An Open Letter To the Couple Who Bought My House Today


I sat across from you today while you signed your names over and over and remembered being you, remembering being a first time home buyer and the excitement and anticipation that brings.

I bet you didn’t know you’d sign your names a million times, did you? I didn’t the first time I bought a house.

You’re newlywed-ish and pregnant — I knew this before meeting you for the first time today. When you made your offer I googled your names, and your wedding website and baby registry were the top two results. It made me feel good about selling my home to you. Ironically I was pregnant too when I bought the house that is now yours.

That was 11 years ago. That baby took his first steps and said his first words, then learned to ride a bike and shoot basketball at that house, just like your baby will now. I joked with you that if one of my sons were elected, that house will be the one they designate as the President’s childhood home.

Today was a little awkward, I’ll admit. Perfect strangers connected by a house that I’ve live in a third of my life — the longest I’ve lived in one place ever — a house that with the signing of your names umpteen million times now belongs to you.

I told you a few of the things on my heart — that the neighbors on the right are amazing and that you’ll never see the neighbors on the left, except when he mows the yard and sprays for weeds and collects Amazon Prime packages from his larger-than-everyone-else’s mailbox. I felt the need to tell you about the family behind us and their teenage son who plays basketball on our — now your — basketball goal and that you may have to tell him if you don’t want him to play there anymore. It was sweet that you said you might go out there and play with him.

But I kept a lot in and pondered quietly.

It’s just a house, I know, but the selling of it is an end to a big chapter of my life and the beginning of a new one. It’s a little scary, but in a good way. I’m excited about this new chapter and the new home I hope to buy now that you have purchased this one. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it’s bittersweet.

I wish you an enjoyable life for as long as you live in our house. May it be filled with laughter and love and many happy memories, as it has been for us.

 

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Moving Out & Moving On


The moving truck with all our stuff!

Moving Out

The boys and I moved across town yesterday.

“Across town.” My country roots are showing. I’ve lived most of my life in the country so on Saturdays as a kid we “went to town,” and even though that town is now a bonafide big city that mentality has stuck with me.

So, we moved across town. If you’re reading this and like “oh my gosh I had no idea this was happening” (either at all or so soon) you’re in good company because it happened kinda fast, and I haven’t talked about it online, so the only way you’d know if we talked about it face to face, and I’ve not done a lot of that either.

Here’s the scoop: the boys school is on the other side of town from our house. About 25-27 miles. This is our 5th year to do the commute, and while the drive is long and we wake up super early and stuff, the real disadvantage all these years was that living far away from the school limited our involvement in the extracurricular. Like Friday night football games and after school volleyball. We had such a long drive we couldn’t feasibly go home and come back. To wait around in town killing time til games started was just too much so we did what we could and missed out on a lot. But as the boys have gotten older and as I’ve made more friends with parents too, we want to be at those things more. The cost is high though because we often spend that time between school and the school-thing we’re doing later by doing homework, reading, listening to radio or watching a movie, eating, studying, napping, etc. IN THE CAR. I keep the car stocked with drinks, snacks, blankets, movies (I’m not kidding) for this reason.

The boys are in 8th and 5th grades; the number of things they/we want to be involved in at the school is increasing, not going the other way. For example, Finn has cross country practice every day but usually not til 5. So we have a gap from when I pick them up at school at ~ 3:30 til practice at 5. It’s a 30 minute drive to our house, so if we go home, we drive 30 are at home for 30 then drive 30 back. Then Caden and I sit in the car for the 1 1/2 hour practice. Or maybe we’ll hop out and toss frisbee or play ball, but we’re still killing time and time, my friends, is too precious and fleeting to be killed.

I hit my wall with this about 6 weeks ago when we went to the Target cafe during this 3:30-5 window to get a snack and do homework. Caden was working on math and was very distracted by a family with a noisy toddler near us. He frustratingly said in a low voice to me “Can you ask them to keep their baby quiet, I’m trying to do homework here?” No, we’re in a public place, we’re in a grocery store even, can’t ask that. So I knew we couldn’t make this work any longer. They need a place to do homework and study that’s conducive to learning, and Target is not it. And they need to be able to go home after school and grab a snack from the fridge and plop on their couch and watch some TV or play a video game. As much as the experts says that’s a waste of time, they need time to veg and be kids and we’re aren’t getting enough of that. By the time we get home after practice everyone is starving so there’s dinner to figure out, showers, homework, studying, and all of that takes right up til bed time, which is pretty early because of how early we have to wake up to do it all again the next day.

