Thursday, March 9, 2017

Stillwater

It's 3 o'clock and Bennie is trying very hard to not nap. I find this incredibly frustrating and she has already received one spanking. On one hand, I want to force her to be still and sleep, but on the other, that awful other hand that makes me want to relish the moment and not punish her for not obeying- that other hand is telling me to smile and coddle her for another moment.

All I can see are the tufts of her curls and I have a flashback to being in the ICU with my brother's identical tufts and watching him sleep beside me. I wanted to protect him, take the scars away, and rewind the clock hours. Bennie, ever the image of my brother, looks like him in the bed next to me.

There is a fear resting in my heart of losing him and it is eternally a breath away. Sometimes, when the phone rings, it feels a little more urgent and I know that when I pick it up, there will be bad news and sadness on the other end. Just today, I received a phone call and before I picked it up, the wind was out of my body and I could barely press the button.

It was a nothing phone call, but it was the reminder of knowing that life changes in a beat.

Does Jonathon’s mother feel this same way when her phone rings? Does she automatically think back to the phone call that changed her life, turned her world upside down as she collapsed on her kitchen floor with those words hanging in the water? 

These are my thoughts as there are many things going on behind closed doors that we are not a part of nor privy to. In about a week, a grand jury will convene in Colquitt County and decide what kind of evidence the state has against Mr. Peacock and if he will be indicted.


Little steps along the way have brought us to this moment. Several months ago there was a bond hearing and bail was set at $1 million. What is the cost of life? For this, it was $200,000 a victim. The morning of that hearing, I called my sister-in-law and spoke from the heart and whatever words I said completely escape me now. When you speak from the heart, that is the way it should be-- said and then gone, because those words can only be used once.

After the hearing, there was anger- how can a life be worth a mere $200K? That's a yearly salary, albeit a good salary, but a salary just the same. Whether the bail was a single million or five million- it did not matter as Mr. Peacock did not have the funds to afford it. He sits in jail, where he has sat since May.

People create facts out of fiction and truth out of lies. The beautiful part about a grand jury is that this is no place for fiction or lies. Peers sit in a room without an audience and review the evidence, ask questions, and understand both sides of the case. In this room, these strangers will hold the fate of a breathing young man in their hands.

The same way Mr. Peacock held the fate of his five friends in his own hands.

While we, as a family, are certain that the guilty party is in hand, justice must be served with the proper course and diligence that we would all want and deserve. Vigilante justice won't bring peace and it surely won't bring answers.

Nothing will.

What we can hope for and what we can pray for is the guilty party be brought to justice.

Swipe out the lies, forget the fiction, and know that nothing is fact until it comes forth in the grand jury next week, hidden from all unnecessary parties, gossip, and ridicule. On one hand, I want to be at the door as it swings shut in support of my family- but on the other hand, that beautiful other hand reminds me that if I cannot be there, no other gawking eye can be there either. 

"The Media" has started contacting the families, looking for quotes and tidbits of information that they can weave into a story. On one hand, I understand that they are tasked with the job of keeping the world informed. I also understand the other hand-- our side and the prying eyes wanting to know what we know and how we know it.

I don't envy the people behind the closed door next week and the decisions that they have ahead of them. I don't envy Mr. Peacock's family, nor would I expect anyone to envy ours.

But, in the stillness, watching my child not sleep, you should be envious of us. Yes, we lost one of our own. The kid that was on the edge of adulthood and making his way in this life. We lost a good one. But, the way he continues to work behind the scenes in ways we did not know, the way he has brought us together and helped us linger a little longer with one another... he humbles me.

Watching my family come together and try a little harder to find our tomorrows without him but with each other, he makes us all want the times together to not end and be more often. We laugh about him and know that he is laughing with us and helping us be stronger.

Be envious of that. Know that we are better and stronger one year later because of this. You cannot knock one Cagle down without expecting the rest of us to rise up together in solidarity, protecting those that are hurt and loving those that are gone.

Be envious of our faith; faith in our God, faith in fair justice, faith in strangers, and faith in ourselves.

The grand jury is just one step in a very long process of what we have in store for us and we will continue to fight, to love, and to grow together.

As I kneel in prayer at the end of the day, I still my heart in the waters of life. Often, I do not know what to pray for, in constant fear of praying the wrong thing. Sometimes, I wonder if God hears me and in the next breath afraid that He is actually listening to me and I am going to ask for the wrong thing.

