If you have lemons, make lemonade
Life. What a wonderful thing it can be. It can mean music, laughter, hugs and kisses. It can mean family and work and love. On these days it feels as though we are living inside one of Norman Rockwell's Americana paintings. Everything is rosey and smiles and happiness.
It can also cause havoc, pain, suffering. It can bring irritation, distrust, and even heartache. At times like this it feels as though we are living Dante's Inferno. The old saying of "Into every life a little rain must fall" says a lot, but frankly I am drowning here!
It is also said that "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and "The Lord won't give you more than you can handle".
Yup, that's what they say. And truth be told, I ain't dead yet, but I shore don't feel any stronger; in fact, I feel more tired and hurting day by day. Allow me to give you the latest news in our world.
My lovely wife Tina hatched a plan last summer. She calls it her Ten Year Plan. We plan to be debt free, in every sense of the word, by the time I hit those early to mid 60's. In ten years I will turn 63, thus the Ten Year Plan. First up was our home. We had found it and fallen in love with it a couple of years prior. Almost five acres, within minutes of town yet set in a hollow, or creek bottom surrounded by trees. Not perfect you understand, but as close as we would find to perfect while allowing me to work here and our children to attend a good school.
Among the imperfections were the gunfire. Seems that a certain percentage of self proclaimed Rednecks enjoy shooting their guns. A lot. I mean, like that's what they do for Sunday afternoon pleasure. I can imagine the conversation going thusly:
MAN: "Well, honey, that shore wuz a good meal! Think ah'll step out onto th' porch and see if'n ah ken shoot that there tree in half with muh pistols t'day!"
WOMAN "Ya go right ahead Wilbur. Ah'll join ya after ah gets th' dogs fed of'n the plates. Ain't much left fur them but they'll get by on leftover possum n grits. Set thuh shotgun out fer me will ya? "
Then follows about two or three hours whereby they attempt to cut said tree in half from their porch. Pow! Pow! Boom! And so on and so forth. But I think the economy has even hit this household, as they were not shooting Easter Sunday this year.
Back to our plan. We found a couple who fell in love with our home. He was an EMT in a neighboring town, and she was a disabled stay at home mom. They put money down, and signed a one year Lease to Own contract. We found a rental house and moved in to it. The plan was that they were going to buy our home after the first of the year, once their son graduated from college in the Northeast part of the state. Seems they owned a home near St Louis free and clear, the man's family home, and would sell it after the son moved out in December. We trusted them (silly us!), and life proceeded. Once they purchased it, we would be free to find and purchase a smaller, less costly home which we would be able to pay off inside of ten years, thereby fitting our Ten Year Plan.
January this year. Contact with the couple followed; we asked if the son had graduated. He had. Sale of their house? Commencing once cleaned up. Cleaned up? They assured us that it would be February at the latest.
We trusted again.
February 1st. Still cleaning up. February 15th. Still cleaning up. March 1st. Still cleaning up. Visit while receiving lease payment. Absolutely they were buying the house; loved it so much. Never want to move out. March 15th. Still cleaning up. We had found a home that was a really good fit for us, and now it was under contract with someone else. We were upset, and let the couple know we needed to know their time frame for buying the house. March 24th we got it. An email saying "we had pressured them so much that they were uncomfortable, and left the property to us".
Pressured them? By asking them their intentions regarding the information they themselves had given us? Before they signed the contract? Later in the day, my wife and I made a trip out to the property to speak with them.
They were gone. And had left what had been our cat Zhu Zhu there without food and water, in a snowstorm. He was an outside cat who loved roaming the property. We had tried to take him with us, but our rental was in the city and he was miserable, so we spoke with them about his living out there with them. They professed to love him, and took him so he could live where he had always lived. We came out periodically to see him and love on him so he would know we had not abandoned him.
