Avalon's Army of Angels
|August 13, 2008
Visits from the best!
Today was one of those super-spectacular, extra-fantacular, over-the-topular days... (they're
real words... I used them didn't I?)
Today we had a visit from our homeowners!!
I might need to back up a bit and expand on this. 2 1/2 years ago, we moved into this
wonderful house. We most assuredly do not own it. We are merely caring for it, appreciating
it, and trying to make it a happy house for our friends, Jack and Elizabeth, to someday come
Our old neighborhood had reached a terrifying turning point, and we had become desperate
to get our kids out of it (no matter how much we loved the old house). We suddenly had
hookers who tried to solicit visitors, and a drug addict beggar who was so "resourceful" she
would even ring the doorbell to ask for cash. My personal favorite, the stabbing victim that
the police were talking to on the sidewalk directly across the street from our front door. Oh,
and I should probably mention that my parents had to walk past him, to hurriedly get in their
car and run for suburbia, before the entire parking lot was roped off as a crime scene... Yes,
we needed to move.
As I searched endless websites and papers, looking for something, anything that would allow
us to move to safety, I must have made a sincere heartwish. A friend of ours explains
heartwishes like this. She said that God and universe hears all of our requests. However,
most often, we request things that we really don't need, we just think we do. Or, we ask for
things for the wrong reasons. She believes that sometimes, when me make a true
heartwish, one that comes from a place deep within ourselves, that those are the times we're
listened to...and not just heard. It took me quite a while, and years of "unanswered prayers"
before I really understood that. Marnita, you're a wise, amazing woman.
Anyway, we must have been truly heartwishing about finding a safe place for the kids. As I sat
at the computer one day, hours into yet another search - I suddenly received an email. The
email was from a former nurse of Avalon's, someone we'd kept in touch with through her
website and through email. In the life-changing email, Elizabeth asked if Nick and I would
consider renting her house for a few years, while she and her husband, Jack, made up their
minds if they wanted to sell or not.
Heartwish made. Answer received.
Sight unseen, no contract discussed - we agreed. Our family and friends thought we'd lost
our minds. We heard terrible tales of being tossed into the street, of sky-rocketing rents, of
lawsuits and such. Each and every time someone tried to "save" us, we always answered
with, "Thank You for caring, but we love Elizabeth. Everything will be just fine." We were
wrong...fine doesn't begin to cover it. Everything has been wonderful.
Sure, the move had its complications. We "sold" our old house to the couple that owned a
house next to us. They "bought" our house to use as another rental. They had recently
bought another house, so their debt ratio was too high, until they sold a home they had on the
market. They asked us to lease option to them, so they could buy us out in a year. With a
handshake and a hug, we agreed. One contract later, it was all nice and tidy - and we began
Sadly, the "deal" with the "neighbors" didn't work out well for us. The "buyers" racked up a
nearly $400 water bill, put renters in the house, and eventually, just quit paying all together.
When the renters skipped out (owing us a couple of months back rent, and with another huge
water bill), we returned to a house that was destroyed. Buckets of tears, thousands of dollars,
and months of Nick living in the house (away from us) - he finally had it ready to be put on the
market. Slightly over a year later - we had to make the decision to allow it to be foreclosed
on. We couldn't keep up. We became victims of the bad economy and poor judgement of
whom to trust.
However, make no mistake. I would choose to walk the very same path again, in a split
second. Nick and I acted on utter faith, and I refuse to see that as a bad thing. We've always
conducted business with a handshake, nothing more. We believe in the goodness of
humanity, and the importance of integrity and trust. Sure, this one bit us in the rear
quarterpanel. But without trust, there is no hope. I refuse to lose sight of hope.
Besides, our blind trust of a nurse we really didn't know that well, has blossomed into a
treasured friendship - that will last a lifetime. Elizabeth is not just my landlord, she's one of my
best friends. She makes me laugh like a 12 year old, and cries with me when I'm at the end of
my rope. She loves my children like her own. How do I know? Because that's how I feel
about hers. She cheers for us, worries about us, and cares about us. We laugh about our
ridiculous husbands, kvetch about our impossible kids, and quietly poke fun at those around
us who take themselves too seriously. We live utterly different lives, separated by thousands
of miles...and we're exactly alike.
