Thirteenth Home – The Barn

Now, this has been one fine chapter in our lives.  What fun it has been to say, “We live in a barn.”  We completed this place in 2008, so it’s been our home for nine years.   That’s the longest we’ve ever stayed put.

What began as an idea for a pretty workshop blossomed into a full scale house.  It’s been my pleasure all these years to enjoy Gary’s creative flair, and he certainly treated us on this one.  Building this big red barn was such an exciting job.  From the huge concrete pillars to support the workshop, to the gorgeous curving staircase, this project was quite unique.  

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Over the years, the barn has been the venue for so many wonderful celebrations.  The very first one was held here a couple of months before we actually finished the place, and that was our 25th wedding anniversary.  Since then we’ve hosted more anniversaries, reunions, birthdays, showers, weddings and receptions, and a whole slew of politicians.  My dear friends have joined me in my home for Bible study, and those Tuesday mornings will forever hold a special place in my memories of this chapter.  We’ve loved entertaining throughout the holidays, and never is the barn more beautiful than when it’s all decked out for Christmas.

I’ve always loved yard work, and the barnyard has given me countless hours.   Countless!   Ha ha.  When we first moved in here, I would stand at the picture windows upstairs, looking out over my yard with tears of joy exclaiming, “I have a park!”   I must admit that there are some days now that I stand there and say with an overwhelmed sigh, “I have a park!”  I do love my fruit trees and roses… and for those of you who’ve been with me on this blogging journey over the years… you know I’ve even come to terms with my crepe myrtles.

The years in this barn were a real page-turner in our career.   Prior to this, Gary and I had always worked side by side in construction.  I wouldn’t say we out grew that… but I might say we grew too old for that.  We finally had to turn the physical work over to others while we focused our energies on the office end of Field Day, Inc.  Our desks are upstairs in the house above the workshop.  At the moment I’m in the comfy leather chair at my computer typing, and this has been my seat these past nine years.  I’ve sat here putting numbers into columns on spreadsheets as I’ve listened to the soft background noise below me of saws and sanders and garage doors opening and closing.   It’s been a great business to run, and I’m thankful for each and every person that has been in and out of that shop helping us build so many dream homes.

That brings me to our beautiful dining room table.  Let me just say again how thankful I am for each and every person who has joined us at that table.   Without all the clients who have sat there with us pouring over house plans, this big barn would never have existed.  Gary and I both say ‘thank you’ from the bottom of our hearts. 

Mostly that table has been the lovely scene of family meals.  Every few weeks the barn is full of family members.  We’re blessed with large loving families, so from time to time we sit down at that big table which seats 12 easily, and we set up the card tables to hold everyone else, and we pray together and eat delicious meals.  I feel so fortunate to have had this grand chapter in my life to play hostess so often.  I love setting tables with pretty dishes, and this will always be the era filled with fond memories of this happy task.  Two huge days stand out in this red barn every year… Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Gary’s family has filled our home for that glorious turkey dinner every year.  And my family has always been here for a beautiful Christmas breakfast after we see what Santa has brought down the chimney.

People have been surprised that we’re making plans to sell the barn, since it was our “dream home”.   But to us, all of our homes have been dream homes.   Whether they were tiny or large, temporary or lasting, they were a roof over our heads as we reached for our stars.

So now it’s time to move on.  We’re seeing the finish line on the horizon for our business.  Retirement seems truly within our reach, and we’re happily building away on the next house.  It’s a couple of blocks away, it’s much smaller, and my main concern is hoping our cat Peli makes the transition easily.  Gary and I think we may wipe away a tear or two when we spend the last night in this barn, but we’re so excited for the next chapter and are beside ourselves with glee.

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Twelfth Home – The Globe House

I will always say that this little house was a gift from God.  Everything in life is a gift from above, but this was a special gift with perfect timing.  The very first Sunday we had officially moved back to Portales, a dear friend at church asked us what we were planning.   I said we were going to get our construction business going again, and we’d be doing anything and everything.  She asked if we’d be interested in a fixer-upper.