As this grand jury nears, what do I pray for? How and what do I ask God for as our prayers are in direct contrast to Mr. Peacock's family. Is it a battle of who loves more? Who loves better?

No, it is absolutely not a battle of who has the greater love. If that were the case, Jonathon would still be here with us, because no one loved more than him. It is his continued love that raises his family in the still water of faith that he is in our hearts, protecting his mother and sisters. 

I miss that kid. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What I fear

There are some things in life that I am truly and embarrassingly afraid of.

I am afraid of dead cockroaches. Alive ones, too. But I see more dead ones.
I am afraid of frogs.
I am afraid of those oversized grasshoppers. You know the ones that are like 6 inches long and 2 feet tall? When I see one outside, I scream and run the other direction.

These are things that make me quiver in fear.

I am not afraid of being mugged, shot, stabbed, heights, small spaces, or anything usual- but, put me in a room with dead cockroaches and frogs, I am a puddle.

There is something else that I must confess. I am afraid that I will become a hoarder. It is so easy to hoard and I come from a long line of successful hoarders. The things that my family can hide from sight but not from reach will astound and astonish you.

When I was a new mother and visiting my aunt, Birdie needed a diaper change. My aunt asked if I needed a mat and from virtually thin air she produced her son's kindergarten nap mat.

Her son was 20 at the time.

Like I said, I come from a line of hoarders.

And I love my hoarding family. When we need something, before heading to the store to {scoff} spend money and buy it, we will ask Woody if he has it. Typically, if he doesn't have it, he has something that will work or once worked and he found it on the side of the road.

One of the reasons we like to move so much is that it keeps us from developing and honing our hoarding skills. If we are constantly relocating, we are constantly filling trash bags and throwing things away.

In the past week, I have thrown out no less than one dozen trash bags full of .... stuff.

Not those white kitchen trash bags; those are for amateurs. Rather the oversized outdoor black trash bags that mobsters use to hide dead bodies. Instead of dead bodies, we are hiding our crazy- sending it to the landfill.

"You should give it to GoodWill," if I had a penny for every time I heard that, I would have about fifteen cents. My answer is simple: NO. If I have to give it away and cannot get rid of it immediately, somehow the contents of those dead-body-black-trash-bags make their way out and back into the rotation.

The packers are coming tomorrow and will probably run for cover once they see what is ahead of them. I have thinned as much as I can stand. As we close down this house and move to another one,  I am excited that I evade that hoarder status for another few years.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We are doing it again

We closed on our house. I got the HUD document and there was a $40 difference between what we were expecting and what we got. I can roll with that. It felt gooooooooooood to go to the bank and make a deposit.

Real good.

We are still in the house for another two weeks and the question I hear most often is, "Have you started packing yet?" and my answer?

"Heck No. I'm paying someone to do that for me."

Yeah, we are those people. When we had movers pack and move us from Washington, D.C., Husband and I wondered why we had ever done it any other way. {Because we were a poor, poor resident's family}.

Those moves with my husband holding the dresser, mattresses, and mirrors while hanging off the back of a trailer as it turned on two wheels- those days are long gone. THANKYOUJESUS. Those moves where Brother is driving back and forth into the night and we are loading things into trash bags because the new owners take over the house the next day? Yes. Those days. G-O-N-E.

We close on the next house in about two weeks and will move in thereafter. It is a craftsman house and we won't have to do anything to the house; "have to" being the operative words in that statement. We are going to move the washer and dryer upstairs and install a tankless water heater in the pantry to give us more room. These are things that we think will improve our quality of life.

The light fixtures need replacing, having been dated to circa 1990 and there is some wallpaper in a small bathroom that needs taking down, but these are not things that have to be done immediately.

What we have to do immediately is take the profit from this house and write a FAT check to the student loans.

The new house has a front porch that runs the length of the house and the front door is 22 feet tall. Well, maybe not 22, but it is taller than I can reach on my tippy toes. And it has a mail slot. Bennie loved opening the slot and peeking out into the front yard. I want to make it a statement door, like purple. Husband said his friends would make fun of him if I did that. We will see who spends more time at the house.

There is an incredibly awkward screened in porch upstairs on the side of the house. It's going to be off the girls room and I am already dreaming of turning it into a sleeping porch for them come the spring and summer. We will take off the stairs from the side and maybe install a rope ladder for fun?

