Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trial escape to Kentucky.

One thing I have to say about making plans to abandon your current life for one of adventure and new is that it makes the previously mentioned current life seem really boring.  Going to school, going to work, cleaning your house, doing laundry - well, it all sucks.  We have rid ourselves of many of the modern day conveniences that we used to own, but we are still stuck in this house.  The kids still have a week left of school and Troy is still a manager.  Our brains however have left the building.  Each day the kids wake up begging to stay home from school and go to the beach instead.  This may seem the norm for most kids but mine have always been excited to spend their days in the educational institution.  I cannot even stand to look at my house.  It is still the wonderful abode it has always been, but now all I see is a really expensive ball and chain.  Luckily the weather is vastly improving and I can spend the majority of my time outdoors.  There is not too much that can be done regarding our discontent with the current situation. We have to figure out arrangements for this house and we have made commitments for the summer months.  We chose to leave in September for a reason and we need to focus on those and make it through the next few months.  Not only make it through, but enjoy, thrive and be joyous within that time.

After the sale, we decided it was time to commit a bit more to the lifestyle we plan to live in the near future.  We have been holding our daily 'meeting of the minds' and discussing exactly what it is we want this trip to be - how we wish to mold it - what we want to get out of the experience.  It is true that this is a trip across the States, but it is so much more than a road trip to see landmarks.  We desire an American experience.   What that means to us is an experience heavily influenced and surrounded by people.  When you break it down, that is what the U.S. is - a collective of minds, beliefs and cultures.  We want to immerse ourselves in people.  We want to bathe in experiences unknown to us in this small place of being we now reside in.

During our interview with Erin at the Northern Express we learned about a great web based organization of couch surfers and knew instantly that we wanted it to be a part of our experience.  We have been rethinking the plan of traveling in a camper van.  There is something about it that does not feel right.  We want that human interaction and boon-docking in Walmart parking lots is not exactly what we had in mind.  I am not saying that the van will not play a part in a future portion of our trip, but at the start we are leaning towards a more integrated path.  We have a lot of enthusiasm at this point and we wish to use that as fuel.  We feel we can do anything at this time.  That may not be the case six months in - but for now it absolutely is.  We are heavily leaning towards the idea of kicking our tour off with our Subaru, some backpacks and an eagerness to really see this country in a new light.  We want to see the 'behind the scenes' version.  We want to trek through the backcountry.  We want to see how you really live.  We want to discover what you know. And so we are going to make that happen.  But before we do, we figured it might be a good idea to do a few test trips and make sure we do not loathe the experience.

Our first step was to get some gear - packs and light weight living items that will be needed during our year on the road.  If we are going to be staying in the homes of generous strangers, we want to leave as little impact physically on their lives as possible.  We want to have the ability to make coffee on our own and have a bed wherever we happen to be.  Backcountry North hooked us up and we planned our first getaway.  After a small poll on Facebook, we decided Mammoth Caves in Kentucky would do more than fine for our backpacking experience.  As for the couch surfing aspect, we thought it wise to stick with family the first go round.

We headed first to Kalamazoo.  We only had a few hours to drive because Marnie desired to attend a school field trip during the school day.  It was a lovely stop - my cousin just had a beautiful new baby girl and we got to share a few snuggles and surf a couch.  We headed out early the next morning in the direction of one of my closest friends, Catherine.  A few hours drive lead us to a few more hours of great company.  Our children were able to play in the sunshine together while we caught up in person - something that only happens a couple of times a year unfortunately.  A little lunch and a small child being wheeled over by a Power Wheels later, and we were off in the direction of Nashville.

We had originally planned on heading straight to Mammoth and spending a few days exploring the park.  However we remembered our wish for our experience to be filled with people and we sought out a few others that happen to live near enough to our final destination.  Troy's brother and sister-in-law live in Nashville as do two of my cousins.  Discovering how close the city is to the caves, it was an obvious choice.  My lovely cousin Ana graciously agreed to let us stay the night and we made plans to meet Troy's brother for lunch the following day.  Everything just fell into place so easily.  It was lovely.  The drive to Nashville was ridiculously long but we made just as the day turned over.  My cousin was already asleep but we were able to slip inside and get some much needed sleep.

We tried to make as little of an impression as possible and I think we did a good job.  We bring our own bedding so no laundry needs to be done after our departure by our host.  We come with our own water supply and food.  Everything we need comes in with us on our backs.  It is amazing and I think I love it.
Ana was gone before we woke, so we packed up, took a picture of where we laid our heads (something I think I am going to continue to document as we proceed on our journey) and took off to explore Nashville. 

The last time we spent time in the beautiful city was as evacuees from Pensacola during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.  This was a bit of a different experience.  For one thing, the kids could walk this round.  Hands down that makes this trip the clear winner.  We met Ana and her sister Mo for a quick cup of coffee.  The weather was sticky hot and the conversation easy.  We soon departed and met up with Troy's brother Joe and his lovely bride Rachel for some lunch at a delicious Latin eatery. We had not seen the pair in over five years, so the experience was filled with excitement.  The kids were thrilled to meet family they did not quite remember and we felt similarly to to reconnection.  Joe was able to break away a bit longer and spend some time with us in a park downtown.

To catch up was probably the greatest part of our trip.  We had such an amazing time and are already making plans for a return stop.  One day is not enough to really 'do' Nashville.  After a quick trip to a replica of the Parthenon (which the kids thought outrageously boring... actually, it was pretty boring), we headed on to Mammoth.

The first night we arrived late, so we stayed in the campground.  We rose early, packed our belongings and hit the trails.  In the early afternoon we made it back to the visitor's center to join a group for a cave walking tour.  As we waited we did a quick tick check and found several.  We had heard they are especially bad this year and let me say that is no joke.  We found at least a couple on each of us and that was just after a couple of miles on a wide and easy trail.  At the conclusion of our trip we would have pulled off an easy 40 ticks off our bodies.  That being after we took all recommended precautions.  We wore the right clothing and covered ourselves in deet.  They are crazy bad.  Rocco had so many covering his body that we had to take him into the vet to have them removed.  He was smothered.  They gave up after thirty and just gave him meds to kill them off.  I digress.

We did a cool 3.5 mile hike through the caves by lantern light.  The kids walked in awe of the caverns.  Our guide was very John Wayne-esque and had no signs of a sense of humor, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.  He was very interested in sharing stories of those who died in the caves which obviously our children very much enjoyed.  Troy and I likewise enjoyed the great peaks and descents the tour followed. After we reemerged into daylight, we headed off to the trail head that would lead us to our camp for the evening.  

Let me say that we all walk quite a bit.  The kids walk 3 to 7 miles each day and we easily do double.  That in no way indicates how quickly we were to travel in back country.  Who knew that narrow and winding trails, rocks and trees to climb over and rivers to cross would slow you down?  Well, everyone apparently.  Everyone except me.  Had I thought of it, I would not have chosen a camp five miles in from the trail head.  I also would not have started our trek at six o'clock at night.  However this is exactly what I chose to do.  About a mile in, the headlamps came on and the remainder of our hike was done in the darkness.  It was strange to hike without being able to see the beauty that surrounded us.  It was still there but all I could see was the five feet in front of me and I had to trust the markers that had been placed as a guide.  We stopped at what we believed to be our camp (later discovered that we in no way traveled nearly as far as assumed) and set up our tent.  We ate in near darkness as moths continuously attacked my head and the lamp that adorned it.  We collectively collapsed into sleep to the sound of a river a probable short distance away. 

When we woke the following morning, we found ourselves beneath a canopy of the lushest greenery my eyes have seen.  A small river lay beside us and waterfalls were scattered down the slope.  It was an unreal experience.  The kids immediately hit the water and played for hours. It was stunning.  Kentucky is beautiful.  I felt part of the earth in that moment.  The incredible vastness of everything and yet so small in the same moment.