Blind faith found us way more than a safe haven...it found us soul-friends. Who can doubt the
design of the universe, when that happens? One bad thing was just that, one bad thing.
Sure, it was something most Americans feel is the end of the world. I'm hear to tell each of
you...its not. Things are just things. Family, friends, and love - they really are all that matters.
In my firm to-the-core belief that Everything happens for a reason, I know we had to lose the
old house. We had to, so I can truly look people in the eye and tell them it doesn't matter.
Sometimes, theoreticals just don't cut it. You have to really "be there, do that" before you can
fully commit to sharing your experiences. Would we have preferred to sell the house, earn a
few thousand dollars, and begin saving to own a house again some day? Well, duh...of
course we would. But...the earth did not stop rotating, no one came out of the sky to steal my
children, and we've even made new friends since we became the scourge of society. All told,
it really wasn't what most people imagine. Then again, I suppose most people don't imagine
the same horrors we've become accustomed to. Ahh...the beauty of perspective....
Back to the point of this rant. Today, Jack and Elizabeth got to come for a visit!!
Wahooooo!!! Elizabeth's family is in Indiana, so we've been lucky enough to get to see her a
couple of times. But Jack is an insanely busy computer guru, so I've only met him once,
briefly. Nick and Jack had never laid eyes on each other until today. Isn't that rather
astonishing? This wonderful, generous man allowed us to move into his home, without ever
meeting us. Renews your faith in humanity, doesn't it? We've all become so cynical and
jaded. Funny enough, Jack and Elizabeth heard all the same horror stories we did when we
arranged this in the beginning. They, of course, heard them from the landlord end. Elizabeth
reports that she answered people nearly exactly the same way I did. We all figure there was a
larger-than-us hand in all of this. We were meant to show the world that faith in your fellow
man can, indeed, work out.
One more thing, before I finally get around to the visit. One of the most poignant
conversations Elizabeth and I have had, was the day I saw the old house for the first time. I
was devastated. The renters had stolen a solid mahogany door. They had taken locks out of
exterior doors. They had taken what appeared to be a hammer to the brand new front door,
with the stained glass insert that Nick loved so much. The bathroom and kitchen that Nick had
spent so many hours remodeling, were filthy, damaged, and nearly unrecognizable. Our
beautiful faux-painted walls that our friends had worked so hard on, were scratched and had
holes in them. Closets had been torn out, and screens were missing and destroyed. Our
fence was over 1/2 gone, and even my landscaping had been ripped out. No love remained
in any corner of our home, only sadness and desolation. I felt terribly, horribly violated.
I literally cried the entire way home. OK, in all honesty, I didn't cry as much as I wailed. So
much work, so much time and love - and selfish, thoughtless people destroyed it. It was
devastating. I still have trouble wrapping my brain around how people can do that. But most
of all, I couldn't get home fast enough to call Elizabeth. All I wanted to do was tell her I would
NEVER do that to her. I sobbed and promised her that every day I think about her. Every
decision, every thing we ever do here - I hope in my heart that she will love. I told her that my
fondest dream was to be here the day they move home, and to get to see her smile as she
finds the house, hopefully even better than she left it. I needed her to know that I would
never, ever want her to feel like I did when I saw my old friend...that I worked every day so she
could some day come home happy. Elizabeth listened, mourned with me, and promised me -
she knew her house was being filled with love, and she knew her heart was safe. This was
the woman, the friend, I couldn't wait to greet today.
