There’s No Place Like Home by Francie Hartsog-Slaughter

We all have experienced the ups and downs of moving. Some more than others. People who like to move are either superheroes or completely bonkers. Most people are like me. I have always been a “set down roots” kind of girl. I wanted one house forever. But life happens and when we least expect it, a tornado picks up our forever house and after several spins in the dark sky, we land in a weird town and are wanted for killing a witch. I know it sounds like an old movie gone Broadway, but I can prove there is a Wizard and have convincing evidence flying monkeys are real. The moral of the story should always be saved for the end. We will get back to the ruby slippers.

Even though I have moved more than I ever dreamed, I must say I have enjoyed almost all my homes. I learned at a young age to roll with the punches because life is all about change. Some people are afraid of change, so afraid they miss wonderful opportunities because they let fear keep them still. I believe fear keeps us from living our best life. Knowing change is necessary for growth has motivated me to pack up a few boxes and follow the yellow brick road more than once. I have loved every adventure.

For the last year my husband and I have shared our house restoration adventure with our friends on social media. The eighty year old bungalow was definitely a “fixer upper” and the “before” pictures on Zillow were enough to send the bravest investors running. I say this because there were trees growing through the roof! To flip a “distressed” house successfully, one must have vision. I do not possess such vision, but the man who purchased the house with a national park in the living room had vision. Kevin, also known as “JKS” and “Francie’s husband” also has vision. By the time I saw the house, it was “deforested” and the outside was painted green with a new roof. I could see it now. But to borrow a phrase too good to pass up, we did not see the forest for the trees.

June 2020 seemed the perfect time to finish the bungalow. People were out of work and wanted something to do. We were in lockdown, but JKS could go to Lowe’s and the subcontractors weren’t afraid of Covid. It would be a great project. We felt relatively sure it would be an easy rehab, and with a bit of effort, we were downright confident. This wasn’t our first rodeo. We restored a cute little cottage five years ago and have renovated all our rentals to some extent. It’s easy to convince yourself you are an expert, but there is a big difference in renovating a house for a rental investment and renovating your own house. It’s more difficult not to get emotional when it’s the place you will call home.

JKS is a boy and most boys like to fix things. My husband is no exception. I do my best to always have 2-3 projects for weekends to keep him busy. A busy husband is a happy husband. There were no complaints with the house, but for some reason things seemed to be progressing slower than regular slow. A bit of investigation revealed our contractor and some of the sub contractors were sick with Covid. We also had the virus in July, and although we survived it isn’t something we would recommend and it certainly wipes you out of work for a few weeks.

Let’s be honest, the world was crazy. The price of lumber was was so high I suspect there is Oak in the Covid Vaccine. We tried to keep the project going but it was if the earth stopped rotating and we found ourselves becoming frustrated. I could see this. and as a behavior scientist I knew we had to act. Luckily, our top chef, Bennie, was awesome and helped us as much as possible. We liked him because he told the truth. Whether good news or bad, we knew where we stood. I also think he felt sorry for us. I mean, we were looking rather pitiful when things looked the same after six months The guy has a heart and 12 months after we chose the craftsman bungalow to be our forever house, we moved in!

For the record, we are not quite there yet and have had a few minor mishaps over the last two weeks. I reckon the sewer incident was the worst thing. I call it the sewer explosion when I am feeling dramatic. The sewer explosion happened two days after we were officially residents. We were waiting for my best friend from high school and her husband to come for a short visit. Sure, there were boxes everywhere, but we had great plans for the weekend. But then it all went to pot.

It happened so fast! JKS was in the shower and I flushed the toilet on the off chance it would make his water cold.

“Uh, what was that?” He said from the shower.

“I flushed the toilet.” I responded, using my innocent till proven guilty voice.

“Yeah.. it’s not supposed to sound like that. Do you mind checking the guest bathroom?”

I skipped through the house humming through the kitchen into the new bathroom. I can just imagine the look on my face when my bare feet were ankle deep in water. The sewer. The sewer pipes broke and the guest bathroom was now a wading pool. I screamed. I didn’t need to scream but I reckon in a situation like that you just have to go with it.

One would think cast iron and terra cotta pipes could have waited two days to break… but nope! My poor husband looked like he was close to a breakdown. After all, he had been working non-stop for a week. He knew what it was. It’s an instinct environmental scientists have.

Kevin called our faithful #1 and within an hour there was a van parked in the backyard that reminded me of ghostbusters. The pipes certainly needed an exorcism. It was a serious procedure. The pipe physician did an endoscope of the pipes insides to find out where the problem was. To clear the unbroken part of the pipe he blasted water through the pipe to break up whatever was stuck. I describe it as an enema. But if you have ever had serious pipe problems you know major surgery is needed to replace all the pipes.

JKS took another shower and passed out. He slept sixteen hours and at 6:00 am was out digging a trench. The ghostbuster van was coming back on Monday to take off the bandaid and replace the crumbled line. Kevin was “pre-op.” I was sad to miss my best friend, Radonna. But she knows me well enough to understand the pickle we were in. It was just too much. I was happy she and her husband, Tom, got to stay in The Inn on Front Street and explore Statesville.

The weekend passed and I was feeling the physical and emotional stress of the weekend. Kevin and I were so tired we couldn’t walk! Exhaustion is just that. When you hit the wall that’s it. We had plenty of time to sit on the couch to plan a strategy.

I have not mentioned all the other things that went wrong because the sewer story is mortifying and a good writer goes for the most disgusting story. The poop disaster was the worst incident but there were other “little things” which made us consider running away from home.

First, I lost the key fob to my new Santa Fe and I can’t drive it. I think that happened on sewer day. I don’t know. Everything is a blur. We learned our stackable washer and dryer are not stackable. We received half of a chandelier in the mail. No crystals. We had no WiFi (and still don’t) which is almost worse than the sewer. We need a trench for the Internet cable. I asked JKS if we could throw the Wi-Fi cable in the sewer ditch. He gave me a look and I thought it best not to push it. We’ve been serial watching People’s Court at night on my phone.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful and those who know me realize I am embellishing a bit, but truly I am concerned my husband may drift into a catatonic state if anything else happens.

But the truth is, JKS is the Wizard. If something goes wrong, he gets it done. He figures it out. He makes it right. He may not be whistling while he digs a trench at 6:00am on Sunday morning, but he does it just the same.

This green house on the hill has officially been named “The Slaughterhouse.” It is beautiful and we are truly grateful for the work so many people did to make it our perfectly imperfect home! We know it will be worth the stomach ulcer and nervous tic. And the panic attacks when I hear a toilet flush? Nothing a good set of ear plugs can’t fix.

You see, Even though I didn’t fully understand Dorothy’s plan and outlook on life, I try to see good in everything. Instead of becoming a ruling member in Congress with magic ruby red slippers and an army of flying monkeys to run errands, she chose the simple life. She chose a run down shack with tornado damage. But we can learn a lesson from Dorothy. No matter how long the journey may be, and no matter how many times a witch with a green face throws fire at you, all we want is to go home. Ruby glass slippers are nice for inauguration balls, but they are not practical. Especially in Kansas!

What is the moral of the story? I suppose this is what it means to me. Home is where love can be found and there’s no place like it.

I do reserve the right to change the above moral of the story if one more thing happens. I’ll keep you posted.

Published by statesville2020

Francie has spent her thirty year career as a licensed family therapist. She is a freelance writer & her work has been published in medical journals, magazines, and newspapers. Francie lives in Statesville, NC with her husband, Kevin, and their two dogs, Gypsy & Bella.

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