A Home of my own

I will remember that day for the rest of my life.

I was only six years old.

I didn’t understand what was happening, or why, or how it would change my world.  Mom said we were going to visit Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bob for a few days, but I knew there was more to it than that.  I remember, vividly, looking out the back window of our car, waving good-bye to my Dad and feeling a profound sense of sadness and loss.  Somehow I knew.  I was saying goodbye, to my Dad, my dog, my friends, my neighbors, I was saying good-bye to my home.

Swan Creek, Illinois

For the next several years, my Mom and I moved at least once a year, first we moved in with Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bob and my four cousins.  Then the whole lot of us moved from their home in Galesburg to Rockford Illinois.  Then, Mom and I moved to Bloomington, to be hear my Aunt Mary, and from there to its twin city, Normal Illinois.  I changed schools every time I changed cities.  First grade in one school, second grade in another, third grade, still another.  It wasn’t until High School that I spent more than two years in one place.

It was difficult, being the new kid, making new friends every year, year in and year out, never feeling that sense of belonging, that feeling of kinship and security that comes with being part of a community.  It was during those years that the concept of ‘home’ became special to me.  My Mom and I would drive around town, doing errands or whatever, and looking at the houses we passed.  “Isn’t that a beautiful house,” Mom would say, and I would agree.  Those homes looked so warm and inviting, with lights in the window that seemed to welcome the weary traveler back home.  So different than the little apartments where we lived.  So much more…permanent…secure…and stable.

The longest I ever lived in one home was right here in New Jersey.  I migrated here when I was just 19 years old and I have lived here from that time to this.  My ex-husband and I were driving around one Sunday afternoon, just looking at the area and the homes, when we came upon this country road and decided to see where it went.  We passed a beautiful colonial style farm house and I said, “Isn’t that a beautiful house!”   We went quite a ways down the road without seeing another house, then turned around.  It was then we noticed the For Sale sign.  It was like something out of Miracle on 34th Street.  “Stop the car!”  We wrote down the number, called the agent, and arranged to see the house that very day.

It was gorgeous!  Built at the turn of the century, it had 5 bedrooms, plenty of room for our growing family, and a fireplace in the living room, and a front porch to sit on and watch the world go by.  It even had a barn where we could house our home based business.  We figured out how to handle the financing (interest rates were 18% at that time, and we didn’t have a 20% down payment), and put in an offer the next day.  The agent called it a “white elephant” but to me it was my dream come true!  I lived in that house for nearly 20 years.  I had my third and last child while living there.  I divorced my husband, got a college education, sold the business, and started a new career as a paralegal, all while living in that house.  And when I had to sell that house, I wept bitter tears.

It was then that I bought a house all on my own, a “fixer upper”, because that was what I could afford, but it was a two-family and the rent would help defray costs, not to mention add to my resume the title of Landlord.  It was also at that time that I slowed down long enough to do some soul searching.

My work life had, to this point, run a meandering course.  I chose my work and careers mostly by happenstance.  With the exception of my choice to become a paralegal, it was strictly a matter of work coming to me, willy nilly, as circumstance dictated, rather than a conscious choice to pursue a career.  And even the paralegal work, while terribly, terribly rewarding, proved to be inadequate in terms of compensation.  I had worked in retail, as an office clerk, as the owner of an electrical business, as a litigation paralegal, and in the pharmaceutical industry as both an executive assistant and a budget manager.  While the working in the legal field gave me GREAT satisfaction, the pay scale did not meet my ambitions, and even though I was well compensated in the pharma industry, my lack of a secondary degree held me back.  I was constantly yearning to learn new things, and to be in charge of my own destiny, to build something lasting, and to achieve success as I defined it, on my own terms.

I was in the process of renovating my new home when I picked up Jack Canfield’s book, “The Succcess Principles.”  He said, first you have to learn what your purpose is, why are you here on this earth, at this time, and what it is you are supposed to be doing.  He said, go back over the past few months and think about the things that brought you great joy.  Well, renovating this house brought me great joy!  Every day, no matter how miserable my day had been, I would walk in the front door and see what had been demolished, or what had taken its place, and I was filled with joy and a sense of accomplishment like none I had felt in a very long time.  I wasn’t sure what my purpose was, but I was pretty sure it had to do with making this run down house a home.  Then one day, a man knocked on my door.  He said he had considered buying my house when it was on the market.  He wondered what I had done with it and wondered if I would be willing to show him.  In truth, he was hoping I had fallen flat on my face and he could pick up the pieces at a bargain basement price.  We started talking.  An hour later I was enrolled in classes to get my real estate license.

I would love to say, ‘and the rest is history!’ but it wasn’t that simple.    I had my share of struggles, first giving up that steady paycheck, no matter how miserably gotten, to go into a 100% commission business, then transferring skills from one career to another, then building a business from scratch.  Anyone who tells you real estate is an easy business is lying!  It’s hard work and it takes dedication and you have to deal with a lot of nonsense, but I never looked back.  I know this is where I belong.  It is my calling.

In the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Peter Bailey says, “It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace.”  I believe that, I feel it down to my bones.  It drives me and my business.  It inspires me to do my absolute best for my clients, to find innovative solutions, and to make my sellers’ homes stand out from the crowd and to protect my buyers’ interests like a mother tiger.  I do it because this isn’t just a job, I do it because I care, I do it because I take it personally, it is my purpose, it is my passion, it is my calling, to do all I can to help as many people as possible to have their own roof … and walls … and fireplace, to help them have … a home of their own.