Saturday, January 30, 2021

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

A Journal Entry - Finding My Home

I'm writing this post mainly for myself but of course, anyone is free to read it and hopefully be inspired by something! I felt the need to write this, thanks to anyone who reads it. To my friend Laurie who sometimes has her grandkids read for her, this post is not kid-friendly, though it has a happy ending, it's a sad tale and could be triggering and depressing, so please be aware of that. 

For nearly my entire adult life, all I ever wanted was my own home. I hated renting. I never felt safe. I always felt like I could be thrown out of my home any time for any reason at all. I also felt a lack of control over my situation. Everything was so impermanent. For someone like me, whose mental health depends on routine, renting was a slow killer of my peace of mind.

I often expressed how much I despised being a renter - but I don't think it was very well understood how badly it affected my mental and emotional states. I left my parent's house when I was 17 and I never looked back. I rented for 35 years (minus 2 years which I will talk about below). I remember my first apartment. It was in the basement of a shady landlord's house. I had a junkie as a neighbour and he robbed me one day while I was working at Dunkin Donuts. This scared me so much.

I decided to move to a safer area, which meant higher rents. I had to work two jobs to pay my rent and I was going to school at the same time. After work and school, I never felt like I was coming home to a safe and peaceful haven. There were always noisy neighbours or insects or loud music from cars or damage to the structure that kept me from truly enjoying my surroundings.

For a brief few years in the early 2000's, I lived in a condo that I was mortgaging. It was far away from the city, in the mountains. The area was beautiful! I thought I'd finally done it, I'd finally found my dream home. But condo life is just like apartment life - at least it was for me. I still had to deal with noisy, disrespectful neighbours and I couldn't find my safe place, I couldn't feel like I was home. Burnout, loss of job and illness ended that dream quickly as the bank foreclosed on my condo and I was back to living in a noisy city in a one bedroom apartment. I hated my life. I also discovered that I had skin cancer and had to undergo surgery and chemotherapy. Those treatments destroy your body and I was left with chronic pain.

After years of misery, emotional exhaustion, physical pain and lots of numbing and heavy medication, I didn't see the point in life anymore. I was in so much pain (physical, mental, emotional) that I could see no way out. Nothing was helping. Meds and therapy were not helping. Physical therapy was not helping the chronic pain. Self-help wasn't working either. In 2006, I tried to end my life. To those who have never been in this dire situation, I will explain that once you make that life-ending decision, it almost comes as a relief. FINALLY I won't feel the pain anymore. It was a welcoming decision that most folks don't understand and simply cannot process. Though I came frighteningly close, I survived. I contemplated a second attempt that I knew would be foolproof. As I was planning things, one of my dogs wandered over to me and just sat looking at me. I saw sadness in his eyes. My second dog also walked up to me and sat down and just stared at me. I broke down and just went to bed with my dogs cuddled in my arms.

I woke up in the middle of the night, plagued by nightmares. I felt my chest caving in. I remember saying out loud "I think I'm expiring" then I lost consciousness. I have never in my life referred to death as expiration. It was such a weird moment that I wonder if I dreamed or not.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt my dogs breathing, they had been sleeping on my chest. I felt like I'd gone through an awakening; I  vowed in that moment to get better, get healthier, get my finances back in order and pursue my dream life. I told my dogs how sorry I was that I nearly abandoned them, I promised that I would be with them for the rest of their days. Somehow they had more energy after that day, they seemed happier. NOBODY can tell me that dogs don't understand us! They feel our emotions, happy or sad, they have emotions too. How could I ever have thought about leaving them? To anyone who knows me, you know how much I adore my dogs. This is how deep and seemingly unfixable the pain was for me. But I was determined to find a way out of the deep pit, if only for my dogs. I thought that I would find happiness for myself during the process. The decision was live or die and I chose to live, even though I knew how painful it might be.

I found a spiritual healer, I started doing art therapy, I joined a gym, I weaned myself off the meds and I lost the 97 pounds I'd gained from the medication. I lived as frugally as possible and paid off my debts. I re-established my credit rating, bought a cheap car and moved back to the mountains where I rented a small run-down cottage next to a lake. I felt hope again.

In 2011, I had reached all of the goals I'd set for myself. I was healthy again in every way! Unfortunately one of my dogs died that year, and old habits die hard. I felt the urge to be with him. Winston's death set me back for almost a year when I fell back into depression and questioned why I'd made all of this effort. But I had my second dog, Spencer, who was alive and I promised him again that I would never leave him, so I mourned the loss of my sweet dog Winston, and kept trying to live. I worked so hard and started to feel good again after several months. I was healthy, but...I was lonely. I'd been alone for nearly 18 years at that point - not even one date! I started to look around, joined a few online dating sites, met a lot of losers and players - until I met Alex in 2013 and we've been together since.

