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.

On the Elf…

On the Elf…

Advent has finally arrived and we’ve allowed Christmas to fully infiltrate our house! Thank goodness! That waiting was awfully hard for me after such an early Thanksgiving.

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IMG_4280IMG_4282I’m feeling good about my new Advent “calendar” tradition I’ve begun; the kids are very excited to see what’s in tomorrow’s envelope. There’s one Christmas tradition I have very mixed feelings about, however. The Elf on the Shelf. If somehow you’ve missed this phenomenon, the idea is this elf hides in your house in a different place each day. Each night, he flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa if you’ve been good or naughty.

I like the idea because it extends the magic and the mystery of Christmas, and I thought the hide-and-seek game of it would be fun. About two years ago, we adopted an elf and named him Stewart. (Confession: Savannah named him after Stuart Little, but she couldn’t spell well yet so I took the liberty of changing the spelling of his name to name him after Jon Stewart, so I guess our little elf is named after two famous short guys…)

IMG_4275The reality of the elf concept falls a little flat.

The biggest problem: you can’t touch the elf. The book stipulates that you must not touch the elf or you might make him loose his Christmas magic and he won’t be able to return to the North Pole anymore. Makes perfect sense. If the kids are playing with it as a toy, it really will loose its “magic.” However, you simply can’t trust a Sammy to resist the urge to touch the elf if it’s possible. So Stewart always has to hide in really high places. The kids know this, and frankly, there are only so many spots up near my ceilings, so it never takes them too long to find the him. There goes the hide-and-seek fun.

It also negates the possibility of doing the vast majority of all those clever ideas on the internet of the elf doing mischievous deeds during the night. Stewart can’t have a date with Barbie or be caught wrapping various household objects in wrapping paper or set up a Thomas the train ride for himself. All these things would require putting him on a fairly large flat surface to have room to set up the scene. I don’t have any large flat surfaces handy near my ceiling.

I tried, the first day he came back this year, to borrow one of those cute ideas. Here’s how this went in my house. Stewart wrote “I’m Back!” in red and green M&Ms on the kitchen table before perching on the light fixture above it. Felix, our cat, thought the M&Ms made lovely toys, so he had a jolly good time batting them around the house, leaving everyone perplexed where the huge mess came from in the morning. Later in the day, Felicity was the first to notice Stewart. This was adorable, and the most redeeming moment the elf has had this year. She jumped with joy and told him she loved him and was so glad to have him back. Later when I was upstairs moving laundry she yelled for me that Stewart was in danger… because Sammy had taken a vacuum attachment and poked him. He would have fallen to his doom and the sure loss of his magic if he hadn’t been securely hugging one of the candles.

So Stewart stays up high, hides in the same reliable places in turn, and doesn’t try any of the cutesy stuff anymore. I’m just not feeling the magic. Remembering to move him and trying to find good places for him to hide is a real chore. And, inevitably I suppose, the kids use references to him to threaten each other if someone is being naughty or unkind. Stewart the enforcer; that’s no fun. Actually, they still seem to enjoy him. They surely were looking for him and anticipating his return well before I was ready to bring him back, so maybe it’s just me in an elf funk. I just hope that when they get older they’ll remember Stewart as something fun, not as a lame tool I tried to use to make them behave because that was never what I intended.