Hiding Behind a Refugee or Editing Myself

I haven’t be writing because I feel I have zero answers, nothing of value to say. There it is, I’ve admitted it. A sentence ripping the towel off my psyche, or neurosis, whichever. But here I am….more to vomit the swirling mess in my head today, than to entertain anyone.

I mentioned a while back that my darling brother didn’t like the title of my blog, Appalachian Refugee. He claims it doesn’t encompass me. In a way he’s right. It might not broadcast all that I am. Something about that conversation and his assertion that I am more keeps nagging me.

In the past year…well maybe even longer than this…I have made many new friends. Largely due to what I can only term as a complete subversion of everything I thought I wanted in this life, everything I thought this life could potentially hold for me. And, the adoption of a new dream of simple living, homesteading, and spiritual pursuits. I feel I’ve gotten way back to my roots, in so many ways and most importantly spiritually. These new friends know the “new me”, the grounded, practical, earthy me. I like that me, even if she is still learning and sometimes unsteady on her feet. She feels like home.

However, when I let slip pieces of my past paradigm, I often bewilder these new friends. Their surprise and subsequent parsing of these tiny revelations at once amuses me, pleases me, and makes me sad.

“You used to dance….like seriously?”

Yeah. At one time it was all I could love, all I ever wanted to do. I can feel my friends’ eyes on my physical form – not in a malicious way, more amused…like they’re peering through xray glasses, trying to make out my previous form…hiding behind cake (which was the original title for this blog). And hiding behind frumpy clothes, and an air of “who-gives-a-fuck”.

Where did she go, that little dancer? that tough little bird? that girl who sparkled?

I ate her. Quite simply. I ate her.

I had been told on several occasions and overheard someone I loved dearly say “she’s pretty, but that’s about it”. I had been deemed flighty, ornamental at best. It didn’t matter that there was an ocean underneath, a universe behind the curtains of my lashes. With those comments, and later a sexual assault, I decided no one would ever see me as penny candy again. I got mean, I got tough, and I went to get as educated as I could manage. I fought so hard, I argued and debated. I wrote and read my ass off. I wanted to dump who I had been under a pile of “serious” credentials. I found other women like me in the Women’s Studies department. We were all good and pissed. Many of us had similar stories. We were going to make people pay. And though I thank Goddess for those women and that degree daily, there was a culture and a norm in which the sparkly me could not be permitted. I had to kill her, or at the very least bury her. And I did.

So here I am, not resembling a former self who I had deemed frivolous, unworthy, silly, weak. I fight so hard to be intellectual, practical, grounded. I knock her out every time she dares to proclaim her continued presence from inside her little cellar. I am a grown woman, a mother, a soon-to-be physical laborer – - that’s noble. Not some fool who thinks she’s entertaining, or a good writer, or a great chef.

The truth is, I want ALL of those things. The truth is, I am terrified to dare to dream of them. Failure is a sharp little bitch and she is always waiting for me….and for some reason she hurts me more than she hurts other people.

My mother has this notion that I am to be the next Rachel Ray. She mentions it weekly. She wants to know why I don’t have my own tv show. She wants to know why I don’t open my own bakery, or start writing cookbooks. I tell her over and over again, that’s not my wish in the slightest. Or is it? Definitely not the tv part…definitely not at this size. The books and the bakery – yes, I’d love that…along with many other things – milking cows, tilling gardens, selling organic lavendar, learning to shoot a gun. Do I want to reach a level of fame she’s talking about…are you crazy? I already criticize myself enough for ten women. I don’t need the world at large picking me apart. There won’t be anything left.

I am a garland of fabric flowers…right now I am trying to decide which blooms should be strung, and which are destined for a drawer. I want to string all the pieces of me together. I want to let sparkles out of the cellar and put her right in the middle with the calico print from the farm. But they might clash. What do I do?

Am I just an Appalachian Refugee?

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Off Again On Again

So after a week of “Amish Lockdown” in which the children and I used no television, video games, computers, radios, dishwashers or microwaves, and only one light in the house could be on at a time…I am back.

I have been catching up on Facebook feeds and articles some of you shared and getting my fill of multimedia. I learned quite a bit from our little experiment. And I’m writing this entry to share some of what I’ve learned and to also organize some of my own feeling and thoughts surrounding the week.

Firstly, I will say that progress, for the most part is good. I’m a lover of reading (maybe more than anything) and being able to read so much material on the internet for basically FREE is absolutely amazing. I also greatly appreciate the convenience of a dishwasher. The microwave I could definitely do without, and I am considering giving up our toaster for a toaster oven – mainly because I think toast is better in one and it would save electric to heat a small oven when we want to broil things like sandwiches rather than heat the large oven. I could definitely live without the tv. I did not miss it for a moment. (I was mildly curious to see who got eliminated from Top Chef) and I think eventually I would miss Eastenders…but eventually I’d also get over it.

