It’s April 26th, 2019 and I am sitting here at our dining room table sipping on coffee from my Mary Poppins mug my Dad bought me from Disneyland. There is very little snow left on the ground, it’s 10pm and the sun is still shining brightly on the valley, the puppies are snoozing downstairs with the kids watching cartoons, Myrtle the turtle is basking in her heat lamp, the cuckoo clocks are ticking and the hubby is on the deck getting ready to build a fire. I am home.
But let me take you back to the beginning. I thought I was home when we lived in North Carolina. I never wanted to believe I could be someone who would plant my roots anywhere. I was happy to be a tumbleweed/drifter/gypsy, always ready to go on our next grand adventure. When Alaska came on the radar I will admit I was a bit nervous. I said goodbye to a place that I had called home for 6 years, that was the longest I have ever lived in the same spot in our married life. And it wasn’t until after we left that I realized I had let my roots grow very deep into the North Carolina soil.
Alaska came about because our pot was being stirred. We had to make a move. The home in NC that we grew to love and lived in for 3 years was being listed for sale and we could no longer be renters. Around this time Rodney was finishing up his Master’s degree and we needed to find a job. The option came about for us to buy the house. It was a great and generous offer. The landlords agreed to sell it to us and count a large percentage of all the rent we paid in the last 3 years towards the purchase of the home and it would be owner financed. It was tempting! But we both agreed that we didn’t want our home to limit us to where Rodney could find work. We invested too much in schooling to now have a house that we loved cementing us to the ground. We said, “thank you but no”. It was hard!
So the resumes began being shot out into the universe. Where was God going to take us? No place was off limits. Well actually come to think of it, I made certain places off limits to Rodney, not to God, but to Rodney. Ha!
Long story short, we landed in Alaska with prayers as our only sense of stability. Were we morons!? We agreed to move up here solely on faith, because numbers were not making sense. The church was hurting and could only afford to pay Rodney a certain amount with faith that amount would increase when the church grew. Plain and simple, after paying just our rent we would have $300 left each month. Yea, we moved up here on faith!
The housing market in Alaska is very broken! Our little cabin we found to rent was an amazing deal as it had heat and water included and it came in at a steal for $1700 a month. Ouch! Do you know how much house we could have rented in North Carolina for $1700!? When Laike and I arrived by plane and were waiting for the boys to arrive from driving the whole way, we pulled into our little cabin that would now be our home for who knows how long. We spent a few nights there with no furniture and would lay on the floor watching dvd’s on my computer. One night I smelled something funny in the living room. I put my face in the carpet and gagged. I decided to rent a carpet shampooer and shampooed all the carpets before Rodney arrived with our belongings. That was the biggest mistake I made. The house was covered in dog urine. When I shampooed the carpet, the water reactivated the dried urine. What have we done!?
We contacted our landlord and he was a nice man and did his best to remedy it. It involved moving all our boxes and furniture to the kitchen while the landlord sent professional cleaners over. It involved us leaving the house for hours on end, with returning back to the house with fingers crossed that this time it worked. It was beyond help and so bad, that after several attempts to remedy it, the only real solution they told the landlord was that the subfloor would need to be torn up and completely replaced. The landlord was willing to do whatever it took, but that would mean we would have to stay elsewhere while the house was under construction. So instead Rodney and I decided to pull the carpet back and we laid down heavy duty plastic (to act as a barrier for the smell) and laid the carpet back down, crossed our fingers and began counting down the days left on our 1 year lease.
I am an introvert and I regain my energy at home. A home is very important to me and I hated ours. I felt dirty and gross all the time. I couldn’t relax. I was embarrassed and wanted no one to visit us. I saved face and would post on social media to make it seem all was well, it couldn’t have been farther from the truth. To make matters worse our dogs whom are very well behaved and have never had accidents in the house began marking the carpet too because of the urine everywhere. It began to really wear on the mental health of our entire family. In my mind, the house was gross, so we were gross, our belongings were gross, our dogs were gross. It was a nightmare.
Then the perfect storm continued to develop. After one month of living in our "gross" house, I got an email from our North Carolina landlords. The email read, “so we changed our minds about selling the house and we will be listing it for rent again and wanted to offer it back to you guys or see if you guys knew of anyone who would be interested”. You have got to be kidding! It was at this time that I fell into a deep and dark depression and did not return for a long time. (There will be a blog post about my depression at a separate time).
We started trying to find a way to get out of our lease and began the process of looking for another home. Two problems, we had no money and we would end up losing money in the process. This was not a practical move at this point, so we sadly accepted the fact that we were stuck there for a year and bought a year supply of scented candles and plug in wall air fresheners.
In that first year we began to spend more time at the church because the church was a much more comfortable place to be than our own home. It was around January (almost a year from arriving to Alaska) that we decided to start dreaming again, in hopes that we would be able to purchase a home. Rodney and I began driving by houses and discussing the types of things we were looking for. That first year living in the stinky rental taught us a few things. Winter is dark here and the sun barely goes above the southern horizon, our rental was in a hole on the north side of a hill, we got zero light all winter. We were also surrounded by trees. Around our house we had a 6 foot diameter of lawn and then trees just towered over our house to make us feel even more swallowed up by nature. In that year we knew we wanted someplace high, someplace we could see out a long way, someplace with lots of windows (that opened), a place with plenty of lighting and a place that smelled nice.
In April we took the plunge and walked into a mortgage company and we began the process of applying for a mortgage. We heard back fairly quickly and we were pre-approved! We were so excited to finally have a number we could begin looking within. That evening we drove to a house and fell in love! The location, the size, the yard, the interior (from what we could see peaking in through the windows), everything was “perfect”. We woke up the following morning and called the realtor to get into the house and she said the house went under contract last night. We were crushed. Can we handle this? Can I handle getting my hopes up and being crushed?
By this time we were on the upswing of daylight, which proved to be very helpful when it came to driving around to so many houses. But it can also get you shot, especially in Alaska when you pull into a house at midnight (because it’s still daylight), and not even realize what time it is. All homes look vacant at midnight. Yes, we peeked into the window (at midnight) of what appeared to be a vacant home. It was not vacant!
We looked at what seemed like hundreds of houses and were more and more discouraged. Remember when I said our rental was $1700 for a crappy cabin that wreaked of dog urine, imagine how much our approved amount was and what kind of homes that was leading us to. For an example and reference, just so you can understand how broken the market really is, our yellow house in North Carolina would sell for at least $275,000 in Alaska. Homes within our budget were looking pretty grim, because $275,000 homes were definitely not in our budget. We finally decided to just make a decision. We needed to just pick a house. The main reason we decided to buy was because the rental market is so broken here. Renting is more expensive than buying. So we narrowed it down and just picked one. We were going to put in an offer with our realtor the next day.
This is the home we were ready to settle with. The entire downstairs was an oversized unfinished garage. The upstairs was 2 bedrooms and 1 bath and was 800 sq ft. The electricity to supply the entire upstairs was with an extension cord. BUT, it had a view, didn't smell, sat up high, and had windows that opened. It was the "one".
That night we had some great friends over for dinner and they asked us how our house shopping was going and we told them we picked a house. We told them what street and they knew what house we were talking about. They asked us if we were insane. This began a conversation that would end up changing our lives...
I am a 30 something year old wife and mother of two. I have a 15 year old son and an 13 year old daughter. They are keeping me busy and on my toes in this new phase I call "Teenagedom".
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