However, in the interest of honesty, I do have to come clean about a few things. First of all, I
am not a neat person. Oh, I like things neat and tidy, I'm just incredibly bad at keeping them
that way. I'm, ummmmm....a smidgeon of a packrat. I suppose I'm rather the embodiment of
the phrase, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." I intend to put all those papers in
the girls' memory books. I intend to sort and organize the hand-me-downs. I intend to keep
the kids' toys in check, laundry perpetually done, folded, and put away, and the
sewing/mending caught up. I truly intend to do all those things....I just fall woefully short in my
I try. I really do. Its just, watching Scooby Doo with the kids and making
"Creeper.....Creeper....." sounds is so much more fun! Its way better to email with a friend
who needs a long-distance hug - than it is to file those old bills. Its more life-affirming to go to
the zoo, park, fair, COSI, etc...than it is to weed or put away the light load. Face it, life is
about choices! I'm here to report, I often make the less-socially-acceptable ones. Oh well.
Mind you, our house isn't gross. The litter boxes get scrubbed every week, the dishes get
washed, and my children do wear clean clothes. Its just....I have a bit of a tendency to stack,
bag, or "stash" those little time-consuming nightmares of life. A large part of it, I - and poverty
- bring on myself. I don't have to make my kids' Halloween costumes, but they're less
expensive and way cuter. There is no one holding a semi-automatic to my temple demanding
that I put up 5 Christmas trees and enough holiday decor for twelve Walmarts, but it makes
my kids squeal. There is no law requiring that I allow my girls to have glittermania and sparkle
everything in sight for 2 weeks straight. But, damn it, life is short and its meant to be
enjoyed!! So, enjoy it I do, and organize it flawlessly...I don't.
Knowing Elizabeth well, I feel perfectly qualified to say that she feels exactly the same way. As
a fellow Enjoyer, Elizabeth would never even see my clutter, it doesn't matter to her. (and
bless her pea-pickin' heart for that!) But, (see paragraph above) I always want her to be
impressed when she comes. Before each visit, I delude myself into believing that this time,
the house will be Better Homes and Gardens perfect. This time, I will be 100% caught up on
filing, scrapbooks, and photo albums. This time, there will be no 1/2 finished
craft/holiday/home improvement projects. This time...all will be as I imagine it in my warped
little alternate universe. And then..."this time" comes, and those delusions go....
I have learned to live with my shortcomings, even as I continuously try to fool myself into
believing I'm conquering them. I'll never win. But I suppose, life is about the journey, not the
destination - so I shouldn't really expect to. The thing is, it wasn't just my beloved Elizabeth
visiting this round, she was bringing Jack.
I know Jack to be just a variation of Nick. They work and live in diametrically different worlds,
but at their core, they're the same man. They are utterly devoted to their children, endlessly
supportive of their wives' whims, and men of great integrity. I also know that they both
understand why they don't live in pristine palaces. But dad-blast it, knowing all of that doesn't
mean I don't want to impress him! For Pete of Sake, I'm human. This was Jack's first real
"visit" to his house - I had grandiose dreams of perfection! The key word to latch onto here is
"had". I had dreams of nirvana....sadly, I accomplished something closer to Metallica.
OK, the bathrooms were clean, the family room was straightened, and the kitchen counters,
table, and floors were acceptable. I didn't do so bad there. Its the dining room....the black pit
of Calcutta. As per normal, the dining room was overrun with those Good Intentions I try so
hard to rein in. Rats. Strike one.
Then there was the back yard. More to the point, the patio and extensive landscape beds
that Nick put in the first Summer we were here. That would be the patio that Jack has never
seen in person, only in pictures. That would also be the patio/landscaping where 10,000
weeds had been screaming for my attention, and were summarily ignored in light of recent
events. Oh yeah, thrilled to get to show that fiasco off. Yep, Strike Two.
But Strike Three, well, that's in a category all its own. Strike three is the basement. You see,
Jack and Elizabeth weren't here to only hug and chat. They had come to look through their
belongings in the basement, and find something they needed. That's part of our deal. Jack
and Elizabeth still have some stuff stored in part of the basement, we just babysit it.
Compared to our mountain of crap - its a pathetic pile, but therein lies the issue. Our
Mountain, has experienced some earthquakes over the past year, and the path to their
Molehill was summarily blocked. Problem....big, BIG problem.