We both wanted the same lifestyle and worked towards it together. In 2014 my dog Spencer died and I started to feel a great loss again, a terrible despair that all of my efforts would never work, that I'd always find my way back to that dark time in my life. Having Alex in my life made me happy and I tried to concentrate on what I had rather than what I didn't have.

We had a lot of financial obstacles  that kept delaying our dream of home ownership and they were mostly pet related!!!  Alex knew how sad I was after losing both of my dogs. I truly believe to this day that they kept me alive and saved my life. In the summer of 2015, Alex found a rescue where we could foster dogs and adopt them if we wanted to. That summer we ended up adopting Charlie, Jack and Marlene. I felt such joy again!

From 2015 to 2020, we kept getting SO CLOSE to having enough money for a down payment, then some big expense got in the way - either pet-related, dental or auto. But...finally in 2020, I bought my first house, my home in New Brunswick. A fixer upper cottage with just over one acre of woods - I thought this would be my heaven!

When we moved here in May of 2020, it was a disappointment. Because of the state of the world, we were unable to actually visit the house in person. We relied on our realtor to take good pictures and videos for us and give us a true description of the area. He also told us that he was knowledgeable enough to do a home inspection for us.

I thought we were far enough away from houses that we wouldn't be able to hear our neighbours. I thought that the house was in good enough condition, that the roof was in good condition, that the well was a drilled plentiful one and that my fixer upper would be my life project.

When we arrived on May 8th 2020, we noticed immediately the proximity of the other cottages. We noticed that the shed was not level and falling apart. The roof was in terrible shape and leaked. The house had shifted due to a cement wall that was poured but not properly done, the back door didn't even close and there were many cracks in the cement wall/floor of the basement due to the shift. The well was dry and it was not drilled, it'd been dug to about 40 feet and the water was dirty and rusty. The well pump was on its last legs. The entire front and back yards were covered in rocks and gravel, impossible to dig into for a garden. The house and shed were littered with garbage and recycling items. I'm not kidding - garbage bags upon garbage bags of disgusting stinky garbage. "All furnishings included" looked great in the photos, but they were all falling apart. The mattresses had cigarette burns in them. By EVERY window there were hundreds of dead flies. Most of the windows were either cracked or the frames were broken. The deck in front of the side door was falling apart, actually when I walked on it, my foot went right through it. The ceiling fan was broken and didn't work. Animals had clearly been using the basement as a nesting ground due to the fact that the back door was open all of the time. We had wasp nests in the walls. The toilet was cracked. Every plumbing fixture leaked and the shower had so much rust on it that the floor of it is a permanent red colour. The chimney hadn't been installed properly and was wide open around it, no flashing had been put in so it leaked as well, causing a permanent rust stain all around the piping. 

To say we were disappointed and shocked is an understatement. We trusted our realtor. I called him the day after we arrived and told him everything as diplomatically as I could. He felt awful. It was his perspective that we were getting a great place with lots of potential for the price we paid. He didn't realize how close the other houses were, he didn't see the shift in the house, he didn't know the well was dry because he tested the water for us and it was plentiful when he was there. Of course, it had some water from snow melt. He thought the roof was okay because he only saw the new addition side, not the main house side which has broken shingles. I believed him and he was sincerely regretful that he'd overlooked some things. He more than made it up to us by coming over and helping us remove the old crap in the house, hauling it all off for free, digging the ditch that led from the well to the house (for the main water line) and removing the cement wall to nowhere that was causing too much pressure on the house (causing the shift). He also brought us barbecued chicken several times during our 14-day quarantine.

Along with the house issues, we needed all new appliances. We didn't have room in our Uhaul to bring our existing appliances, plus they were all on appliance-death's door anyway. The day after we arrived, our car's engine died. The repairs totaled $4500 to get the car running again. I don't know how I managed to get financing for the appliances, car and the $14,000 cost of having a new well drilled, pump and pressure tank installed, but I managed it despite having just qualified for my first mortgage with higher than desired debt under my belt.

Unfortunately this put all of the repairs and renovations for the house on the backburner and we will not be able to get to most of them until the loan is paid off in 2024.

Another issue is that we have once again found ourselves in "cottage country" so to speak; where there is an influx of "weekenders" who are loud and obnoxious and disrespectful of full time residents. It's not as bad as where we used to live, but I'd say 2 weekends out of 4, all we hear is loud music, loud voices and loud quads revving. 

