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We were heading to the hills, David (who no longer had a job), a meowing cat, and me. We only had two vehicles and a U-Haul trailer. We were going to start a new life and get out of the city. We packed up only the essentials to lead an everyday life until our townhouse was sold and all our belongings could be under one roof again.
We arrived at our new rental house on Saturday, before Labor Day. We used most of that day and Sunday to set up a house. The couch, TV, dresser and our bed were the heaviest furniture items we had. The rest was boxes full of clothes and daily essentials. It did not take us as long to settle in.
We nicknamed our new place to live the “Rent-A-Barn”. It was shaped like a tan barn and our landlord told us it was part of a garage kit that they converted into a house. It was a cute place. It sat upon a hill away from the road. It had a large front yard, with many trees. Our favorite feature of the house was the huge front porch. We could not have asked for a better place to live, especially with the situation we were in when we found it. Absolutely, perfect!
We used Labor Day Monday to relax and enjoy the lake community we moved to. It was a pretty community. The “Rent-A-Barn” was not lakefront, but it was not far from the common beach area and clubhouse. It was pretty relaxing to walk down and sit by the water. We took a bottle of wine to the picnic area. I needed this downtime, but I was nervous about starting a new job in the morning.
The first day on the job came and went. I successfully went through orientation. The job was not going to be easy, but they don’t call it work for nothing. David also began his job search and even went for a couple of interviews. A couple of weeks passed by and he got a new job. It was at a printing company about an hour from where we lived, but it was a job and beggars can’t be choosers.
Things were going as planned and we were starting a new life in a new place. After living in the city for 7 years, it was a bit of culture shock. We had a hard time adjusting to the quiet at night. When we would lie down to go to sleep at night, our ears would almost ring. They were searching for a sound. A honking horn, a siren, talking, any noise we used to tune out when living in the city. It’s amazing what your ears are able to tune out until you take the noise away completely. We were also trying to get used to seeing wild animals and lightning bugs. Even the pitch-black dark of night-time was an adjustment. But all of these things were welcomed changes.
It was such a blessing that David and I were both working. We still had not sold our townhouse and our second month of paying rent and a mortgage payment was fast approaching. It was very unsettling to us because the housing market was crashing and the economy was going to hell in a handbasket.
We gave our agent a call to check-in. He was still confident it would sell at the price we were asking, but we needed it gone. He understood our situation and reluctantly suggested that we lower the price just a little bit. Within a couple more weeks, the townhouse was sold!!
We managed to make a profit on it and all our hard work had paid off, literally. To give you an idea of just how bad the market was, I remember finalizing some things on the phone with our mortgage company. The housing market had crashed so hard, that the lady on the other end of the line said:
“You sold a house!!!!???”.
I knew right then how blessed we really were.
We conquered another obstacle, but we couldn’t celebrate this victory either. We had the rest of our belongings to get out of our townhouse. Trying to save as much of relocation funds as possible, we decided we would move the rest of our things from the townhouse ourselves.
We arranged to pick up the longest truck that U-Haul rents in Hampton, Virginia. It was the closest truck they had to Virginia Beach. Fortunately for us, we just so happened to be going through there on our way back to our townhouse anyway.
We arrived at the U-Haul store on a Saturday when they opened the doors, but by the time we made it to the townhouse, it was almost noon. We only had the rest of the day to pack up our stuff and take it back to our rental in the hills. We lugged and bitched and moaned all day and into the night. By 2:00 a.m., we were just pulling into the driveway at the “Rent-A-Barn”. We were exhausted and could not even bear the thought of unloading the truck. We went to bed and would worry about that in the morning.
If you have ever moved, you know that unloading a moving truck is a heck of a lot easier than loading it. It took us only a half a day to get the truck cleaned out. We both had to work the next day, so we had to drop off the truck and use the overnight dropbox. Needless to say, by the time Monday’s workday arrived we were stiff, sore and exhausted. That move did us in. We would never move without help ever again!