The basement started out ridiculously organized. I have my dozen or so Halloween totes, 16
or so Easter totes, 4 or 5 totes each for Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, etc. Now Christmas,
well - that's a whole new ballgame. Basically, take all the other holidays, add in 3 huge trees,
Santa and Reindeer side tables, and outdoor decorations...and you can pretty much imagine
the chunk of the basement that Christmas commands. I have giant totes that organize the
girls' hand me downs by size, though I need to get new totes for Anam's things. Then there's
my addiction. Yes folks, I have a problem. Fabric. Well, fabric and patterns. Oh...and yarn,
and cross stitch, and then there's the scrapbooks.... Ummm....remember our previous
discussion about Good Intentions? There's a saying in sewing circles, "She who dies with the
most fabric, Wins." I'm definitely a medal contender.
All of this "madness and mayhem" (shout out to Clean House fans) was pretty stinkin'
organized for the first year and a half. I had left about 1/4 of the basement as a play area for
the kids. Then...da da da dummmmm...Avalon's off treatment party came. We invited a barrel
of monkeys to our home, during Christmas time. We did so, as Avalon was not doing well -
and actually chased the holidays and the OT party - with Avalon's first brain surgery. Suffice
it to say, the day before the party - Nick solved any problem he encountered, by taking it to
the basement.... Then, as surgery happened, and holiday stuff came and went, and life
began swirling...all problems....went to the basement. Are you seeing where this is going?
Yes, my totes are still in their neat, assigned sections. The issue is, the paths to and from
those sections, and any semblance of a clear area, have been MIA for quite some time. This
is reasonably troublesome, when your homeowners need to get to their stuff...way, WAY past
yours... Uh oh.
The solution? I got up at 2:30 am this morning, and cleaned the basement like it was my life's
mission. I put away, threw away, moved away and stashed away. I schlepped, stacked,
packed and tracked. Did I miraculously solve 18 months of insanity? Nope. Not even close. I
did, however, manage to clear a very good path to their part of the basement, and to move
the boxes that normally sit in front of their room. (we kept our moving boxes, we knew this
wasn't a permanent home) All told, while I did make it possible for them to find their items, I
also had to face the music of my tragic basement opera. I'm a diva with a dark secret. I
True to form, Jack and Elizabeth weren't even remotely fazed. In fact, you know someone
loves you - when they feel perfectly comfortable teasing you mercilessly. As we sat down to
dinner, I asked Elizabeth if she wanted to put Trajan (their youngest son) in Anam's
highchair. I offered to go to the basement and grab our booster seat for Anam. Elizabeth
didn't miss a beat about hassling me about whether I had any clue where it was. Fair enough.
A good giggle later, I produced the booster and grinned in my heart that she loves me
enough to be rotten. I certainly won't ever admit that the only reason I knew where it was -
was because I accidentally found it during my cleaning frenzy! Nope, keeping that one under
wraps. (BTW, Elizabeth....you didn't just read that. Its all in your imagination)
Our visit was way too short, as is always the case when people you care about come by. Do
we ever really get enough time? Anne stayed for several days last month, and the kids and I
longed for more. I think the sign of a true friend is that no matter how long its been since
you've seen, or talked to each other, you can always pick right back up where you left off, as
if only seconds had passed. The other sign, is that you always wish your time together was
greater. You can never have enough time with those you love. I count myself wealthy beyond
imagination, because I have several people I feel that way about.
Jack and Elizabeth pulled into the driveway, and the kids exploded. Poor Jack, I'm not sure he
was ready for the onslaught of little girls. They met them at the car, and began hugging,
grinning, and chattering before they'd even gotten the baby out. While JP, the oldest son,
stayed in Indiana, playing with Grandma and Auntie Becky, we were lucky enough to get to
play with the little guy, Trajan. I snapped a few pics, they'll follow this entry. We had so much
fun visiting, we weren't smart enough to take pictures of Jack, Elizabeth, and the girls. I'm just
sick about that. I really wanted one to hang up. I keep our Christmas card from Elizabeth and
her boys, hanging on the front door. We always grin at them when we come and go. Kind of
my own homage to their generosity of sharing their home. I wanted a "group shot", so
everyone could see our "other half". Rats on having a good time! It makes you forgetful.
