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Smell the Coffee: Not in Oz anymore

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.

There were troublesome trees and a leaking roof and plumbing problems so wide-ranging they even included a possum.

If I could've found reliable repairmen for those times when I couldn't do it myself, I might've lasted longer, but each new issue became a fresh test of patience. For instance, out of 13 tree companies that scheduled times to come by to give me an estimate, nine never showed. Of the four that came, two failed to provide a quote and the other two weren't insured. Putting me back to square one.

When I missed writing this column a couple weeks back, it was because I'd scheduled workers to be at my house during the times when I normally write. The electrician said he'd need to shut off my power while he made the repairs, so I asked my editor if I could skip a week rather than try to write around workers. But neither man showed, nor did they call to explain. (One texted two days later to reschedule and then, again, didn't show.)

I finally have the trees down and a brand-new roof and water flowing the right way through the pipes, but there's still much left that needs done. And it simply isn't in me anymore to be the one to do it.

Especially since my cute little Cape Cod stopped feeling like home.

You see, I realized that for me, home stopped being a place and started being a person. Two people, actually. But one is nearing the age when it won't be long until she's no longer under my roof, and the other wants us to start a life under his.

Much as I hate to give up before it's finished, I feel like it's time. I just hope I can find the right people.

People who can see the potential.

People whose hearts will leap, like mine once did, when they pull up to the curb.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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