From the corner, it’s nothing special.
It’s a home. A little and tidy home on a quiet Norwood street. On this spring night, the only noises are the passing of a dirt bike and the nagging of the crows.
Miracle opens her door wide, smiling – the kind of smile that, for new homeowners, is familiar – come in, look at this place. Can you believe it?
Inside, the central heat kicks on. It surprises her, still, every time.
It’s 750 square feet, a simple structure, with basic finishes. It cost $90,000, and the mortgage is $304 a month.
No, it wouldn’t seem like anything special. But to someone who never thought they’d have a home of her own, to someone who isn’t supposed to be alive, it is. It’s a miracle.
So often, the house is turned into an object of obsession – a collection of things we cobble together and place inside four walls.
A chair, we think, can make a room. A photograph, a couch, a slab of granite – if we just pick objects carefully, then this house will become the home we want it to be. It’s a perfect thing, something to be attained, tinkered with, revered.
But homes, at their most elemental, are about shelter. So much is made of what’s in our homes – what colors we employ, what we remodel, the projects. How often does one take the time to think about how magnificent it is that you own a structure that can keep you warm and safe in an inhospitable world.?
This is a story about coming home.
A TEN PERCENT CHANCE OF SURVIVAL
Miracle Stacie Sickels was born on April 25, 1979, in Montrose. She was three months premature and weighed a feathery 2 pounds 7 ounces. Her name is Miracle because she was, in the most scientific sense, a miracle. She began her life as a tubal pregnancy, meaning she grew outside her mother’s uterus. She was attached to her mother’s ovary for six months, “and then, one morning, the ovary ruptured,” Janet, her mom, says. Janet began to bleed, and was taken to Montrose in an ambulance. “And that’s how Miracle came,” Janet says. “I wanted to call her Stacie.”
But you can’t just call a miracle Stacie. Miracle, 32, has cerebral palsy, a cluster of maladies that complicate brain and nervous system functions such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking.
When she speaks, it’s carefully with deliberate construction. She hits her mark, always, but it takes some time as she wears down the roadblocks in the middle of her words; to talk to her is to listen to someone find their way.
She grew up in the West End of San Miguel County, in the towns of Norwood and Naturita. “I noticed. But I really didn’t have a problem,” Miracle says of her disability. “I got kind of sad at times. But that’s normal.”
She graduated from Norwood High School in 1998, and pushed on to Colorado Mesa University, where she studied early childhood development. She works at Norwood’s Prime Time Early Learning Center one day a week. “I love kids. I always have. It’s wonderful,” she says.
Miracle was given a 10 percent chance of survival. “I feel so lucky, to even be sitting here. They gave me a 10 percent chance to live,” she says. “That’s pretty awesome. I proved them wrong.”
‘IT JUST HAD A SICK VIEW’
Blake Kees was the general contractor on Miracle’s house. The project marked the first Habitat for Humanity job for his company, Kees Industries.
“It was exciting,” he says. “To build a house from the ground up is a large task, and I was excited to do it with the help of Miracle’s family and friends.”
From start to finish, the project took about six months, with about four months of construction work.
Kees’ favorite touch is the front porch, which has uninterrupted views of a sweeping horizon. Out in Norwood, the sky is less shy than in Telluride’s box canyon.
“I like working with timber frames,” Kees says. “It had just a sick view, for one … it gave that house a little character.”
Building the home, a single-story ranch style, gave back to Kees as well. “I knew it was for someone who had already overcome many obstacles, and is sort of a beacon of hope in the community,” he says of Miracle.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that’s helped to build more than 500,000 affordable homes worldwide, serving some 2.5 million people. The Habitat doctrine is one of investment: In order to qualify for the homes, which are built by a contractor with the help of volunteers, homeowners are required to invest hundreds of hours of their own time, which Miracle and her family did. Once built, the homes are sold at no profit to partner families at affordable loan rates.
Miracle had applied to the local Habitat project before, and missed out. But not this time.
A SHOT AT INDEPENDENCE
For most of us, and for Miracle especially, a home is a shot at independence.
“Being able to do the things I want to do. And not have to depend on everyone else, like so many other people have to,” Miracle says of its perks. “Living in Norwood gives me the opportunity to go to Telluride without needing a ride. I will be able to catch the ski bus at the church, and see my friends a lot more. I can walk to work. Walk to the clinic. Walk to everyplace.”
Her house, just off Norwood’s main street, is furnished with things she’s been given over the years. One couple gave her the new washer and dryer set up in a large mudroom. Her TV is tucked inside a cabinet; a new coffeemaker sits on her counter. She doesn’t drink coffee, she says; it’s for company. She has loads of company.
The walls are a light cream, the corners gently rounded. She picked out the floor (a bright wood laminate), the colors of the cabinets (cherry) and the tile in the entryway (red slate) and bathroom (cream). She’s been meaning to paint her trim. “One day,” she says.
The house is bright, with large enough windows to do the yawning horizon justice. It still smells new. “It’s a house,” Miracle says. “It’s my home.”
Its floors and counters still shine. Like most new homeowners, Miracle seems to clean. A lot.
The home’s most loving touch comes from Miracle herself. Upon nearly every flat spot rest picture frames, inside of which Miracle is always beaming, someone’s arm flung around her. It’s refreshing; most of us decorate our homes to betray who we think we are, who we want people to think we are, rather than who we actually are, grinning wildly in photos with our friends, sitting in the backs of old Subarus after a river trip.
But not Miracle. Hers is a home of absolute self-expression. Her initials adorn the front of her house, above the porch – M.S. – and again, in her kitchen.
“I think she just needed the opportunity to prove to herself and everyone else that she can do this,” her mother says.
There is more to come for the little house. This summer promises a fenced backyard for her dog, Peanut, a toy poodle. For now, Miracle seems content.
I ask her what she hopes for in this life, now that this is accomplished. She smiles, bashfully, and looks out her window. “Maybe meet somebody someday,” she says. “I don’t know.” She says she has the same worries as everyone else. “Just being able to make it in life. Now that I have my house… and all my payments.”
But, of course, there’s another side of that. “It feels wonderful to be in my home,” she says. “One thing I do know? I’m happy now.”