The house was empty; trash around the garage. Once the snow melted, we saw they had burned something in our large outside firepit that was made of metal and such. I will be cleaning that up in the immediate future. They had painted the bedrooms and hallways (poorly), which was in violation of the contract. They were not to do any permanent changes without our approval; it was still our house until they put it into their name. Then they could do as they pleased. They even spilled paint on our redwood deck! There were patches in the walls where they had damaged them and attempted to fix very poorly. Estimates to paint and fix the interior: approaching $1,500.00. There were nails in the walls and stairway for God knows what. They changed the stairway (for the worse) damaging it to where we will have to have it fixed by a professional; they even burned trash in our pride and joy, hand built fireplace! On one beautiful, twenty-five year old Pine tree, they had hacked away some of the lower limbs on one side, creating a bald spot that now greets you as you come down the driveway. And the filth! Tina took a wipee and ran it down the bannister. Inside of 15 inches, she held it up and it was literally black with dirt. We both cringed and knew we had a lot of work and money spent ahead of us in the coming weeks, just to get it back to where it was last summer.
We were furious, but also up against a wall. What to do? The only alternative: move back in. So we set to work. Tina made trip after trip each day while I was at work. This Friday, Good Friday, we spent moving. And Saturday. And Easter Sunday. Saturday we finished for the day just before the hail storm moved through. There was so much hail that over 12 hours later, it was still on the porch and roadside. The temperatures rose into the 60's and it was after noon before the hail had disappeared.
The point to this move back so quickly was so we might ask our landlord's to please excuse us from our rental agreement. We still have several months left on it. We will not do to them what was done to us. We are leaving behind a new refrigerator (purchased after we moved, as we left the other one in the house we moved out of. The new "owners" loved it so included it in the sale). We also paid two weeks early each month, so April was paid for in mid March. By leaving before April 1st, we give the landlord's a full month to find someone else to rent it. We also are offering up our deposit as a means of not causing too much hard feelings. So, we are out a deposit, a month's rent, and a new refrigerator for this move. All told, it comes to over $2,000.00 worth of rent, deposit, and refrigerator that we will lose. This is on top of what we will lose due to damage to our house. I'm so happy I could just crap!
Our ten year plan is shot to hell. We will not try to sell again; we will just live here and make the best of it. The market in Joplin is saturated with new homes, and due to the 2011 tornado, they are building new homes faster than people can buy them. Our home is no longer attractive to people, even though we love it. It is 25 years old, so not too old, yet there are so many new homes for the same price that ours is going to be left along the side of the road. We will continue to pay on it, although my hopes of being debt free on it are somewhere between slim and none; that would mean we would pay it off somewhere in my 81st year of life. Yikes! Will I live that long??
What hurts the most is the fact that we have lost our ability to trust implicitly again. I was an optomist, believing in the best in everybody. It has come around to bite me in the behind more times than I care to think about. Tina has always had a little less rosey view of the world, but being around me she had began to change her mind somewhat. But now? I don't know how to believe people at their word anymore. Even after they signed a contract, they still were willing to walk away and leave us hanging. No second thought; no call to inform of the possibilty; no care as to whether they were causing us harm by their actions. Just continue to lie and say everything was on track, and they were still buying the property. After all, they loved it! But isn't that the way of America today? Look out for number one, and to hell with everybody else.
So Life has given us a whole semi truck load of lemons now. We have set to work making that damned lemonade, but we will have a store of it for the next 25 years or so. One way to make lemonade is that I will open my garden back up, and attempt to raise something we can eat while not feeding the local wildlife. I love to garden and to can, so will be raising green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and pickles, peppers, and such. We have an apple tree and a peach tree blooming right now, and if the snow set for tomorrow doesn't kill them, we might get some apples and peaches to make jam and such from. Tina has the idea to open a booth at the local flea market and sell things in there. I will try to make some log furniture, chairs and benches and mantles and such. I have made some for the house and she seems to think they are good enough to sell to the public. I'll give it a go. We have been giving away clothes and coats and toys to local charities over the years, but we could just as easily sell them in this booth. We rarely claim these gifts on our taxes each year, so maybe we should begin making a little money off them now. It hurts to do this, but when in a corner, one must do what one must do I suppose. It's all about them lemons, you know? Making lemonade.
Anybody thirsty? Just a nickel a glass.