The best elimination by far was the constant need to look at Facebook. I have no idea what earth-shattering thing I thought any one of you might post at any moment that kept me obsessively hitting the refresh button on my Blackberry. I’m glad I am broken of that – but I still enjoy reading everyone’s posts and having mini convos when I can. I will, however, be drastically editing my friends list and hiding quite a few “friended organizations” from my feed. FB has helped me stay in contact with my best friend (half a world away) and with family members I hadn’t been in regular contact with in years. For that, I am grateful.

Going forward: I will edit my connections down to my deepest only, I will keep TV off in the house except for an hour a day…and I probably will not watch it except Saturday night (Eastenders). I will consider how often I use the dishwasher. I will appreciate my appliances, and I will continue to cut the lights off in the house when no one is in the room. I will limit my status updates to one per day, and my FB time to 30 minutes. Whatever is said after I log off can certainly wait. And those of you who read this and care about me have my phone number in case anything truly mind-blowing happens.

In the midst of this experiment and all the introspection that came along with it, I was told some things about myself from five people I love dearly which hurt my feelings but bore some truth. In light of these revelations, I have really searched my soul for my true feelings and motivations surrounding my life path, my attitude and my relationships. What I have taken away from one of these discussions is that I need to focus on what I embrace, rather than what I reject. My best friend told me I wasn’t being myself. A second friend told me, “people would listen more if you stopped shouting”. A third friend asked me to examine what I really want for myself, rather than what might be “current” or what might alleviate some underlying guilt I had. My mother told me that being serious had it’s time and place, and that being so serious all the time might actually kill me. And finally, the person whose opinion matters most in my life told me that while he thought I had been quite negative lately, that I should be me, no matter what, and that he loved and supported me, and that the path was OURS and we were on it together by choice.

Here’s the thing -  this week I felt defeated. I listened to opinion after opinion on my attitude, my motivations, my ideas. I let it all sink me. I let it sink me so bad that the winter I thought I might finally get through without a major meltdown, didn’t happen. I made it to the end of February (which was a good run) but I jumped down the black hole just the same. No matter what anyone could say to me, I can unravel myself like no other. I chose to let it unravel me, rather than hearing the positive message just under the surface. I think I’ve come to new ledge of maturity despite seeing the message only in retrospect.

I honor you, friends. I honor your message…and to prove that, here is a list of all my positives – my favorite things and my true motivations…. there will be no way, after reading this, that you can say you don’t understand.

Why I want to move back to Blacksburg and have a homesteading way of life:

(in no particular order)

1. I am a witch. Witches worship nature as God. It is my duty and my privilege to live a life as in-touch with nature as I possibly can. Living in the mountains feels not only right but feels immensely honorable. I will be rewarded with health and happiness and a sense of spiritual fulfillment in that place.Witches also honor their beloved dead. My beloved dead were people of the mountains. I honor them by keeping to their Ways. I will be able to live as I choose and keep the Ways in the privacy and safety of my land.

2. The schools my children will go to are small, have wonderful test scores and are diverse. They will receive any and all necessary special education by a staff that is not inundated with extreme need, lack of funding, and general safety issues.

3. The majority of people in the community share my family’s values. Crime is extremely low. My children will have plenty of safe places to play, walk, meet friends, etc.

4. There are enormous health benefits to living there. The air is so much cleaner. The majority of our food will come from my own land that I can guarantee is safe. The water will come from Mother Earth and not be polluted with toxins and pharmaceuticals.There will be room for the kids to run and play without any threats.

5. Being self-sufficient means keeping my freedoms. When you depend on yourself, you are a slave only to yourself. When you depend only on yourself, your interests are protected.

6. Blacksburg itself is a center of learning and culture, with people who respect and appreciate both technology and nature. We can see works of arts and crafts, hear live music, eat amazing ethnic foods, see plays, and learn about history there.The house we’re interested in is less than 20 minutes from Blacksburg, and only 40 minutes or less to Roanoke (which is a good-sized city).

7. Having land to pass down to my children means they will always have a home; as would our parents when they are too elderly to care for themselves. It is the Witch’s way to care for their elderly, rather than put them in facilities. The land is large enough to produce their food and shelter, they would be given freedom by not having to buy or rent such things.

I am sure there are a thousand more reasons, but those are it for now. After talking to a certain friend who asked me to examine my reasons, I posed the question to Brandon as well. He is one hundred percent in agreement with the above statements. He also sees the social, political and economic trends I ( and MANY others) see. And he agrees that this is the best thing for ALL family members – not just me. When it comes down to it, he and I are nearly identical in what we think is right for our family – regardless of our ideas on government, politics and religion. And more importantly we agree that our family is more important than any of those things, and that we will always do what is best for us – despite popular opinion.

