"Where have you been staying?" is a question many confused friends and readers have asked me lately. Let me tell you. It's a great story that may even surpass all other stories of kindness you have read about on this blog.
In late November, I landed in Santa Cruz, California, because of spontaneously deciding to take a travel friend from Taos, New Mexico to Oakland, California. Once here, my car broke down, I ran out of money, and I had no real ideas about where to go next. All excellent reasons for me not to go anywhere.
While I waited for my car to be fixed and began looking for jobs, I hurriedly patched together a network of free places to sleep. I housesat in a mansion, crashed in a new friend's mountain cabin, and then found Evan and Laina through couchsurfing.
|Evan and Laina - the loving couple and my new friends|
One night during my week-long stay on Evan and Laina's couch, they invited me over to Evan's mom and step-dad's house next door to make limoncello.
|Making limoncello - a traditional, Italian, after-dinner liquor|
Still without the funds to afford my own apartment (and unsure if that's what I even wanted), constantly looking for new hosts each week was taking more time and energy than it was worth. Not to mention all the packing and re-packing of my things, and then trying to keep my pile of stuff tidy in the corner of someone's living room.
On Christmas morning, there was a stocking filled and hanging by the fireplace for me.
I took a bold step and asked Heidi and Mike if I might be able to stay with them for the remaining two weeks in December. They immediately agreed, and I gratefully moved my things in to my own room.
|This shot of their entryway perfectly displays the palpable love in this house|
Heidi is the picture of strength, grace, and wisdom. She runs her own daycare in their home, including making fresh, healthy meals for the children each day. My favorite part about her? She is on her THIRD MARRIAGE, and it's a beautiful one. She and Mike have been married for 15 years and are still as in love as star-struck high school kids. Happy third marriages are possible! Yay!
|Heidi firing her Creme Brûlée during a dinner party one night|
Mike owns his own construction business. He also umpires for the local Little League. In fact, he is the head umpire for all of Santa Cruz county, which means he organizes the schedule and orders the gear for all of the other umpires - an entirely voluntary effort. In his spare time, he brews his own beer and plays poker with the boys each week. He is a kind and benevolent soul.
|Mike as Santa for the kids in his family on Christmas Eve|
Staying here has been a blessing beyond even my ability to put into words. The practicalities of a warm bed, shower, and full-stocked kitchen are only the surface of the gifts I've received here. Heidi and Mike have become like surrogate parents to me, often listening to my daily stories and helping me think through my next steps in life.
Sometimes I walk into the kitchen to Mike saying, "We left you a bowl of homemade clam chowder on the stove," or Heidi saying, "I made you an extra waffle for breakfast." One night, I came home from work to a huge dinner party of their friends from France. I was immediately given a plate of lamb shank, au gratin potatoes, and brussels sprouts. I ate with a smile while I watched their clown-friend teach one of the children how to juggle with clementines, and I felt warm all over.
|After dinner juggling lesson|
Towards the end of December, Heidi says to me, "You know, if you can't find a place by January, you're more than welcome to stay here through the month." So stay I did. They have refused to accept any money from me. This is my final week in their home. Next week, I will move on to another housesitting gig, and then, quite possibly, my own apartment.
Thank you, Heidi and Mike. Thank you for showing me, once again, that the world is a good and generous place to be. People like you give me hope for our interconnected lives. You have blessed me beyond what I ever could have expected, and I intend to pay every bit of it forward, in your name.
|Supporting me at the karaoke contest last weekend|