Thursday, January 17, 2013

The move

I've been a gypsy since I was 22 - I've moved 13 times in 25 years. Most of the times, it's been for work, but sometimes, not: I moved to Austin, Texas to find the me I lost (and I did!). You would think I would be really good at moving. I'm not. As I posted on Facebook, I start off carefully packing each box, making sure each item inside is protected, making sure each box is not too heavy, and packing things together that will be unpacked and placed together; but midway through, I start just throwing things in boxes and hoping for the best.

As I blogged about earlier, we bought a house in December, and are now living in Forest Grove, Oregon. We had started moving a car full of things every weekend since just after Christmas, and were feeling really optimistic about how much we'd moved and unpacked in four weeks time. But the Friday before our big, main move on Saturday, both of our offices were largely unpacked, and we both ran out of boxes. At around 8 in the evening, Stefan at last relented and said that, indeed, we needed help moving - my weak knees and slow-as-molasses-in-January ways just weren't going to be enough. We agreed that I would start calling at 7 in the morning the next day, trying to find movers.

That night, I slept 4 hours. 4. I need 7 just to be functional. I rarely have insomnia - I worship sleep, and do everything I can to have a really decent night. When I don't get enough sleep, it leads to tears, poor-decision-making and panic attacks the next day - I'm so not exaggerating. At university, I pulled some all-nighters, true, but that was 25 years ago - my middle-aged brain just can't handle that anymore.

At 7 a.m., we got up and I was on Yelp almost immediately, looking for movers. My first call was to VOZ Workers' Rights Education Fund - I really wanted to be supportive of people who really want to work, but the web site said one thing about when they were open, the Facebook page said another, and none of my calls were returned. I called four other places recommended (for the most part) on Yelp; two called back and were quite gracious but were fully booked - both said they could do it on Sunday. Then I called College Student Movers. Kyle said they were booked all day, but could be at our place in Canby by 3 to help load - but they'd only have time to load, not unload. I said YES!

A friend of Stefan's from work came to help load, and was AMAZING. I posted to my public Facebook account lamenting our need for movers, hoping for a recommendation, and my neighbor showed up - his daughter had been reading over her mom's shoulder on Facebook and said, "Oh, Mom, we HAVE to help her!" I went and got muffins and biscuits for munchies for our crew, blocked off the kitchen for Albi, and found little items for the kids next door to take out (they were DIEING to help).

By noon, I'd realized that we were going to be packed up and on the road by 2, and therefore would need the guys to help us UNPACK instead. Since they are based in Hillsboro, which is near Forest Grove, I was pretty sure this news would go over well. And it did - a text message and phone call and we were all set.

I loaded up what I could in the car, put Albi's bed in the very back of the Honda Fit, and then it was time to get Albi in. I was worried - she hadn't been in the car in many, many months. She's always loved to ride in the car, but in the last few months, her joints have become very sensitive - no more deep tissue massages like she used to love, as they hurt her now. I'm sure she's got more aches and pains than even me. I walked her out to the car, picked her up, and she tried to bite me. Good thing she's blind and couldn't see! I felt miserable for hurting her and started to tear up. As I drove off, I could see her in the rearview mirror, ears back, looking angry, and listening to figure out what in the hell was going on. I wondered if I was going to have to pull over to the side of the road. But within a couple of miles, she was doing the circle-before-I-lay-down dance, and she stayed reclined for the hour-long trip to our new home.

Once we got to Forest Grove, the movers were already helping Stefan unload. I left Albi in the car - she was laying down on her bed, seeming to be relatively content. And I left her there for an hour while I directed the movers to the proper rooms and made coffee.

I left my cell phone in the car, and during the move, Stefan was texting me , asking me to bring him coffee, and wondering why I was ignoring him. Sorry, honey!

One of the moving guys, Nobel (pronounced Noble), said he always wanted a German Shepard, so I picked him to help me get Albi out of the car. At first, I thought we'd try a ramp for her to walk down, but there was no board long enough that would give her any easy walk down. So I decided we'd just pick up the entire bed, with her on it, and lay it down in the drive way. Well, we could have walked Ms. Queen of Sheba into the house for all she cared. We laid her down on the drive way, and she just laid there, listening, wondering what in the heck was going on, but not making any effort to move - she was perfectly content on her bed. Sorry I didn't get a photo - I had no idea where my camera was. Eventually, I got her up to walk and I brought her and the bed into my office. I closed the door, and an hour later, when I checked on her, she was laying on her bed, just listening. Geesh what a good dog.