Now to the fun part… while spending time on lockdown, I found a new appreciation and even love for some things I hadn’t given much thought to lately. This appreciation has tickled me and makes me smile, and I hope my little list might prompt you to think of your own and be tickled too! :)

Things I love:

1. Freshly sharpened pencils

2. Index Cards

3. Cutting things out of magazines

4. Jumping out at people and yelling “boo!”

5. The smell of wet trees

6. Novels

7. Listening to music while I work

8. Pilates

9. Lavender (the color, the scent and the flavor)

10. Chewing on fennel seeds

11. How my hands look in dirt

12. Clean sheets

13. Reading stories to both kids

14. Talking on the phone

15. Walking down the sidewalk and looking at everyone’s houses

16. Talking to my plants

17. Filling bags with unwanted items – EDITING in all forms.

Again, there are many, many more.

So the moral of the story is: Be positive, not because being negative makes you unpopular, but because you deserve to be happy. Listen to your friends, take what you need from their advice, and know yourself enough to leave the rest. Cherish them and yourself enough to continue to just be you. And lastly, don’t rely on things with electronic hearts to fill yours…only flesh and bone, leaf and flower, and water and wind can do that.

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The farm, the black hole of Facebook, and loss

*sigh* Here I am. Barely able to show my face round this blog again. I had promised to write more frequently and did not keep that promise. Even though I know no one really cares about it, I’m embarrassed.

Nothing to do but to get over it and write. And GODS do I have a lot to say tonight.

First of all, I don’t think I mentioned it but “my” farm is for sale again. Reduced one hundred dollars and waiting again…. We still can’t put this house on the market and I am not surprised. Everything seems to take months longer than it should in this family. And this depresses the shit out of me.

But like I said McMorrison Farm is for sale yet again. I actually spoke with the new realtor and she was supposed to ask the seller if they were willing to rent the farm to us until our house sold. I am desperate to get Aidan enrolled in school there because he is learning bupkiss here at home and I am so frustrated with homeschooling I could freaking scream. She promised to get back to me Monday…it’s now Saturday. You’d think these damn people would jump at the chance at making some money since their house has been on the market off and on for a year… what the heck is the problem?

I guess it really doesn’t matter because the fact is, we probably can’t afford to carry two households anyhow. Our food, gas and household items are all paid for out of my allowance which is 150-200 per week. I know that sounds like a lot for some of my friends who have mastered the art of frugality…but for me, it’s pretty low. (mainly because I have no garden at the moment and very little left in the way of preserved produce).

So what now? I am in limbo…I feel like all I ever do is wait or mark time, while everyone else is living. There are only so many things a person can research before they need to start hands-on learning. I’m stuck in theory because I don’t have any money, when all I am trying to do is move someplace where we can live on so much less…this makes no sense.

Gods, I hate Richmond so bad. Today was in the mid 70′s and sunny, and every thug asshole and his brother were out on my block and in my neighborhood and in the park. I took the kids down to the lake at the park and the first thing I see is a hooker and some guy getting it on in the picnic area. I was so pissed I wanted to throw rocks at them and curse! Even worse was the father of three in the UVA tee shirt who left trash all over the pavilion. What the hell is wrong with these people?

Despite that, the children and I had a marvelous four hours scrambling over river rocks and through brush and leaves, down the paths and over little bridges. I caught myself saying “what a nice park” in my mind several times. I enjoyed being really present with them and paying better attention and the looks on their faces when they spoke and I actually listened.

I think what helped that was being disconnected from Facebook. I am starting to think it is a real double-edged sword. On one hand, I get tons of news and articles every day, I’ve connected with people I only dreamed of talking to before, and I’ve learned huge amounts on topics that are dear to me. On the other hand, I had to learn that people change, relationships change, and there are some really nasty people I was acquainted with back in school that I’d rather not ever hear from again.

One friend in particular has been quite hurtful lately -I’m actually quite heartbroken over some things that have been said.

But worst of all, it takes time away from my family. I tend to retreat to FB because it’s safe in it’s unreality. My reality lately is pretty damned grim, so I lose myself in all the articles and links to other things and even in other people’s dramas.

Aidan and I were talking about this very thing yesterday and challenged each other to what we call Amish Lockdown. No electronics for one week. (the only exception is the house phone for emergencies). No TV, DVDs, Radio, Computer, Blackberry, Dishwasher etc. I asked to leave the washing machine in because I don’t have a washtub or a clothesline (YET). We start Monday. I’ll update next Monday and let you all know who won.

