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If I Survive 2024...

These worn-out Rocket Dog shoes kept on moving!

If I survive 2024, which I likely will, it will be an amazing and transformative year. It really will!

But getting through it, well, it isn't for those content to sit on their laurels. For the past twenty days, I've woken (sometimes long before the crack of dawn), done the basics (laundry, pay bills, drink a little coffee) and then made the trek down south to work on our house in Belton. Today, the 21st day, is the first day I haven't. Why? Well, we are finally DONE.

My first house. I found the ad for it in this trashy little circular, The Thrifty Nickel. To this day I can remember what it said...

$1,500 moves you in,2 bed 2 ba VA repo, $81.2k

It also listed the address. I was newly married to my second husband and desperate to move from the crappy cockroach-infested, two bedroom apartment with paper-thin walls and skeezy neighbors.

The living room, all spiffied up and staged...

"Let's just go look at it, where's the harm in that?" I wheedled, as his face betrayed his skepticism.

We did. And the side door had been left unlocked, which felt like the perfect invitation to learn more. As my husband protested, I scampered inside. Two smaller bedrooms, a hall bathroom, a master suite, a two-car garage, and a large half basement, all on a LARGE 1/3 acre lot. Room to garden, for kids to play and somewhere we could have a dog, maybe two. And for under $90k, which was our budget at the time. Several stops and starts later, and a lot of obsessing and agonizing, and we moved into the house in October 1999.

Just writing that date, it seems impossible. Has it truly been nearly 25 years?

When we divorced less than three years later, he pushed me to sell it, and I dug my heels in. I would not do it. I would not return to renting. Not if I had any choice in the matter. And I held onto it, refinancing it into my name, and later remarrying, and bringing my brand-new newborn, my second child, home through those doors. And there I stayed. I lived in the house for nearly 14 years. Only the dream of living in an old house, the house I have now, was enough to pull me away from the quiet suburbs and my traditional ranch house eleven years ago.

The roomy dine-in kitchen with newly painted cabinets and a spiffy new tile floor!

At the time, selling was impossible. Home prices were still depressed from the housing slump and mortgage crisis in 2008. We would have had to pay a realtor to sell it. Instead, we kept it, and rented it out. The amount we owed slipped down, and the equity increased as the housing market, and especially housing in attractive suburban areas, grew.

And after a quick foray into the numbers in mid-April, I knew it was time to act. We gave the renter notice, offered her a couple of options (be out by the end of June with showings happening in May or simply be out at the end of May), and then waited for her to move.

She chose to leave at the end of May, and honestly, I'm relieved she did. If she had been there when we were showing the house, with the terrible condition in which she was keeping it, we would have had to list it, and likely sell it, for at least $10-$15,000 less, or even more.

The First Eight Days

What doesn't kill you makes you tired, really tired. I've spent every day, all day, down in Belton, working on the house. Cleaning, scrubbing, and clearing. Ordering replacement garage remotes and re-programming them. We have re-keyed locks, mowed the knee-high grass, pulled all of the hardware and most of the lights, and are currently painting, painting, painting, oh yeah, and more painting. I'm pretty sure my hand is permanently stuck in a curve from holding a brush as I cut in every inch of every corner, ceiling, and molding. I've even painted inside of closets and we are painting the basement and garage this weekend. We still have the molding to do, and that will likely be the teen and his steady hand.

There are small fixes, tiles in the kitchen that need replaced, two trees that were removed and need to be carted away, a couple of windowsills that have wood rot and will be replaced, and a basement and garage that require attention and painting.

By the end of this next week, my sweet former home will be ready for a family with their own dreams, loves, and laughter to move into. They will have a fenced yard, mature fruit trees, and a solid home ready and waiting for them.

But the Memories!

Those walls, no matter how many times they are painted, hold memories. Beautiful ones, painful ones as well. I spent fourteen years of my life inside of those walls. I could point to the exact spot where I stood and got married to the boy I fell in love with as a teenager and never really got over. Or the night, years before, when I couldn't sleep and neither could my firstborn, and we got up and just cleaned the house from top to bottom, in the middle of the night, as if it could remove any trace of betrayal and hurt. Or of years before that when I pushed three children not of my blood, and my own firstborn, to sit so close together that their knees touched and reminded them that they needed to learn to get along with each other, not fight, not snipe, and become siblings. And don't even get me started on the yard, where my 2nd husband tried to say after a single year of hard work, "I think the yard is close to done, don't you think?" I stared at him like he had sprouted two more heads. It wasn't close, not at all. It was also, nearly a decade later, a mere drop in the bucket compared to the sanctuary I have created on my near-acre of land in Kansas City.

This home had seen me at my best, and plenty of moments in between. It had seen me through the hardest moments of my life, the HARDEST, and sheltered me as I cried, unsure of a way forward.

This sanctuary is where I wrote my first three or four books and dreamed of so much more. A place I transitioned from working in offices, to working for myself, running my own businesses, and dreaming and doing amazing things, life-changing things.

The master suite. I really miss having a walk-in closet and my own private bathroom!

What This Sale Means

We've worked hard to reduce debt over the past eleven years. And I had been waiting, patiently, for the funds to accumulate and our work on Cottage East to begin. In another three years we would have been able to swing it, but still have been left with a home equity loan (that helped us finish the work on Cottage West), and other debt.

Selling our Belton house opens the door on my dreams and invites them into reality, years ahead of schedule. No more home equity loan, no more auto loans, and funds to complete all of the fixes necessary on Cottage East, to make it into a functional, safe, and welcoming mid-term rental. It means enough to finish the work on transforming the basement of Cottage West into a cozy, independent-living situation for our kids as they transform into adults and go to college. My teen turns 18 in a few months, and he will be the first resident, nearby, yet having his own space as he navigates those first few years of adulthood. The littles will follow in the years after.

The happiness and hope I hold in my heart, at finishing the projects that have been hanging here in the air, paying off ALL DEBT within five years, along with the possibility of purchasing a new vehicle by the end of the year, are my constant companions.

The hall bathroom and two smaller bedrooms...

The Next Twelve Days...

That whole, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger quote? Hell's bells, what a slog! Our 22 year old Civic died on a highway last Friday. The engine is toast. We hope to either fix it, or find the funds to get our teen a car of his own for an equivalent cost.

And then the windshield wipers in my little plastic car broke after a sharp turn sent a furniture mover sliding into the mechanism on the steering column. Until we unplugged them, the mechanism hung limply as the wipers flipped at high speed spraying fluid, with no way to stop them.

My $4,000 budget for fixes quickly mushroomed into twice that amount, and every single member of my family has been reduced to tears at least once. It has been one hell of an experience, with all of us saying, "Never again! Never again!"

A nice two car garage and roomy finished basement with 4th possible bedroom or office!

But in exchange for all of that hard work, tears, and more - we are now listing the house for $240,000, an increase of $20k from the "as is, fixer upper" situation we had three weeks ago. The basement is now finished, the house is absolutely move-in ready.

And it is time to let a new family make memories inside of those walls. It is time for me to let go of the first house I ever owned.

I hope they love it half as much as I have. It was my sanctuary, my haven, and so much more. I hope they are happy and live beautiful lives full of laughter and peace. The house deserves it - and I imagine they do too.

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Join my group General Malcontent's Grumbles and Scribbles on Facebook and get plenty of weird memes, the opportunity to read my newest releases for free, pics of the family, and other author news. I look forward to seeing you there!

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