, which I feel is most ideal for the Minnesota climate. I also want a large exterior lantern or two for the porch.

I'd like to either build or purchase a trellis for this exterior wall and plant a hanging garden.

I intend to purchase a pair of plush, hanging spider plants for those hooks.

I also took pictures of our deck lighting.

(Oh, hello ...)

Aside from adding string lights to it, I'd like to carry-over the lantern-style fixtures back here. We already have a nice patio table and umbrella, Nick wants to replace the grill, and I may add a lounger or something in that corner.

This space feels like it needs an outdoor bar.

I'm not sure how much of a spring we'll have this year, since winter just wouldn't quit it's BS, so I'm hoping summer will bring a little redemption.

Mission Control: The Ideas I'm Tossing Out There

Dear Diary,
We've been living our Isolated Acreage Life for nearly a year now, with little to show for it. I phrased it that way because truth be told, it feels like I'm living in someone else's house.

AND I HAVE (3) IDEAS to fix that!

Mission: Find an Eastlake Mirror for the Staircase Landing

After I remove the hula skirt wallpaper, figure out a paint color, put in a white switch plate, rip off that trim on the wall, blah blah blah - I want to acquire and display a beautiful antique Eastlake Mirror (go google that sh!t - it's GORGEOUS) on the large expanse of a wall on our landing.

And Nick will hang a sparkly chandelier so the crystals can catch the light that comes in through that window. It's going to be glorious.

I also want to find an antique organ stool and set it up in the corner on the landing.

Mission: New Sconce

According to Madelyn, the first line of defense against bad dreams is a light fighting against the darkness. Seeing as this is the portion of the house (where the kids' bedrooms are) that's underground - we have a walk-out ranch home, the situation at night can feel downright abysmal.

I don't know what Ancient Roman temple this sconce was pulled from, but I know its days are numbered. Thank you for your valiant years of service as a Toga Light, but I'm on a mission to find an Edison bulb sconce (*affiliate link) to replace you.

Mission: Find an Antique Door Knocker

This house used to have one. The evidence is in the middle of the spring wreath I stubbornly hung while we were spanked with an April blizzard. The front door, which will receive a different color paint job once Nick and I decide on an exterior update, is calling out for a quirky, antique door knocker.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to check Craigslist.

The Guest Bedroom

Dear Diary,
Though this is an upgrade from an air mattress, our guest bedroom is every bit the blank canvas you can imagine.

Filled with hand-me-down furniture intent on making the space functional, the room lacks personality. I don't know what direction to go in for decorations - to run with what we already have and build from there, or give Wayfair all of my money and start fresh?

The good news is, the room has a large picture window so natural light floods the space.

That little side table adds symmetry, but I'd like to upgrade to a matching set.

Our guests have the joy of seeing the kaleidoscope carpet in all its glory, and the ceiling fan aligns with Nick's lighting preferences. And honestly, I'm not offended by it. I kind of like that it blends in with the white ceiling.

See what I mean about that window? (Note to self: replace the shade!)

Beneath the window is a bench with two storage cubbies. Right now, I have extra blankets stored inside. Replacing all of the windows in the house is our Project Priority, but until then, this room gets really cold at night due to the drafty frame so extra blankets are necessity.

We've had the bedding for a while now, but it's in good condition. The hope chest does double duty as bench seating and additional storage (but following our massive decluttering spree, it's empty). The console is a hand-me-down.

To Do: replace carpet, fresh white paint on the ceiling, decide on a wall color, purchase a headboard and additional bed linens. I think a prism pull chain for the fan would be cool too. Does this room need a shelving unit? A chair?

The oval end table is also a hand-me-down. It's in really good shape, but it's a little too deep to remain bedside.

Here is the other half of the room ... I need to decide on an art piece or something for the corner display, and the closet is an added bonus. I have a few hangers, wall-hangings I'm not certain will be hung up in here, and a small dresser (also a hand-me-down).

What kinds of things do guests need?
What needs to be in this room so I can keep up appearances as a good hostess (for the unspoken 3-day threshold I have for people staying in my home ...)?

