Donna and I have seen a lot of Newton County and environs in the past few weeks.
We're looking for a home to buy, and we've been looking at properties all around the county.
The good news for us: There's a lot to see, and a lot of bargains out there.
The bad news for us all: There are way too many homes that have been turned over to the bank or are in foreclosure.
Too many people have lost their job and home.
Folks like the Oxford couple who had lived in their ranch home since the 1970s but were now moving to a manufactured home on acreage in south Georgia.
They were packing up memories and selling what they could in a yard sale to get ready for their move and yet they graciously agreed to show us their property. They had roots here, and they'll be missed.
Mostly, though, the homes are already vacant, a simple window sticker a testimony to a foreclosure and its status as a HUD property.
These properties are usually sold as is, with little or no information available to the buyer.
But step inside and there are sad mysteries to unravel.
Did some artistically-inclined teen paint her bedroom in swirling nocturnal patterns in homage to Van Gogh's Starry Night?
Who on earth thought bright orange textured paint was a great choice for a bedroom?
Why does the basement of one home look and smell like some dank kennel, and what was the purpose of the bedroom upstairs that apparently was used as an office with a sink?
Most of the homes have been ravaged by vandals, thieves, or by former owners taking out their frustrations.
Light fixtures are broken or missing. Dishwashers are frequently missing, and stoves are damaged or dirty.
Carpet is either pet soiled, water damaged or ripped out. Walls have fist-sized holes in them and windows are shot out or broken by stone-throwing kids.
In one home a ceiling fan was left in the living room, but the blades were gone. In way too many of the homes, the air conditioners have either been placed in steel cages or locked into the garage to deter thieves.
One home looked and felt right after a twilight visit, but a check of the sex offender registry had us again looking elsewhere.
Several times we've entered houses that had become home to squatters.
One home in southern Newton County had a lived-in looking bedroom with an adult and a child's clothes on the floor, and in a country home near Social Circle we found a sleeping bag and a tall boy beer can in an upstairs room.
Most of the homes we've looked at are in need of some love and a lot of work. Every room needs paint, counters need attention, fixtures and fans need to be fixed or replaced.
We're up to the task when it comes to minor renovations and painting, but one beautiful historic home in Social Circle was way beyond our skill sets to bring up to date. It would have been nice to have a turn-of-the-previous century player piano in the parlor, but I know nothing of repairing plaster walls and updating wiring.
My dreams of owning a classic Southern manor come crashing violently down upon encountering the reality of my un-handyness around the home.
We've been at this for months, now. Our real estate professional, Carol, has been incredibly patient as we've seemingly changed our house-hunting parameters by whim.
We try to keep this in perspective. It's a business deal after all, and emotions should play little part in the decision.
And yet they do.
We want something that's bright, light, and airy, a property that makes you feel good about being there in a community that you want to be a part of.
We want a house that's a home.
Tharon Giddens is editor of The Covington News. Reach him at (678) 750-5011 or at email@example.com.