A story of finding home

A story of finding home

I posted previously about our efforts to move to Virginia and trying and failing to find patience while waiting for things to work out at the right time. This is the story of how that happened, and how in both the chaos of the process and the arrival at the destination, we were blessed beyond what we ever imagined. I should have written this much sooner. I should probably have written through the process even – but it’s a scary thing to put the things that might be and could be out for the whole world to see before they solidify into reality.

We had been searching for homes and I had been searching for jobs for over a year. There were homes that we liked and wanted to be the one, but in the end, just weren’t right. I got a couple job interviews, but nothing that led to any offers. It was discouraging. Then we found The House. A beautiful, old house on a lovely wooded lot, in the perfect little town. The schools were good, the town was lovely, there were beaches everywhere, it was a mere 20 minutes from our marina. Amazing. And then, the fear… wondering if we were even really ready. Our house wasn’t even on the market yet, and it wasn’t ready to be. We took a chance on it and made an offer, which was accepted. We scheduled settlement as far out as possible and delved right into the overwhelming project of getting our house ready to sell.

I wish I had taken decent before and after pictures of the improvement in the house just this summer, but I didn’t. I won’t be able to do justice to the amount of work that went into it, and the amazing results that followed. There was drywall work, and painting, and repairs to the heating system we hadn’t used in years. There was more painting, putting in a bathroom, and finishing a wood floor. There was cleaning and staging, putting up moulding, and a ridiculous amount of painting. We set a deadline to have the house market ready and made an appointment with the realtor to keep us accountable to schedule. We worked late into the night, then stayed up later cleaning up the mess left by our progress. It was stressful and overwhelming, but it was never lonely. We had help all the time, showing up to do drywall or paint or help move heavy objects. Words cannot express our gratitude to the family and friends that put in all those hours with us.

We worked from deadline to deadline. We worked our tushes off for the first meeting with the realtor. He gave us a to-do list before actually listing the house. We worked our hineys off again before he came back and we actually signed the listing agreement. This was the most stressful part: keeping the house in showing condition- while we continued to work and make improvements.

Meanwhile, I was continuing to apply for jobs. We would soon have the new house, our house was on the market, but I had no prospects for a job. I hadn’t had even a single call for an interview since we made the offer on the new house. The stress on both fronts was eating at me and I was exhausted to the bone from all the efforts.

Then, one amazing thing happened. A mere 8 days after listing it, we got a good offer on the house, so we accepted it. The buyer requested that some things be done, but they were reasonable requests considering the price of the offer, so we agreed to most of them. And so – more deadlines. Getting as much done as we could before the inspector and then the appraiser showed up. Then finishing everything by closing. More near all-nighters of work. But still, our help kept showing up.

I finally got a job interview in the area we were moving to around the same time we closed on the new house. I prayed that this would be the right job. It would mean a pay cut, but jobs in the area were scarce. It was a strange interview. It was conducted in a manner unlike any other interview I had been to, but it was with a state government agency; they all have their own ways of doing things. I got called for a second interview, and we got through the home inspection and appraisal without problems. Things were looking good.

We continued to work on fulfilling the things we agreed to per the contract as the clock counted down. On the job front I had mixed news – the hiring panel from the first job had been unable to reach a decision. They decided to scrap the announcement, but they would repost it, and encouraged me to apply again. I was crushed. It had been my best prospect. But I got an interview for another job. A different position in a different office for the same state agency. As it turns out, this interview was conducted in the same manner as the other one. This time, instead of being thrown off by the process, I felt prepared. I had already been through this kind of interview – twice. This position also paid quite a bit better and the office was located just a few minutes from the new house. It seemed too good to be true. I dearly hoped it would be the one.

The interview went well and they asked me back for a second, a mere 3 days before we were due to close on the sale of our house. Projects were finished, we were in the last days of packing and preparing for the moving truck. It was a hard time to spend a whole day away. But I didn’t have to wait in suspense long. They called me back with a job offer while I was driving home to Pennsylvania. Everything was coming together perfectly, at just the right time.