Boy howdy, this was a fixer-upper.  A friend of hers had owned the house for decades, and without bogging down in the details… the person living there had stripped the house.  Stripped it!  From the outside all looked well.  On the inside all wiring, all fixtures – and I’m talking right down to the toilet and sinks being gone, all sheetrock, everything… gone!  What a shocking discovery for the owners.  And what a good opportunity for us.

We were able to buy the place for an amazing price.  Inch by inch, as we got money together and when we had time, we rebuilt the inside of the house and dolled up the outside a bit.  It was a two year process before we actually moved in, then it was home sweet home for the next four years.

We were rarely there because we were working so hard.  I’m sorry if I ramble on with that theme of working all the time, but that’s the story of this time in our lives.   Gary and I were both on the jobsites all day every day, six days a week.   At night we took turns on our computer – Gary getting his portion of Field Day together, and me getting mine.  We marvel that we managed with only one computer, but we were on a quest to fill up the coffers.

We put a wonderful covering over the back porch, and as much as we love sitting on porches, this one was our workshop, and we worked off of that porch and out of our tool trailer.  One night we ate on the back porch, and that was only because we were feeding our stone laying crew from Texas, and there wasn’t enough room in the kitchen to hold us all.  In fact, the kitchen was quite crowded if we ever had a third person join us for dinner.

When people came to our “home office” with their blue prints to sit at that tiny table in that cracker box house, I always figured they were wondering just what they’d gotten themselves into.

Although we’d built homes in the past, I’m forever grateful to my aunt and uncle who were planning to build a lovely and very large home on a beautiful piece of property.  They had no proof that Gary could build a house like that, but they knew Gary, and they trusted him with the task.  The results were grand – if I do say so myself – and they were continually generous in allowing us to show the house to future clients.  It’s how we fell into the niche of very special custom homebuilding.

Well, obviously, we needed a real workshop and we needed a kitchen of our own where we could not only showcase our work, but actually have people over to dinner and offer them a place to sit!   We’d had ideas about building a shop that would have some classic characteristics of a horse barn.  This was the deal… while we worked to save the money to do it, there was never any time to get started on it, so this gave Gary five years to dream and scheme.   He spent lots of time in that little house drawing the plans for the barn, and I had a ball putting decorating ideas together.

We do love little spaces, and we truly loved that house.  It gave us the chance to sock our earnings away while we grew our business.  Okay.  Work, work, work.   Maybe I’ve hashed that topic enough, and as I roll into the next chapter you won’t have to hear so much about that.  We always laughed about how we’d done life a bit backwards.  In our younger years we lived a bit more of a semi-retired lifestyle.   In our 40s we made up for it!

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Eleventh Home – The Cottage

Thankfully, while we were still living on Guam, we’d decided it was time to start investing in some rental property.   So, we had purchased this 6-unit apartment complex in Portales.  Along with some newer apartments came two cottages that had been built in the early 1900s.  Tiny little things.  You could reach up and touch the ceiling in the bedroom.  A chain smoker had been living in one of those cottages for years, and the timing was right, with him moving out, for us to overhaul the place with lots of scrubbing and fresh paint, then to move ourselves into it.

For any of you who have ever blessed Gary and me with the compliment that we’ve been mentors to you, I hope you’ll pay attention to this “chapter”.   Because this chapter is important.  It’s not one of the lovely ones.   This was a swallow-your-pride, do-whatever-it-takes, pick-up-the-shovel-and-dig-another-well time in our lives.

We moved back to Portales in June of 2002.   I remember it was June, because that’s my birthday.  Gary has always loved giving me wrist watches.  That year he gave me a pretty pair of pink leather work gloves and a new watch.   The card said “It’s time to get back to work!”

We went back to work doing any job we could get our hands on.  Lots of small remodeling jobs, just like we’d done when we were kids living here.  We were determined to make back all the money we’d lost in the financial fiasco of the previous year.

My grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer’s, and for the two years we lived in that little cottage it was my great privilege to go to my grandparents’ home every morning and make them breakfast to get their day started.   I will forever remember how grateful I was that we’d lost all that money… because without that event, I’m not sure we would have moved back to Portales.  And getting to be with three of my grandparents who were still living at the time was priceless.  I sang Wayne Watson’s song to myself often.   “For such a time as this, I was placed upon the earth.”

Gary is a determined individual.  He’s always worked hard to rise to any challenge.  I know how hard it was for him to take so many steps backwards to start all over again, but he did it with gusto.  We were back to square one, but moving on!

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Tenth Home – Helotes Apartment

Although we were sad to say goodbye to our island life, we were excited to choose San Antonio, Texas, as our next place to hang our hats.  We’d never lived in a city, and this location sounded so appealing.  We thought we had the proverbial tiger by the tail. It was going to be so easy to work without waiting on overseas shipping and language barriers.  It also looked like one of our investments was going to pay off in spades.  The living was easy, and we happily chose a temporary one bedroom apartment out in Helotes.

It was wonderful being close enough to family that we could drive east or west and easily visit.  We loved getting to hear Max Lucado preach on Sundays.  I stuck with my goal of running a 26.2 mile race, and was thrilled to finish the San Antonio Marathon that year.  Our little apartment was cute and cozy, and it actually was a great relief to give up the responsibilities of a large tropical yard, and switch to one geranium in a pot on the porch.

But the time there didn’t go as planned. The misery of 9-11-2001 hit us hard, as every penny of our lives was sitting in the stock market, having completely liquidated to leave Guam.  Texas Hill Country allergies claimed Gary as a serious target.  Our efforts to break into the real estate market there hit dead ends at every encounter.

I drove to Portales every month to help care for my grandparents.  Gary took a job selling cabinetry at Lowe’s.   We like running our own show, and this new world of “reporting to work” was quite foreign.  It became abundantly clear that this wasn’t for us, and we made the decision to head back to Portales.

This was a “riches to rags” year.  But I’d written a poem as a gift to Gary while we lived on Guam called “The Dreamers”.  It has several stanzas, but we’ve always loved the last one best.  The words were fitting as we picked up the pieces to move on.

The dreamers go on dreaming

They never miss a day

Making plans for bright tomorrows

May it always be that way

~

Ninth Home – Our Guam House

How do I even begin to describe the wonderful years in this house?  What kind of paragraphs will I use to convey just how very much we loved living in this place?

To begin with, I’ll say that we were so happy on that island, and we didn’t want to feel that it was temporary, so we shipped our special belongings (from storage in Portales) all the way across the Pacific to make that house our home sweet home.

From 1995 to 2001, while we were in our 30s, we lived in our peach colored house, surrounded by gorgeous trees and foliage.  Avocados, mangos, soursop, papayas, bananas, coconuts, bamboo, ginger, bougainvillea, gardenias… I’ll mention mangos again because we were covered over in mangos! 

Eventually we both stopped teaching school, and I closed my little gift shop.  We were back to the world we know so well – construction.  Our three car garage was our workshop.  The vehicles were only parked inside when we were weathering typhoons.   The rest of the time we worked in there, mainly building cabinets.  (As a post script – now that I’ve written the rest of this chapter – I think I didn’t say much at all about working hard, so I’m bopping back up to this paragraph.  We worked hard!  It was hot, it was grimy, and I when I pat myself on the back for how hard I’ve worked at laying tile, carrying heavy sheets of plywood, being Gary’s one and only helper much of the time… these are the days I recall!)

Those were the years we worked really hard and played really hard.  Gary was in one racquetball tournament after the next, and we got to go to the World Championships in Bolivia one year.  He also honed his skills as a breath-hold-diving spearfisherman, and eventually got to compete with the Guam team at the national level.  We became runners.  Guam had an amazing running club, and we spent countless Saturday mornings running races all over the island.  We had our boat.   My fingers have stopped moving over the keyboard.  I’m at a loss for words.  My mind meanders over the grand times, out on the sea, swimming with dolphins, watching the sunset, skimming along with the wind in our hair.  What freedom!

