Friday, September 20, 2013


Three months ago I received a phone call that completely reshaped our summer, and our lives. We had been waiting for Matt to receive an overdue promotion, waiting to be able to buy a home to live in, and waiting to feel settled somewhere where we could raise this family--the sort of feeling that doesn't come when you're in a rental home that is managed by people you don't trust. We pushed on doors that wouldn't open, and God kept us here, living in an old farm house in the center of our town's yuckiest mobile home park.

It wouldn't have been a half-bad place to live if the management had cared at all about keeping the place up: if the grass was mowed and the buildings were painted and the roads were repaired, and if I had a chance to get to know more of my neighbors. But the owners of the park lived three states away and were apparently unaware that the current management company was letting the park go to pot and laughing all the way to the bank. Our neighbors seemed nice enough, but spoke mostly spanish. My spanish was rusty at best, and I lacked the motivation to bake 40 batches of cookies in order to knock on my neighbor's doors and smile awkwardly at each other.

Our "backyard" was the common area for the whole trailer park and consisted of knee-high grass gone to seed covering litter of every dangerous variety possible: pop cans, food wrappers, and broken beer bottles so filled the yard that the lawn care company refused to mow--not that anyone cared. A twenty-year-old "swing set" sat in the middle of this jungle, just daring my children to wish for a normal childhood. On occasion I would let them put on some thick-soled shoes and venture out back, under my close supervision, but mostly we stayed inside, where I knew they were safe. Outside was out of my control, and so we waited to move. And we wondered why God kept us here.

I pushed harder on doors, determined to get us out of here. I thought maybe if I could get some extra income from home (if any actual work-at home opportunities existed that weren't total scams) we could get a loan for a half-way decent home. I toyed with the idea of working away from home one or two days a week and leaving the kids with my in-laws. We met with a counselor at a non-profit agency in town to see if their programs could help us get a house. And we were blocked at every turn. God kept us here.

On June 18th Matt informed me that some person with an out-of-state area code and a name he didn't recognize had tried calling twice, but he wasn't going to waste his time answering it. "You never know what they want unless you answer it," I reminded him, "it might be something important."

"What are the odds of that?" he retorted.

What are the odds?

That evening that same persistent person called again, and I opted to answer, against Matt's better judgement.

"Hi, is this Katherine?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered tentatively. (Not sure I really want to tell you that, strange man on the phone).

"And you live in the house at the Skyview Park, right?" he pressed.

"...Um...yes..." (Really not sure I should be giving that info out to you either, creepy man.)

"OK, well, I'm calling because I'm the owner of that park, and I'm actually wondering if you would like to manage the park for me."

Here is where my jaw hit the floor, and my brain malfunctioned from the impact:

"What in the world?!"
"Who calls people up that they've never ever met before and offers them a job out of the blue?"
"Wouldn't this be a great opportunity?"
"Can I handle all that?"
"But we were wanting to move..."
"But maybe we wouldn't have to move anymore."
"A real work-at-home opportunity?"
"No. There is no way I can handle any more stress right now..."
"But...maybe...maybe we could actually save some money. Maybe I could clean this place up and develop a good relationship with the owners and get to know my neighbors. Maybe I could like living here. Maybe this is why we're here."

And so, after my power of speech returned, we talked about it, and the more we talked, the more I realized God's unmistakeable leading in our lives, and the more excited I was at the possibility of being the new manager of Skyview. The owner revealed some of the details of the failings of the previous management and that he had offered me the job because I lived onsite, which he was realizing was essential to actually keeping an eye on the place, and because I had taken so much pleasure in fixing up this house when we moved in. He was hoping I would put some of that same energy into fixing up his park. I talked with Matt and with my parents, who all confirmed that this opportunity seemed well matched to my gifts and that it would alleviate enough stress on us to more than make up for the added stress of the position. Later that evening I called the owner back and accepted.

Why did I wait three months to blog about this? Well, first of all, I have been a whole new kind of busy for the past three months, and second, I wanted to wait a couple of months before happily announcing my miracle position just to make sure I could live through it. Three months after that phone call, I can still say that I am happy to be the manager of Skyview.

I spent the first several weeks getting bids and haggling with paving companies over fixing our pot-hole -laden roads, even before my official position began on August 1st, so that residents could sit on their front porches and watch with smiles on their faces as the pavers came through just nine days after I took over.

I put on gloves and picked up every scrap of trash covering the common area behind my house--bagfuls  of trash and glass. I dug the riding lawn mower out of the barn and from under a quarter-inch of dust, sent it off for a tune-up, and lined up a resident to mow once a week. I knocked on 40 front doors and introduced myself to the residents, in English and Spanish. I walked the park with the state health inspector, then spent a day handing out notices of health-code violations, and park rule violations. I organized a pool for residents to chip in to buy a dumpster and haul out the enormous amount of large trash items that had accumulated on most of the lots. I hauled wheel-barrow loads of yard debris and trash. I even climbed into the dumpster to make more room when it was full.

I bought bags of crushed lime and dumped them on a septic system leak, then called a crew out for repairs. I showed my neighbors what weeds were and how to pull them out. I poisoned poison ivy. I planted plants around my house. I talked the tree-trimmers in our neighborhood into giving us an entire truck-load of mulch for free. My brother and his family came one day and helped us put up a new swing set and distribute the mulch under the swing set and around my house. My dad came with his power saw and helped trim all the neglected and overgrown bushes. I got some of the teens who had been prone to vandalism involved in the clean-up work, and they learned that work can be fun and rewarding.

When the state inspector returned to check on my progress he walked the park grinning and repeating, "Wow! This is fantastic!" And I felt exhausted, but fulfilled.

I have been busy developing spreadsheets, collecting rent, documenting expenses, and communicating with the owners. I have had some unpleasant confrontations, lots of interruptions to my routine, and a few too many emergency calls, but overall, I have enjoyed the challenge.

I have enjoyed getting to know my neighbors, most of whom are a delight to be around, even if we're just smiling awkwardly at each other for lack of other intelligible communication. But most of all I have enjoyed turning my kids loose in a backyard that is a clean and safe place for them to exercise, make friends, and learn some serious soccer skills from the neighbors.

A local church donated soccer goals for us, and even Matt has enjoyed getting out for the nightly game of soccer with the neighbors that is available almost every evening now. Where else can you have the pleasure of an enormous block-party in your backyard every night?

One of my neighbors recently said to me, "You work hard. Very hard. Before no one was here. No one cared. But you fix the roads and clean the park. You do a good job."

Yes, I am tired. And some days I feel the stress. But there is enormous reward in this work. I have picked up homeschooling my kids at the same time now, and (knock on wood) I think I can do this all. Maybe I have been given supernatural help. It seems there was a reason he wanted us here.

"He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me."
--Joseph H. Gilmore

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