CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For years, this was my dream house. Even though it needed a lot of repairs, that didn't affect how I felt. At the end of the day, when I'd pull up to the curb, my heart would leap when I saw it.
It was mine. My cute little Cape Cod. My refuge.
I'd owned other houses before -- even one that I designed and built from scratch -- but those were just houses. Places to live. This one was different. From the first time I walked through the door, it felt like home.
And then one day, it didn't. It simply stopped. And until I sat down to write this, I couldn't even say why.
I bought my house at the worst possible time, just as the housing market was about to crash. My other house, the one I was selling, was under contract with a preapproved couple when I closed on this one, and then that contract fell through. As did the next, and then the one after that.
Unable to make two mortgage payments each month, I had no choice but to rent out the other property, which left me with no money to make repairs and improvements to the fixer-upper I'd bought.
But that didn't matter. It was just an annoyance, a troublesome blip. I loved the place anyway. I was nuts about my big corner lot and the friendly neighbors and the panhandling wildlife. Didn't matter that I was just a couple minutes from downtown, I had deer sleeping in my yard every night and a raccoon that would politely knock at my kitchen door every now and again.
The improvements I managed to make -- squeezed in between working a full-time job and random part-time jobs and freelancing and raising my daughter -- were painfully slow. Before I could fully fund fixing one problem, a couple new ones would be shoving at each other to try and get to the front of the line.
My house became the residential equivalent of a needy stray that was finally getting some regular meals. It seemed certain each bite was the last, so it gobbled as fast as I'd feed.