We were both so fortunate to have jobs to go to on Monday. The economy was getting worse. Looking back, we are both pretty sure that if we had stayed at the jobs we had before we moved, we would have been laid off. It seemed we were only one step ahead of disaster. The Fortune 500 Company I was employed by was chaotic and couldn’t produce a single job without a redo of some kind. Each day consisted of meetings, followed by meetings about meetings and getting plates made for the press in between. All the meetings were about fixing problems and how to approach the problems. I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.
Was this the price I had to pay for trying to get out of the city?
I went to work every day. Some days were better than others. I still had hope that the issues would settle out after some more time. The sad part was that David’s job wasn’t much better. The company wasn’t doing so well. They were in trouble financially and were having the paper delivered on COD. His company was also doing what they could in a poor economy to stay afloat. There was little encouragement that things would change. They were having a new press installed, so maybe an increase in production would boost them back where they needed to be.
Even on shaky ground with our jobs, we decided to start searching for a house of our own. David and I planned to be out of the rental within three months. That is the period of time we promised to rent from our landlord, although we could rent month-to-month thereafter. We needed a place of our own, besides half of our things were stacked up in boxes in the living room of the house. Each day we came downstairs the boxes were staring at us. Living out of boxes was getting old.
We found a real estate agent who agreed to help us find a house. We had a pretty tall order. We needed a house that was preferable near the mountains, but not further away so David’s commute would not get any longer. That alone was a challenge because we were in the foothills and to get mountains we’d need to move further west, away from David’s job. As far as the house was concerned, we envisioned an open floor plan, preferable a garage and some land to go with the house.
Our agent took us to houses all over the place. Some houses that sounded amazing in the listing turned out to be shacks. I remember one that we viewed had a basement that looked like they were keeping a gimp downstairs. That or either the dude from “Silence of the Lambs” lived down there. It was creepy! Another, the house we went to see was near a neighborhood in which our neighbors would have had chained up chickens or chained up cats (not even joking!!), but our house would have had a really nice view from the mountain it was on. We saw some nice houses too. They just didn’t scream HOME! It seemed that most had the wrong layout or the location was too far for David to commute.
Meanwhile, rumors of company closure were starting to circulate where I worked. I was a ball of nerves all the time and I was beginning to think I needed to quit regardless of what was going on with the company. David and I paused on the house search for a few weeks.
During those few weeks, we didn’t hear one peep out of our real estate agent. We thought it was a little odd, but didn’t really care. With everything going on with our jobs, we just weren’t motivated to look for a house. One day out of the blue he called and asked if we wanted to search for some properties he had found for us. We decided to give it another shot, regardless of what was going on with our jobs, we were tired of living in limbo, and we longed to feel home and settled again.
We met our agent on a Saturday morning to view some properties. We were riding around to some of the homes when he told us the wildest story you can imagine. Turns out he and his wife had discovered a dead body in a wooded park near where they lived!!
Long story short, the man they found had committed suicide in that park. He had left a letter explaining why he had done it. The whole story was disturbing. No wonder our agent had not been in touch with us. After that weekend of house hunting, we never heard from him again. We later found out from his replacement agent that he and his wife suddenly picked up and moved to Louisiana. He was a really great guy. I hope he is doing well and never thinks about that awful memory in the park that day.
He arranged for us to have another agent. She too took us to view properties that she had found for us. Still, nothing called out home to us. Christmas was drawing near and we decided to give house-hunting a break until after the first of the year.
We brought in 2009 in that “Rent-A-Barn” and by March we welcomed our first real snowfall in a long while. It only snowed the first year I moved to the beach and maybe a handful of other times after that one. We were really excited to see snow and welcomed it. We were unable to go to work and play in the snow for most of the day. We had hoped we would see more snow once we moved. Wish granted!
I welcomed the snow days off from work. My job kept me frazzled. It had gotten much worse. The rumor mill was out of control about a company closure. Then one day in March 2009, it happened. The entire plant was to attend a meeting around the same time the shift changes took place. The big wigs of the company used one of the large presses as a stage. I’m not exactly sure how many employees there were gathered around that press, but there wasn’t a single person in that plant that didn’t have a deer in the headlight stare when they told us the plant was shutting down and we were all going to be laid off.