We hiked out of Mammoth that same day and left Kentucky as well.  We made another quick overnight stop and stayed with some friends in the Chicago area.  We returned home the following morning.

The success of this trip means much to us.  We had non-stop togetherness and enjoyed it.  We were able to test our gear in various situations and make notes of what else would be needed.  Above all else however is that we acquired true thirst.  This new life is something we have wanted very badly, but is no longer just a desire.  We had a taste of the life we will lead and it is already a part of who we now are.  There is this great life - these amazing experiences out there to be had by us.  I know it exists and we will soon reach the place where we can enjoy it in all of it's glory.  For now however, I can only trust that we are on our way.  Much like our hike in the darkness - we too must now follow the markers before us.  Trust what path has been placed for us to follow and put one foot in front of the other.  Soon we will open our eyes and the sight will astound us.  This I know to be true - and I am grateful.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Most of our stuff is gone.  We held a sale where we parted ways with the better portion of our belongings.  It was an insane three days.  The few days that preceded the sale were quite intense as well.  I had been putting off the pricing of our belongings for a few reasons.  One reason I had not done prepped much ahead of time is that showings were being scheduled and I wanted the house to look as presentable as possible.  The second reason had something to do with the notion that we just did not have all that much to get rid of.  Seeing as we were planning on selling everything we owned, we had decided to hold the sale mostly indoors.  This seemed like a good idea - we would not need to move the larger furniture and weather would be a non issue.  I finally got around to pulling everything out from the closets and drawers on Thursday night before.  I made it through the living room before the panic attack came on.  Not only was there much to be displayed and priced - there were also memories attached to almost every item that had to be dealt with.  We had already parted with about half of our belongings.  Apparently that was the crappy half that meant nothing.  Why is it that we buy things to remember events?  Why can we not just remember them?  Every item that I would pick up, I would have an instant flashback to some event.  The quality of the event played no real part.  A broken plastic cone dragged me back to the time in which our then six month old puppy had to have surgery on his eye to fix an entropian.  He wore the cone for two weeks and constantly ran himself into walls until the cone finally fell to bits.  The complete set of the Roseanne series DVDs took me back to the days when I was a small child and my family was yet to be broken.  We sat in the living room on a brown blanket and watched the show together.  Later, my husband bought me the series for Christmas due to my feelings of nostalgia.  It was endless.  Every item.  My emotions ran the gamut.  I know in my heart of hearts that all of the stuff does not mean anything in reality.  But why does it feel differently?  Troy commented as he tackled the garage that he felt certain items represented the man he thought he would become at one time.  The football he bought with hopes of taking on a sportier persona for our son.  The fishing gear, the hunting stuff, the wood working tools.  All good intentions.  Some parts took hold and some slipped on by.  Stress was high but we soldiered on.  Everything got a sticker.  Everything had to go.
One thing we had agreed upon is that as of the day of the sale, we would handle ourselves in a completely objective manner in regards to the letting go of our things.  There would be no tears.  We would tell stories and encourage purchases.  We prepped ourselves mentally for this.  It turns out that the extra effort was completely unnecessary.  The sale was a huge success from moment go.  Cars were lined up and people rushed in as soon as the doors swung open.  Items were flying off the shelves.  Items I had deemed as completely unusable were eyed as treasures.  My mind was baffled.  I could barely keep up as people tried to leave with their newly acquired notions.  Every item that walked out of my life and into someone’s car left me with a new feeling of freedom.  The money in my pocket was nice as well, but the knowing that I no longer needed to think about that particular item was an astonishing rush.  I wish, just for a small moment, that everyone could experience something similar.  It took years and years to accumulate the things that disappeared in mere moments.  I must say the sale is also a kind warning against accumulating anything in the future.  Watching a necklace go for $5 when just three years before you paid over $100... well that is just sad.  
I did manage to also sell a big ticket item... my beloved orange VW beetle convertible.  A couple pulled in mere moments before we shut the whole thing down on the very last day.  They bought a few small items for their home.  A toy helicopter, a shovel, a hammer.  They talked us down from $2 to $1 on the hammer.  They then bought my car for exactly what I was asking.  It was surreal.
There are still things to shed ourselves of at the house - and of course, we have the house itself.  Progress however is being made.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What hair did.

Today was my last day at the salon.  It was an interesting feeling that swept over me as I packed up my tools and headed for the parking lot.  Hair is not and never was my passion but at times I have thought that it really saved my life and my sanity.  I was married and soon pregnant at 21.  I worked unhappily in a hospital laboratory until my second term with Marnie when out of the blue thee pregnant women (myself included) were let go.  I found myself unintentionally a stay-at-home-mother.  It had never occurred to me to stay at home with my baby as I didn’t dare to dream we could make it financially.  The way was made however since a heavily pregnant woman is not exactly a highly sought after commodity.  I slept, I ate, I cried.  I slept again.  Troy and I were in Pensacola, Florida at the time - a fact that I was extremely less than thrilled with.  A few weeks before becoming pregnant we had relocated to the southern location in order for Troy to attend a strict Christian college - he had a fleeting desire to become a pastor.  I never had desire to be a pastor’s wife and if you were to ever meet us you surely would not guess this year’s worth of time to be part of our history.  It came at a time where Troy was trying to tap back into his childhood faith and in his typical ‘go big or go home’ mentality, he chose to get as close to the big guy as possible and become one of his right hand men.  So we moved to Florida.  Unfortunately for us (and God) the college turned out to be much more similar to a cult than what Troy had been hoping for and soon he was regretting the move.  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that soon I was making him sorely regret moving me.  I was pregnant for the first time and a long way from home.  Troy’s family lived somewhat near by but I wanted to be in the North.  I wanted snow for Christmas, my mother at the birth of her granddaughter, and no Christian cults.  My firing at least benefited me in one way - Troy had to quit school.  We could no longer afford it.  So, being the great man he is, he sucked it up and found a job.  Then the hurricane hit and we moved back to Michigan.  Soon after,  baby number two came.  Troy began to train for management and it proved to be better for us financially if I stay home with the babies.  When Marnie was born, this job was a pleasure.  She was the easiest of babies and we could maintain the same schedule.  Eat when she eats, sleep when she sleeps.  It was a lovely time.  And then Ethan was born.  Let me start this by saying he was born on 6/6/06.  No lie.  I love that kid beyond words, but had he been my first, he would have been my last.  He was a different kind of baby from the moment he was born.  He was six weeks early and had to stay in the NICU.  He came home with colic and never slept.  He cried and cried and cried.   Colic is supposed to go away at some point, but his just never did.  He did not sleep through the night for over a year and a half.   We took him to doctors who would dismiss our pleas and send us on our way.  I struggled at home.  Marnie was two when Ethan was born, so she was well into toddlerhood during this strenuous time.  Thank the sweet Lord that she was and easy toddler or I do not think I would have made it.  I was slipping though.  I was losing all sense of happiness and my temper was quick.  We had been moved to Indiana by this time for Troy’s work and I was yet again away from family.  We had rented a home in the country and were far removed from interaction with actual people.  Troy worked so many hours and I was alone and very lonely.  He would come home at night and I would talk at great speed for hours due to the effects of only having babies as company.    I began to want something else.  I knew I could not leave the kids at this time for daycare was expensive.  I still do not understand how so many parents can manage that expense.  I decided to give at ‘at home’ jewelry business a try.  I did end up with some great stuff... but in the end was unsuccessful and still unfulfilled and sad.  I had no real skills, Marnie was starting preschool and there was still something wrong with Ethan.  At 18 months old, he still did not babble.  He did not say a word or seem to understand anything.  He cried constantly and nothing soothed him.  A crying baby is the most heartbreaking thing in the world.  A year and a half of a crying baby will make you lose your ever-loving mind.  Crazy eyed and panicked I demanded his doctor do something and run tests.  Finally they agreed.  Low and behold, my baby boy could not hear.  His eardrums were not vibrating and he was not having his needs met.  Surgery was scheduled the day after his results came in.  Although supposedly in pain, I will never be able to describe the glee on his face when he arrived home and heard music for the very first time.  His eyes were lit from within and his legs moved in rhythm.  I cried for three days straight.  The work was only beginning as he now had to catch up.  He began speech therapy twice a week and occupational therapy every Friday.  Progress was slow.  He had depended on his crying, frustration and anger to get me to do things for him and we now had to learn to communicate in a new way.  We learned to sign.  We worked at it.  Marnie had begun school at this time and I had to drive her an hour each way three times a week.  The school she attended was amazing and worth the commute but between it and all of Ethan’s appointments I began to forget who I was.  There was no time for friends - not that I had many anyhow - and Troy was working many hours in a neighboring town.  I began to gain weight and shy away from social events.  I withdrew from the life I once had and all I could manage was to make it to scheduled children’s events.  I was unhappier than I ever had been.  We managed to buy a house and continue on the path that was supposed to make us happy.  If the details were listed out on paper, it would have appeared that we were doing everything right.  Troy had a stable job, we had two beautiful and (now) healthy kids and they were cared for by their devoted full time mother.  It was all true but I was miserable.  I loved being with the kids but there was something missing.  I needed adult interaction and even more,  I craved using my mind.  Troy was a great companion but his job demanded so much of his time. I was literally losing it and worried for myself.  I sent myself to the doctor and went on antidepressants.  Things slowly began to improve.  My sanity returned, but my longing for something more grew in intensity.  I wanted to go back to work.  Troy was doing well enough that with a little planning, daycare was not so far fetched.  I did not want to go back to school.  I knew I needed a plan that would pay off a bit more quickly.  I wanted something creative and social.  I needed to be around people.  I had lived as a hermit for five years or so by this point and I could not handle it any longer.  I decided on beauty school.  Within a year and a half I was holding my license.  It was not without trials and I have many stories of crazy to be told at a later date.  There was a four month period in which I quit after my father was killed and I became a non-human.  Again, that is a story for a later date.  I did go back and I did get that piece of paper.  I had started something and I finished it.  I had a valid reason to leave my house.  I was happy to return at night to be with my babies.  Soon we were to return to Traverse and in no time at all I was hired in at the salon that until this very day I have worked happily at.  My entire life turned around because of this profession.  I had a natural talent and was able to build a great client base.  I was able to interact with unique people and be creative.  My boss is an amazing woman and compassionate beyond words.  Epiphany turned me into a different person.  Doing hair gave me back a life and personality.  I do not think this story or any words I can muster even begins to show how it saved me.  I am so thankful that I believed in myself even slightly in those dark, dark days.  I am grateful that my boss allowed me the opportunity to grow in her establishment.  And today I had to say good-bye.  I am not sad to not being doing hair anymore.  I am not sad period actually.  It is time to close this chapter and I know it with my entire being.  It is just an odd place to be as I now know I no longer need it.  I have been holding on and not wanting to let that part of myself go.  Partly because I found much joy in the career and that time in my life - partly for fear that I would revert back to that sad person I once was.  I know this is not true.  I am not that girl.  I have power now and much more than a little faith in myself.  I am ready for a new adventure and a new life without fear.  I am ready, but I do not forget where I came from - so once again, thank you.  Ready, set, here I go.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How about it?

