Moving On….

I’m moving on from the discussion about motherhood for now. I had grand plans for digging in deeper, because such intriguing conversation really exploded when I brought the subject up. But in all honesty, I’m kind of ready to discuss other things, because my mind is on other things. Heavily on other things. So let’s move on, shall we?

And quite literally, what is on my mind is MOVING ON. Our next step. When we were urgently planning to move from our house because we had to sell as quickly as we could, we moved into my grandmother’s house, which had been being rented by my sister and a friend. The reasons we moved in there included the fact that we were the only ones in the family that had long term interest in the home if we could get out of our rapidly growing challenge of a first-home. If our house had sold as we had expected (and our realtor had promised), we probably would have arranged a sale between us and my grandmother (who was living with my parents at the time).

Well, I already mentioned in a previous blog that our experience of trying to sell our house turned into a nightmare, as we were desperately trying to sell it before I had baby number two and wouldn’t be able to work for a while.  We were applying for a short sale because after we had purchased the house, Andy lost his job and the housing marked crashed, and property values dropped, and we found ourselves in struggle after struggle to keep up. When we found out we were having baby number two so quickly after number one, after I had already made arrangements to work less (FAR less…quit my full time job and started working PRN, which is actually more stressful than you would imagine), we knew we were going to have a limited time of being able to afford to keep up with payments on a house that was no longer a good fit for us. We were promised by our mortgage company that we were ideal candidates for a short sale situation and it would be easy to get approved. And then they continued to give us the runaround for a whole year, losing our paperwork, telling us we had to resubmit it, accusing us of abandoning the house because we moved out to try to sell it (we continually maintained it after we moved), accused us of not returning phone calls (after they repeatedly called the number we asked them NOT to call, and then not answering when we called them back)….etc. Until we ran out of savings, and became late on our payments for the first time EVER.

Our cute first house. (I'm careful to say house, because you can make anything a home...)

Our cute first house. (I’m careful to say house, because you can make anything a home…)

We have never experienced such stress, not to mention guilt. And in a time that having a baby should have been so exciting. Well, it still was. We just had so many unknowns hanging over our heads. And what a blow to Andy who was working so hard to provide, and feeling constant instruction from the Lord that he was to stay at the job he had, even though he could probably find work that paid more, once the economy was improving again.

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We’ve also never experienced such GRACE. My family paved the way for us to be in a safe place when we were being dragged through the dirt by our mortgage company. (I will try to stay positive here by not going into all of my feelings and opinions about our mortgage company, or our first realtor!) God carried us through and somehow we kept our bills paid otherwise, including our baby birth bills. Our boys never went hungry, and we were always safe. And we followed our gut reaction when our realtor told us we should just go into foreclosure bc he couldn’t see how we would sell our house otherwise, and got a second opinion. Even a short sale went against our convictions about making promises and borrowing money and repaying it in full. We just could not go down that road without some other counsel and help. LIFE CHANGING DECISION. Contacted another realtor at a friend’s recommendation, and she rescued us! She knew the short sale runaround! And she made a price change to the house, and before we could even put it back on the market, we had an offer. She stayed on the backs of the mortgage company, and we got our short sale approved in the nick of time, and the relief from that headache has been unbelievable. I’m telling you friends: a good realtor is INVALUABLE.

The thing I probably miss most about our first house is our first baby's room.

The thing I probably miss most about our first house is our first baby’s room.

Anyway…I’m taking way too long to tell this story. I started this to tell you about our future plans, not all that history. Not long after we sold that house, Andy got called by a company he had interviewed with almost a year prior, saying they wanted to hire him.  And he’s been with them a year now! We have rented from my grandmother the last year as we have prayed about our next step, and if it would be in our ability to buy this house, or if that is what we feel the Lord is calling us to.  We have had a gut feeling for a while now that it’s not what the Lord wants us to do, not to mention, not really what we can afford if I plan to stay at home with the boys and homeschool.  So we started praying about what to do next, and we kept it a secret for what has felt like an ETERNITY.

Grandma passed away Thanksgiving Day.  I was actually with her, alone in the room, the moment she breathed her last breath. I have never experienced anything like that in all my life, and that is another blog post in and of itself.  It has been bittersweet to come the realization that we are not going to buy this house from her, and now we need to make plans with the family to prepare it to sell it for her, and make the next step in our own living quarters.

But, after going through a nightmare like we went through, we have found it hard to know what to do. It makes you not want to ever buy again, or at least feel like you will never be ABLE to buy again. It makes you want to be free from being tethered.  Even to a lease. It makes you want to go somewhere and start over completely. And Andy started talking like that. Let’s move to Wyoming. Let’s go somewhere and have an adventure. I was ready for adventure. But I was also not interested in taking my babies far away from family. Not when I desperately need a grandma to babysit occasionally or I might lose my mind!