Oh, the packing and moving. I wouldn’t do this tale justice if I didn’t acknowledge the exhaustion of that last day and night before settlement. Loading the moving truck… Realizing all our things weren’t going to fit in the moving truck… Getting help trucking loads of things to family members’ houses just to get it out of ours. So late, late, late into the night. Here’s my top moving advice: don’t ever think you can go with the smaller truck. Ever.

And then settlement happened. It really happened. We sold that house. I tried to take some pictures the morning of settlement, but the batteries in my camera were dying, so the pictures are few and don’t do it justice. It was quite a lovely home when we left it.

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They say that work expands to fill the time allotted. True story. The night we moved everything, we realized there was a piece of moulding missing. Alan was nailing it down about a half an hour before the walk-through.

174Just so appropriate.

We love the new house and the area even more than we thought we would. The big porch…

057The yard.

050The beaches down the street.

056The kids are wonderfully happy in their new school, and I absolutely love my job. The gratitude I feel each day for where we are and how we came to be here, it just fills me up.

I prayed for so many other things along the way. Things that would have been so much less than what we have now. Houses, jobs, communities that weren’t right. But I wanted them to be enough so that we could move on and move out of Pennsylvania. This journey was hard. I don’t know if I gave due credit to the stress and anxiety along the way. But we always had help. Not only the helping hands with the work, but the prayers of our friends on earth and in heaven. I especially sought the intercession of Saint Joseph through the past year, entrusting to this great worker and provider prayers that our work would be accomplished and we would find the means to provide for our family through this transition. The way things worked out perfectly, all at the right time, in ways I never could have imagined- that was a thousand prayers, answered. And Home, of course, turns out not to be the place we ended up as much as the people that surrounded us all along.

Independence, Huzzah!

Independence, Huzzah!

We had fantastic plans to spend Independence Day weekend in Yorktown. Yorktown, for you non-history nerds and other strange people, was the site of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War and the surrender of Cornwallis to George Washington. Are you getting excited with me yet? Celebrating independence at the very site of victory, Huzzah!

We’d sail down Thursday night and grab a mooring ball, which we had reserved several weeks in advance. There would be a parade in the morning, beach time, and walking around the lovely historic town. After grilling kabobs, we would eat dessert and drink wine as we watched fireworks from the aft deck. Fourth of July perfection, right?

Then this guy came along.arthur

The outskirts of the storm that became Hurricane Arthur was supposed to be reaching the lower Bay just about the time we were hoping to leave Thursday night. We had to decide what to do, and since we had the kids with us, we decided to hunker down in the marina until it passed. In retrospect we probably would have been alright if we’d left when we originally planned, but by the time we realized that, it was too late to change our decision.

Our good friends Matt and Sarah and their son Dallas joined us, and we had a relaxed Independence Day at the marina, playing and swimming. Late afternoon we all drove to Yorktown, where we parked in a field with the rest of the crowd, and trudged to the waterfront with our cooler and chairs to wait for fireworks. We thought longingly of our vision of grilling on the deck as we waited in long lines for food and envisioned our relative solitude on the boat as we waited in more long lines to use port-a-potties. Ick.

The company was lovely though, and the kids got to play on the beach and had lots of fun helping to corral the very inquisitive Dallas.

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And there was a nice fireworks show.

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It really was a very nice holiday. It just wasn’t what we had envisioned.That, however, more or less came the next day.

On Saturday, Matt and Sarah headed home, but we sailed/ motor-sailed up to Reedville, a historic town known for its menhaden fishing industry. We had heard they were having fireworks that night. It was a beautiful day and a nice little trip up there.