Today Troy and I did an interview with the Northern Express - a cool weekly that is put out here for us Northern Michiganders to enjoy and keep up to date on the local happenings.  I am sure that many people who will be reading these words in the upcoming week or so are in fact being lead here from the discussion we had this very afternoon.  As interviews about our trip and perspective usually are, it was fun.  Erin, the reporter, had a lot of great questions and got us thinking.  The thing that I truly find enjoyable about reporters and interviews is that usually there is at least one great question that I either never had thought of before or that I hadn’t focused on long enough to come up with a definitive take on.  Erin was no exception.  She asked a lot of great things - all of which you can read when the article comes out, but the point of inspiration today actually came to me via Troy.  I do not recall what the exact topic was that we were discussing, but at some point Troy brought up this blog and that he found it interesting how people’s reactions to what I write about reflects what they themselves value.  This statement struck me as quite profound and I would like to expand it further.  
Since the moment we posted our intentions to sell off everything we own and hit the road for a different kind of existence to all of our family and friends on Facebook, we have gotten a lot of varied feedback.  The comments have ranged from the very discouraging and intolerant to outrageously positive.   We expected this.  Our trip is not everyone’s cup-o-tea and that is fine.  Comments of interest in our doings is what first inspired me to record my thoughts and our doings on this blog.  Our family, friends and a few others now check it out regularly.  Since it’s start, the way people see our trip has changed and what I did not anticipate is how almost everyone has a different view of what it is they believe we are trying to accomplish.  Everyone is reading the same words - and yet the perceived intentions can be entirely different.  A few times in our Meeting of the Minds we have discussed this happening.  Someone would approach Troy at the gas station and congratulate him on putting his kids first in life.  Another couple mentioned how great it was that we were taking a stand against the system and choosing freedom over a 9 to 5.  We pondered over the difference in thought.  Eventually we rested at the notion that what people took from our story is in fact what they value in their own lives.  If they envision our trip being a bold move to spend unlimited time with our children, perhaps they too would love to shift their busy lives around to include more time with their children or loved ones.  Those who came forward with stern warning and harsh words of discouragement - I can assume come from a place of great fear.  Those types of comments, while unfortunate, always roll off and out of our thoughts.  We have no time for fear or ill thoughts.  This time is short and it is intended for happiness and acts of living.  With the exception of the negative Nancy’s out there - all of the other commenters have been right.  And wrong.  All of the aspects that have had light shined on them do in fact hold some truth as to why we are making this trip.  We do have the desire to spend as much time with the kids as possible.  I do not like them or my husband being away from me for so many hours each week.  We do believe in homeschooling so that we may tailor each child’s education to their particular interests and passions.  We do not believe that material possessions hold any true value. We do not want to wait for retirement to enjoy traveling.  We do in fact believe that owning a home gives you a false sense of security and that if you truly wish to feel safe you instead need to look inward and acknowledge your own value and power.  These and many other points are true statements and are all great reasons to make this move forward.  Not any one in particular however is the sole purpose of this trip or the way we choose to live our lives.  If you were to ask Troy and I separately why we are mixing everything up, I am sure we would have entirely different reasons.  Certain aspects of the trip hold unequal amounts of value to each of us.  In fact, I would even extend that statement to be that on different days, the value of any reason can go up or down.  It all depends on the moment we are asked. It is incredibly interesting to me how this is so.  And we are adding new reasons all of the time.  Even more interesting however is that the opposite is not true.  There has not been anything that has come along to make us seriously reconsider our trip.  It is as if it has already been added to our lifetime timeline.  There are still many notches to go until we reach that point where we fill up the gas tank and take off, but we are definitely on our way.  Each day in the meantime is incredibly fun and surprising.
I completely understand that our dream is not for everyone.  I would never want to push my desire onto another person.  As my sister-in-law told me, she loves hearing about our crazy doings but to actually do it herself makes her want to puke.  I get that.  I am wondering however what exactly, if given the opportunity to do so, would people choose to do with their lives.  If every obstacle was removed from your path and there were absolutely no repercussions to be had, what would you chose to do with your forever?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Let's just go with it.

