For those of you who may not know me, my name is Nikki. This is my fiancé, Armand and our five year old daughter, Naia. If you're like me and a sucker for a good heartfelt sentimental story, you've come to the right place. If not, you've already come this far and you should consider reading anyway!
Our story begins back in the early 1900s when Armand's grandfather, Jack, also known as Papa, purchased some land in North Jackson, Ohio. When Armand was 7, he and his mom moved here from Florida. They moved in with Grandma Shirley and Papa Jack. Jack was Armand's step-grandfather, and even though they were not related by blood, Jack treated him as if he were his own. Ultimately, laying the foundation for what would become our permanent homestead for generations to come.
Armand spent a lot of time riding tractors around, caring for the horses and taking long walks in the creek. He spent his summers gardening for fresh fruits to make homemade jams with Grandma Shirley. His winters were spent sledding down the hills of the ravine and woodworking in the wood-shop. Papa was the owner of a local hardware store DuChanois Battery and Electric. He was a Mason, a firefighter and a World War II Navy veteran. When Jack passed away in 1996 he left behind a lifetime of memories that are truly treasured. He was an inspiration, and paved the way for a bright future for Armand. Fast forward to Armand's high school years. The woodworking garage became infamously known as "The Shack".
It hosted many hang outs and jam sessions that morphed into band practices and parties. In 2012, Armand and I met at our local college, Youngstown State University (shout out to Nick and Mike) and we have been inseparable ever since. Shortly after we met, the land that the barn and "The Shack" were on, got transferred to a different owner and was later sold. Although no one could ever replace the memories created there, the loss of the property was crushing. I specifically remember him taking his last walk through the barn and telling me "I'm going to live here one day".
2014 was a big year for us, it was the birth of our beautiful baby girl, Naia Josephine. There is no dull moment with her and she brings so much joy to our family everyday. In 2015, we bought our first home on a small quarter acre lot. We spent four amazing years making that house a home. After much hesitation, in 2019, Armand convinced me to put our house up for sale and move on to find our forever home. In less than 48 hours our house sold, which I was not prepared for. Moving out of our first home where we spent the first 4 years of Naia's life was very hard for me. I battled major anxiety and questioned if we were making the right choice. At the end of the day, I trusted that God had a greater plan for us (and boy did he ever). Without hesitation, my parents graciously let us pack up our whole entire house and move back in with them. Which brings us to May 28, 2020, mid-global pandemic, the day our lives changed forever. It was this day, we closed on our little 6 acre slice of heaven. Most people would say 6 acres, big deal? Ohio, big deal? However, this wasn't just any land. We purchased back 6 acres of his grandfather's land which was a HUGE deal for our family. We bought back the opportunity to create countless memories on the same land that Armand grew up on.
The large evergreen tree that lines our gravel driveway was a seed in a Dixie cup that Armand brought home on Earth Day and planted with his Papa. Now known as "The Papa Tree". The weather vane that sits in front of the shack was an anniversary gift from Grandma Shirley to Papa Jack. Those same friends that played here as children with Armand, will get to watch their children play and grow up here. After a lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifices, I couldn’t be more proud to call this place our home and we are so thrilled to fill it back up with love and memories.
Unfortunately, on October 7, 2020 a little less than five months after we closed on the property, Grandma Shirley lost her battle with Alzheimer's and passed away peacefully surrounded by her loved ones. Although we were deeply saddened by her passing, I can't help but think she stuck around to see God's plan for us transpire. The words "My boy", as she was crying tears of joy when Armand told her we bought the land back, will forever be etched in our memories. I know it seems cliche to say everything happens for a reason, but through all of the trials and tribulations, our reason is far greater than anything we could have ever imagined.
The day we closed on the property we, out of sheer excitement, took a walk down to the ravine. We noticed what seemed like hundreds of baby evergreen trees, sprouting up from the ground. Anyone that knows me knows that I love all things creative. I love crafts, painting, decorating, DIY projects, party planning etc. I like to think I come by it naturally because my sister and I spent a lot of time as little girls being creative in my grandpa's wood room. We crafted science projects, wooden shapes, furniture, anything you could think of. I would call him and he would drop anything he was doing to take me to the craft store for hours at a time (R.I.P. Pat Catans). I have talked about starting a blog for years as a creative outlet for all of the things I love to do. When I saw those tiny evergreen trees sprouting up from the ground it was like I had an epiphany. Those tiny trees which grew all on their own, represented a new beginning and they were everything I didn't know I needed. I knew that I wanted to document the process of this new journey we are on for our own memories, so deciding to share this with the world was scary to me. One of my biggest fears is rejection, however, this is something that I have been wanting to do for a very long time and this was the perfect push. I wanted to write about the process of building our humble home, the renovating of the existing structures and all of the DIY projects and parties that fall in between. Insert the birth of "The Evergreen Ravine". I immediately got to work sketching a logo and bringing my vision for this blog to life. So now, here I am, taking a leap of faith. Pursuing something I have dreamed about for a long time. I know this may not be of interest to everyone but if I can touch or inspire one person along this journey, it will all be worth it. We are overly emotional and grateful for this experience and the chance to fulfill our dreams. We have abundant gratitude for every single family member and friend that has helped us along the way and we sincerely hope we are making you and our loved ones who we have lost along the way, proud. We are living proof that if you work hard, overcome your fears and trust in the plan that God has for you, anything can happen!
Philippians 4:13 I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me.
Thank you for taking the time to read my very first post, feel free to subscribe to the blog or find us on Instagram and follow along. I plan to post plenty of DIY projects, parties, renovations and share our home build when we start!
Love you all,