In December of 2006, we were loaded up and ready to head 220 miles south to our new home. Megan, my youngest and then 14 years old, and I were very excited – our dream had come true. I had sold the house we owned on the river and purchased a little farm with 2 barns and 6 acres. So with our belongings and cats and dog, we set out to begin our adventure in our “forever home”.
So much work, but it was fun! Changing locations of fences, putting in new ones, painting the barn where our horses would be kept, and also traveling to find Megan the perfect horse, her first horse. In February of 2007 we traveled to Tennessee and found Valentine, her gray Arabian mare. She was beautiful and perfect for Megan. When I told her she could have her if Valentine was the horse she wanted, my daughter burst into tears. She had drawn a picture of a horse years before with her riding it – a white horse with a pink snip on its nose. Yes, it was indeed Valentine, and Megan was overcome that it was not just a dream or wish, but reality. Then in March I found my black and white Tennessee Walker, Domino (Alen’s Bow Tie is his official name on his papers). Shortly after we got 5 chickens to have our own eggs. Our farm was filling with happiness and much love. Anyone who visited there said how peaceful it was. I was in love with this life we had, all the years of my working had come to this, and I couldn’t have been happier.
I had worked at home for Dell Puzzle Magazines since 1983, and we would care for the farm and animals by day and I constructed pencil puzzles and word games by night. I never made “a lot” of money by most people’s standards, around $22,000 a year, but it was enough. Our needs were simple.
Then in late March, about a week after Domino had arrived, I got a call from my editor in New York City. My job was over. Twenty five years of being “the puzzle lady”. Twenty five years of doing what I loved, over in a flash. My “career”, my heart’s work, gone, just like that.
I applied to other puzzle magazines on the market, but each had their own constructors. I applied for any job I could find, but the job market had changed. No longer could one go to a business and the people there meet you and talk with you. Now applications had to be submitted online. I was 58 years old. No one replied with a job. I heard about the school census and went up to apply there. I was told I could only apply for one district, even though we were borderline for two. So I picked one. Unfortunately the wrong one, for the woman who had done that district years before asked for it again. I have bad bunions and cannot stand on my feet for hours at a time, yet I applied to stock shelves at Walmart. I would have crawled on my hands and knees not to lose my home.
I still had some checks coming for work I had done. We managed to hang on until the middle of 2009. I only owed $25,000 on our property, but it might as well have been a million dollars. Then the inevitable happened. The bank put our home in foreclosure. I gave my beautiful Domino to the nice man who trimmed our horses’ hooves. Megan went outside when the people came to load him in a trailer and take him away. I could not. I called a realtor and sold our home at a dirt cheap price, the contract being signed the night before the auction on the courthouse steps. We had a household sale and sold most of our furniture for a pittance to pay the last electric bill. My beloved job, my horse, our forever home, our furniture. All our dreams, our life, disappearing a piece at a time, and I was helpless to stop it, to change the nightmare.
Part of the contract deal was that we had 3 weeks after the closing to remain at the property while trying to find a place to go. We couldn’t rent with all the animals, couldn’t buy as we didn’t have enough money. It was decided we would go to North Carolina with my second daughter and her family and figure out what to do from there.
The people who bought our home arrived 2 days early with their trucks, dogs, furniture…we had the moving truck mostly packed so we threw in a last few items and closed the doors. My oldest daughter’s husband was driving the moving truck for us, so Megan and I put the cat carriers and dog in the back of our little pickup truck with a camper shell. Then I turned and looked one last time. I could not cry as my heart filled my throat. I got in, turned to face the road, and drove away.
(photos of our horses and farm are on the next blog.) This
This was exceedingly difficult for me to write. Forgive me for any typographical errors.