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We passed the historic smokestack and arrived during their Independence Day parade. We caught glimpses of fire trucks between the houses, and could hear their horns and sirens. After finding a spot to anchor on Cockrell Creek, we took the dinghy into town. It is really a lovely town. Every house was festive, with flags and banners displayed for the Fourth.

We had read in online reviews that there was a nice place to get ice cream. Some kind local folks were more than happy to give us directions there and wish us a pleasant stay. We located the ice cream shop, Chitterchats, and decided to come back after dinner. We rode back to the boat and grilled those kabobs we’d been wishing for the previous night, then returned for ice cream. The line was long, but the ice cream was delicious.

After dark were more fireworks. It was so much more pleasant to watch, knowing my bed was right there below waiting for me when they were over. The town put on a very nice fireworks show, which was followed by some pretty impressive private fireworks from the opposite side of the creek.

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The weekend went so quickly. After sailing back and cleaning and packing Sunday, we had to begin the long drive home. Alan went right to DC as he had to work the next day, so the kids and I made the trip back to PA without him. It’s always a long drive, but this time it was especially painful, due to an earlier accident on the Potomac River Bridge, which added about 2 slow, painful hours to my trip. I will be ever so grateful when our trips to the boat are no longer bookended by that drive.

Memorial Day Sail

Memorial Day Sail

We had a lovely though uneventful first family sailing trip on Tipsy Lady over Memorial Day weekend. We sailed up the Rappahannock and found a couple nice little anchorages off the Corrotoman River. It was incredibly nice to be close enough to anchorages to just go leisurely and pick out a spot. We’re used to having to leave early and press hard all day just to get somewhere. We even ran into one of our nice new “neighbors” at the marina at the anchorage, which was a lovely surprise.

The kids all report that they “love sailing!” We suspect they really love finding secluded beaches, swimming off the boat, and staying up late looking at the stars, but we’ll take their enthusiasm.

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Sammy made his famous Sammy Sandwiches for breakfast one day. (Bacon + mustard + bread) I’m afraid they were nearly all wrong, though, as I only had the wrong kind of bread and the wrong kind of mustard.

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The weather was lovely all weekend and we all enjoyed having a bit more room to spread out.

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One of the habits we’ve fallen into that everybody especially loves is spending the evenings cozied together with blankets and pillows on the bow as it gets dark and the stars appear. As it turns out, we still don’t fit very well on the bow of our new boat. Darn kids just keep growing. But we have a nice wide stern that we all fit in nicely. And Sunday evening, sitting in the back positioned us perfectly to catch a surprise fireworks show. That’s summertime perfection right there.

And now, a random shot that partially shows inside the boat… because I just realized that a couple people mentioned wanting to see pictures of the inside and I still didn’t really take any.

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First sail

First sail

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were dedicated toward getting Tipsy Lady moved from Annapolis to her new home at Stingray Point. I was packed and ready to leave right after church for Deltaville, where I’d meet Alan so we could leave a car there. The day began in the tradition of many a great adventure – my car wouldn’t start. After charging the battery for a while and a previously unplanned trip to Autozone, we were back on schedule.

I drove to Annapolis, provisioned the boat, then down to Stingray Point to wait for Alan. Then we rode back up to Annapolis together to spend our first night on the boat. We were both so pleased that it is much more comfortable than our sleeping arrangements on Green Eyes. We both slept like we were in our bed at home.

We got started sailing toward Deltaville early Monday morning. The getting out of the slip bit made me all kinds of nervous, as usual, but we got off without incident. It was a chilly but  beautiful day, a nice day to get to know our new boat. We are so incredibly pleased. It handles so well, and requires so much less effort than the other boat. I hardly felt like Alan even needed me there to help.

We enjoyed a bit of champagne while the boat sailed herself.

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The weather was just beginning to turn a bit, with showers and the wind picking up, when we tucked into Smith Creek off the Potomac for the evening and enjoyed some hot chili for dinner. We were given a hint of what the next day would hold as we listened to the wind howl all night long.

