The Heartache of Selling Our First Home

Putting a Price Tag on Memories: Selling Our Forever Home

I thought we'd be here forever. How do you quantify that?

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We put it off until we absolutely had to. We asked around to family members, friends, church members and almost everyone within walking distance of our neighborhood. We wanted to find someone we knew to take over ownership of our home. We had great conversations with one man whose mother lives next door. He came over twice, promised to "talk money" soon, then left us with the blow that he was going to pass on our place, as he wanted to retire in a single-story home.

So, with a construction project on our new place looming in the near future and a school district placement decision to make, we met with a real estate agent last week. The meeting started out cordial enough. We gave her a 20-minute tour of our place, cleaned to a sparkle with the children at my parents' house. We offered her iced tea and sat down at the oversized dining room table my husband made for me seven years ago.

Then, she pulled out her appraisal report and started talking numbers. I felt the tears well up before she even got to the second page. In her kind, professional tone, the agent began speaking on subjects including property value, nearby home sales, the structural condition and more. I watched as she put an actual price tag on the place we've called home for almost 10 years.

That's when I lost it. I burst out in sobs right there in the kitchen, a stack of paperwork in front of me. I apologized, wiped my face then explained that, no matter how I tried, I simply couldn't put a price tag on this spot. How do you quantify the backyard full of overgrown blueberry bushes, where you ran with your kids every day last summer, rushing to pick the berries and see who could get the most in their bucket? Or the swing hanging tall from the giant pecan tree, where I've pushed my babies as they soared tall above the tilled garden ground. We've lived so many seasons of life in this place, from our newlywed years to our young parent ones, and I never thought I'd leave it.

I managed to pull myself together enough for her to give us a list of things to do. Our basement carpet was water-damaged from the two major hurricanes that hit North Carolina this winter. We have to hire a professional cleaner to come and get out the spots. Our stairwell has a spot of dry-wall that's been rubbed off from the baby gate at the top of the steps. We need to tune our HVAC system to make sure we aren't losing heat or air in this drafty, 60-year-old house. We need to clean out our already-small closets to make them appear as big as possible. Women, especially, want to see big closets, she explained.

Then, we have to go through and estimate, piece-by-piece how much we spent on upgrades when we completely gutted this home and rebuilt the interior from scratch. How about that night my husband worked without sleeping on our master bath, while I brought him thermos after thermos of kale and vegetable soup from our rental home? Or, the weeks on end I took our daughter to the hardware store, then the paint supply store, to get the finishings just right? I can still see her standing by the paper paint chip samples, throwing them wildly in the air and laughing. What did that cost us? A few gray hairs and a little sanity?

It's all there, all on paper. The five things we have to do to get this home show-worthy. The steps we must complete before someone else will see as much value in this place as we do. It's so hard to accept that this won't be ours forever, especially when I was convinced it would be. Our new place will be great. It sits off the road and has a cornfield in front. It has towering pine trees and Japanese cherry blossoms that bloom bright pink in the springtime. We'll make new memories and my children will hardly remember this place we used to call home, if they remember it at all.

But I will, and it's my duty to make sure whoever is lucky enough to call this place home next feels its magic as much as I do. So, I'll take care of the homework. I'll clear the closets and clean the carpet. I'll list the upgrades and call the repairman. I won't do it out of duty, but out of love. Out of devotion and respect for this place that has cradled us through one of the sweetest seasons of our lives. I'm grateful to have grown here, and I'm heart-torn to share it.

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Dear Taylor Swift, Christians Are Not Homophobic Bigots, Sincerely, The Majority Of Christians

Taylor, you need to calm down when talking about how most Christians act.

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When Taylor Swift released her newest single "You Need to Calm Down" last Friday, I didn't agree with the entire message of the song, mainly because of its heavy political overtones. But as the great Dick Clark once said, "It's got a good beat, and you can dance to it." So, for what it is, it's really easy to dance to this song, and I can see it becoming a pretty big hit.

But then the video came out, and I saw something that really bothered me.

In the music video for "You Need to Calm Down", Taylor is seen partying and hanging out with multiple LGBT+ icons in honor of Pride Month, such as the hosts of Queer Eye, RuPaul, and Ellen Degeneres. There's also a moment with Taylor, dressed as French fries, renewing her friendship with Katy Perry, who's dressed as a hamburger, which is as amazing as it sounds.

However, there's another cast of characters which acts as a foil to the happiness and colorful joy which is taking place in the video. There's a group of protesters surrounding the trailer park where Taylor and all her friends live. They're all dirty, buck-toothed, and dressed like your typical redneck stereotypes. They're also holding up protest signs while screaming at everyone in the trailer park. I saw one of the signs said something about Adam and Eve, and I realized most of the protesters were most likely meant to represent Christians.

