Saturday, March 19, 2011

About my home and how I think it's helping me and will continue to help me

The peace that comes over me in my neighborhood is unbelievable. We've lived here for a year now and while living with my mother in law is no picnic, it allowed us to live in a home and neighborhood I've always dreamed about. You would think that after 16 months in our new residence that the novelty would have worn off, but it hasn't. Yesterday I walked home from my little guy's school and a smile spread across my face as I reached the lake glowing in the sunshine and with three geese gracefully swimming across. The area is established (built between 1967 and 1969). The homes aren't fancy, but well kept and all the houses are unique. Everyone has decent size yards, trees are everywhere and birds galore. It's restful, well connected to everything in the town and it's home. Probably for many people here who grew up in nice suburbs or who have seen so much better, won't get what this means to me, but I feel like I've landed in my little haven.

I was thinking to myself, "why do I feel so extreme about this"? And it's pretty obvious. I think. I've never lived in a place like it in all my adult life and we've lived in some pretty undesirable places on our way here.

First, with growing up, we did live in a nice location. I could walk to school, downtown, to all my friends' homes and life was pretty good. In many ways it's much like what I have now. I grew up with everything so close - including water, woods and parks within feet of my home. I loved that in my elementary years. Then my parents got a divorce and we went to one rental after another. Some places better than others, but nothing was ever permanent. Then college years. I moved all the time from year to year, summers and back home there was no home. My family kept moving to less and less desirable locations (at least for me).

Then I got married and moved to Chicago. Our first apartment literally felt like a shoe box and our view was a brick wall 5 feet outside the window. Then a slightly bigger shoebox, then into a pretty icky apt. building on the north side, but in a great location. Then a move inward in another nice location, but in a very tiny apartment. We always lived in something a bit too small for us. All seemed to be progressing normally though - a little bit better with each move.

Then my husband started a PhD. program. We knew it would mean tightening the belt, and just dealing for awhile. We moved halfway across the country and settled into another too small apartment, but in a good location to live, not so great for commuting to and from work - well connected, but LONG commutes. Then we moved into a dorm for two years when I was a residence director. Loved the job, the housing saved us money, but boy, what a bad location (inner city Philadelphia), no view and it was a 'we can deal with it' situation. Then, we moved again and bought our first house in Canada. We loved that house, but it was a starter home and we would walk to other neighborhoods for our walks and we talked when we hoped to be able to live there. But that home was well connected, had a great yard and deck and it was our home.

But another move was forced on us and we moved again, back to the heartland. This time for less than a year, so we rented. The house was fine enough, but it wasn't ours and didn't feel like home. Then another move back to the east coast just during the housing boom (before the peak) and the only thing we could afford was a townhouse. We looked at 42 homes, put bids on 11 before getting this one. And, we had a surprise baby, which we were thrilled about, but it made our home too small again. And we found townhouse living was not for us - no storage, no room for bikes or anything for outdoors as we had no garage or no shed. Plus our area was so disconnected from stores, schools, even taking walks was difficult as there was only one boring path to take. We were constantly looking ahead to our next house. I don't think we even realized how trapped we felt in that townhouse until we got out of it.

Then another move was forced on us. I wasn't happy about it. First, we had finally gotten established a bit in our old community (living there 5 years  - he longest I've lived anywhere in a very long time) and moving is so hard. I was dreading it. But we went house shopping and after figuring out what we needed, we were deciding between two homes. One home was move in ready, a great house, but in a nowhere neighborhood. The other house needed a lot of upgrading, but it was in an ideal location. A few steps onto the walking path behind the house sealed the deal. I wanted location. We had gotten a good house before without the location and it really is everything about location. We could fix up the house, we couldn't relocate it to a better neighborhood.

So we bought the house and renovated. Gutted the kitchen, master bathroom, expanded a half bath to a full bath, painted, pulled up carpet to get to the hardwoods underneath and so on. We even had to replace every appliance and will still need to do gutters, the driveway and soon enough the roof and siding, but every day I get to look out the windows and see fairly open space, trees, wildlife and 500 feet from the house is a wonderful lake with a walking path, park land, benches and waterfowl. Professional photographers will come park in front of my house any day the weather is nice. One even thought of buying our house, but didn't want to deal with the remodeling.

My children can walk to the elementary school, middle school and high school from home. Heck, even the community college. We are less than a mile from the main mall for the city, a mile from the central library and various restaurants and more lakes and walking trails. My husband's commute to work is 25 minutes door to door and we are still close to Baltimore, DC and northern Virginia, but far enough out to avoid the traffic nightmares.

This is our forever home. We have no plans of moving again, or if we do, to stay in the same area, just a smaller house as our family gets smaller over time. We love it here and I think it's helping me with this journey. I walked my son to school and back. That's a mile of walking. I can pick him up and back, that's another mile. A walk around the lake, that's another 1.5 miles. Look how easy that is to fit 3.5 miles of walking in the day. Come summer we'll walk to the pool. .4 miles. We can ride our bikes to the library, a mile there and back. There are trails going everywhere, so if I get tired of the lake, I'll head in a different direction.

My mind is in a better place. My computer table is in front of the window looking out over the cul de sac island.  I see everyone passing by to get to the lake, the dogs, the kids, the old and the young. There are several large trees outside my windows, so there are always birds and squirrels. Plus, I find my neighbor's house across the street charming. It's the same style house as ours, minus the addition over the garage and it has an added roof over the front stoop, but it also is cedar shaker shingles.

Our house is ugly from the outside, no personality, but I'll take the ugly exterior if it comes with the function of the interior and this fantastic location.

We have a great, safe yard for the kids to play and a nice, private deck to enjoy. And enjoy we do. Every meal in summer when it's not raining, we eat outside. What a treat. What a real treat to have shade from the trees, and privacy from the bushes, yet open enough to enjoy the nature. Last year we even had a cardinal's nest viewable from my kitchen window. I watched two nests be built over the summer and two sets of baby cardinals get raised. I see they are back building this spring.

There is just no way to stay tense and unhappy in such a wonderful environment and it's helping me make this journey so much easier. And I can see it will stay easier. It's motivating to see people out and about all the time. You don't feel so alone and isolated. When it seems everyone around you takes walks and jogs and rides bikes, then feel like the odd one out for not doing it too.

Anyone who would come to visit me would probably think, "What's the big deal? Looks like a common suburb to me!"  But, it's the best we've ever had, a bit of it reminds me of my growing up home and it's motivating. As long as I find it a haven, that's all that matters, right?

Stats for 3/19/11:

Beginning Weight: 255.6   Now 232.4 (23 lbs 2 ozs lost)
Exercise total hours in 2011: 71 hours 40 minutes
Walking totals in 2011: 233.7/1000

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