Tuesday was long, cold, wet, and rough. The wind was a fierce 30 knots, gusting higher, and the waves were awful. Our one relief is that it wasn’t raining all day also. We went through showers here and there, but no real sustained rains. We still got rather wet between the splashes and sprays from the huge waves and the rain showers. I forgot my foul weather pants, so I wore a pair of Sammy-sized rain pants Alan happened to have with him. They stretched around my waist fine, but only covered halfway down my calves. I looked ridiculous and was grateful that my tush wasn’t soaked.

I was terribly seasick most of the day. After a few episodes of this, although none as bad as this last time, I’m finally learning that I really need to take precautions for that possibility when the weather isn’t good.  All in all it was a rather miserable day. I was so sick I couldn’t do much to help Alan out, and unlike the day before,  he could have used some help. He looks like he’s got it all under control though, yes?

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We did learn two fantastic things, though.  Firstly, our boat handled the awful weather nicely. She handled pretty well and we made decent progress all day long, even when we were fighting into the wind. We discovered a few things we need to work on before we get out in any bad weather again, but all in all we were very pleased with how she made it through.

Also, Stringray Point Marina is amazingly well protected. The weather was just plain nasty. The whole way from the Potomac to Deltaville, we never saw another recreational boat out on the water, just a few commercial vessels. No one else was foolish enough to be out, it seems. But once we got up into the marina, it was hard to detect the slightest hint that it might be bad out. The only clue was the wind still howling in the distance if you really listened for it. It was perfectly calm tucked up in there; we had no trouble backing into our slip – well, no more than normal, anyhow.

After getting settled and introducing ourselves at the marina office (where we could not possibly have been made to feel more welcome), and stopping at Lowery’s in Tappahannock for dinner,  we began the long, late drive back to Annapolis to pick up the truck and then all the way home. It was fun, it was trying, it was exhausting… already looking forward to next time.

I’m especially eager to spend a day going through the boat and figuring out how we want to stow things to really make it ours. It has so much storage space, it’s incredible. I’m used to not knowing where to put things because there’s just no space to work with. Now I have plenty of space and I actually have to figure out what spaces make sense for keeping particular things. Amazing.

Fall sailing trip

Fall sailing trip

Our rough plan for our fall trip was to sail to Annapolis. I was really looking forward to taking the tour of the Naval Academy, but we’ll have to do that another time. Instead, we spent some time on the Eastern Shore and had a really lovely time.

Our trip started out on a beautiful day. There were boat races going on out by Solomons, which was cool to watch as we slowly made our way through the spectator area.

039That evening we walked through the Holiday Inn parking lot on our way to pick up some beer. On the way through, we saw two of the racing boats and their crews cleaning things up and getting ready to go home. We got to look at the boats up close and the kids got autographed pictures and hats, and we got a pair of koozies from them. It was pretty neat.

That night our propane system failed when we started to fix dinner, so we stayed in Solomons another day to get parts and fix it. That delay is the reason we didn’t get all the way to Annapolis. It turned out to be a pretty happy change of plans.

We headed to Oxford, Maryland the following day. Oxford is just a lovely, perfect little town. We so loved just walking around the town in the perfect September weather.

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The kids loved playing in this beautiful park. As we watched them, the church bells in the church next door played beautiful music at noon for ten solid minutes. It was just unbelievably idyllic.

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The Oxford Market had everything on our list that we were looking to pick up. I was actually already thinking the town was perfect before I found Mystery Loves Company, Oxford’s very nice new and used bookstore.