Moving though? Ugh. Who wants to go through the hassle of selling and buying and moving. Not me. That’s part of the reason why we haven’t moved til now because moving is SUCH a chore! Their dad and I moved 7 times in 6 years before building this house 10 years ago, so 10 years without a move has been heavenly. I considered moving when they first changed schools, but the housing market wasn’t as good then and just seemed too risky. But the housing market has bounced a little from then with lots of houses selling in my area in a good price range too. So maybe now was the time, I thought.

Call me inpatient, but I didn’t want to wait all the months I knew it would take  to get the house ready to sell (i.e. de-cluttered, super-clean, painted, repaired, etc.) all while still living in it and trying to sell it, so I made a move (literally) that would force my hand to do it quicker. I decided we’d move as soon as I could find a good apartment for the rest of the school year. That gets us where we need to be physically ASAP and forces me to more quickly get the house ready to sale and on the market. I just knew that if we continued to live in it while trying to get it ready to sale that it would take forever and it would be next school year and we’d still be there.

So I found a nice apartment complex with plenty of room for us very near the school and willing to do a short term lease and here we are!

 

Moving On

So that’s the facts of the move — the who, what, where, when, why — but what’s missing from all of that is the emotions. Moving can be hard emotionally. We’ve lived in that house 10 years, so this is the boys first move that they’ll remember.

If that’s all there was, that’s emotional enough. My sons learned to walk, talk, crawl, everything in this house! But that’s not all there is. Because this is the house that their dad and I built, the last house he lived in, so moving out is a form of moving on from that too. It’s brought back memories of building it and choosing all the colors and fixtures. Moving out of the house we built and bought together closes out that chapter of my life in a big way.

Truth is I/we have lived in that house longer without him than with him. But because it started out as “ours” it’s still felt like “ours” even though we’ve lived in it without him the last 6 years.

When I talked to John’s mom about the move she said, “Well it’s time, time for y’all to move on,” and that puzzled me because that’s not what this move is about. We’re moving to be closer to the school and to be rooted in the community where they go to school. But it’s moving on too, even if that’s on the reason.

It was inevitable, of course. I had no grand illusions of living there forever. I just had no hard-and-fast reason to move before now so we just stayed put until life’s circumstances urged me on. We were comfortable with our stuff and our routine and “home” felt like “home.” My parents live a few streets over from the house, so it’s been nice to have them close enough for the boys to ride their bikes to their grandparents and to help when the boys were little. But they say home is where the heart is, and our heart has been moving to this side of town little by little for 5 years. Part of my heart is still VERY MUCH over there, but it’s the past part not the present or future part. Acknowledging and accepting that that house and it’s memories is part of my past is harder than I thought. Especially when part of my heart is really happy to be over here and have so much time and life back! It’s a happy-sad moment, goodbye to good things, hello to other good things.

Finn bungee-ing stuff on the truck to move

So this is Phase I of the Smith Family Move. The plan is to be in the apartment the rest of the school year. The guys are coming to paint and fix up my house the next few weeks and we’ll get the realtor in there the next few weeks too. I’m praying it sells quick and for the amount I need to cover the mortgage, repairs, temporary moving expenses and a downpayment on the next one. Because there will be a next one. The apartment is temporary so in Phase II we’ll buy a new house. So more Smith Family moving adventures to come ….

 

Rumor Has It …


I had a good laugh at this the other night.

A good friend texted me the message below

A friend asked me today if you had gotten remarried because they've seen a guy at your house a lot in the last couple months

Well, um, my immediate reaction was do they have they right house??

Not only am I not remarried, I’m not seeing anyone. The only “guys” at my house have been the man who mows the yard and my dad checking the mail when I was out of town.

I was assured that they had the right house.

Hmm. I have no idea then.

I’m hoping the friend of my friend has her information wrong.

However, I told my friend, that if the other woman sees the guy near my house again, and he’s not breaking in to rob me, and he’s cute … give him my number. ;)

The Right Fit


Photo Credit: Glamour

Bras.

It feels awkward to blog about bras, but I owe it to the bra-wearing women of the world to share my experience.

If you get nothing else from this post ladies, get this: Get properly fitted for a bra. It matters.

Note: not just fitted. Properly fitted.