Well I assume the typical reaction would be discouragement.  But I am not discouraged.  Not even slightly.  The deal on the house fell through and I felt... well nothing to be honest.  We only just found out for sure but we have had the chance to tell one or two people who had asked us how our plans were coming along.  The reactions were shocking to me.  Almost every person I have told has been really angry.  Even without any details - their chests puff up and they are ready to defend us.  The loyalty is lovely but the reaction is quite unnecessary.  It was just a week - a week in time where we thought we sold the house.  Now we know we haven’t and arrangements need to be made.  Had we put this house up for sale a year ago (I know we just bought it a year ago, but just go with me here) I believe my feelings would be entirely different.  I used to be plagued by anxiety and worried over every little problem that popped up.  I would not have slept a wink for weeks due to tossing and turning and playing over a million and one scenarios in my mind.  That just is not so anymore.  I choose not to let anything get me down and it simply doesn’t.  I know, like I know, like I know that this trip and this new way of life is meant to be for us.  There is just no doubt.  So this sale didn’t go through - well another will.  And if no new buyer comes along?  Well then we rent it out, sell it on land contract, save up money and go for multiple shorter excursions... the point is, who cares?  If the point of this trip is to truly live a different life, one that is free from all of the bonds of ‘normal’ - then shouldn’t we begin that now?  Of course we should.
So what does that mean exactly? Everything is now like a puzzle and we have to work it all out.  We obviously have to go back to showing the house.  Not that our house is huge by any stretch of the imagination, but it is still a lot of work to set up and make show ready.  I do not exactly enjoy the whole thing, so we are determined to make it a bit easier on ourselves this round.  My version of easy and yours are likely to be quite different, but here goes our wacky idea anyhow:  We figure that the plan was to move into a small space all together once we closed on the house, so why not still do that? Annnnd, let's start right now.  We need to get used to the routine of all being around each other all of the time.  We will soon be living in a very small space with no personal boundaries.  I think it is a great idea to have some time to ease into it.  Troy agrees.  With this in mind, we cleaned both of the kid’s rooms and moved them out.  They each have the three items they are taking with them on our trip, an e-reader for books and their art supplies and are happily squatting in our bedroom with us.  And the dog.  Most of the house is now closed off.  We are solely using our room, the kitchen/dining room and one bathroom on a constant basis. The kids were really excited about moving out of the house and into a small space with us for the summer.  This was our solution to stop the disappointment they were expressing and feeling when they found out it was not going to go quite as planned.  Extreme?  Sure.  But we all think it’s kind of fun.  Like summer camp.  So far it’s working.  If it stops working, well we will either go back to the old way or come up with something new. 
The sale.  We have tossed this around a bit.  Not sure if we should cancel it or hold it as planned.  We decided that indeed we are going through with it.  The sale of this dwelling does not control our desire to rid ourselves of all our material possessions.  We do not want them.  So the sale is a go.  We have decided however that some of the larger items  (furniture) that aid in the showing of the home are needed to remain until there are new owners.  A furnished house has a much better chance of selling than an empty one.  We will attempt to sell off everything else though and sell those few items at a later date.  I cannot even express the thrill I feel arise within me when I contemplate this sale.  I want to watch it all go.  We at first thought it would be a great idea to hold an auction.  That would have been awesome.  We changed our minds however when we realized the auction companies take half your money.  Not awesome.  Not awesome at all.
The last detail I have had to tweak this week is what the heck to do with my car?  The plan was to sell it now.  Going down to one car not only saves us cash, but not having one would encourage the kids and I to walk to more places.  This train of thought arose when we were planning on moving into town.  Walking is quite easy there.  A mile to the beach at most.  This is of course no longer the situation.  We will now remain in Williamsburg - possibly for the entire summer.  After thinking long and hard, we once again decided to just go ahead and do it.  And so I did.  It’s up for sale.  And in honor of that bold move, the kids and I today decided to trek to the nearest beach access to see what our summer holds for us.  Five miles we walked.  Each way.  They were troopers.  Marnie exclaimed how amazing she was for completing the ten mile hike and of course she is now going to be ready for the planned four day hike in a portion of the Appalachian Trail this fall.  Word.

There is one change we have decided to implement now that has me a little apprehensive.  I believe it absolutely necessary though as it is something we are definitely going to have to deal with on the road - we are canceling our internet.  I know.  It is hard for me to think back to a time in which the internet did not exist.  I know I lived it, but how?  We must do this however.  I need to learn to be more creative about getting out of the house to work.  I need to make sure that with only one car, the kids and I get into town and actually do some things.  The promise of wifi may just be the driving force to make me do that.

And so, there it is.  Perhaps not all is going according to plan. That is okay.  We can change our plans.  We’re cool with that.  Perhaps there is something even better in store for us this summer that could not have possibly happened had the house sold this May.  I look forward to discovering what that may be.  For the time being, I am going to enjoy my little nightly slumber party, the anticipation of soon being without stuff and the sweet ache of well worked muscles.  Life is really, really good.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Great White North.

The Roadtrek factory is located in the town of Kitchener right outside of Toronto and was our final destination.  We had sent the kids off to school for a half of a day while we packed and discussed exactly what were hoping to get out of this trip.  Kitchener is about 7 hours from where we live so activities for Marnie and Ethan were a definite must.  Charging all of our electronics took a few hours and gave us some time dream.  We knew that we wanted to tour the Roadtrek factory and see how our future home was constructed.  Our family has a huge passion for the little guy when it comes to business.  We shop local as much as we possibly can and always try to support family run businesses vs. large corporations.  Roadtrek advertises themselves as such a company.  Less than 200 employees and an 8 acre building that was first owned by father and now son. It sounds great on paper.  We also were curious why not more people are traveling around in these bad boys.  We have been very discouraged from our choice in vehicles by RV dealers - even the dealers who sell Roadtreks.  This strikes us as odd since Roadtreks would provide them with a larger profit. Everyone has tried to steer us in the direction of a larger RV.  As soon as we mention what type of trip we are taking, the dealer immediately tells us that in no way do we want a Roadtrek.  Why?  It’s size I suppose.  It is so common that the idea that bigger is always better is the one conveyed.  I do not want bigger.  I want ease.  I want quality.  I want a small footprint.  When you are considering what a long road we have to haul - our impact matters. We do not want to spend endless hours hanging out in the RV watching tv.  We could stay right where we are for that.  We want a comfortable ride and a place to sleep at night.  We want to be able to gain entrance at any National Park with no regard to the size of our transportation.  Period. I do not need a castle on wheels.  We just had to go see for ourselves.  Going to Kitchener had an added bonus of being located only about an hour and a half from Niagara Falls.  
Apparently I forgot to call the school and let them in on our plans.  Any other school would probably be bothered by parents showing up in the middle of the day and taking off with their kids for half a week.  Mill Creek is a different kind of school however.  The support we have received since announcing our plans for next school year has been overwhelmingly positive.  The principal (who has the amazing ability of remembering every child’s name as well as their parent’s) came to shake our hands an congratulate us on seizing the day and spending the next year educating the children ourselves.  They are so excited about education at that school - regardless of where one gets it. Everyone had already heard that we were off to Canada as well.  Our kids have big mouths and were more than a little excited.  It was like a preview of what is to come.  They bounced from their classrooms, gathered their belongings and we were off.
All was pretty uneventful until we were about an hour from the boarder.  Troy looks at me and asks ‘You think we need anything in order to get Rocco across the boarder?’  Um.  The thought never crossed my mind that we could not just take our dog with us into Canada.  I haven’t been to Canada since I was something like 8 and we didn't have a pup with us.  I usually think of Canada as just a greater UP.  I did think to bring the passports but records for the dog?  Nope.  Didn’t think of that one.  It was 5:05 and despite calling our vet 7 times, I never got a pick up.  Our minds reeled.  Troy suggested that perhaps we could have someone head to the house, find the records and email them to us.  Only problem was that we had both keys and it was locked up tight.  The stars were aligned my friend.  Canada would not deny this family.  We were on a mission and they were going to let us in.  We quickly called our realtor and were able to find out the code to get into the lock box that is attached to the door.  I then placed a semi-frantic call to my sister-in-law Bree who must have ran from her house and speedily drove to mine.  As luck had it, we had just taken Rocco to the vet the day before and his records were right beside Troy’s bed.  Any other day and they would have been locked away in a filing cabinet in the basement.  She was able to find them, take them home, scan and email them to me just as we reached the town of Port Huron.  There was no office supply store to be found but I had the idea that perhaps we could convince a librarian to let us print a page.  One temporary library card later  -  the papers were in hand.  We crossed the boarder with ease.
The hotel was not one of luxury.  Smoking is still a fancy in the land of Canada and thanks to some giant home show that was being held in town, we were stuck with a smoke filled room.  I am not sure how it is in the majority of our country, but smoking is not popular in Traverse City.  Every summer I find myself surprised by my shock (I am a successful quitter) when I see a tourist smoking.  It is just not the norm.  This cannot be said for Canada.  We had no choice but to sleep and try not to inhale.  
The next day proved to be pretty big.  It started with Troy doing a great radio interview on 106 KHQ - a local station in Traverse City.  If you are interested in a listen, you can do so here:

After a bit of breakfast we were off to tour the Roadtrek factory.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  We were met by the nicest guide, an elder gentleman named Tupper.  I do not think I have ever met anyone who was so passionate about the company they worked for.  He went over all the details of the different models that are offered as well as information as to how the factory is run.  The kids were stoked because we all were required to wear safety glasses.  Danger must be in store, no?  Not so much.  The factory floor was extremely quite.  All of the employees wear earphones filled with music.  If in need of help, all they must do is turn up the volume of their music and a supervisor will be on the way.  The entire factory is managed in this way.  Each vehicle that we saw on the floor was in varying degrees of assembly and are already owned by an individual.  They only make to order.  It was extremely interesting to see the process.  Roadtrek purchases vans from either Chevy or Mercedes and then pulls them apart.  They completely cut them into pieces.  They then add all of the cool features that the brand is known for and put it all back together.  It takes all 200 people (40 % women!) to make one van into a camper.  The finished product is perfect looking and you would have no idea what disarray it was previously in.  Somehow they manage to complete the process without destroying the factory warranty that comes when you purchase a new Chevy.  Crazy.  Tupper answered all of my questions and made a whole lot of corny jokes that were probably funnier if you were Canadian.  Maybe not.  I wanted to take photos for this blog but they made me put my camera in the car before allowing us in.  I will however include a picture of my shoes.

These were a huge hit in Canada.  Apparently Vibrams have not yet made there way to the great white north.  It was as if we were aliens who just landed our craft in the middle of their country.  Everywhere we went we got crazy stares.  All four of us wear VFFs 99% of the time and honestly I forget that they are weird.  They have gained some popularity in the States and especially in Traverse City.  I rarely get a comment on my choice of footwear unless it is someone asking where I purchased them.  I think we may have converted good ole’ Tupper though.  By the end of the tour he was joking of adding the toe shoes to his games & comic store.  The servers at the sushi place we dined at for dinner that night were a completely different story.  I think it is safe to say they were disgusted.  The shoes were like a car wreck - horrified by the monstrosity but they couldn’t look away.

We drove an hour and a half to Niagara Falls after the conclusion of our tour.  It was really freaking cold.  The sleet kept us from doing much walking but made me feel quite justified in my decision to bring my ski jacket.  The falls were amazing of course.  The kids were like ‘Eh.  Where is the gift shop?‘  Postcards were really all they cared about.  We might have spent twenty minutes in total at Niagara before heading back.  That is the great thing about having a completely open future - you can always revisit.  We capped the night off by enjoying a delicious sushi dinner.  All you can eat sushi joints are everywhere in Canada.  This makes me want to move to Canada.  Seriously.  I would eat sushi every single day until the end of my existence.  This is how much I love sushi.  No joke.  Okay, moving on.

This morning we made one last stop at a local RV dealer.  The one thing we were unable to do at the factory that we wanted to was to actually get into a Roadtrek.  Even the Canadian dealer tried to talk us out of buying a Roadtrek.  Seriously?  I just don’t get it.  I love them.  I love them enough that I am excited to spend more than a year in one.
And now we are on our way home.  A few hours to go.  I will include one more picture for good measure - obviously taken by and altered from the backseat by the girl. Oh!  And I just got a call from the realtor who informed me that the deal on the house may be falling through...  But I think that will have to wait for later.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Yesterday we had the opportunity to walk the walk and talk the talk.  Except in our case it was drive the drive and head over the bridge into Canada.  Let me explain.  It began, as most of my crazy ideas do - over a pot of chewable french press coffee and a meeting of the minds with Troy.  We were discussing the next step.  You see,  we have had many plans laid out before us to follow as we move towards September but have purposely limited many.  There are so many things to consider when you are trying to change everything about everything and they can easily become quite overwhelming.  If there is too much on my plate, my brain goes fuzzy and I just want to crawl back into bed.  Seeing as it will be very soon that I no longer own a bed - I have to be careful about how many tasks I give myself at one time.  Some time ago we sat together and came up with a list of everything we need to take care of before we leave Traverse City.  We attempted to put them in order and we periodically have to rearrange a few.  The big ones that everyone asks us about,  have been the house, the cars, the camper van, the schools and our jobs.  When people first began questioning us about these things, it would cause me to panic.  I don’t know! - I would scream that in my head a little bit.  I apologize if my inside head scream was directed at you.  All I could do was focus on one thing at a time.  First it was telling everyone about our plans.  It may not come as much of a surprise  when I relay that not everyone is as excited about this nomadic journey as we are.  It wasn’t too bad though - there was no blood.  Next came putting the house up.  This was a big one of course and it was a lot of work.  We are really fortunate because our house is lovely, we invested over 30K in improvements (I added them all up today!) and it is in a really nice neighborhood.  Everyone takes care of their homes here and the previous owners really took pride in the gardens that frame our yard and little yellow house.  Beyond spending loads of money on improving the house  - we also managed not to screw anything up in the year we owned it.  The only thing we needed to do was prepare the house for showing and the rest should speak for itself.  And show we did.  This made for many hours of cleaning and primping as I am somewhat of a perfectionist and want everyone to see it at its very best.  All was worth it in the end however as it took a mere 4 weeks to get an agreeable offer. Everything is moving along well and I have no doubt we will manage to close as planned in May.  After a day or two of doubt, I put my big girl panties on and got back into ‘let’s do this!’ mode.  I am thrilled to have sold the house and cross that task off my list.  Of course this now means that I  have to face other tasks and this time there is a bit more of a time crunch.  The stuff has to go.  We have given a lot away.  A lot.  I would venture to say that at one point a few months ago, we had at least double the possessions that we have now.  We still have so much.  We are each taking about three items with us in the van and are storing a tote each at my Mom’s. That leaves a lot of items left over to find new homes for.  A sale is a must  and we are looking forward to holding it over Mother’s Day weekend  (if you want to come you can find all of the details on our Facebook page).  The next obvious thing we needed to think about was finding a place to stay for the summer.  The original plan was to get the van and live in it over the summer.  We had absolutely no expectation of selling our house as quickly as we did and we were not yet at the van buying check point.   We needed another option so my brain would not explode.  We were asking for a lot.  The place needed to be small and not cost much - we would like to stock up some cash over the summer months.  We were thinking of a studio apartment if possible.  We won’t be there much due to summer being on it’s way.  The hard part is finding a place that will allow us to only rent for 4 months during peak season for no additional funds and keep our giant dog, Rocco. It would also be nice to not have to put down a deposit to boot. Thankyouverymuch.  A friend that Troy works with stepped up and offered us a room for rent in his house. We took him up on his very generous offer and that detail is one I no longer need to think of.  Now I cannot put it off any longer... we need to start looking for a van.  
We have done a lot of research on what type of vehicle we want to do our cross country voyage in.  There are so many options available.  Class A, B, or C?  Pull behind or an RV?  We have thought about all of the pros and cons of each and simultaneously tried to avoid all advice from probably well meaning people. We came up with the following criteria that were complete must haves for our family:
  • Small enough that we can easily maneuver in any city setting and park in a normal parking space.
  • Sleeps 4
  • Has an onboard toilet.
  • Has cooking capabilities.
  • Has a generator so we can take advantage of boon-docking.
  • Is one unit that can be used for both traveling and sleeping without needing to connect/disconnect.
  • Is reasonable on gas.
  • Is more comfortable than a car.
After looking at many different models and types of RV’s we came across a clear winner  - a Roadtrek Simplicity 190.  It is perfect for our needs and desires.  The problem is that they are really hard to come by.  We have done many searches across the states and haven’t had much luck.  Roadtreks are produced in Canada and are most popular with the retirement community.  Many of the models only sleep 2 and these are the most commonly found in the US.  This is unfortunate because the Simplicity’s are awesome.  I did not know they even existed prior to needing one.  Even if I was not embarking on this great adventure I would want one.  I do not need to think about that however because I am about to take this leap and I do want one.
So we are having coffee and talking as we do... and it hits me - let’s just go to Canada.  Troy happened to have 2.5 days off work and I didn’t really have much going on.  We are always talking about being spontaneous and doing whatever we feel like just because we can.  Here was a great opportunity.  It took about 2.5 seconds to talk ourselves into it.  Within 10 minutes we were booking hotel rooms and packing the few things we would need.  Then we were off - boarder bound.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A great space.