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We enjoyed lunch at The Masthead and the ice cream was amazing at the Scottish Highland Creamery. We also did a little bit of boat shopping while we were there…

After spending a couple days in Oxford, we decided to move on and head to St. Michaels. We went in the back way, anchoring in the San Domingo Creek. Quite honestly, St. Michaels did not impress me. It was crowded and touristy and mostly nothing but shops and shops and more shops. There was one real gem we found in St. Michaels, though. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was really, really wonderful. Unfortunately I forgot my camera on the boat that day, but seriously, if you go to St. Michaels, check it out. Lots of good stuff for everyone, and it’s spread out over a large area – there are many different buildings and outside exhibits, so there’s plenty of sunshine – you’re not spending the whole time in one big building. The museum gives you a comprehensive overview of life on the Chesapeake Bay: history, culture, boats, fishing. Plus, the Hooper Straight lighthouse is there, and we always enjoy checking out a lighthouse!

After a day in St. Michaels, we started heading home. It was a long, wet, rough ride back to Solomons. We were all ready for hot chocolate by the time we anchored.

126131And now we find ourselves in the market for a new boat… but that’s a story for another time. Anyone in the market for a Bristol?

Puppy love

Puppy love

It was only a few weeks after we got engaged that Alan called to tell me he had a “new little buddy.” Some random person had offered him a puppy, the last of a litter he was trying to find homes for. And so we ended up with a German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, a fuzzy little bear of a pup.

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He was always a sweet dog, although he showed his naughty side often enough. He was a sucker for a chance to go exploring. As he got bigger he would knock me over to push through a half open door or pull his collar or leash right out of my fingers (or drag me behind if I was too dumb or too dumbfounded to let go) to tear off into the neighborhood. I was always afraid he’d get into trouble. He could look scary to someone who didn’t know him. Luckily, he never got hurt, although he did come home in the back of a police car once, and there was at least one dead chicken with some pretty convincing circumstantial evidence that may have pointed his direction…

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He settled down quite a bit in the last few years as his snout started to grey, although I still always saw him as that same crazy, excitable young dog, and he certainly played the part when the kids wanted to play. Late this summer he developed a tumor in his abdomen, and last week he died. It was so hard to see him fade away in the end, acting nothing like my Buddy.

The kids wanted a new dog right away, an impulse I do understand. I really, really didn’t want a new dog right now. I have bad childhood memories in this area. After my beloved golden retriever Sandi died, I wanted a new one immediately. We got another golden, Maggie. Maggie was a sweet dog, but inevitably, she was very unlike Sandi. I really kind of resented her for a while. I didn’t want to repeat that mistake.

It was awful lonely around here without a dog, though. Especially those nights when Alan works. Buddy was my companion once the kids were in bed. When things went bump in the night I could always figure it was nothing to be concerned about if Buddy wasn’t disturbed by it. I also tend to stay up way too late on those nights, working on various projects, but Buddy always made me go to bed at a fairly reasonable hour because he would start going nuts if I didn’t get into bed. Now there’s no one keeping an ear out with me, no one making sure I keep an eye on the time. I’ll concede that the cat does keep me company, but goodness knows he wouldn’t lower himself to show an interest in my activities.

And then… Alan started looking into breeds that we might look at. I happen to be a sucker for mutts. So I started looking at rescued dogs to see if any fit the kind of dog he was thinking about – just to throw the idea into the conversation, really. And then I happened to find one that seemed to be just what we were probably looking for, even though I didn’t really want to look yet. And now I find myself about to go meet a new dog tomorrow – a new puppy, really. A new 70 pound, 9 month old puppy that we might be taking home with us. I want to be ready for this, but I really don’t know if I am, or if any of us are. The great thing about most dogs, though, is that their hearts are big enough to compensate when ours fail us. It may have taken me a little time to completely warm to Maggie, but I surely did grow to love her just as much as I loved Sandi. Just maybe a new, big-hearted puppy is exactly what we all need.

