Searching for Home

The cats and dog were loaded in the van, the hot water heater was turned off, and we’d taken that last bathroom break. With a sigh, I fastened my seatbelt and pulled the van onto the road. It was late August and we were leaving Maine to go… not home, but to Harrisonburg.

Only months before, we had moved to a house we thought would be our home. It started with a grand idea. My mom, my “other” brother, and I were going to each chip in 1/3 and buy a house together. I’d sold my house in 2019 and was ready. We’d even looked at one house that my son and I loved. The large deck and full screened deck under it encouraged dreaming.

Somehow we got on an alternate plan of using a house my mom owns, next to my old house, and all living there together. My part of the plan was to spend $100k for repairs and upgrades. We started working on that house, and prepping to move out of where we lived. Everything was harder due to the pandemic. The thrift stores were closed to donations and I couldn’t call on friends to help us move. It took my son and I a long time to pack our belongings, while also giving away unneeded items through the Buy Nothing Facebook group. We then had to move those items ourselves. It was exhausting. We moved loads over, unpacked, then took the boxes back and repeated the process. It’s amazing how much you can fit in a minivan, including furniture! I hired movers for the heavy furniture. We got our rooms set up, along with the den and dining room. It still didn’t feel like home.

It couldn’t feel like home.

It turns out that my mom and I had very different ideas and needs. I thought it would be our home, but her view was that it was her home and she was letting us stay there.

My son and I unpacked and then left for Maine for the summer, going to our work-in-progress house that now felt more like home.

With letters and phone calls back and forth, it became clear that my mom’s house wasn’t going to be home. I started searching realtor listings, but there wasn’t much in my price range. I entered an online auction bid for a small house, but it sold for a ridiculously high amount.

By necessity, the new plan became to live in Maine until next year. When we drove to Harrisonburg in August, it was to repack all of our belongings and put them in storage. My heart was heavy. I thought of myself as “homeless in Virginia.” I had never been without a place to live in the area.

Shortly after we returned, my realtor and friend contacted me. He had a house in Harrisonburg that he owned and he was going to sell. Did I want to see it?

I toured it in the morning and signed a contract in the afternoon! He graciously allowed us to start moving before closing. We closed in a few weeks and got everything moved into our new house. It doesn’t completely feel like home yet, but it will. It has some things that I wanted, like a front porch and yard.

A week after closing, we headed back to Maine. With school being online, we could spend time here that we couldn’t normally. The house is cold. I spent all my money on the Harrisonburg house, so don’t have enough left to finish insulating yet. There’s always next year for that.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll have the cats and dog loaded in the van, have the hot water heater turned off and drained, and have taken that last bathroom break. I’ll fasten my seatbelt and pull the car onto the road. This time, we’ll go home.

Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

Back to School

When I left my teaching career earlier this year, I didn’t expect to return to any classrooms. Knowing that feelings can change, I left the door open, agreeing to join the substitute list when I became eligible October 1. When school began in August, I was thinking “no way!” to substitute teaching.  Continue reading “Back to School”

The World Right Here

Two days a week, I sit in a classroom surrounded by adults who weren’t raised speaking English. Their first languages are Ukrainian, Tgrinya, and Arabic. Even the teacher hails from another country, so they are glad to have a native English speaker helping this year, even if I do have a bit of a southern accent. Should I make sure they know “y’all?” Continue reading “The World Right Here”

Two Huge Endings In One Day

Friday couldn’t have been much bigger!

Here I am, at the end of a 30-year career in teaching. When I looked at my Google calendar Friday morning, I chuckled when I saw the reminder that I’d set a month or so ago. It read “School’s Out Forever!” Perhaps I should rewrite the song, from a teacher’s perspective. Continue reading “Two Huge Endings In One Day”

My 2018 – A Review

The timing of milestones and important events are easy to forget. It can be hard to answer questions about which year things happened or what was done at a certain time. I  had to consult my calendar to write this post.

Here are my key moments from 2018, or at least the ones that currently come to mind or were on my calendar.  Continue reading “My 2018 – A Review”

Dear Jess

Dear Jess,

Can it really have been seven weeks since you left this world? I cried every day until one night I realized that I hadn’t. Of course, the tears still strike me randomly, like writing this to you, being at church and looking at the row where you sat, or a quiet moment in the car when my thoughts drift to you. Did you know you are my first friend who died? Most people don’t lose friends who are only 35 years old. I wish I could say that it was totally unexpected, but I always feared this would happen. With your Addison’s disease and living alone, I was afraid that you wouldn’t let anyone know if you got really sick. Remember the times I begged you to call me? When I reminded you that I was only a mile away? I felt a little angry that you didn’t call me, or anyone else, but maybe you couldn’t. I know you didn’t want to leave behind the people you love. Continue reading “Dear Jess”

Friday Night Football and Memories

This Friday night was so like another Friday night a year ago, that the memories flooded my brain. The difference between then and now flooded my heart.

It was another football game, a year ago, when my younger kids’ birth mom joined us. Katelyn was already with the marching band, but Conner and I arrived in the parking lot right after Annie. I parked my motorcycle in front of her company van and we shared a parking space. From there, we went to the field and watched the game together, chatting and laughing.  Continue reading “Friday Night Football and Memories”

John C. Campbell Folk School

For years, my mom had been talking about wanting to take a class at the John C. Campbell Folk School and she wanted me to go with her. Over a decade ago, we’d attended a summer program for educators at Savannah College of Art and Design and had a blast. We decided to have another mother/daughter experience and go to the folk school this summer. I found places for my kids and Mom found us a house/pet sitter. Mom chose a woodturning class and I chose the writing class.

I didn’t pick a “one word” for myself this year, but one that would have fit is “risk.” I’ve been choosing to step out and do things that don’t feel safe. Choosing to take a writing class with strangers fit “risk” well. I knew I’d be faced with writing prompts with a time limit, followed by sharing with the strangers in my class. Continue reading “John C. Campbell Folk School”

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice If…”

It started as a dream that we were hesitant to put into words. My cousin, Jenny, and I would lament the distance between our homes as we continued to grow closer. We started noticing property for sale and started expressing, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I/you could have a place up here?” The dream started sounding like a possibility when we looked at the tax-acquired (foreclosed) property lists for the town. These properties were to be sold at bid, with low minimums. I submitted a bid for a 5-bedroom house on 2.1 acres last week, for the small amount of  $13,050. It needs a lot of work and money to be livable.

On Monday night, the sealed bids were opened and I won! I was, in fact, the only bidder on that property. The work it would involve scared all others away. Thankfully, I have a cousin and her husband (cousin-in-law?) who have the vision to see the potential of the place AND can provide help. Conner and I left Tuesday morning and we saw the house for the first time on Wednesday. Continue reading ““Wouldn’t It Be Nice If…””