Jo's Journal: How Moving Next Door to My Sister Changed My Life


Credit: John Troppello

How Moving Next Door to My Sister Changed My Life

Reconnecting through proximity brought us closer

by Joanne Troppello

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” — Jane Howard

Family is an integral part of my life.

Life is not perfect, and neither is my family.

We’re all imperfect beings, but we love each other and have remained close through the years. My husband and I have been through some rough patches with family members on both sides during our sixteen years of marriage.

However, family is still family and we always will be a part of each other’s lives—even if the level of closeness fluctuates.

“Other things may change, but we start and end with the family.” — Anthony Brandt

Troubled times

My husband and I were renting a condo that had issues with toxic mold. The landlord was slow in completing repairs. Exposure to the mold caused health issues for both of us. I suffered more than my husband because I work from home as a freelance copywriter and had increased exposure to it.

We tried to find a new place to rent and were having difficulty locating something. However, we knew that we needed to locate something soon, to ensure that we were living in a mold free environment—and the physical, mental, and emotional healing could begin.

Moving out

My sister and her girls, ages 6 and 5, moved last May and relocated to a place in the country. She knew about our situation and she and my mom were trying to help us find another place to rent.

She moved into an old schoolhouse that was converted into a home with an attached apartment, which was rented out at the time. I was happy for her and the girls that they found a nice place to rent that they could call home. We joked that wouldn’t it be neat if the attached apartment became available for rent and my husband and I could move in.

I remember thinking that will never happen. I started to feel depressed and thought we’d never get out of this toxic mold environment.

Two months later in July, my sister called me back and reminded me of our conversation. She shared that the couple who was renting the apartment had given notice and was moving out. The apartment was available to rent in September.

I was shocked, but excited at the same time. It was a whirlwind two months of packing and moving into the new place. Finally, I felt like I could literally and figuratively breathe again.

Reconnecting again

There is a seven year age difference between me and my sister. I’m the older one. Growing up, we didn’t always have a close relationship due to our age difference. However, we eventually grew closer as we got older. I consider my sister my best friend and love that we are now neighbors.

Being neighbors with a sibling might not work for everyone. However, it’s been great for us. Sure, we don’t always get along and sometimes things might start to get rocky, but we can read each other pretty well and know when we need space.

Coronavirus pandemic

I believe that God has a plan and it was His plan for us to move next door to my sister and her girls—especially through this coronavirus pandemic.

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” — George Bernard Shaw

My husband is a pest control service pro and this type of work was deemed as an essential service during COVID-19. Thankfully, he still had work, even though he lost some hours during the first month of quarantine life.

If we had still been living in the condo with the toxic mold, I would have felt extremely isolated during the stay-at-home directives. God knew what was going to happen before it happened. We had been living in the new location next door to my sister for five months before the coronavirus started in the US.

It’s been a blessing to live next door.

We’ve been sort of “quarantined together” with my sister and the girls. Sure, we live in two separate places, but the units are attached and on the same property.

My sister hasn’t wanted to bring the girls to the store during quarantine life, so it’s been helpful that my husband has been able to watch them while Lori and I have gone to the store during our weekly grocery run.

It’s been helpful for us to have the chance to chat throughout the day during the week and share our feelings about how surreal this situation has been.

George Floyd protests

I was horrified to learn about how George Floyd was killed. My heart is broken over the sadness and unrest in our country. I’ve been praying each day for unity and for all those hurting during this time.

It has been somewhat frightening since we live about 38 miles from one of the major cities where protests have turned to riots. We live in a rural area but are still about 9 miles from a town that had a protest. We heard that the protest had thankfully remained peaceful—but it still felt so surreal.

Through all of this, God knew what was going to happen. I am thankful that my sister—who was deployed to work from home during COVID-19—and I can be supportive to each other while trusting God.

Faith over fear

“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” — George Santayana

Today, we planted a vegetable garden and it was so beautiful to see my nieces enjoy the process and start to get excited that veggies were actually going to grow from these plants.

Times are uncertain, but I trust in God and not in man or my circumstances. I choose to rely on God to help me love unconditionally and walk in faith over fear throughout these surreal conditions.


Previously published on Medium.


After this article was published on Medium, I started a YouTube Channel, Sunflower Quest, and did my first interview with my sister. You can watch the interview in the video below.



About the Author


Joanne Troppello at Mustard Seed Sentinel

Joanne Troppello is an author, writer, and poet. She is the publisher of the online Christian lifestyle magazine, Mustard Seed Sentinel.


Connect with Joanne on Twitter and join in cultivating positivity in your life and sharing it with others by subscribing to the Sunflower Quest Community.


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