We traveled to an array of Asian destinations, and also home to the States at least every 18 months.  It’s a very long way across that ocean.  The flights are fairly brutal, and so was the price tag.   We’re thrilled at the handful of visits we had from family members, but have always been very sad that it was just too prohibitive for people to come visit us there. 

And I have retroactive envy that social media didn’t exist.   E-mail was barely coming into existence while we were in that house.   I would have loved to get to share photos of my tropical yard, my special black cats, our little truck loaded down with cabinets, pretty beaches.   Those were special days.

Guam is a very social community.  We attended one party after another… birthdays, anniversaries, and always fiestas.   One amazing memory from this house was the housewarming party “we threw”.  Ha!  Well, we tried to throw a party.   We bought supplies for hotdogs and hamburgers to feed the multitudes.   We were unabashedly going to have an American party, and not try to keep up with the elaborate events those people knew how to host.  The morning of our party, rank strangers showed up with the pala palas (the canopies) and started setting them up in our driveway in case it rained.   Then came the men who started setting up a make shift barbecue pit, along with a huge amount of meat.   Food poured in all day while we set up for the party.   (And we had tons of hotdog and hamburger leftovers for weeks!)

We loved our church, we loved our friends, we loved that house.   But at some point we had to make the decision to move ourselves back to the continent.  We sold the house, and packed our belongings for the voyage across the deep blue.  We took one final run down our hill, along the water to the marina where we’d launched our boat so many times.  Then early the next morning our friends took us to the airport.  We watched out the window, tears streaming, as our emerald green island in our sapphire blue ocean slowly faded out of sight.

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Eighth Home – Hyundai House

Talk about a blip on the radar!  This house was another transition place.  Our friends were returning to the island and needed their house back, and we were just getting started building our own house, so we were able to rent this place from Trans World Radio in the neighboring village of Santa Rita in the Hyundai Subdivision.  Basically, we camped out there for a year.  (There are no pictures of the place.)

I had decided to open a little shop selling pretty hats and cute baby clothes, all adorned with tropical flowers.  The living room of that house served as my warehouse for “Hibiscus Fancy”.

Gary and I were both still teaching school, so every waking moment was spent doing that, or working at my gift shop, or building the new house.  Honestly, I don’t remember cooking a meal in that kitchen.  We only air-conditioned the bedroom, and to unwind at night we would take turns playing Mine Sweeper on our little computer.  I think we had a bed and a computer desk at that point.

Truly, we were pouring ourselves into building our next home.  Gary is always up to a challenge, and I’ve always marveled at his determination to figure out how to get over the next hurdle.   Building a “concrete bunker” in a typhoon and earthquake zone meant tons of concrete below ground before even considering any concrete above ground. 

He designed our pretty place, fitting it beautifully onto our hillside lot, engineering underground drainage systems to deal with the amazing amounts of rainfall.

This was one hectic year.  As has often times been the theme in our lives… we were quite tired all the time…  but very excited!

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Seventh Home – Round Table

One day you might be cheering for your middle school soccer team and end up meeting the parents of a player who will turn out to be very good friends, and the chance meeting could end up changing the path of your life.  Isn’t that just how it happens?

So it was that we met the family that was headed to the States for a year, and needed someone to rent their house in the village of Agat.  And that’s how we came to stay in Joan and Graham’s house on Round Table, which was actually San Antonio de Padua Circle.   This brought us to a little church in the village where we found such cherished friendships.  And it brought us to the village where we purchased a beautiful piece of property to build our house… but goodness sakes, I’m getting ahead of myself!

