Fifteen years ago, I was just starting out as a grown up.
I was newly married, pregnant with my second child, and thought I had to buy a house.
We looked at 63 homes before deciding on the one we’re still in to this day.
And by we, I mean my kids.
And our yellow lab.
The husband is long gone.
As are thousands of dollars and blood, sweat and tears that I’ve poured into this establishment… on my own.
I wish you could have seen it when we moved in, compared to what it looks like now.
Years of hard work and wear and tear combined with single-mom paychecks have yielded a place that is cute and cozy, but unsellable at market value.
There are so many things that need fixed.
The roof needs replaced.
The electricity needs to be re-wired along with needing a new breaker box.
The backyard is badly in need of a visit from Chip Gaines.
But this is my home.
It isn’t fancy.
But this is where my kids grew up.
And we love it.
This is where we’ve loved and laughed with family and had nostalgic Christmases and shared a thousand good meals with great friends.
This house is the one tangible thing I have to show for years of hard work and hustling.
And I am not about to hand over my haven to a stranger at a giant financial loss, simply because there are things that need repaired.
This year I made the decision to pull my kids out of the school district we currently live in, and I placed them in school in my hometown.
A place I felt they would be more successful, and have more opportunities.
I have to drive annoying distances every day to give them those opportunities.
But it is worth it to me.
And to them.
My friends, family, even my sweet realtor-friend tell me all the time to list my house and sell it at a loss so we can buy a place in my hometown.
But it isn’t that simple to me.
I am stubborn, and proud, and deeply sentimental yes…
but there is just one reason I can’t dump this little brick ranch for 80 grand and move on:
To me, investment is not disposable.
I do not walk away or dispose of something I have invested my time and energy into.
This is why I have had the same best friends for 30 years.
And why I have worked for the same company for 15 years.
And why we lived in complete and utter poverty for 6 years, so I could put my autistic son through private school.
I don’t do disposable.
When something breaks, I fix it.
When I get bored, I count my blessings and find the silver lining.
That’s how I was raised.
My dad is notorious for buying brand new cars, and then driving them until the floor rusts out and he can drive it ala Fred Flinstone.
I can remember most, if not all of the cars he bought over the years…and there are only a few of them.
I remember one summer in the 80s we were driving down to Brookville river to go canoeing with the youth group, and his Dodge Charger crapped out.
He marched into a car dealership that day and bought a Dodge Omni.
And he drove that Omni for something like 12 years and 250,000 miles.
I hadn’t really thought much of it until recently, but my dad…my mom, my grandparents, really my entire family, taught me by example that when something breaks, you fix it.
Nowadays, this society throws everything away.
Even things that are expensive and have great value.
For silly reasons like boredom.
Tired of your iPhone?
Buy a new one.
Bored with your 2 year-old car?
Trade it in. Upgrade to something nicer.
Bored or annoyed in your current relationship?
Throw in the towel and start over with someone else.
There is one problem with being a person who doesn’t do disposable.
My propensity to invest and fix broken things carries over into my friendships and relationships.
Then I find myself latching onto people who are broken and need fixing.
This is not a good thing.
The problem with this scenario is two-fold:
- If I am pouring myself into a broken and bottomless vessel, I am pouring myself right through the vessel and all is going to waste.
- When all is said and done, both of us are empty.
My career is difficult some days. I get frustrated and bored and sometimes I just don’t wanna.
But I am pouring oil into a vase that isn’t broken. The oil is being contained.
I have tenure and a retirement fund and the respect of intelligent colleagues.
My lifelong friendships are hard sometimes. My best friend moved to the coast a few years ago, and we only see each other a few times a year. But we talk every day. We put effort into our relationship and invest in maintaining what we have because it matters to both of us.
That vase is holding oil as well.
My marriage, on the other hand, was broken and bottomless from jump street.
It was a waste of time and unsalvageable for reasons I will not justify with examples. I worked a very long time by myself to save it. But it was a blatant outpouring of oil that went right through the vessel and spilled out.
The trick is that once you realize you are pouring oil into a broken vessel…stop pouring.
As I sit here this morning on my screened-in porch, drinking my coffee, and writing this blog…I feel peaceful for the first time in weeks.
I love this time of year.
Sweaters and boots.
Good strong coffee and a few minutes to myself on this beautiful October day.
I pull my blanket tighter and I look around me.
The deck needs power-washed, sanded and re-stained.
The wicker porch furniture needs replaced.
The trees need trimmed and I would love to have a privacy fence and my neighbors are freaks and….
you know what?
I love it here.
So many memories of autumn nights with friends, burning candles, drinking wine and laughing together, and listening to Sarah McLachlan while the cicada bugs sang in the background.
I will continue pouring oil into this vase, because I love it.
My home is not disposable.
And neither am I.