I am in a great space today.  I am seeing clearly what exactly it is I want and the obvious path I must take to get there.  And lucky for me, it is the path I am already on.  Today is the day after the inspection of our home.  I have no idea how it went, but I am going to presume all went well seeing as we too just had it inspected a year ago when we bought it.  Our original plan was to lay in wait of the closing date and pay the new owners rent for a couple weeks after the signing before selling off all of our worldly possessions in case something were to fall through - but you know what?  I do not think anything is going to fall through.  This house is amazing and the new owners are getting an amazing deal.  We are making out just fine ourselves as we are able to shed this huge responsibility that has been holding us where we stand.  To me, that freedom is priceless.  We may be losing a few thousand dollars from our bank account but the gains we will be making elsewhere cannot be measured.

I have been doing a lot of reading and writing the past few days in an attempt to wrap my brain around the enormous step we are about to take.  Four months ago when Troy and I made the decision to take our dreams out of the clouds and plant them firmly on the ground, it was easy to produce excitement.  Everything was new and crazy.  The thought of freedom from all of the labels and standards we have put on ourselves was absolutely exhilarating.  The mere idea of giving everything up and heading for adventure would keep me up each night due to the unending cycles of giggles and pure glee my inner being would release.  It was magical and I was walking on air each day.  Unfortunately I did happen to float back down a bit when real life interrupted my happy fantasy of the future.  I lost a loved one,  many plans had to be altered do to obligations, house showings, jobs, unenthusiastic reactions to our overly optimistic view of our life... You know, normal stuff.  We have continued on - motivated mostly by our past enthusiasm and inner assurance that all this boring day to day stuff will soon be worth it.

This morning it occurred to me that I am now in my future.  I understand this is obvious, but it struck me as kind of a big deal.  I was standing in my dining room dividing up my belongings into three piles - saved mementos to store in Mom's attic (we each have one bin), trash and sell - it was here that I felt a rush of knowing that I am EXACTLY where I am supposed to be.  Just months ago I was dreaming of this day and of all of my future days to come.  This is one of those moments where I made a big dent in the letting go.  I have been fighting this reality since the phone call telling me about the offer on the house.  Hostility and resentment have plagued my thoughts.  I was angry at the people who want my house and my things.  Upset by both realtors and the loss of money we will have to endure.  Mad at myself for buying the house in the first place and then selling it so stupid quick.  Tossing and turning at night and sobbing intermittently throughout the days.  Each day has been easier, but today I finally got it.  I asked for this.  This exact thing. And I got it.  This blows my mind.  As soon as the thought occurred, I realized that of course this is what I want.  I have spent years dreaming of a day in which I could spend every waking hour with my boy and our amazing babes in a fashion of freedom and adventure.  And here is that exact opportunity.  It has not been the house, the jobs, the school nor any other responsibility that has been standing in my way from making this happen before now - it has been me.  Similarly it is not the the new owners or the realtors who have been plaguing me with anxiety this week.  It is my own doubts and fears that are preventing my joy at this situation.  A self sabotaging jerk named Erin.

I want this and I am not going to be quiet about this desire or feel bad about wanting something different than what others want.  Everyone has their own path to follow and apparently ours has not been well tread.  That is okay.  I am fine with that.  It may scare some but I cannot help that. We can lead the way and maybe one day others too will choose something different than the obvious choice.  In addition to my choice of direction, I also choose to move forward without fear.  I want to live a life of excitement and fear has no place here to dwell.  I honestly believe that we make a choice in each thought we think and each feeling we allow to enter our being.  Fear is no longer welcome here.  I am moving on.  Out of this house and out of that state of mind.

There is one part of this journey that we are about to embark on that I have not yet mentioned to many people.  Not because I have not wanted to but because it has been a very hush hush process.  It is at the core of our motivation for leaving Traverse City and going on this tour.  It is true that Troy and I have always wanted an unconventional life and one that involves great amounts of travel and time with our babies.  It has been in our dreams and discussions for over a decade.  Never did it seem doable however.  Never was there a great enough reason to give us cause to destroy everything we now have in exchange for the trip.  Fortunate are we that this past December we were given the inspiration for an idea that fueled our passion to create and a good enough reason to roam.  The idea was so big and so real in our mind that we knew if it was not followed through with we could never forgive ourselves for our lack of trying.  We decided to risk everything that is our now in hopes that our idea will bring about a different future for ourselves and our family.  In a few weeks time our new website will be ready to go live.  We have been spending the last few months planning for its release and all the interesting changes that will bring about for us.  We continue to plan and search for the best possible ways to introduce our ideas to creative people everywhere.  Imaginative people.  People with dreams bigger than their reality.  People like us.  I enjoy thinking about all of the lovely folk out there that we may be fortunate enough impact in a small way.  I think we can be helpful.  Actually I know we can.  If you know something of use, I feel that there is an obligation to to share it with those who are seeking.

I look forward to this evening of rest.  No more tossing and no more turning.  I have the feeling that the insane giggles may find a way of return to my mind.  There are big things out there waiting for us.  Sights that my eyes have never seen.  People I have been meaning to meet.   I feel so lucky - so blessed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The house sold.

We sold our house.  It took exactly four weeks and five showings.  We are meant to take this trip.  I feel it - I know it.  I am grateful it happened this quickly and with such an obvious message of propelling us forward.  The longer things are dragged out, the longer you have to contemplate what exactly it is that you are doing... and just exactly how insane it is.

When we got the offer I sat on the floor of my bedroom and cried.  Not tears of excitement but the heavy, heaving, cannot quite breathe variety.  I ran my fingers over the plush chocolate carpeting that we only just installed last May and mourned its loss.  There is a misconception of sorts that has come with our plans - that we are above our material possessions or that we are too unintelligent to understand what is exactly that we are giving up.  That could not be further from the truth.  I know exactly what it is that I am giving up  and I am filled with sorrow over it.  I must move forward with it nonetheless for what I see on the horizon trumps the feelings I am allowing myself now.

I have been with Troy for 11 years.  From the very first night I knew we would be married and grow into a family.  I began to paint the picture of what my life would be like.  I envisioned what type of people we would become and what our children would be like.  We began to build on that foundation of thoughts and day by day my dreams grew into a reality.  It has been much messier and dragged out than pictured, but each struggle and triumph brought us closer to goal.  And here we are.  If I had the motivation to bore you with all of the details of my current life and how closely it resembles the dreams of my past 21 year old bride self - perhaps I could convince you that intention creates reality.  Perhaps.  I am not going to try however.   I will tell you that I love my house.  There is not a detail I would change.  I love my neighborhood.  I love the city in which I live.  I love my job - as does Troy.  I love the school my children attend.  I love everything about everything that is here, that is now.  So why are we leaving?  The simplest of answers that I can come up with is that I question how long can I continue to be happy in this current position in life?  Once the dream is accomplished, is it not natural to acquire a new one?  To evolve further?  I argue yes.