Our second year on Guam we continued teaching at Piti Middle School, just down the road.  We bought a boat.  Oh and this… we got a call one day from a man saying we didn’t know him, but he knew of us, because his mother lived in Portales, and while he was lamenting on the phone with her that he couldn’t find good help for his construction business, she told him about us moving over there.  What a small world.   We did lots of work with this man and his brother-in-law.  Gary still played racquetball all the time.   And this was the year we fell in love with international travel.  We went to Bali and we went to Hong Kong, and I’d say this is when we acquired the unquenchable desire to see new places, eat exotic food, and experience different cultures.

The simple McKee Craft boat became one of our all-time favorite possessions.  Over the years Gary did so much spearfishing out of that boat, and we took so many sunset cruises.  We loved living right on the coast in that little village, and we knew we wanted to stay around for awhile, so along with owning a boat, we decided to become land owners.  

I’ve often looked back on this year and its turn of events.   We had already looked at another house to rent in a different village, and were making plans to move there.   But a friendly conversation at a Saturday morning soccer game took us in a totally different direction.  I’m sure the other path would have been very lovely… but I will always be so thankful for this turning point.

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Sixth Home – Green Park Condos

I think we were just about as surprised as the next guy, that after two years back in Portales following our three years of teaching on St. Thomas, we were on a plane with a few possessions, winging our way to another tropical island.  We had met with the teaching recruiters in Vegas, and we’d decided to at least take a couple of years to just relax a bit while we made some decisions about the direction we wanted to take with our lives.  So in 1992 we stepped onto the Pacific island of Guam and instantly felt at home.  I will always remember it as a night-and-day-difference from moving to the Caribbean.

We were picked up at the airport by the principal from the middle school where we would both teach.  We were housed in a nice hotel while we found a place to live.  We survived our first major typhoon in that hotel the second week we were there!  Omar was devastating to the island, and we prepared mentally for the horrific aftermath we expected.  But the island rallied together to put everything back in place, and not one instance of looting was reported.  We had found paradise.

We moved into a nice little apartment in Green Park Condos in the village of Mangilao.  Learning to pronounce this name was the first in a long list of Chamorro names and words we would come to know and love.   (It’s ma-NEE-lao by the way.)

Guam took 5 direct eye-passages out of 7 typhoon hits that year, and we weathered the storms in our second floor apartment.  The patience and resiliency of the people who live on that island… truly amazing.  It was a really wonderful year of teaching school, driving all over that island in a little red truck learning our way around, and spending lots of time at The Cliff where Gary played racquetball and I did step-aerobics.

The beauty of the island, the crystal clear water, the myriad of cultures all blending so nicely, the amazing food… we were in love with this place.  At the end of the school year we were happy to stay on the island, but we were making our way to another shore and a new village to call home.

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Fifth Home – Cherry House

This house was a huge part of our lives, even though we only lived there a little over a year.  It was the first house Gary ever built.  Although he’d spent his life working in all aspects of the building trade, this was his first project from the ground up.  And I have to include a side note about this.  If you know Gary, you know he’s intent upon setting and reaching goals.   So, early on he set a goal that he’d build his first house when he was 22 years old.  I think he was 28 when he completed this house, and I’ve always thought it was pretty ridiculous that he never really forgave himself for falling behind schedule.  (Ha!  I think he eventually did.   To know that man is to love him!)

Before we left St. Thomas, he bought a book called “Cutting in Roofs”.  I think that was the catchy title.   I loved watching him frame that house.  Meanwhile, I was painting up tiles and finding a place to fire them for my custom kitchen backsplash.   I wanted gingerbread on the porch, so Gary made me do the cutting. 

We were ready to become builders in Portales, and we were just thrilled to host an open house one Sunday afternoon, greeting friends and family who came by to help us celebrate.

It was such a pretty house on Cherry Street.  Gary loved his woodworking, and he had a great time building a beautiful fireplace and custom windows.  The carpet was soft peach, and the whole house seemed like a dream to me.  

We bought pretty new furniture from my grandparents, we had the perfect Christmas tree, I worked and worked in the yard trying to transform the pasture into lush grass, we put up a sweet picket fence to frame the whole project.