And that...didn't sit well with me at all.

I know that these people never explicitly said they were Christians in the video, none of them even wore a cross. But, whenever someone sees anyone protesting rallies and organizations such as Pride, I can guarantee you that most of the time, the first thing people think is that they're from the Westboro Baptist Church, which is notorious for its protests. And I won't lie, there are some Christians who act that way.

But if you haven't heard this yet, let me be the first to tell you that not all Christians act like that. In fact, most of them don't act that way.

Christians don't agree with the LGBT+ lifestyle because of what the apostle Paul wrote in the book of 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). However, Jesus never once taught that just because you don't agree with a person doesn't mean they're automatically your enemy (Matthew 5:44). Christians are supposed to represent the love of the Savior of the world, which encompasses every and all aspects of humanity. This definitely includes people whose lifestyles we don't agree with. By not showing love to certain types of people, we are directly going against one of Jesus's greatest commandments.

Not agreeing with people is one of the cornerstones of humanity. It's a divisive world out there to be sure, but that doesn't mean people from any side of the debate need to perpetuate the division. Grouping all Christians into one group of hateful bigots is no different than Christians grouping all the members of the LGBT+ community into one group of evil people. One of the key elements of Christianity is showing people who have different beliefs from us the same love Jesus would show to anyone. And I know I'm not the only Christian who wants to show love to people of all walks of life. I may be the only Jesus they ever see in their lives, and we all wish to express the same love to others.

So Taylor, it looks like you're the one who needs to calm down on this issue.

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Different But The Same: Navigating My Life as One of Three Siblings

I couldn't be more different than my two siblings, but on some levels we're more alike than I thought.

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I am the oldest of three lively, loving and faithful siblings. My sister is seven years younger than me and my brother is nine. Two of us shared a room growing up, and the other lived just down the hall. In a lineup, we're unmistakably related. We share the same nose from our grandfather, the thin hair of our great-grandmother and the thick Italian eyebrows of our mother.

Deep down, we're all cut from the same cloth. Our moral compass, foundation and background are the same. We'd answer alike if you were to ask us our favorite childhood memory, how an elder should be treated, what to say and do at the dinner table and what is essentially right and wrong. All three of us are driven academically, hunger professionally and seek to mine the most good out of every day. Yet, on paper, we couldn't be more different.

Take my sister, for instance. She's the librarian at our local elementary school. We can't go to the local diner, the swimming pool or even walking down the road without scores of children recognizing her, running up to her and giving her a bear hug. There are entire circles of people who only know me for who I am in relation to her. I'll admit, when she first got that position, I went the entire summer long feeling as though I were walking in her shadow, though I eclipse her by half a decade of experience. There's a reason she's so well-known and loved, though. My sister is unfailingly kind, generous with her time and attention and genuinely invested in the young people she serves. She devours books, classic television shows and the family homeplace she shares with her high school sweetheart turned husband.

Then, there's my brother. He was in middle school when I got married, so our time together as adolescents was shorter, but we're more alike than it may seem. It's from him that I got my love of folk music, thrifting and antiques. He's an avid environmentalist and programs coordinator for our local arts council. In a world obsessed with smartphones and tiny screens, he takes walks with his fiance with a dictionary in hand, discovering new words and worlds as they travel. They hike every weekend, hole up and work on crosswords at their tiny cottage in the woods and spend all the time they can in their favorite mountains. In fact, they will likely relocate there or to the west coast when they tie the knot this September. He's outdoorsy, worldly and hyper-aware of how every decision he makes affects the world.

That bring us to me. Though I'm older than both of them in age, I feel as though I fall right in the middle of my brother and sister in terms of our interests and ideals. Like my brother, I love being outside and spend as much time in nature as possible. Yet, as the mother of two, I depend on disposable diapers and eat off paper plates to save time and money. Like my sister, I love nothing more than curling up with a great book, but as a technical writer and proposal manager, my life has me behind a screen more often than not. I read on my laptop into the wee hours of the morning, though like her, I spend many hours reading board books to children myself, though it's in the comfort of my home and not the local library.

At our core, we're wildly unique but I love the common thread woven between all of us. I love that our parents treated us all the same and made sure that what they did for one, they did for another. We all grew up feeling cherished, protected and loved beyond measure and for that, I'm eternally grateful. As we grow older together, we're learning from each other, exploring each other's interests and cultivating our own personalities in the process. It's a beautiful thing, doing life with these two. Thankfully, we all live within three miles of each other, so we get to unfold daily mysteries together on a regular basis. I couldn't imagine a better way or place to live.

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