I think after complete lockdown, the two things I will bring back are the radio and the internet. With one caveat: that I check FB once per day ONLY, and allow myself only 30 minutes to read whatever articles I need to read that day. No more of this on and off all day long. I need to present…and this recent unpleasantness with certain friends might be a signal that I need to go out and seek new friends. People grow and change. Unfortunately not all at the same time and not all in the same direction.

This thought brings me to my unhappy news. I had a hard time coming to the decision to post about this most personal event, but I thought about all the stories I’ve read this week by brave women who have shared their experience with the same loss. I felt less alone because those women had the courage to share their loss with me, and maybe by my sharing, someone else will feel less alone.

This week I miscarried. It’s what’s known as a chemical pregnancy. Your body goes through all the changes of being pregnant – all the signs are there (for me: nausea, extreme fatigue, emotionality, sore breasts, guarding my belly)…but the embryo has an chromosomal abnormality which makes not viable. It’s then flushed out just as a period would be, only it’s a lot heavier and there’s a feeling that accompanied it – a feeling of things just being very wrong – I’m sorry I can’t describe it better than that.

I know that at three to four weeks, it was a pregnancy and NOT a baby. I truly know that. But that fact has not made it any easier for me to deal with. I am feeling so many different things, it’s hard to prioritize them. At first, I was annoyed at the timing of the pregnancy. I want to get out of here and start a darned farm, where the heck did 9 months of pregnancy and a year of a nursing child fit into that plan? After about a day, I could have cared less whether this new child would fit my schedule or my budget. I was actually getting very excited to be pregnant again. I made lists of names, and read up on how to have a healthy pregnancy as a plus-sized person, and thought about VBAC and homebirth. I was starting to be really happy about being pregnant.

My mom was genuinely happy for me. She agreed it wasn’t the best timing, but babies never are. Others were more cautious – and I guess they were right to be. But I’ve never had a pregnancy that didn’t “take”, so obviously I was fostering false confidence.

I suppose it should have come as no surprise when I told one friend that I lost the pregnancy and that friend asked whether or not I was sure I was ever pregnant. Surprised or not, it didn’t take the sting out of it, though. And it brought back horrific memories of being pregnant with Aidan and his birth-father calling me a liar and saying I was making the pregnancy up.

What I learned this week is 1.people are ecstatic when you’re pregnant with your first child (unless you were unwed like me) but become less enthusiastic the more children you have (by the third baby people are like “whoopee dip”, some even are annoyed by it) and 2. miscarriage is extremely lonely. Even if your husband is very understanding, VERY FEW people actually care…and hardly ANY care if it’s early in the pregnancy. Not only will you deal with apathy, you deal with suspicion and disdain because you “spoke too soon”.

This is a grief I’m going to have to bear alone. I wish I could share it, but only my Goddess can truly feel the depth of loss in my heart.

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Interfaith “Friend”ship *caution strong language

*Note: I am about to get REALLY REAL. I am not holding back. I am not apologizing.

I have been an initiated Witch for fifteen years. I am completely secure and very happy in my beliefs and in my identity as a Goddess worshiper. I have worked long and hard to adhere to the Old Ways. Constantly considering other people’s feelings and freedoms, attempting to be a good example of my faith. I did not come lightly to this religion. I read and prayed for over a year. I studied countless other faiths.

I have endured ridicule, mocking, verbal abuse and derision from certain others. Each time I have conducted myself with as much Pagan dignity as I can muster. I’m getting tired of it.

The newest assault I am experiencing is friends who claim to be interested in Pagan ways or claim to already be Pagan and then coming out with some scripture or other Christian identifying message on Facebook. Two are more like acquaintances from high school with whom I’ve recently reconnected via social networking. All of these people I know in real life. [I very rarely add a friend who I have not met in person. I think on my list there are maybe four people I have not actually met. (the irony is I feel more at home with those four people than I do with many of my friends)]

Here’s my problem with this. If you’re Christian, and have been for ages and have never claimed to be anything but – if I know where you stand and always have known, and we’ve agreed to disagree and continue our friendship – that’s good. If you all of a sudden, after YEARS of not professing your Christianity, agreeing with me on many religious topics, acting like you honor the Gods, acting like you honor the Ways – and decide for whatever reason (maybe you’re being pressured by other friends, maybe it’s a bandwagon to hop upon, maybe you’re just trying it out) to just bust out with scripture as your status, or thanking “Him” for this or that…really? Are you really feeling this? Or is it a way to say “Hey, I belong too!”?… because it seems to be a trend.