For this moment, life is perfect.  However I do not believe a person is meant to be still.  We are living beings and like all living beings on earth we have one true purpose that never waivers - to grow.  Try to stop a blade of grass from reaching for the sun and you will be disappointed in your efforts.  Cover it with concrete and over time you will discover cracks within its surface.  Drown it in life diminishing chemicals and although snuffed out it may seem - time will work for the blade and not only will the grass reappear but the soil will repair and come to its aid.  Growth may be stunted but not stopped.  And why do we fight it so hard?  Why do we bury those feelings and desires and even lie about having them in the first place?  I have had discussions with enough people since we first made our announcement to understand that we are not alone in our desires.  We do seem to be one of the few to take action and peruse it.

This action is not easy.  My feelings have been all over the place from the moment we put our desires out there.  We question everything of course.  How could we not?  Talking to those who oppose our plans is not only difficult but in the case of some family - heartbreaking.  Not only for us, but for them as well.  It is  hard to exclaim that this is not good enough.  That this life is not what we want.  That we want more.  Especially when it appears that we are throwing everything away to essentially become homeless.  It goes against everything we are taught.  It is scary.  If I allow myself to live in this place of thought for too long, my chest becomes tight and my brain swirls with confusion.  I get overwhelmed and panic.  I look at all of the belongings I have spent more than a decade acquiring and I doubt.  I see the markings on the door jam that place Marnie and Ethan's growth over the years and I yearn.  But in this place I must force myself out - for these things are not real.  The previously desired furnishings have done their job in completing my dream of the perfect home.  It has been acquired and now they only hold things or provide a place to rest my dumpa.  The markings by the door will not stop my babies from becoming adults.  They merely represent a second in time that has long ago past.  Never can we revisit.  There is no point in the aguish felt by it's loss.  And on the long days when Troy leaves for work in the morning and the school demands my children's attendance - leaving me with a mere three hours in the evening to spend with them.  Three hours that is still not mine as the have homework or activities and dinner must be rushed through and bedtimes observed.  In these moments I glimpse the future I want to focus my intention on. I have to let go of this house and this way of living.  I want to live a real life with my family.

And we will.  We will make ourselves follow through as difficult as it may be for us to do.  We will take each of the pictures off our walls.  We will sell or give away every item that occupies this house that we call home.  We will step out into the sunlight and shake off all of the labels that we now hide behind.  We will no longer be homeowners, restaurant managers, stay-at-home moms, students, hair stylists.  We will solely be Troy, Erin, Marnie and Ethan.  Is that not the scary part?  Exposing yourself as exactly who you are and what you are made of?  If you fall on your face there is no one else to blame.  If success is achieved... well that is an entirely different blog for a different day.   For now, the focus is to move past the loss and give up the grieving.  To remember that today is the journey and we are already moving along our new path.  A path to a future that has no end in sight, but one that can be continuously added to and improved as growth is achieved.  We will not allow anything or anyone to halt our forward progress - least of all ourselves. But today... today I am a little sad.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


My house is officially for sale.  The sign has been out for three days, but it is official today - because today is the day I signed my name on the dotted line.

I have heard that the most stressful times in life are getting married / divorced, having a baby and buying / selling a house.  I have done four out of the five (no divorce) and I suppose the actual experience flows with the statement.  Truth be told, marriage has never brought me any stress.  Troy is to me what the Grand Traverse Bays are to Lake Michigan - calm, beautiful and warm.  A place of rest and respite from the outside chaos.  Having babies has definitely brought on some stresses.  C-sections with both and a two week stint in the NICU for Ethan due to his arrival being six weeks early has left scars on both my stomach and my heart.  Such bountiful moments of joy followed each however that it is difficult to look back and even feel an ounce of that fear that plagued me.  The same cannot be said for selling a house.  We have sold two homes in the past seven years and as I prepare for the third I can honestly say there is not one memory of the process that I look back on and think 'Gee, that was fun'.  Nope.  We bought them, spent a lot of money on them and then sold them to move on to bigger, better opportunities. We have never made out in such a transaction.  We have never made any money or even broke even.  That is ridiculous of course.  And here we are, poised to do it again.  We bought the house we now reside in just a year ago January and here we are with a realtor (the same that sold it to us in the first place) and our first showing is this Friday.  It appears we may be crazy.  Or perhaps, for the first time we have decided for ourselves what is real and what is an illusion.

The first home that we owned was a bona-fied  doublewide.  It came along with the trailer park and all.  Classy though - you know, the streets all had nature names and ended with Lane...  Growing up in a middle class home, it never crossed my mind that I may one day live in a trailer.  It was not a place that I was taught to strive for - quite the opposite in fact.  My circumstances however were that of a displaced people.  My husband and I had been married for a bit more than a year and I had just given birth to our daughter.  We were residing in the panhandle of Florida at the time (a story for another day) and just trying to get by.  I had been let go from my job for being pregnant (I know!) and had quit selling plasma (I know!) when I found out I was pregnant, so Troy was supporting us solely by waiting tables at the local Red Lobster.  We lived in a tiny apartment with cockroaches and dreamed of being... well, pretty much anywhere else but there.  While a bit on the dramatic side, we did indeed get our wish.  Hurricane Ivan swept through the state and destroyed our town.  We were outrageously lucky and did not lose a single item to that massive storm.  I have a crazy picture that shows the courtyard behind our complex where all of the large palm trees have fallen and made waves of destruction.  Roofs and walls crumbled in - and our quad stands alone, unscathed.  While in theory, I understood the concept of hurricanes, I had been explained to about them prior to moving South like this:  'Oh! They're great.  You get off work and hang with your friends in the dark drinking beers and have a hurricane party! Wooo!'  In actuality it is nothing of the sort.  They are excruciatingly terrifying.  If a big one is predicted you have to grab your most valuable possessions, get in your car and head North.  Or if you have no money nor place to go, you can try to find a place to bunker down in a local shelter.  I feel blessed to say I do not have a story about that.  I do not recall this far into the future just how we got the money to leave, but thank goodness we did.  We called on the kindness of Troy's brother and sister-in-law in Nashville who took us in.  We overstayed our welcome by many days due to roads being closed and power being nothing but a hope for sometime in the future.  Two weeks passed before we could get back and attempt to resume living.  Driving into Pensacola however made that dream a bleak one at best.  So much was gone and what was still standing was not much to look at.  I dreamed back to my childhood days of romping on the beaches of West Bay and cried tears of sorrow for my little girl.  What had we done?  Why were we living in this place? The itch was strong.  I had felt it many times while living in this land of gators but now it was overwhelming.  Not long after our return to the coast, my Grandfather called with an offer to buy his doublewide in Kalamazoo on land contract.  No words have ever sounded as sweet - doublewide.  We jumped at the opportunity and happily returned to Michigan.  We were the proud new owners of the trailer on Mandrake Lane - you know, the one with the extra wide slab and detached storage shed.

We lived happily in K-zoo for a bit until Troy began to move up the Red Lobster ladder.  He had been fortunate enough to be able to transfer from the one in Florida to the location nearest to Kalamazoo.  A super server was he - and soon they had him pegged for management.  The company likes to promote from within, so Troy worked hard and within a year or so they found a place for him. A company with oh-so-many policies, they would not allow him to remain at the location he currently worked - which meant a move... to Indiana.  First however we had to put the trailer up for sale.  The park was apparently a company with a lot of rules as well.  One of those rules being that when selling you could not use a realtor  or easily sell it yourself.  For your convenience however, they did have a broker who would show your home and take care of all the necessary paperwork.  For 10% of course.  Mobile homes decrease in value and we still owed the full amount to my grandfather.  We signed the dotted line though because for more than three months, Troy was driving back and forth to work from Kalamazoo to Michigan City, Indiana. It was 93 miles each way and involved a time change.  My Gradfather was an amazing man and allowed us to defer payment until the house sold.  This allowed us to move into a rental in Indiana and leave the trailer in pristine condition.  I mean it.  It really was a pretty nice trailer.  And our family was able to reconnect.  Just in time too - Ethan had just arrived.