Hmmmm… seems like we were all set to start our “real career”.   But Gary was building a house for the placement director at ENMU, and she knew how he loved to talk about the island life, and one day she showed up at her project and told Gary she had just received something at her office that he might be interested in.   Guam was hiring teachers. 

Well… obviously… that’s another chapter.

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Fourth Home

It’s funny… I drive by this house in Portales almost daily, but it’s one of those small blips on the radar, and I usually don’t think to glance in that direction.  It was a year of transition not only for us, but also for my mom.  We had just moved back from St. Thomas, and she was dreaming up her move to Taos, so the nice little red brick house on Abilene was temporary for all three of us.

We were instantly back into whatever remodeling work we could take on while Gary got his first general contractor’s license.    I may have never laughed as much in my life as I did one night in that house while making a phone call to one of our employees.  Earlier in the day we’d almost knocked out a wall at the wrong address when we realized something didn’t seem quite right. We skedaddled next door in a hurry to begin demolition work in the right place.  That evening, in my best ‘old lady’ voice, I called to tell the guy I’d just found his driver’s license in my house and couldn’t imagine how it got there.  Ha!  I used to love to make prank calls back in the old days before Caller ID.   (And I’ll go to my grave with the secret knowledge of whose house we were in when we almost made that ridiculous mistake!  They obviously weren’t home that day when we let ourselves in to get to work.)

Another fun memory of living in that house with my mother was going absolutely overboard in wrapping my Christmas presents that year.  I’d had three previous years of trying to get my little ornaments wrapped and home on a plane.   That year I just had a ball embellishing everything with fancy ribbons and pearls.  Come to think of it, that may have been the last year I did any kind of wrapping!

I think we were all just coming and going from that house all the time, and it’s actually quite a blur.  We started building a house for ourselves… and that’s the next chapter.

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Third Home – The Bethany House

We found this place on St. Thomas the same way we found our four lifelong friends… through the Bible Book Nook which was owned by a Christian college that ran Bethany Publishing.  The college owned the house, and the students doing their internships got to live in the apartments on the first floor.  One was empty, and we had the marvelous good fortune to get to move in!

The house was up on a hillside above Lime Tree Beach, and from our balcony we could watch cruise ships coming and going.   (Little did we know we’d eventually fall in love with that mode of travel!  And I can’t resist adding this photo from a couple of months ago.) 

We lived in a studio apartment that was smaller than our current kitchen, but it was all the space in the world we needed.  Gary loved to play his trumpet in the afternoons when we’d come home from teaching school.  He mowed the lawn to help pay the rent.  The meal I remember cooking most in that place was sweet and sour chicken.  The yard was filled with pink bougainvillea, and I found it amazing that I was surrounded by the same beautiful blossoms that had filled the indoor garden of my childhood home.

It was our wonderful home for two years.  And those two years stand out with stark contrast to one another.

The first year memories are delightful.  We were teaching school and repairing furniture as before.  Our good friends managed the beautiful Botany Bay Estate, so we all had amazing times together in that private sanctuary.  Our landlord was a breath-hold diver, and he taught Gary all about spear-fishing and lobstering.  It became his absolute favorite sport of all time. More family came to visit. 

We were 25 years old, both teaching at the same middle school.  As a second year teacher, Gary fell into the position of being the chairman of his department and only taught 3 woodworking classes a day.  I was teaching math.  It was a wonderful year, and we had the tiger by the tail.

The second year memories take a turn in a different direction.  Hurricane Hugo hit the Virgin Islands with terrible fury early in the school year.   It was devastating.  The storm itself was the most frightening 24 hours we’d ever encountered.  In the middle of the night the plywood shutters we’d bolted all over the house were ripped off.  We could hear furniture thrashing about above us, and sure enough, the roof had been torn off the large house that was the second floor.  Well, I could write a lengthy report on the storm (and I did at the time), but it’s enough to stay that the destruction was horrific for us and for our friends and for our school.  We went weeks and weeks and weeks without electricity or running water.  Lawlessness ran rampant on the island for a time.   Teaching school was torture.  I know we had some good days that year… but it goes down in the history books as very, very difficult.  I’m proud that we stayed and honored our contracts.