I want to say I don’t have any problem with Christianity, or Christians themselves. But if I am honest with myself, I do. I do not understand why anyone would subscribe to a belief system that oppresses women, firstly.  ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A WOMAN! I do not understand why anyone would subscribe to a belief system that involves a “jealous God”  – if you’re God, then what the FUCK do you have to be jealous of? I do not understand how anyone could subscribe to a religion that dogs other religions to the point of vilifying them and condemning them to “hell”. I do not understand why anyone would want to subscribe to a religion that has to resort to fear to get you to believe and conform. If your religion is so great, why do you need to? If it was so great, wouldn’t everyone just want to run to it? Why do you have to convert if it’s the “ONE TRUE” religion?

Satan is bullshit, hell is bullshit, female oppression is bullshit, gay oppression is bullshit, nature oppression is bullshit, animal oppression is bullshit. Hipocracy is bullshit.

There are some people I love very much as friends and even some family members that are so fundamentalist Christian that I do not understand how, if they love me too, can sit and embrace all these things – knowing that it is hatred against me. And I guess that’s where it hurts. Knowing that if these people really loved their Pagan friend or family member, they’d never sit and allow others to profess such hate, let alone agree with it. I feel like the black friend of KKK members.

I recently read a status update by my Aunt, who I love very dearly. My family on that side are fundamentalist, evangelical Christians. They always have been, and they’ve always treated me with dignity and love. My Uncle has recently regained his speech after a traumatic brain injury. I adore hearing about his progress, and my heart rejoices with every new development. But I read the comments below her status and just felt sick. I understand “praise the Lord” etc. But to say that God is healing someone just so that they can go to church to glorify him -  REALLY?! It made me so sad. Do you even know my family? Do you even care about them at all? God is not healing my uncle so that he can attend your church. He OR SHE is healing him so that his family can have him back, and so that he can continue his life and be happy. Do you see how they get it so twisted?!

I don’t want to lose friends, and I don’t want to lose family. But I feel like Florence Reece singing WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? Because I really don’t see how you can choose that religion KNOWING that it means literally that I am your enemy.

Feel free to comment. As for those who are doing this bandwagon thing – and I know the difference between people who are sincere in their searching and those who aren’t – I am editing my “friends” list again today. You choose to be on the other side of the fence your religion created.

Now that I’ve said my peace on that – time for a Refugee’s update…

I recently had a wonderful, if eye-opening phone conversation with my little brother. Well, he’s not so little – but you know what I mean. I was upstairs feeling oh-so-sorry for myself (the recent crap with FB friends, being stuck in the house for days on end with the kids and my nasty little black rain cloud that always comes in January). We talked alot about Grandma (who is the Goddess personified in my opinion), work, heritage…some of our favorite things, when the conversation turned to my blog.

He started with the “no offense but” and I was ready for him to tell me that he hated my writing, or that it sounded dumb… I don’t know what. What he said shocked me. He said that he didn’t know why I was calling it Appalachian Refugee. I was SO shocked. I feel like AF is probably the best description of who I am. He thought it was too simple, too much on the surface. He thinks I am more than this.

“But who would read more than that?”, I argued. He said that when he reads my entries, he feels I just scratch the surface; that I just get going and then it’s over. I had never considered this. I did feel like I had been writing with an enormous amount of restraint – and it was mainly because 1. I didn’t think anyone would want to read all my bullshit and 2. I don’t really want to reveal all my bullshit and 3. to protect the people I may feel compelled to talk shit about.

I argued, too, that it probably felt disjointed because I am such a sporadic writer. I love writing, almost as much as baking and gardening, and some days even more. It just seems impractical – like keeping myself attractive. It’s one of those things that I misguidedly think makes me a selfish person if I devote time to it. So I write once a month, when I suppose I should write daily. The problem with this is, as I mentioned before, the feeling of guilt at taking an hour or so per day to write. I also look back at my writing and cringe with disgust. If I edited it the way I wanted it would take me hours per day.

I’m a Capricorn with ADD/OCD and ODD. So by my stars I am extremely organized and practical, and by my chemistry I am scattered and defiant. My genetics are at war with my astrology. This makes following a schedule or routine nearly impossible, and it makes me nuts about getting things just right.

I think this is partly why I am so interested in farming. I’m food-motivated, for sure. And not just to eat it. I have to be able to play with it and create with it. I feel I would force myself to adhere to a schedule just for the sake of having that pleasure. I feel like if I forgot to plant the third variety of carrots, I would then be rather disappointed that I could only put two varieties into a dish, and that would be enough to deter further slip-ups. And there is no “perfect” as we know it in farming… farming holds a perfection that is Goddess’ alone. It’s perfect in its imperfections. A very hard concept for humans.