The kids were crazy about Trajan. He's almost a year old, and cute as a bug. He's got the
same California-boy look as his big brother, but he's 100% Elizabeth. JP is all Jack. And
funny enough, Anam looks like a cross between them! We decided that Anam looks more like
their kid than mine. Seriously, get a tan on my little man, and Elizabeth would win any
argument claiming he belongs in their family over ours. Too funny!
Aurora missed the whole visit because she was volunteering at the zoo. That didn't hurt
Avalon and Ambrosia's feelings one bit. It meant they could totally hog Trajan to themselves!
They did have to fight Anam for Trajan time. Anam found him fascinating. He would lean in
and have heartfelt discussions with him. I choose to believe they understand each other, kind
of kindred Rugrat spirits. At one point, Anam leaned close to Trajan, and Trajan decided
Anam needed a smooch. As with most 11 mo smooches, there was a fair amount of slobber
involved. Anam backed up with goo dripping off his nose, and a rather bewildered look on his
face. I think the girls and I laughed so hard we hurt something.
Trajan stayed upstairs with us while Jack and Elizabeth braved the basement jungle. Fooey
on organization anyway...it didn't take them long to find what they needed. We were having
so much fun, they really could have been helpful and searched desperately for hours.... No,
they had to go and be efficient. Baby thieves.
One of the funniest parts of the day was Avalon. Avalon couldn't get enough of Elizabeth. My
little one whose been so sick, was nearly bouncing off the walls. She talked so fast that only
cheetahs could have understood. She squealed, giggled, jabbered and vibrated with glee.
Elizabeth kept asking if we were sure she'd actually been so sick, she just looked so good.
But again, my dear Elizabeth knows us well enough to be able to guess with me that we were
seeing the "grandparent effect". Avalon has an amazing ability to put aside any pain if there
is fun to be had. When her grandparents visit the hospital, she will grin and giggle and play
like crazy. The second they leave, she crashes. Heck, last October, she had a shunt clog.
She had been on the couch, miserable, until people began arriving for Anam's birthday party.
She got up and had a wonderful day. The second the party ended, she collapsed. She
ended up inpatient a few hours later. She'd hidden the pain so well we had no idea how much
trouble she was in.
Elizabeth and I figured that Avalon's kid-on-crack routine was kind of like the party thing.
Avalon was soooooo thrilled to see Elizabeth, she was simply bursting with happy. Sure
enough, over time, she quieted down a bit. But its important to note, she quieted down while
sticking to Elizabeth like gorilla glue. Avalon had every conceivable millimeter of her person,
plastered to her beloved Elizabeth. And they both thought it was wonderful. Yep, gettin' teary
just thinking about it...
After Jack and Elizabeth so darned expertly found their stuff, we were able to visit a while.
Nick made it home for a little bit, so he could finally meet the elusive Jack. Sadly, Nick had to
get back to work, so he wasn't able to join us for the pizza feast that Jack and Elizabeth
provided. Can you believe that? They came visiting, then they insisted on getting pizza for
us! I'm telling you, these people are truly one-of-a-kind.
We ate, laughed, and ate some more. Jack ended up being Avalon's next target. She
bombarded him with stories and chatter, while Elizabeth and I got a few "girlfriend" minutes. It
was pure bliss. Jack definitely has good "kid mojo". Even Anam decided he was A-OK.
Anam's final seal of approval is climbing on your lap and demanding, "Read! Read!" I admit,
watching Jack juggle little man's demands, Avalon's stream of consciousness, and Trajan's
playtime with Ambrosia...was slightly humorous. Alright, it was downright funny. Kudos to
Jack, though - he was great at it!
All too soon, Jack and Elizabeth had to leave. They had the long drive back to Indianapolis,
and people they needed to pick up at the airport. Darn it all anyway. Here are two people we
adore, and they have to go and live across the country. We'd give up the house tomorrow, if
it meant we'd get to come visit here with them. Remember folks, the whats and wheres in life
don't mean one nittin' thing. Its the whos that make life worth the effort. I'm grateful for the
where...but I long for the day I get to trade it for the who.
|Don't they all look related?