When that grueling school year came to a close, we were ready to head home to Portales.  Truly, at that point, we thought we’d had our grand adventure, and it was time to come settle into our “real life”.  I have to laugh.   Real life is obviously whatever it is you happen to be doing on any given day!

~

Second Home – Ruth Hodge’s Place

Actually, the second home was a condo at Sapphire Beach, but it was a tiny handful of months, so it’s getting tossed in with “Ruth Hodge’s Place”.

Keep in mind that we landed on the island of St. Thomas back in the day when the internet didn’t exist, and if you looked something up in an encyclopedia, it might very well have been 10 years out of date.  So we went with our fistful of dollars knowing the island was 13 miles long and 4 miles wide.  Surely one could ride bikes to get started.  Ha!  As the plane landed our first words were “We’re gonna need a car!” 

Our house payment in Portales had been $145 a month, and we landed in the Virgin Islands to find that rent was going to be closer to $1000 a month.  (And this wasn’t for the luxury spots… just some old apartment to share with geckos and roaches.)  Our teaching salaries were laughable, and our first Sunday at church the preacher told us that sometimes new teachers had to wait months for their first paycheck, so the church could help us if we got in a bind.   Welcome to paradise!

Thankfully we found this condo on Sapphire Beach where we could stay until tourist season kicked into high gear in November.  It’s a gorgeous beach, and when St. Thomas fits into our travel plans, we always have to take some time to stand on that sand and reminisce about the kids who rolled into that spot when they fell off the proverbial turnip truck in the 80s.

The principal at the school where Gary taught had a sister-in-law (Ruth) who was just getting a brand new apartment finished up, and we got to be the very first tenants.  It would eventually have a second story, but at that point it was a lovely one bedroom spot with a big porch and a big cistern.  So that’s where we learned the valuable lesson of water conservation.  It rarely rained, and since the only water coming into those faucets came from the cistern… you learned pretty quickly about short showers and necessity flushing!

So that was home-sweet-home for a year.  We bought parakeets to help me get over my deathly fear of birds.  We drove an old beater car up and down those steep and winding roads.  To supplement our meager paychecks we went to work for a high end furniture store repairing damaged pieces and hanging blinds.  One of our favorite lifelong memories is from the very first set of vertical blinds we hung, struggling with the instructions and the trick of drilling into concrete walls to make it all happen.   As we were finally loading our little tool box at the end of the day, the owner had stuck a $20 tip in there to surprise us.    We were so honored!

We ate a lot of burritos and jalapeno chips in that house.  Family and friends came to visit.  Communicating was a trick.  No phone lines in that area.. but wait.. when a boy from church needed math tutoring, and I couldn’t give his mom a phone number to reach me, and she happened to work for the phone company, phone lines magically became available on that hillside.  (Oh good grief.   The memories.   It was not an easy place to live.)  Our thanks again to all the family members who paid for the collect calls we made on Sunday afternoons from the cruise ship shopping center payphone.   Every month I wrote out a letter on carbon paper, then cranked out copies on an old mimeograph machine and mailed out an update of our adventures.

Well, anyway.. we spent time in that house talking each other into finishing out the school year.   We had a count-down calendar of when we could finally leave the rock.  We did our best to enjoy the beautiful beaches.  And then, at the end of that school year we were becoming friends with some couples our age through the Bible Book Nook… a bookstore we enjoyed going to.  It really seemed like such a shame to leave the island when we were finally learning our way around and finally making some real friends.  So we signed teaching contracts for another year, we headed home to Portales to shingle roofs for the summer and be with our families, then we flew back down to the Virgin Islands to live in our next home for two more years.

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