Home from Yorktown

Home from Yorktown

After leaving Yorktown, we needed to choose an anchorage with good provisioning possibilities. Although it was a great place to stay for things to do, there was no place on the Yorktown side of the bridge to get ice and ours didn’t last that long. Luckily I had planned on depending primarily on non-perishable foods anyway, but we did need to replace some of the things we lost. I chose an anchorage in Jackson Creek, near Deltaville, VA. The reviews of the spot were wonderful: great for provisioning, very protected – from all but SE winds. Anyone wanna guess which direction the wind was coming from when we got there? It was pretty rough that first evening. Our first dinghy ride in to walk to the gas station for cold beer left us all soaked to our skivvies. Alan was super nervous about the anchor holding, but hold it did, and the wind changed direction around midnight.

Deltaville was a fabulous stop. Just like at Yorktown, we again stayed longer than we had first planned (hooray for a flexible schedule) and are definitely planning to return. I can’t say enough good things about the Deltaville Marina. Their facilities were very nice and the rate for transients to use them was very reasonable. We were able to borrow their courtesy car to run to the market and replace our lost provisions. The kids loved their huge swingest and the pool. Savannah even swapped a book out at their book exchange area.We borrowed one of their grills for a picnic lunch our first full day there.

IMG_5277One of our absolute favorite things was a scene repeated many times on our trip: quiet moments after after dinner when we all cozied up on the bow to enjoy the twilight together. Alan and I would enjoy a glass of wine, we’d bring out a blanket or two, and the kids would snug themselves around us. Those were the moments I wanted to hold onto the most, the ones I made a conscious effort of committing to memory, detail by detail. There are so few similar moments at home. At home, there is always something to be done. The laundry needs washing, the grass needs cutting, everything needs dusting, clutter needs to be cleared away, a hundred things, all the time. On the boat, life is simpler. After clearing up dinner, I can usually feel pretty satisfied that my to-do list is done, and I can just soak up the time with my family.

It was in one of those perfect evenings that we unexpectedly had a bit of fearful excitement. One of our neighbors at anchor was an older gentleman who lives aboard his boat. I must have been paying attention to other things, but Alan was watching him as he came up to his boat. He stood in his dinghy for quite a while, then suddenly Alan couldn’t see him anymore. The night was getting close to totally dark, so he thought perhaps he just hadn’t seen him get onto his boat, but after a few minutes no lights had come on inside. Alan was quite worried about him, so he and Savannah went out in our dinghy to check it out. It was quite a good thing that they did because it turned out the man had fallen in. He has one “good leg,” which he had injured earlier that day, making it difficult for him to get onto his boat from his dinghy. They were able to help him get back aboard.

We also stopped by the Deltaville Maritime Museum while we were in town. The museum had just reopened in the spring and is still rebuilding after a devastating fire last summer. We’ll definitely have to go back again when they finish their new building. I especially liked their reproduction of the boat John Smith used to explore the Chesapeake. His was an unnamed boat that he referred to as his “discovery barge.” They named their reproduction Explorer.

IMG_5295We also made a couple trips to Nauti Nell’s: part marine consignment store, part gift shop. I’m sure it will be one of the necessary stops when we return to Deltaville.

After Deltaville, one of our favorite stops was a bit of a surprise. We have stayed in Solomons so many times. We always thought about checking out the Calvert Marine Museum, but just hadn’t made it there yet. This time, we went there right after setting the anchor, which just a couple hours until closing. We figured that would be enough time for the kids to make their way through. We were so wrong. We were instead left with the realization that we need to come back when we can spend the better part of a day there. We went to the Drum Point lighthouse first because we never tire of lighthouses.

IMG_5402And then we tried to see as much as we could see of the museum before they closed. It was so much bigger than we realized. The kids most enjoyed digging for fossils. They all came away with shark teeth for souvenirs. Felicity won the prize for best tooth finder.

IMG_5407The touch tank and all the other fish and invertebrates were a close second favorite. Felicity ran from tank to tank in wonder, declaring it the “best museum ever!” when she found the seahorses. It was a very nice way to wrap up our trip, and yet again we found a place to which we hope to return. IMG_5323