While Alex was focusing on all of the things that went wrong; I was trying to see all of the positives and count my blessings. I was enjoying walking my dogs every day on the blueberry field trails, jumping into the river (until I saw leeches were in there!! eeeeek!!) and spending nights watching the stars. Seeing wildlife every few days made me happy though I was hoping to see more out my window. Life was more challenging, it took more work to do simple things, nothing is turn key in this house! We didn't have refrigeration for a few months. We didn't have running water for nearly two weeks. We were aware that the only way to enter our basement was through the door (that couldn't close) and that's where the washer and dryer had to go; so in order to do laundry, I had to walk around the house, outside, laundry in hand. As winter arrived, the weekenders drifted away and I took solace in the fact that I could hear a pin drop when I was out each morning walking the dogs.

Slowly but surely we got our house functioning. We had hot and cold running water; our car was running again; we had a hatch door and staircase built so we could access the basement through the main house; Alex found and fixed the leaks in the roof with a few good patch jobs; we bought insecticide and got rid of swarms of house flies; Alex destroyed the wasp nests and fixed the door in the basement so it closed and locked; we bought a new toilet; Alex is still fixing all of the plumbing and he's insulating the basement with foam board to help us save on heating costs. We replaced the chimney pipe and though it's not up to code yet, we can still use the wood stove in case of power outage for heat. We met a neighbour who agreed to plow our private road if we had a lot of snow. We bought a second-hand snow-blower to plow our driveway and make a spot for the dogs to run around. I found a good inexpensive source of pork so that we could put our pets back on a home cooked diet (we'd switched them to kibble during the move).

Things were starting to get somewhat normal for us; we realized that our house is a work in progress and will be our life's project.

As winter rolled in this year, I was happy that it was so mild and that we didn't get snow like we did in the Laurentian mountains where we used to rent. But as usual, my S.A.D. kicked in and I started to doubt whether or not this was my dream home, and my dream life. I woke up one morning and said out loud "this is not the life I envisioned for myself." This made me cry. I questioned everything quietly in my mind and started to become terribly depressed. I couldn't envision having a hobby farm on this land, I couldn't envision how we would be able to afford to fix everything that needed fixing and set up the house the way we wanted. I felt like this was no longer my forever home, but a starter home that we would sell in 10 years when the mortgage was paid off.

I fell into a pit of despair for many days because I knew that I would be miserable here until I could leave and find my dream home. I fell into the "never satisfied" trap. I started to remember those nights during the darkest time of my life and I was not in a good place. 

I shared some of my distress with a good friend and she lifted me up with positivity and showed me that I could definitely have everything I wanted, just not exactly as I'd planned. Thanks Sis. xx

A few mornings ago, I went snowshoeing with my husky Charlie and I had a lot of time to really think about things. I asked myself what was my biggest wish my entire adult life? It was BUYING a home! And I achieved that! Another big dream I had was being able to walk my dogs out of my front door and right into Nature and I HAVE THAT. I wanted an acreage and though it's small, I HAVE THAT.

I'm healthy. Alex is healthy. We are happy. The pets are happy and healthy. We have enough money to pay our bills. We have a roof over our heads; no longer renting. We have hot and cold running water. We have an alternate heat source. We have quiet, peace and Nature at our doorstep. What the hell am I so sad about?????????????

Yes, I wanted raised beds and a big garden; but I could have a container garden instead. Yes, I was unhappy that I never saw deer on my acreage; but I could build a deer feeder and put up a salt lick and they'd feel safe and secure here and I could enjoy their company. Yes, I wanted to see more birds; but all I had to do was put up bird feeders and they'd find me. Yes, I wanted more privacy; but I could build a fence. Yes, I wanted goats and chickens; but I don't need a large pasture for that! I can build a nice coop and a pen and fence it in and they'll be very happy in the backyard and in the woods. 

I could go on and on.

No. It's not the life I envisioned, but my path is a little curvy at the moment and I will have everything I want, just not exactly as planned.

I keep having to remind myself that no human being is perfect. No life goes as planned. We all have choices. Sometimes illness of any kind can influence our choices. I am happy that I survived and can look forward to life as it comes to me. I don't think my life experience taught me that living is the right choice, it's just a choice that I appreciate now and cherish.

I refuse to be chronically unhappy and chronically unsatisfied. I refuse to allow the dark treachery of depression take hold of me again. I'm 52 years old as I type this and the last thing I want is wasted time, self-doubt, the past haunting me and regrets. I will move ahead with all of my plans and they will happen over time. I will fall, I will stumble, I will take a few steps back. But now I'm armed with desire to see my dreams come true before I leave this life, so I will always move forward and see the world through hopeful eyes and a positive attitude.

Life is wonderful and very exciting! 

Weather Lore: Snowfall

 


Saturday, January 16, 2021

Friday, January 15, 2021

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Monday, January 11, 2021

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Gratitude

 

Me and Jack

Friday, January 8, 2021

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Monday, January 4, 2021

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Friday, January 1, 2021