What we discovered as an option would captivate our attention for MONTHS, as we debated, prayed, scoured the internet, evaluated the possibilities. We learned about “Fulltiming Families” : families that for a season of life, perhaps a year, or a few years, live full time in an RV or travel trailer, traveling the country, experiencing all of the sites and nature and adventure we have in this beautiful nation. We were immediately sucked in. We could have our adventure, but not have to permanently move away to do so. And we were amazed to learn that the majority of the families we found that do this are God-loving, homeschooling families, on a mission to be examples of Christ wherever they are, and have a family adventure that their kids would never forget.

One of my favorite RV remodels I found in my research. http://www.newschoolnomads.com

One of my favorite RV remodels I found in my research. http://www.newschoolnomads.com

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Andy COULD work remotely if he needed to/wanted to.  So perhaps this would the the season we could do it?? I mean, no mortgage any more. So we were in a place of freedom to make that choice more easily than some. However, somehow, as much as we LOVE the idea, as we have prayed, we haven’t felt like we have the release to do it. At least not immediately or long term.

So we’ve been back to the drawing board. But doing all of the research about getting rid of crap we don’t need, downsizing to live in a tiny space in order to adventure the vast space around us, has put a major desire in us to still do that very thing. We don’t want a big house. We don’t want all the stuff we have. We want to simplify. Live smarter. Need less. Give more. And adventure more. But rental options are kind of crummy, you know? Pay as much as a mortgage, sometimes more, never gaining anything that will appreciate (hopefully) in value, or bring you back anything in return. And tiny rental spaces are tiny, but not usually very efficient. Nor are they usually very adventurous.

So we have finally realized what we want to do.  We aren’t sure of the exact timeline, and we may find the road there to be a little more twisty than we would like. But the Fulltiming movement is in essence a part of the tiny house movement. Have you heard of that? (If not, catch the documentary Tiny on Netflix for an interesting snippet of Tiny House living.)  You can build a “Tiny” house for a fraction of the cost of traditional houses, even using top quality materials.  Tiny houses are incredibly energy efficient, and off-grid, using solar power and other means of resource management. So they are very cost effective to LIVE in, not just build. Many people who build Tiny houses do so on wheels, so they can be portable, which provides a whole host of benefits, even if they aren’t going to travel as MUCH as an RV.

My absolute favorite SMALL home (not tiny enough to fall under the "tiny" category, but tiny by many folks' standards.

My absolute favorite SMALL home (not tiny enough to fall under the “tiny” category, but tiny by many folks’ standards.

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But are tiny houses an option for a family of four, maybe more down the line?  Is it fair to little kids to cram them into tiny spaces?  Well, YES, actually, because that means they will get out to ADVENTURE more outside, and to see other places…maybe even the library! Maybe they will get out more to serve and give. But I digress. The thing is, even in this average size home, with more than enough space for us, that at one time I thought was still not enough space for all our STUFF, we hang out in the SAME TWO ROOMS for 90% of our day, and then the rooms we SLEEP in, we only sleep in. If you think about it, traditional houses are a fairly inefficient use of space.

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Anyway, in the interest of cutting this post short(er), we have come to this conclusion: Once we are able to recover enough from our short sale to qualify, we could actually build, on a big property, even, for cheaper than we could rent or buy in the city.  We could build and hopefully have a mortgage payment far less than our first house.  A NEW house. There are multiple classifications of “Tiny Houses”: Micro houses, Tiny Houses, Small houses, etc. What we hope to build will probably be a little more in lines of a “small” house. Maybe even smaller than our first house. But not only do we plan to build small. We plan to build SMART. I’m not sure you’re ready for the ideas we have in our heads right now. But suffice it to say, they are innovative, creative, and modern.

We will likely be moving out of the county we currently live in, because there ain’t no cheap land here! Ha! But we’ll probably be gravitating out in the direction that we have several friends and family living, and land is much more affordable, but still within a reasonable commute to Andy’s work and to our favorite stores (Hello, I didn’t wait forever for Trader Joe’s and Ikea to come to my city only to move away from them!). We may end up with way more land than we really want, simply because it would be where we are allowed to build what and how we want.  We don’t really know yet. Because first we have to figure out what is happening with this house, because we are very much invested in taking care of it for our family, after all they have done for us.

And now that the RV bug is in us…we’re praying that we will be able to acquire a smaller camper that we can travel in from time to time, since Andy can still work remotely, and we now have the itch to see more and visit our friends that live all over the country! If this all pans out as we hope, with a tiny mortgage and utility payment, we will hopefully be able to knock out our remaining debt fast, and start saving, giving, and living more, including TRAVEL. Plus, it can be guest quarters on our giant property! Ha! I’m sure you can see the decorating wheels spinning in my Pinterest-loving brain!

So there  you have it. The word is out. No longer secret. Praise the Lord. That has been hard to keep a secret! But we’ve shared it with a few people along the way, as we’ve been asking for advice and weighing options. So for those people, here is the decision we finally landed on. We’ve begun discussing all of this with family, so there is no reason to keep it secret from everyone else…so now, the stuff that is constantly on my mind right now can actually come out of my mouth.