Obviously my main reasons for wanting to live my life on a farm are that I am a practitioner of an agrarian-based, earth-based religion, and that my children will have a healthier and happier life. Living in the city strangles a Witch in my opinion. I hardly go outside. I don’t feel safe in my yard. I have no privacy for rituals. I am cut off from feeling the wheel turn. Living in the city is stunting for children. The air is bad, the yard isn’t safe, they are cut off from feeling the wheel turn. I cannot let them run free or have experiences with nature because either there is none, or the tiny spits of nature that are present in the city are filled with vagrants and drugs.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role of technology in my life. I’d like for it to be a lot smaller. I am voracious when it comes to facts and trivia and bits of knowledge and it causes all sorts of problems for me. I can spend literally days researching things. The internet in particular is like a spiral. I start with one idea, and it leads to another, and then something in another article sparks my interest and links to something else. This isn’t helpful with the obsessive compulsive problems I have. I feel like I can’t stop.

I need to find a way to force myself to limit my time reading and researching. What is it getting me really? I definitely think television is the devil. I really wish my family agreed. I always had a rule that my home would have no more than one small television. Now we’ve got three and the living room tv is SO big that we’re going to have to remove it from the house if we want to sell the house. How sad is that. I did not want the thing, but I could not stand up against it either. We also have two full-sized computers which I think are ridiculous. They take up an entire bedroom…seriously?!

I honestly cannot wait to move to a smaller space and get rid of almost everything. I don’t need all this bullshit. I really don’t. It just makes me depressed.

So that said, I am off to box up a bunch of extraneous crap. If anyone wants kitchen gadgets, pots n pans, books, household crap… lemme know…

And, Jay, if you think I ended that abruptly it’s because Murphy is screaming his ass off. I’ll write again tomorrow. :)

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Shell Shocked

This makes at least three times I’ve been moved into a home in my mind, only to have the rug pulled out. However, this was not just a rug…it was a garden, it was the woods, it was the possibility of a life I would look forward to getting up to live every morning.

Yesterday morning, I was about to step into the shower when I turned left down the hall and plopped my behind in front of the computer for a quick check of messages. I checked in on my realtor.com page. I looked, I squinted, I looked again…where the hell is the Catawba house?! A boarded up Georgian stared forlornly back at me – all that was on my saved list were the comps for my neighborhood.

I hit the search button frantically. Nothing. I went to Zillow.com…. there it is! But wait…not listed for sale. Immediately I knew someone snaked me. It was Cherokee all over again – but if Cherokee was a car-bomb, losing Catawba was total nuclear inihillation. I was stunned. It felt like the moment you make contact in a car accident….everything just hung frozen in the air.

All I could think was “I did it again.” I got completely engrossed and obsessed and emotionally attached. I must be the biggest moron in the history of morons. I am constantly giving my heart to ideas, places and people who have done absolutely nothing to deserve it. What a freaking masochist!

After I shook the static from my head, I started to cry. I was doomed to live a sub-life in a city I detest. (Not really obviously, but this is how my little brain works) I texted my family, called Brandon and got in the shower. Keep Calm and Carry On!

It’s still really surreal. I don’t know, and probably won’t until much later, whether that property is sold or they got tired of having it on the market. It had been listed for 300+ days. Perhaps, like Brandon says, it’s been taken off until the market bounces back. Maybe they’re just switching realtors. Who knows?

I can never say what attracts me to a home. Just that I know when it’s the right one, I get flashes of my future in it. To be honest, I had to work at imagining life at the Cherokee house. I had to imagine life at the Sylvan house. With the Dundee House (aka Maggie) I did not have to try. I saw my baby standing on the landing looking out the window. I saw the Christmas tree in the foyer. I saw Aidan’s room done up for teenagerhood. It just was meant to be. Unfortunately I did not see a girl being murdered behind our house. I did not see the racial problems we would face, or the violence. I did not see the low-level terror we live in just under the surface of our everyday lives. But it was easy to see how it was in the Gods’ plan for our family. I had to know what I could not endure, to find what I truly needed. I had to know what was not my place to truly come home.

I have to believe that there is a plan, or at least a cosmic fit for everyone. I can hear my mountains calling out to my heart to come home. I WILL get there. I’m just not sure how or when. This is the toughest part of being a refugee. Knowing where you belong, but not being sure how to get back home.

That being said, I am going to beat this…this…whatever. If it’s not my beautiful white cottage on Mt. Tabor Road…it will be my beautiful cottage wherever I build the damned thing. Maybe that’s the point? I know with an enormous degree of certainty exactly how I want my space to function and how it should be laid out. Maybe that’s why I was allowed to view Catawba — so I would open my mind to using space more efficiently, so I could get used to life with so much less and still be quite house-proud. So I am keeping the floor plan in my mind with a couple small modifications.