I feel like I could have some fun in here, but until then, we're utilizing it as it is.

... Just happy to be here.

The 3/4-Bath Stumps Me

Dear Diary,
The kiddos share this downstairs bathroom, and though they fight about ridiculous things like both of them being visible in the mirror at the same time, the complaints are minimal.

The only one?

There is zero storage.

In a house where cabinets, closets and crannies run amok, this bathroom is where storage came to die.

No medicine cabinet.

No etagere.


A temporary solution was to move in the same shelving unit we had in the upstairs bath at the old house. As you can see from my very beige pictures of the windowless bathroom, there isn't even a toilet paper rack.

Yesterday we established my hatred for boob lights. Today's arch nemesis is beige. I would absolutely paint the walls in this bathroom a fresh white so it doesn't feel like a beige cave.

I don't like the tile or chair rail either. An idea I have is, in place of the chair rail, we add narrow shelving for the soap, toothbrush holder, etc. I saw it one of the bathrooms Jenna Sue rehabbed, and I think it would go a long way in this bathroom.

And a pedestal sink? However, I'm not sure how to add a small vanity with that corner vent.

What's interesting to me, is how high the ceilings are. This bathroom certainly has potential, and I'm trying to consider the best use of the vertical space here.

I'm not a fan of the brass shower surround.

Everything in this bathroom is functional, so I'm content to sit idle on this.

Now that I've pointed out all that I dislike, how about I summarize what I do like: the kids have a bathroom to themselves, and I like that there isn't a tub; ceiling height gives the space plenty of options.

The Light Spectrum

Dear Diary,
My house is also a case study in 1990s light fixtures.

But first, I want to discuss this space ship orb of a light that hangs in my kitchen. I hate it.

It even flickers when you flip the switch and makes that "Close Encounters"-whir sound. Then it casts this yellow glow on my cooking and prep surfaces.

I cannot wait to replace it.

Now, my husband subscribes to the CEILING FAN IN EVERY ROOM approach to lighting, whereas I do not. However, in the kitchen, I am willing to compromise.

Especially since I have an ulterior motive.

I want to add some sparkly, pretty, unexpected lighting that I don't think exists anywhere but inside my brain, so I cannot show any inspiration pictures at this time. I can share with you the spectrum of lights we currently have in our home. Observe -

 (Track lighting and an old fan.)

(This fixture hangs over our table in the dinette.) 

I call it, The Unabomber Light because the same one hung on the set of Manhunt: Unabomber.

 (Small pendant that hangs over the sink.)

The sellers had the popcorn ceiling removed from the main living spaces inside the home, which is fantastic, but the workers neglected to protect this pendant light. Evidence of the process is stuck to the shade.

 (This casts a very dim light in the small alcove just off the dinette.)

(Recessed lighting over the fireplace in the library, the room's only lights.) 

 (Hall light)

 (Guest Bath)

 (Guest room)

 (An interesting fan in the master bedroom.)

As you can see, the master bedroom and bath retained their textured ceilings.

(Vanity lights in the master bath) 

 (Boob light near the shower in the master bath.)

(A single recessed light over our tub in the master bath.) 

(A small globe light in our walk-in.) 
I cannot wait to upgrade the light in our closet SO I CAN SEE. 

(Staircase light.)

I'm thinking the light that hangs over our staircase landing needs to be sparkly so it reflects the sunlight that pours in through the adjacent window.

One side of the downstairs den has recessed lighting. There is also a single recessed light over the French doors that open to a patio. I'm not offended by any of the recessed lighting in the home, but I do think a few rooms need additional sources.

(Boob light in the other side of the den.) 

My son's room has a boob light and a spotlight that illuminates his built-in shelving.

Admittedly, I positively despise boob lights.

Madelyn's bedroom has a pair of recessed lights, a boob light, and a single spotlight over her built-in.

(Laundry room lighting) 

 (The lights in the very unfinished utility room.)

I'm not certain when the lighting will receive an upgrade either, but the simple fact that what you see will not remain is enough for me.