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40 Bags in 40 Days

Ok. So, it’s been 4 years since this blog was created. I guess it’s about time for an inaugural post! Why nothing in 4 years? I can’t remember why I delayed posting at first…probably because I had a lot in my head, but not ready to write it. Then life took over. Then when I wanted to post, I couldn’t remember how to get to it. THAT’S HORRIBLE. But true. Fast forward four years…four bumpy, crazy, intense years…I decided to pull up my OLD blog…that I faithfully occasionally wrote in before this one was created by my husband. And low and behold, this one was right there with it on the same account. I swear, my brain has been barely functioning during these childbearing years. Gah!

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My helpers today as I write my first post!

 

Anyway, I won’t go into great lengths of what all has happened in the last four-five years, other than this run-on synopsis: I’ve worked full time, part time, and at home (baking and decorating cakes, tutoring kids on handwriting skills), had a miscarriage, another year and a half of infertility after that, miraculously found out we were pregnant with Gideon and then miraculously (and shockingly) pregnant with Jak 5 months after Gideon was born (hence my non-functioning brain), attempted to short-sell our home after struggling with a few years of career and income changes forced upon us with the crazy economy and stupid housing bubble and some hasty decisions we had made and continue to regret, nearly ended in foreclosure as we burned through our savings and everything I could contribute while working before Jak was born while we waited for the realtor to do what we hired him to do, and just barely got our house sold in the nick of time with the incredible help of our new realtor that knows the short-sale runaround and coached us through the whole thing. (75 or more showings with no offers with the first realtor, immediate offers before the house was “officially” back on the market with the second realtor. If you need a realtor, TALK TO ME!)

Currently, we are renting from my family, in my late grandmother’s home. After the whole debacle with selling our home, we are admittedly scared of buying, and we haven’t even checked in yet as to when we CAN buy or what it will be like after the knock to our credit record. All of this, coupled with the craziness surrounding our move (Oh, I haven’t shared that part yet…), has led to a serious desire to DOWNSIZE. At least the STUFF we have that we don’t need.  The crazy move: we rushed to get out of the house since our realtor said it would sell faster and be easier to keep clean, since we had a baby constantly making messes. So we moved in with my sister (who was renting my Grandmother’s house at the time). Which meant a lot of stuff had to go into storage, because also Grandma’s house still has a lot of her things in the basement. (The timeline of her last years made it hard to manage all of her belongings at once, so it has been a long process.)  The two weeks before the move, Gideon and I kept getting sick back and forth with colds, then norovirus, then the flu. Three days before the move, we were unpacked and I was puking my guts out. Oh, I was also 6 months pregnant at that point. So we hired packers with what little money we had. Some of our stuff moved with us that day, and we had to pack the basement and move it LATER. The day we moved, Gideon’s 1st birthday, he got a fever and I had to take him to urgent care, while Andy and some gracious friends packed the truck.

So……it’s no wonder at this point, even two years later, we are still feeling like we are recovering from those events. The boys are finally old enough to entertain themselves better and I am in clean up mode. When the remainder of our stuff came from storage, it was mostly loaded into the basement and a lot of it has been untouched.  We have realized how much crap we have, how hard it is to manage it, and how much of it we don’t even use. Ever.

Last year I discovered a post by blogger Ann Marie Heasley called 40 Bags in 40 Days on http://www.whitehouseblackshutters.com. I was ready then to start “decrapifying” as she puts it. But I lost steam after the first few days, because I was up against a mountain of clutter, and chronically exhausted from an almost one year old that was a horrible sleeper at the time and a two year old that was still dealing with sleep issues that started after we moved. BUT NOW. Now, I am ready.

Actually, I’ve been decluttering from various rooms in the house for several months now (especially the kitchen and my closet), and piling it all in a central location in our unused play room. Today is the first day of the 40 Bags in 40 Days 2015 challenge, and, fittingly, the non-profit that was supposed to come get my first big pile a few days ago bumped the pick up to today due to weather. So, this is what my front porch looked like a little while ago!

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There are still a few things I’ve already collected that I will have to drive to Savers or something this weekend…and I may have a few more bags to add to it by then, because I am IN IT TO WIN IT this year. I’m ready to unload the weight of belongings that don’t mean anything or hold any necessary purpose any more. If you want to join the challenge, which coincides with Lent (so you can do it as a part of your Lent observation, or not, of course), check out her blog posts about it. She gives ideas of where to start, and explains the whole goal.  It’s pretty great. I don’t really know how to make a link active here at the moment…but I’ll work on that tonight after my IT department gets home from work. 🙂 So, hopefully, you can find her blog without too much difficulty if you don’t want to wait.

I’ll try to update my progress here…probably more consistently on instagram. You can view my public account at @thesweetwong2. I’m sure I can make the link to that all fancy, too. Again…I’ll probably have to call my hubby, er, I mean, my IT support crew for help on that.