Two two bedrooms upstairs will be where the kids live and they will share the one bathroom up there.  Downstairs has another two bedrooms with a bathroom in between. We are going to make one room a very large closet for the immediate future until we decide to either live here longer than I lived at the sorority house or if we are going to move again.

Step one: Student Loans.
Step two: Put our touch on the house.

The fenced in backyard is screaming for a swing set and three little kids to run around finding rocks and flowers. There are all sorts of things that bloom back there, none of which I know about how to care for. Fingers crossed that they are self-sustaining kind of plants.

And the coolest? Oh, the kids are going to start walking to school. Our new neighbors up and down the street send their children to Parochial and it is less than a quarter of a mile from our new abode. Lots and lots of Birdie's schoolmates live around the new house and it a Catholic-centric area of town-- and it always has been. People over in this area move into the houses that their parents owned and houses do not go on the market very often or last for very long. It's a very unique place to live and we will be fortunate enough to call it home soon enough.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Our first together house

When Husband and I were first engaged, I owned a little condo and he owned a little house. Knowing that we would much rather live in his little house instead of my little condo, I called "Bob the Realtor" and asked him to list my condo. Our wedding came and went with my condo being no closer to sold. Realizing we needed to sell ONE piece of property, Husband put his house on the market. About a week later, I got a contract on my condo and called Husband.

"Praise the Lord, I just got a contract on my condo!"
"Are you serious?!"
"Yes! .... why?"
"Because I just got a contract on my house!"
"Oh dear."

Off we go to find a house. It seemed that everything we wanted was nothing we could afford and everything we could afford was nothing we wanted. We were told to either raise our price or lower our standards.

I was already in a panic about the $160,000 price point we had erroneously decided upon.

House after house... nothing after nothing. We put a contract down on a house for $130,000-- $30k off the asking price, but someone else did the same thing, except with an additional $30,000. Fortunate for us, we didn't get the house. It was broken into twice and the bathroom flooded in the three years we would have lived there.

Coming back from Charleston, SIL had just heard about a house that would be coming on the market and gave me the contact information. I called and the owner could only show it that afternoon before she went back out of town.

As soon as we pulled in the gravel driveway, I knew the house would be ours. It had two large bedrooms, a pink tiled bathroom, small kitchen, and a bucket of charm. That little craftsman house was perfect for our new marriage and happiness exuded from it.

On the brick front steps, Husband and I sat down with the other newly married couple that was relocating to North Carolina and hashed out a price and stipulations on the house.

Once again, we would be homeowners.

Let's fast forward through the next month, because we were nomads- living in the little house before moving into the little condo before moving into the craftsman home. We lived on floor mattresses, in suitcases, and ate more Lean Cuisines and a Cheerios than a newlywed should.

Amongst one of the conversations with the owner of our future house, I mentioned there would be about 5 days where we would be homeless. At this point, the house was vacant and she said we could go ahead and stay there.

Y'all-- we were squatters. There were two suitcases, an air mattress, a Boy Scout cot, a 32" TV and a cooler full of beer. During the day, we would go to work, looking very professional and not at all homeless, but at night....

Oh, at night.

Husband trekked to the gas station that was up the street and pick up a 12 pack of beer, a bag of ice, and two Lean Cuisines. We would sit on the floor, toast with our plastic forks and watch TV in t-shirts before I crawled onto my cot and he onto his twin air mattress. That first night, I discovered a quarter of the springs were sprung in my cot and Husband had a leak in the air mattress.

Beggars and squatters couldn't be choosers.

That first night we were so excited about our new house that we danced in the den with the windows open and music from our car. All the lights were on and there was not a stick of furniture in the house. We fell asleep around 9 or so and stayed that way for about 2 hours.

SQUAK!
SQUACK!
SQUCK!
SQUAKKKKKK!

Somewhere in the night was a bird. A loud obnoxious, noisy, annoying bird that could not let me complete a thought without a SQUACKKKK!!!

Husband rolled over on his air mattress {HiSSSSSSS and more air escaped} and I rolled over on my Boy Scout cot {PING! went another coil}.

"Do you hear that?" I asked.
"Of course I freaking hear it."
"UGHHH. This is awful.'

SQUAhhhhhhCK!

Pass me a beer.
"Are you serious?" I ask.
Yes. If we are going to sleep, we are going to need some help.
"Fair enough."

Two beers later, we were back asleep through the SQUAKKKKSs.

That bird met Husband's pellet gun the next day and we slept like babies the next night.

