Autumn Catch Up

You may wonder where I’ve been since February.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe you don’t know where you’ve been since February.

i wonder

Since my February 2014, I’ve packed up 11 years worth of personal belongings, moved said personal belongings to a new house (which is actually an old, historic house), unpacked and organized said belongings into a cohesive, functioning, household – all while still working, mothering, wife-ing, social-life-ing, and generally being alive.

This does not include the unforeseen, and oft aggravating, projects that a new/old house blindsides you with – because, you know, old houses.

Lots of cool things have happened, as well as some not-so-cool, but one thing that is literally cool is the fact that it is now Autumn in New Jersey and that means things like this:

She's growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

She’s growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

It's apple picking time!

It’s apple picking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

I'm getting back to taking cool pictures again.

I’m getting back to taking cool pictures again.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can't stop photographing.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can’t stop photographing.


And MOPS started up again for the year!

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking.  Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking. Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

In addition to it being an awesome autumn, summer was full of all sorts of goodness, too.  Lots of trips to the beach, our annual family trip to New Hampshire, and the highlight of my summer:  my sweet little nephew, DJ, was born!  He looks just like my brother.  And my sister-in-law.  It’s funny how one person can look just like, well, two.

And I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but I get starting to feel all the feelings in Autumn and well – that gets me thinking – which then makes me want to blog.

So, I’m back!  Stay tuned… there’s over 800 photos on my phone right now, along with 22 different recipes I want to share, a zillion things to say about learning and education, and copious, gratuitous photos of my new digs that I’m pretty proud of.

Finding My Place (part deux)

Since the day I decided to venture out on my own and buy a house 11 years ago (and subsequently marry the realtor), I’ve had this deep-rooted desire to sincerely connect with a small town community.  I’m pretty sure it stems from having moved so much as a child, but whatever the case, I’ve always wanted it.  I had this idea that it would be charming to walk downtown to the deli, or bakery, or antique store – and they’d know me by name when I walked in (and naturally, a small bell would chime as the door to their shop opened).  I would feel connected to those people in a very small-town kind of way – the kind of way where they would ask how my husband was doing, if I was going to grow my heirloom tomatoes this year, and if my cat – Leroy – was still afraid of the vacuum.

Of course, at the time, I had no husband, I’ve never grown heirloom tomatoes, and cats are well – cats.

pissed cat

But I still moved into said Small Town and started patronizing the local businesses.  At first, all things were rosy and rainbowed, set against the scenic river backdrop.  My old, tiny home’s walls thick with possibility, promise, and just a little lead paint.  But in time, as I restored my home and attempted to make new connections, the dream of living in “pleasantville” started to fade.  To my dismay, many of the downtown shops I liked so much closed as the real estate market took it’s historic nose dive in 2008.  In addition, I wasn’t always able to find the things I needed downtown and (admittedly) the Big Box Stores started to win when it came to furnishing my home and, well, eating.  But, it was still a small town with nice people, adorable homes, a scenic river, and that charming small-town vibe, complete with 4th of July parades and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies.

And so, we stayed and persevered, and fixed up this little home, and trudged through the toughest financial times we’ve ever faced.

After 11 years here, I’m happy to report that business downtown has been on the uptick recently and real estate is getting better.  At the same time, though, I’ve not connected in the way I really wanted to with my community, and I’m feeling sad about this.  My husband and I have often waxed sentimental over the fact that we’ll miss this place when we move.  Unfortunately, that means leaving my current small town – because there really aren’t any homes for sale in my town right now that will suit our needs.

silly house

And so, in the hope of attempting to atone for the sin of not fully connecting with my current small town, I’m hoping to start over  – I want to truly connect with the next town in which we live.  I’ve been getting excited about what new people, events, places, and adventures I’ll be having soon.  Luckily, we’ve found a great home in a nice, small town (that unfortunately doesn’t offer as much “downtown” as my current town, but it’ll work nonetheless – there is, afterall, an antique store, thrift shop, deli, flower shop, pizza place, quilt store, and watering hole… what else do we need?).

There are a plethora of positive aspects to this move – but there are also some things that make me a little sad.  While I’m ridiculously excited to be making this move, to a new town, where I can fulfill my wish to start over, make new connections, and find my place – all while learning from, and respecting, the place I’m leaving – I realize that I will inevitably miss my current community.

Especially the river.  I’m really going to miss the river.


But, when everything pans out with this new house, I’m sure I’ll get distracted by the many new adventures I’ll be having, along with all the DIY/Restoration/Decorating things on the horizon, too… it is, afterall, an old, historic home in need of some love.  Fifteen rooms’ worth of love, to be exact.

All of which will make excellent blog fodder!

Wish me luck.

The Anniversary of a Small, but Powerful Choice.

On this day ten years ago, I did something that ultimately changed the course of my life forever:  I walked into a real estate office.

Not quite the actual office...

Not quite the actual office…

A couple of days before, I had spoken on the phone with a very nice sounding real estate agent named Chris.  He was friendly and easygoing, and even used the word “cool” at one point during our phone conversation.  He had a home listed for sale in a nearby town – Mount Holly – that I had found online.  I did the usual modern-homebuyer thing and filled out the online form and figured the Realtor wouldn’t call.  But he did.