So six years ago I was fitted for a strapless bra at JCPenney. I was in a wedding, and the bridesmaids dresses were strapless. I had just had a baby five months before, so being measured to make sure I got the right size sounded like a good idea.

Well, I didn’t get a proper fit. The lady measured me, told me the size I needed and got me that size. When I told her it just didn’t feel right, she stood her ground that it was the right size because she measured me.

Ok, fine, I bought the bra.

Since then I’ve guessed at my bra size, sometimes finding an ok fit but never finding anything great. They were all just good enough; they got the job done but that was about it.

Awhile ago, I commented to a friend that she looked great, like she’d lost a lot of weight. No, that wasn’t it, she said; she’d just been fitted for a new bra. The new bra had better lift causing her tummy area to look slimmer.

She was fitted at Victoria’s Secret. Honestly: I’ve never had any luck there finding anything that fits. I’d almost resolved to go there anyhow for a fitting when another friend told me about Soma (which for those in Huntsville, is at Bridge Street). The big difference between Victoria’s Secret and Soma Intimates is class. I don’t mean to put down Victoria’s Secret but their lingerie is a little more racy and skimpy. The items at Soma are intimate, as their name implies, but nice, not naughty, if you know what I mean. Very functional and good everyday wear yet still with simple sex appeal.

Soma employee Stephanie helped me choose my bras and did my fitting. She was very knowledgeable and helpful, and the experience was much better than it was 6 years ago. The thing Stephanie told me that made this experience different is that even after being measured, the fit is still very individualized. The measurements, she said, are a starting point not the ending point. So we started there and tried on different things until I found one that was right.

I walked out wearing my new bra, and I left my old one there. The Soma bra donation event is going on now through Aug 12. Donated bras will be distributed to homeless shelters by the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Stephanie and I talked about how with most bras the first thing I want to do when I get home is take it off because all day I’ve been tugging, pulling and adjusting straps, etc. But these bras, she claimed, I wouldn’t even remember I was wearing.

I’m impressed.

She was right.

 

Choose Your Life


Photo Credit: A House With Four Rooms

Choose Life is a lifesaver, and not just the tiny babies that are it’s mission to save. In my case, the opportunity to volunteer there and to pour life into a ministry that wasn’t about me was a life raft that I so desperately needed.

How It All Began

I started volunteering at Choose Life’s pregnancy test center in December 2011. But I’ve actually had some involvement with them off and on since I was a teenager. In December they advertised on Facebook that they were looking for a volunteer receptionist one a week for four hours.

I wasn’t working at the time and was looking for constructive things to fill my time and to add some structure and stability to my life.

I saw the request for receptionist and thought: I can do that; I can answer a phone and work a front office counter.

I started receptioning each week and loved it! It was simple office tasks — answering the phone, scheduling appointments, giving and receiving clients their paperwork, and getting their files ready for their appointment. My weekly four-hour shift became one of the highlights of my week!

New Friends

All of us that volunteer there on Friday are sociable and friendly, so we have a good time chatting and sharing. I consider each of the ladies there with me each week a friend. Two of the women live on my street! Is that not crazy?!? We didn’t even know each other before, and through Choose Life I met two of my neighbors!

One of the women was in a graduate class with me at UAH a few years ago — the world is so much smaller than we know. With the other, I’ve had lunch several times, her daughter has babysat for me, and she’s part of a Bible study at my house on Saturday mornings.

Another volunteer sews, and we’ve swapped some knitting and sewing stories and tips. One of the girls is pregnant so we had a small shower for her with gifts and food.

Several of us like coffee with lotsa cream so we share in that too. It’s been so fun to come together each week with a common purpose and be just a small cog in God’s giant wheel.

Counselor Training

When I interviewed for receptionist, the ladies in charge of the pregnancy test center recommended I go through counselor training which was coming up in March. When I went there, I had no interest in counseling. But the counseling training, they said, would make me a better receptionist and educate me on their ministries. I kept an open mind about it, and when March came around I signed up.

Even during the training I made it clear that I wasn’t sure I wanted to counsel, but that I wanted to be a better receptionist.

The counselor training and the sister counseling sessions, where I shadowed counselors in the room with real clients, made a huge impression on me, and I got the counseling bug. So now in addition to receptionist one a day week, I’m currently counseling one day a week and fill in as needed when someone needs to be out.

Counseling is a little intimidating but God overcomes whatever fear is there. Sometimes people just need to be loved and heard. They just need someone to talk to and someone to say an encouraging word.