We rented for a bit but the itch soon came on.  We wanted a home of our own.  This time we were determined it would be of the stick built variety and not moveable by wide load transport. Troy's father had passed and he inherited a bit of money.  A home is a great investment we'd heard.  Investing is what adults do and that's what we are after all...  We searched the towns that surround Michigan City hoping to find one with downtown charm similar to Traverse City.  I loved growing up in Slabtown and yearned for  some of the same for my children.  I often dreamt of the days gone by where the neighbor children, my brother and I would weave the streets of the neighborhood - darting between the houses while playing hide-and-go-seek.  We played touch football in the street after dinner until the sun would settle into darkness.  It was glorious and I could see the same for Marnie and Ethan in my mind's eye.  Yes, it had to be - so that is what we searched for  - and that is exactly what we found.  When our realtor showed us the house that would soon be ours, I almost cried.  It was beautiful.  Built in 1928 and boasting five bedrooms.  Plenty of room if we decided to expand our family.  Original wood floors upstairs and many lovely rooms that I first decorated in my mind.  I would remove the wall paper and rip up the carpet that blanketed the first floor.  It was December, so in the spring I would make gardens out front and plant flowers along with my veggies.  The house was so large that the lot almost did not exist.  That was doable though because the house was so large!  Never mind that there was no garage.  What a small price to pay. There was a one way street which meant half as much traffic.  No mind that your car had to be moved every other night for street cleaning or you would be issued a ticket.  Did I mention it was large?

Spring came and the snow thawed.  Our house stood - the beauty I knew it to be.  But then we took a look around and found ourselves in the middle of renter's hell.  Almost every neighbor was a renter to the same slumlord. They didn't care about anything.  He didn't care about anything.  Peeling paint, cracked cement and busted out windows surrounded us.  The pure white powder and twinkling holiday lights somehow masked the decaying homes that were now our neighbors. The behavior of the tenants matched tit for tat as well.  Spray paint tags would appear over night and once someone dumped and entire gallon of white paint on the kid's cedar swing set.  It was a very special place indeed.  I would not allow my kids to walk down the street let alone run off to play group games. Forget football. We had so much invested at this point with the 20% we had put down that we did not consider giving up and moving on.  No, we did something even more logical - we invested another $30K into it.  We began with cosmetic improvements.  In retrospect that was a mistake.  Not as big as buying the home in the first place, but I digress.  Under the layers and layers of wall paper was more wall paper.  But under that was crumbling plaster.  Plaster may in fact be in cahoots with the devil.  Every wall needed to be fixed and since we were doing the work ourselves - still looked terrible.  There were no pretty original wood floors hiding under the carpet.  There was only rotted pine planks that could not be salvaged.  My list of woes regarding the LaPorte house continues for way too long but let it be known that I soon came to hate that house.  Every ding, every crack - I knew it intimately and I hated it.  I began to dream of my escape.  This is where France made it's debut.  We dreamed of chucking the house and all our worldly possessions and heading for the EU.  We looked into what types of jobs we may qualify for in order to obtain residency.  We bought Rosetta Stone's French lessons.  Forget this housing business.  This obviously was not for us.  We continued to fix the house up while we plotted but alas it was not to be.  In June of 2009 my father was killed and any grip I had left of childish security was stripped.  The world flipped itself upside down and nothing would ever arrange itself in quite the same fashion as before.  Now it was time to get rid of the house for real.  It was time to go home.

As the protection from my father was taken, my desire for security increased.  I wanted to be back in Traverse.  My mom was there and my brother also planned to return.  All of our intention was now focused on this one goal - get back to Northern Michigan.  Troy tried to transfer with Red Lobster, but they would have none of it.  He went in search of new employment in my hometown - not an easy feat.  We listed the house with an agent who was unfortunate enough to have the task of telling us we paid $30K too much for it in the first place.  Those improvements we made? No good.  They were in vain due to the neighborhood we resided in.  And it turns out that the not having a garage WAS in fact a big deal.  The move was important to us though, so we moved. The stars aligned. We rented out the house to a friend and headed home.  Troy was hired on by Red Mesa and a new chapter began for him.  I found work doing hair and the kids enrolled in school.  New lives began to develop.  We found a cute home to rent and continued lowering the price on the Indiana house.  Sell, sell, sell was our mantra.  I willed it into existence.  Sell it did - finally.  Not before a drug raid went through the neighborhood and eight meth houses were condemned. Not before our renter abandoned the house and left it in such a disgusting state that it took a week and another wad of cash to get it fixed up.  But it did sell.  We received less than two thirds of the price we paid for the same house.  We did not morn the loss for long though - for we were free!  Free from owning that house of doom and despair.  Free to buy yet another house.

And so we did.  We knew better this round.  We knew what we wanted and we knew what we didn't.  We found a realtor that we trusted.  Judy Robinson raised her children in the home across the street from mine as a child.  She sold my father's home a few years past and I knew she would not guide us wrong.  We took our time and I was right, she found us the perfect home.  The house is in a subdivision (what I wanted) but backs up to state land and has the complete privacy of living in the country (what Troy wanted. It's big, but not too big.  Sunshine beams in from every direction.  A three season room off the back was converted into a perfect master bedroom.  A space for an art studio and a flow that makes anyone who walks through the door feel at home.  There is a garage that hold four cars AND a shed.  We were going to live the dream.  It was perfect.

For a few months our time was blissful.  All was going great.  The kids loved their new school and Troy and I both loved our jobs.  Our house had gotten some excellent upgrades and new furniture was purchased.  There was nothing we wanted to change... Now what?  Here we were, many of our struggles behind us, sitting right where we were supposed to be.  A middle class family, in a middle class home, driving cars that are paid for, planning two vacations a year and saving for retirement.  Honestly we did not expect to get to this point quite so quickly.  But here we are.  Here we sit.  The itch began and as it began,  spread with rapid speed.  Discontent settled where it had only hovered previously.  But there is nothing wrong with this house.  Everything is just as it should be.  There is nothing wrong with our jobs.  We have wonderful employers and work with amazing people.  There is nothing wrong with this community nor schools nor family nor friend.  Slowly a thought began to creep and a small piece of truth was found.  It is not the location or crummy jobs that were the problem.  It is not the difficult house or the company that surrounds.  It was us.

The entire time we blamed circumstances out of our control for our unrest when it was in fact us that was the cause of our unease.  We could be given anything and everything and stand together united in gratitude but it would still be shadowed by our wanting something different.  It was in this small seed of truth that we began to see ourselves clearly for the first time.  The lives we were progressing within are not exactly what we desire.  It is what we have worked hard for and we have been given everything we asked but not what we truly desire. In fact, it is this bounty that now holds us down and keeps us from seeking our place.  Why?  Fear.  Of course it is fear.  How do you ask for such a thing?  How can you walk away from a lifestyle that you have invested so much time and effort in obtaining?  I do not have the answer.  Maybe some day in the future I will. One day I have the perspective to look back and see ourselves clearly as what we truly are.  For now I am in the thick of it.  Deep in the muck but trudging forward nonetheless.  What I can say is there is a desire burning in my heart that beats out fear any day.  It moves me forward almost without thinking.  It fuels me to burn bridges behind me so that the option of retreat is impossible. I gives me words to declare my truths and to stand exactly where I want to be. It gives me vision and courage to ask for exactly what I desire.  My home is no longer where I reside nor where I feel secure.  Security is an illusion. Life is for living.  My home is where my feet take me, and my family I will follow.