I was on the edge of turning 23 years old and I was living at home with my parents.  I had been home from college for over a year at that point and was really psyched about getting my own place.  It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy living with my parents, but rather that I had an ungodly obsession with HGTV and couldn’t contain my creative tendencies to just one room anymore.  It was time.

When I figured that I could buy a small home for about the same as I’d pay to rent a sizeable apartment, the decision was a no-brainer.  So, my search began both online and in my car after work.  I would drive around towns and neighborhoods that I liked and would write down the addresses of houses that were for sale and then I’d go home and look at them online.  Yet, I never “pulled the trigger” and called on any of the houses.  That is, until I saw Chris’ listing.  Remember:  everything happens for a reason.

So, I walked into the real estate office, having made sure to wear my glasses instead of contacts (I wanted this Chris guy to take me seriously, and what better way than to wear glasses, right?) and asked the much older gentleman in the front office for a “Chris Martin.”  I was hoping beyond hope that the old guy wasn’t Chris.

Just a couple of minutes later, I was pleased to see that  Chris was a young, good looking, well dressed, and friendly real estate agent.  He had no identifiable marks or indicators that he was a psycho, womanizer, or otherwise unsavory character, so I figured I’d be okay.  Afterall, I was riding in on the advice from my parents “not to sign anything” and my personal assumption that many real estate agents were shady and operated selfishly for the almighty dollar (this, in the future, we found to be hilarious when my dad and I both decided to become licensed real estate agents, too).  By the way, most real estate agents are not, in fact, “shady” and in most cases, operate quite UN-selfishly for the better interest of their clients.

But I digress.

Chris and I sat down together and he started asking me all the pertinent questions about my desire to buy a home – and giving me the answers I was seeking.  We were off to a good start.  We made plans to get together in a couple of days to start viewing homes.  I didn’t buy the house Chris had listed for sale and in fact, I viewed plenty of other homes with him.  But, it only took 10 days for me to finally find a cute house and I put in an offer.


Little did I know that I was not just looking for my first home, but also for the house in which he and I would spend the first 10 years of our relationship together.

Yep, that’s right.  Ten years ago today I met my husband.  He started as my real estate agent, and is now my soulmate.  We are still living in the house I bought.  We’ve renovated it together, hosted many parties and made many memories in between these very close walls, welcomed two crazy dachshunds to live with us, and are now welcoming our first child.  It’s a small little “love nest” (as Chris puts it) and it’s home.  We love our little home, and boy is it cozy – but I can feel the time is coming to make a move again.  While this may not happen for a little while longer, it’s definitely on the horizon.

But this blog entry isn’t about houses – rather it’s about the celebration of a simple choice, and how that choice (plus an open mind and an open heart) has made all the difference in changing the course of my life, Chris’ life, and the life of all of those people who know us.

Pretty great, right?

Realtors, mobsters… all the same, really.

The voicemail message went something like this:

Bitchy Female:  “Yeah, Hi Chris. This is Hannie Toons.*  If you wanna continue to be able to walk around, you’d better take my listing off your website.  I’m really pissed about this.”  Click. 

Chris and I wracked our brains for about fifteen minutes:  who the hell is this?  Is this an agent?  Is this a past client?  A current client?  WTF?   

We googled, we TreNded, we databased… couldn’t find her.  Weren’t actually sure how to spell her name.  And then we Facebooked her phone number.  


She’s an agent in a nearby town:  the old, bitchy, overly-jeweled, heavily-perfumed, loud-mouthed, self-entitled type.  Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.  

You KNOW the type...

Tell me this ISN'T what you were just imagining...

So, Chris –in a very professional manner – returned her call and asked her where she saw this listing and what upset her about it.  She said that she saw one of her active listings posted on Chris’ website and she was ticked off because his name and website were coming up on the search engines for it, not hers.  

(We interrupt this blog rant for glorious, beautiful laughing – the kind of laughing that clearly indicates a long-awaited, time-trialed, heavily-invested internet victory – beautiful, lovely, victorious laughing). 

So, Chris tried to explain things to her, in a nutshell:   thanks to the brilliant IDX feed that our super-fantastic real estate brokerage provides us for free, we have a little something on our website called “broker reciprocity.”  This boils down to being able to list ALL the applicable properties from the MLS on ANY agent’s website for the mutual benefit of both agents.  It is perfectly legal, ethically acceptable, and generally favored among agents (who are actually paying attention to technology).  

After explaining this to the other agent, she still wasn’t “satisfied” and said she was going to “look into the issue further.”  Whatevs. 

The thing that gets me agitated though, above and beyond her ignorance and complete lack of professionalism and disconnection from basic real estate technology (and the fact that this shrew actually has clients), is the attitude that she somehow thought it was okay (perhaps even vaguely amusing) to physically threaten my husband on his voicemail. 

At what point in a person’s reasoning – a “professional” person’s reasoning – does this become a viable option?  

I am completely appalled at this woman’s behavior and I actually told Chris that he should be the one to report her to the Real Estate Commission, citing “threats of physical violence and mobster-like behavior.”  

He’s considering it. 

*Name ever-so-slightly-changed.