What I want:
1. Under 1600 square feet
2. Lower ceilings with beams
3. A central hearth room from which all other rooms radiate and which has a wood-stove
4. A square kitchen
5. A seriously useful mudroom connected to a bathroom
6. An outdoor shower
7. A basement big enough for an ice chest and all my canning OR a springhouse
8. At least 20 acres

What I do not want:
1. New construction that looks new
2. Neighbors
3. A house with no trees around it
4. Crime (but I guess that would go with neighbors)
5. Hallways, foyers or other useless spaces
6. Formal rooms of any sort…if you’re coming to visit me, you probably don’t give a toss – and if you do, don’t bother coming to visit
7. prefer not to have a pond or raging river on the property

I think I’ll take a moment later today to draw out the plans for the house modeled on the Catawba house with just a few little changes. Maybe then I can get over it and move on. Whatever happens, I need to keep prepping Maggie for sale. At least then I’ll be free for whatever comes my way.

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Hurry Up and Wait

Again… I slack off, I procrastinate…for someone who loves writing so much I do EVERYTHING in my power to avoid it. Why? Maybe I should ask Dr. J this when I pay her off and can resume my therapy. Ha.

So here I am, first week of December, no closer to selling this house and all I can do is obsess and daydream over the Catawba house. I have been pacing its rooms day and night. Filling wishlists (as though moving there will suddenly allow us to afford new furniture, exotic kitchen gadgets and livestock). I am constantly trying to reign myself in. My imagination is on overdrive and it at once makes me feel utterly alive and utterly stagnant. Is that possible?

I want to leave here so bad. I wish there was a way to put everything that needs to be done to this house on a credit card and get all the work done in the next week.

Anyhow, in other news… I quit my job. I have mixed feelings about it. I’m sad that I only lasted as long as I did. I am sad that I am leaving two kids to fight it out for themselves. I am not sad that I will never again be asked to NOT treat someone because of Medicaid guidelines, or strange company practices and beliefs. When a child begs me to help them process their sexual abuse trauma because I am the one adult they trust, and I have to say, “I can’t, I’m sorry”, it doesn’t matter to them why…just that I can’t. I used to cry before and after sessions… now I’m crying because I can’t help them anymore. It just wasn’t the job for me. My own past is not distant enough to be good at this.

On the flip side, I am very happy to be home with the kids. Murphy’s behavior issues are starting to lessen just a little – I no longer think he might be a sociopath. And I am getting things done around the house – which is really helping marital relations.

But againl, here I am…all this get-up-and-go and no money to make it happen. Hubs asked for a list of supplies and projects. Guess I’ll get on that. I LOVE when he asks me to make lists – aside from baking it’s my number one compulsive activity. :)

So I am off to write my lists. I think I will walk room to room with a notebook and pencil. On tap for this weekend will also be Yule and Christmas decorating, cookie dough making, and I will be attempting to make either pillows or stuffed animals out of recycled sweaters. We’ll see.

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In the Beginning

I’m writing this all shower-fresh and cozy from a very clean Hampton Inn in Roanoke. My eyes are burning whether from the impossibly long day or the dust from a hay-ride, I don’t know.

Today we got up at the crack of dawn to travel to Blacksburg to see the property I have stalked online, dreamed about, and idealized from the first moment I saw it on Realtor.com. After a beautiful three-hour drive through rolling countryside, we came to the road the house was on. It seemed as though someone had snatched my wishlist from my dreams and began to create a world around that list. We were in Catawba, which is in between Salem and Blacksburg. We tunneled under blazing maple leaves and emerged onto sunlit valleys full of farms and horse-country, over and over until I felt almost dizzy with it. Around each bend and over each gentle hill, was a prettier and prettier piece of land.

By the time we reached the Montgomery County line, we had extremely high hopes. There was just one problem. The house numbers went from 9900 to 5500. We were looking for 5683. We crossed the county line…and then crossed back…back across…and back again. Where the hell was this place?!

I was about to think it didn’t exist. I knew every line of the house from the one grainy picture on the web site. I had studied it for hours a week! We pulled into a drive way which was the only unnumbered one we saw. And when I say “driveway” I use that term to describe a turnoff in the road, overgrown with weeds with a shack plopped abruptly on the property line and a cattle chute. I decided that this must be the place, so I hopped out of the car and proceeded to trespass. As I came over the first hill through brambles and wild rose bushes, I realized I was wrong. This place was dotted with wobbly sheds and shacks. Still the topography was beautiful, and like any urbanite I decided we could use all that wood as “reclaimed” wood floors. I haf to laugh at myself on that one… I’ve been reading FAR too many decorating magazines.

We decided to cross the county line just one more time to make sure, and Brandon had gotten a signal (finally) on his cell, so we followed Google maps. Google maps told us we had indeed made a mistake and the home we were looking for was in Roanoke county…right…about…here. We pulled into a drive between a horse farm and a very modern looking Cape Cod.