We would close on three houses in 6 days and got to be on a first name basis with our closing attorney. Two and a half years later, we would be relocating to Washington, D.C. with our new baby and our perfect little home would be on the market for less than a week before going under contract.

The couple buying the house were where we were just a few years before: in a very, very good place.

Less one bird.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Closing

We are closing on this house in about 48 hours and I have been stalking the closing attorney for our HUD paperwork. It's a really long sheet with a bunch of itty bitty lines that basically say who is paying what and how much money we, as the sellers, are getting.

It is a very important document and I learned with the purchase of my first house just how valuable it is.

In March 2003, my 22 year old self went all around the small town where I was living to find a house to buy. Interest rates were the lowest they had ever been and my rent would be the same price as my mortgage. All twenty two years of me were about to be a proud home owner. The little 1200 square foot house I found on Elmwood absolutely fit the bill.

Looking back, I had no idea the house was so "small." It felt massive and I could barely afford to furnish it. I made a back room into an office with a computer on a folding table and bought some used cherry wood twin beds for $250 and asked if I could have the mattresses.

Those beds are in Bennie's room right now.

The house was a "FSBO" and my realtor showed it to me. A woman I worked with mentioned that I could cut out my realtor and save some money. Saving money always sounds like a good idea to me, so I called my dad and he explained to me how realtors get paid.

It was a good lesson.

Realtors work on commission and all those houses she showed me, free-of-charge, were her working towards me finding my house so she can get paid. In the end, that $2,600 would effect my mortgage payment by, ohhhh, $4 a month. $4 a month was worth my integrity and good name and I am thankful that my dad took the time to explain to me how realtors get paid.

After all, I was only 22 years old.

My parents drove up for the closing. At the attorney's office, the seller was on the far side of the table by herself and I was there with my entourage- parents and agent in tow.

Some numbers are hard to forget- I bought the house for $80,000. My mortgage was $518 a month.

Our taxes are $518 a month now. My, how life changes.

If you have never purchased a home, let me paint a picture- the attorney gives you a brand new pen and goes outside to chop down a tree. That tree will turn into a stack of paper and you will sign every. single. piece.

Upon the conclusion of the closing, your dead pen will be thrown in the trash, having expended all ink that it could carry.

As we neared the end, the attorney handed the seller a check and she stared at it with a funny look on her face. The attorney did not notice and kept shoving papers under my nose to sign.

My dad commanded the presence of all in the room, raised his hand and stopped the attorney. He looked at the seller, who was 8 years my senior.

"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I mean... I just thought the check would be more than this." she responded.
"Do you want to call your father? I'm a daddy and I get it. We can pause this while you call him," he said.

"No. No. No, I shouldn't. It's fine. He's playing golf right now and would be really mad if I interrupted his golf game," she said. 

"Are you sure?" Asked dad.
"Yes, I'm sure. I have to meet some friends for lunch," she responded.

Fateful.... Last.... Words....

It's hard to see the forest through the trees when you are staring at a $70,000 check. Unfortunately for her, she thought she was getting closer to $100,000.

We had offered her a ridiculously low offer and she accepted.

Please don't ever wonder why we offer low prices on the houses we buy. Now you know-- my first house was $80,000 which was over 30% off the asking price.

When we left, my dad told me that this was a wonderful lesson for me in purchasing a home:

- you looked at a bunch of houses, found one you can easily afford.
- you had the opportunity to cut your realtor out of the deal, but came to the decision to pay her yourself once you understood how realtors are paid.
- you saw what happens when you don't pay attention to details.
- And you now know that you can always interrupt me if it is important.

"Every step of this, we did it with integrity and I am incredibly proud of you. Let's go see this new house of yours."

I would sell my turquoise kitchen about a year later and move back home to start selling insurance. I would be working on 100% commission and be on the bad end of people who would run me ragged and leave me high and dry. It made me appreciate the purchase of that house even more.

14 years have passed, almost to the day, since I bought that day I bought my first house and I am eternally thankful for the experience.

As I close this blog, I check my email one more time looking for the HUD document and it still isn't there. I am sure that the girls in the office are rolling their eyes that I am going to call again. But, they did not see that girl across the table with the funny look on her face when she looked at the check. The stakes are higher now and the mistakes are bigger.

I don't like those kind of surprises.

My first house-- pulled from the tax records. Looks like they changed the door and took out the hydrangea bush.