I met Jenny Poust a few years ago, through our shared passion for writing. At the time, she was the editor of Lehigh Valley InSite, a popular blog here in the Lehigh Valley region of PA. When I decided that I wanted to start writing publicly, I contacted her and pitched some ideas. Even though I was a completely unknown, inexperienced writer at the time, she decided to take a chance on me and invited me to be a guest contributor.
My first couple of posts were rough around the edges. As Jenny put it, they weren’t personal enough and read like marketing pieces, which actually made a lot of sense considering that I was working full-time in marketing and struggling in my free time to find my “writer’s voice”. Rather than giving up on me, she coached and edited me and helped me find my voice. What followed were more assignments, which continue to this day. Looking back on it, working with Jenny taught me a lot about writing…and myself as a writer.
Jenny and I lost touch when she changed jobs. Though I thought of her from time to time and hoped she was doing well, we didn’t talk after that. And then, about a week ago, I heard that she was killed in a car accident. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I’ve read the news report fifty times since then, because I just can’t absorb how someone can be plucked from our lives so quickly and without warning.
Jenny’s death is a chilling reminder that our time here is limited, and that every day is an opportunity to live the life we want to live and make a difference to the people around us.
I regret losing touch with Jenny Poust. I wish I could’ve thanked her for taking a chance on me. More than that, I wish I would’ve let her know that her kindness, wisdom, and patience made all the difference.
You may have noticed that things have been quiet around here for the past week or so. For that, I apologize. Life has taken some unexpected twists and turns…but I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, a couple of announcements:
*Over the past few weeks a number of book clubs have added Empty Arms to their reading lists and invited me to attend their discussions. To show my appreciation, I’m giving away a free copy of Empty Arms to one lucky winner! You can find the details over on Facebook. And, as always, if you want me to join your group’s discussion of Empty Arms, just shoot me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
**Now that Empty Arms has grown up and left the nest, I have a little more free time to return to something I’ve always loved: guest blogging. On Sunday night, I had the chance to see one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Ingrid Michaelson, perform at a new (well, new to me) venue. And today, I’m over at Lehigh Valley InSite talking about my experience. If you have a couple of minutes, pop over and check it out…“Ingrid Michaelson Live at Muhlenberg College”.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…
As I was saying, life has taken some unexpected twists and turns. For the past three and a half years, Dave and I have been on the hunt for the perfect home. In our eight and a half years of marriage, we’ve owned several different houses and have moved A LOT. While we’ve lived in some great places, none of them were “forever homes”.
Three years ago, when the real estate market started nosediving, we decided to rent an apartment until we saw how things shook out. We thought apartment living would only last a year. We’re going on four.
In the past four years, our definition of the “perfect home” has changed quite a bit. Visions of ample square footage and endless lawns have been replaced with something cozier. Something requiring less maintenance. And less money. Because if the past four years have taught us anything, it’s that we look forward to spending our weekends biking, hiking, camping, and having fun outside (not mowing the grass or cleaning our house), we love to travel, and we cherish our freedom to come and go as we please. We’ve also realized that we’ve been miserable in the nicest places and happiest in the most unexpected places. In other words, where we live has less to do with our happiness than how we live.
Last year, we took this lesson to heart and approached our house hunt with a completely different set of criteria in mind: just enough space to fit our lifestyle, small, if any, yard, and a price that’s well within our means so we’d still have money to travel and do fun things. Miraculously, ten months ago, we found a place that fit our new definition of “perfect”. Better yet, it was in the historic district of our town, an area where we’ve always dreamed of living. The negotiation process was slow and arduous. It took three months to agree on a price and conditions of the sale. And because renters were living in the house, we had to wait until the end of next month to settle. It’s put our lives on hold for the better part of a year, but we didn’t care because it was all going to be just perfect.
And then we started running into problems. Expensive problems, like a telephone pole that would cost $15,000 to move eight feet to the left to allow us to put in a driveway. Frustrating problems, like the owners demanding that they take the original wood shutters that belong on the front of the house so they can sell them in their gift shop. And ridiculous problems, like the current residents telling us that there’s a demon spirit haunting the home.
Day after day, the problems continued to mount. Termite damage, old electrical wiring, a chipmunk family living in the walls. But day after day, we accepted that somehow we’d overcome them, because it was all going to be JUST PERFECT.
And then, somewhere between having to pour a new cement floor in the basement and having to replace the roof, we wondered if the universe might be trying to tell us that our perfect home isn’t perfect at all. The fantasy of how magnificent our lives would be in that house slowly started fading as we tallied up all of the expenses and frustration. And finally, after ten months of planning and dreaming and waiting, we came to the heartbreaking decision that we had to let it go.
So if things have been a little quiet around here, that’s why. A dream has fallen apart and I’m in the process of collecting the pieces, dusting them off, and trying to shape them into something new.
But that’s the thing about dreams, no matter how much you build them up in your head, you can’t force them into being. Sometimes you have to follow the signs and blindly accept that the universe has different plans for you. Better plans. Sometimes you just have to let them go.
Leap Year means different things to different people. To some, it’s astronomical. To others, it’s political. To a few, it’s a day to propose marriage. To me, leap year is about taking leaps. Whether it be a leap outside your comfort zone or a daring leap of faith, this is the year for leaping toward your dreams.
What does Leap Year mean to you?