Brandon was really uncomfortable about trespassing. I told him that if anyone came out, I’d just tell them we were looking for the property and ask where it was. So I jumped out, shoved the red metal gate aside and looked over the ridge.

There it was. White cinderblock, wide front porch, aqua green tin roof, right in the bosom of two hills with two fat and gnarly yellow maples in the yard. It was almost shocking to see something I had seen in fantasy for months in real life. It was older, more shoddy, and strangely enough…more beautiful than I thought. And it was a story and a half, not one.

I knew in my heart this was the place, but our realtor had said it was empty, and this house definitely had personal belongings in it. I was a little creeped out. I spied into the windows and knocked on the door.

It was everything and nothing like I had imagined. The wind up there was relentless and sighed so loudly. The old maple in the front of the house creaked. The yard looked as though someone had left it that way for me, perfectly square, with an unidentified tree in the dead center, and fenced with old posts and berry bushes.

There was a well house in the back, big enough to park a car in. The oil tank on one side, and a clothesline exactly where I would have put it. And all around the immediate yard and house were old hydrangeas and wild rose bushes. The grass was so thick you could see your shoe prints in it. There were two green rockers on the porch, as though I had placed them there just yesterday.

There was no lock box as promised, and I was sad to not be able to go inside. From what I could see, I was sorely disappointed in just how small 1000 square foot is. The living room was a fourth of our current one. I don’t even think our tv would fit in it. The dining room was a plus, they had the identical table and chairs we had which fit perfectly, and even better an original fireplace just like the one we have now with the two tiered mantle and bluish bubbly mirror between. The coolest part was they had built a bookcase into the firebox and had leaded glass doors on it. Next to that was a flimsy looking wood stove (not the pot belly I really would love). The kitchen was small but square, which in my mind is a bonus. I could not see any bedrooms or any of the stairwell.

There was a back room tacked onto the house, for what I don’t know. And once I gained entry to that it felt as though it were swaying in the wind. That would need to come off and be replaced by …not sure what. I do want a store-room big enough for a deep freeze and good shelving for canning and I did not see a washing machine.

On the other side of the home was a huge hill and at the foot stood a huge old Bartlett pear tree which looked to be a very prolific producer. At the top was the entrance to Jefferson National Forest. We decided to follow the orange stakes up into the woods (which turned out much harder than it looked) and finally made progress until we saw children in the trees. Boys, ages 3 to 16, about four of them, and their father camping. “Hello!” we called.

The boys came running and shouting to meet us, but stopped cautiously about 20 feet away. Our realtor, who looks more like a heavy metal bassist, went ahead to introduce himself to the father. The father was a very metropolitan type but seemed to be the sort to go backpacking in Nepal. Hard to explain.

After some introduction, we found that he had bought the land directly about the parcel we were looking at and provided us with excellent information and very candid discussion of the price he paid for his 20. After a while we said our goodbyes and wandered closer to “our” property line.

The problem was this: there was a 30-40 foot ravine dividing the land. It was what the advertisement termed “spring fed stream perfect for livestock”. It was where I assumed and hoped I would dig a spring house. I wasn’t about to climb down there! It was treacherous!

We could not get across with the kids, so we only got to see a very small piece (maybe two acres) of the entire 16 acre parcel. We plan to go back in the morning and have one more look. I’ll take pictures then.

I am torn about the property. The house needs major work – and 1000 square foot on paper seems easy-peasy…in person feels claustrophobic. The house has charm to spare, including a spittoon full of rifle casings, but do I want to renovate some place that I might rent out and leave to build another house further away on the property?

Then there are the safety considerations. The road into town is only 12 minutes long, but winding and steep. The ravine has me thinking worst case scenario (especially after that owner said in the early spring it’s filled with icy, swift-moving, deep water that’s loud enough to be frightening). There were several old wells that gave me visions of Baby Jessica or worse. And then our realtor, who is also a dear friend, admits that there are black bear, coyotes and other things in the forest. Though he said our run-ins would be extremely rare. Also there is a trailer and a house in front of the little white house that block access to the main road – pain in the butt for guests who won’t be able to find us.

I just don’t know. Part of me already lives there in my teeny house with a big garden and a tire swing in the old gnarly maple. Part of me thinks I might have built it up too much. The good thing is: I don’t need to make a decision on it now. We’ve discussed offering the asking price for the remainder of the original 59 acres, about 40, based on what the other fella told us he bought his 20 for. If they would sell for that, this place would be the front-runner.

I am being cautious in giving away my heart this time. I know I was meant to live in Maggie for a reason, if for nothing else than to figure out that rural life was what I really longed for. But I don’t want to rush into buying what I hope will be the place I live out the rest of my days and the place to which my children can always come home.

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