My counselor training has made me more confident in sharing my faith and my testimony and in asking others about theirs. It’s made a remarkable difference both inside and outside the counseling room.

What We Do

The boys know that mommy works (for free) at Choose Life. I’ve tried to explain what it was we do in a way they can get it. When a woman thinks she might be pregnant we can do a free test to see if she’s pregnant and talk to her about any questions or concerns she has. We can show her an ultrasound picture of her baby and show her the heartbeat and help her get in with a doctor and other places that can help her get all the things she needs for the baby.

One morning Caden asked if Choose Life was where you go to choose what kind of life you were going to have. I laughed and explained that it was called Choose Life because we want the women who come there to choose life for their baby and to choose life for themselves, the kind of life that only comes through Christ, “life abundant and free.” So in that sense I guess it kinda is where you go to choose your life.

It’s been a great help to me and I hope I’ve been of use there. I pray each time I’m there that I be broken, spilled out and used up.

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of you, Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on thee
Broken and spilled out
And poured at your feet
In sweet abandon
Let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

–Lyrics, Steve Green

Today Was A Fairy Tale


A year ago today I was happy.

My best friend asked me to marry him, and I looked forward to that life.

Earlier in the day we had fought because of my stupid jealousy over the girl before me and major insecurity issues. I had ruined a proposal opportunity a week earlier on the beach in Florida but didn’t even know it at the time. Same reasons — jealousy, insecurity, etc. But all those aside, I was happy about so many things. The best was yet to come, I thought.

Within two weeks I panicked and walked out. I denied at the time and for the greater part of the past year that walking out was what I did. But there’s no other way to describe it. Inside I felt like I just needed some time and space to get over the death of my marriage and the suicide of my husband, to adjust, to … excuses excuses. But what I did on the outside was walk away from a good person who was nothing but good to me and good to my sons. I explained and rationalized and justified — and granted, there were things to work through — but he was willing to work through them. I panicked and ran. I let anxiety and fear get the best of me.

It’s been a rocky year, one full of some ups and many downs and quite a few regrets.

Today, I went back to the place where he proposed and the place where I had hoped we would have our marriage ceremony. I spent some time there praying, thinking, meditating, and pondering things like what commitment really means to me if I could so easily walk away. I made a promise, and I broke it, and worse than that I attempted to explain it away with things like “well, I didn’t really make a promise” and “it was just an engagement” knowing full well what that meant to him, and trying to say that I had the right to change my mind.

I did make a promise, and I did break it. Even if I had the “right” to change my mind that doesn’t mean I should or that I have the right to hurt others in the process. Why should my prerogative to change my mind weigh more than another’s prerogative to not be hurt? And if hurt is unavoidable, there’s a right way and a wrong to do it, and I chose the worst way possible I believe. I have all my reasons and excuses but they don’t really amount to much when I sit here regretting the choices I made and the hurtful things I said and the end result of he and I not being together.

A year ago today I was happy.

Today, I was sad.

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A Lot On My Mind


I’m lying here at 3 a.m.

I’ve woken up and I can’t go back to sleep. I guess I have a lot on my mind.

A few minutes ago I began to pray about the things on my mind — broken relationships, writing projects, God’s will, etc. — and one of the things I think of first, even before all of that, is the people affected by tornadoes that earlier today tore through this area, damaging my church and the subdivision beside it (and other areas too). I began to pray about those situations and the people affected and it occurred to me — I’m lying in my warm bed in my enclosed, roof-covered house with my family safe and the people affected by these storms can’t say that. And yet I’m the one awake with a lot on my mind.

Eleven months ago our church responded in full force to a community that was essentially wiped out by the April 27, 2011 tornadoes. Of the 100 or so homes 96 or 97 were destroyed or damaged. The people in this area didn’t have insurance and fell through the cracks of some of the government assistance programs that help rebuild after a disaster such as this. Our people were there moving fallen trees, cleaning up rubble and listening to the heart-breaking stories. Later we, with several other churches, helped rebuild the community playground which was vital to providing the kids of this area with a safe place to be.

Now we are the ones with a hole in the roof and flooded classrooms. Now we are the ones who need to clean up and tell heart-wrenching stories. It will be amazing, I’m sure, to see God use and weave these two events together into one big story that glorifies Him, because that’s what He does. I’m thankful He’s allowed me to witness and be a part of His restoration after devastation.

And yet I lie here, at 3 a.m., with a lot on my mind.