We had everything inside the house by 6 p.m. I tipped the movers big time - they so earned it - and then we heated up some leftover chinese food and talked about how hard this whole process has been. Because it's been HARD. I got the Internet working, Stefan put our bed together, and I realized for the first time how huge our bedroom is now and managed to do a little dance in celebration (plenty of room to put up Stefan's German closet without making the room feel crowded - I wasn't expecting SO much room!).

We spent about an hour on the Internet each, I took Albi out for one more pee, and we crashed at around 10.

Unfortunately, Albi was wired from all the new smells and surroundings, and got up more than a few times in the night. Finally, I got out of bed, took the pillow and covers with me, and slept in the floor with her. It was the only way she'd sleep. And I was so tired from the day, and from having only 4 hours sleep before, I slept soundly on the floor.

We still have stuff in Canby, even after going there again on Sunday and loading up a car full of stuff. We have paid rent through January, so there's no immediate deadline to get it all out, but it's frustrating to keep having to go back there. We have a growing list of repairs HERE that we'd really like to focus on.

My downfall, in terms of stuff, is books and papers. Once I started working from home, I had to create space for an entire career's worth of such. And I use a lot of the materials regularly - it's amazing what I can find in my little library that I can't find online. But I long to spend a week doing nothing but scanning things so I can throw the paper versions away. I've committed myself to getting rid of at least two full boxes of books and old software - I hope to do so through a combination of eBay, a garage sale, and a donation to Goodwill (there are SO many Goodwill outlets in Oregon - what's up with that?).

I'll try to scale back my non-work-related library, but the last time I did that, in 2000 in Austin, I deeply regretted it, as I love to re-read books, and I ended up hunting down some of those books in used books stores and re-buying them. I don't want to make that mistake again.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

We bought a house

Haven't updated in a while because we have been immersed in HOUSE BUYING HELL. What an awful process. I've done tons of research over the years, asked friends lots of questions, and I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. I'm just really glad we were with a credit union rather than a for-profit bank - I can't imagine how much more awful the process would have been, how much more vigilant against getting scammed we would have had to be, if we'd been with a for-profit bank.

So… we bought a house! And we've moved fom Canby to Forest Grove. We hope it's the right move: that Stefan will, at last, be able to be a volunteer fireman (hope this can happen later in 2013), that he'll have a shorter commute to and from work, that I'll have an easier time getting to and from Portland via the barely marginal PDX public transit system (we continue our struggles to be a one-car family), and that the city will feel like home in a way that Canby never did.

I'm now a home owner, something I've never experienced before. I had a very particular image in my mind of what buying my first house would be like: it would also be the last house I bought, because I would love it so much, I would never want to leave it. There would be a back porch, room in the vast yard for every crazy gardening idea I ever wanted to do, a small bunk house for visiting motorcyclists, a chicken coop and small chicken yard, and space for my pet donkey that I would adopt soon after I bought the house. It would also be in a city and state I wanted to live in forever - I'd still travel, but I'd never move again.

That didn't happen. What we bought is not my dream house that I want to live in for the rest of my life - I couldn't find that house, unfortunately, at least not within my price range or that didn't need at least $100,000 worth of work. Our house is, instead, the proverbial "good investment." Given what I experienced in the housing market since July 2012, there's no question the economy is getting better, and will continue to do so, and buying a house now makes really great economic sense. Therefore, in five years, after ripping out all of the carpets in about 2000 square feet and replacing such with laminate that looks like hardwood flooring, replacing the single-pane windows, painting, putting in a french drain, retiling the main bathroom, putting in a French drain, getting the chimneys in working order, cleaning all the ducts and dealing with whatever huge problem I know is waiting in the wings (furnace? plumbing?), we will, supposedly, be able to sell this for much more than we paid for it.

Would be wonderful to remodel the kitchen and oh-so-pink main bathroom as well, but I'm not sure we can afford it.

And then there's our furniture - our furnishings are a hodgepodge. A couple of pieces are from my university days. Some are cast-offs from friends who were upgrading their own homes. Much of it is from Stefan's first apartment back in Germany. These will be the last things we replace, and that won't be for a couple of years, at least.

I don't at all regret not buying a house before now, as I've blogged about before. I hope I don't regret it now. Buying a house means no more looking for a job outside of PDX. It means I'm tied to this area in a way I've never been tied to anywhere before, and that scares me, the gypsy, hugely. If anything goes wrong, I have no one person to call to fix it - I have a growing list of numbers to handle the problems that are inevitably coming our way.

I'm happy to be here and I think that, in a couple of years, I might even be in love with this house, once the insides and outside look the way we want it, and we see that we can still travel as much as Stefan's vacation, and our budget, allows.  

I like the house, but I love the neighborhood. We live in a historic neighborhood, and many of the houses are gorgeous, either because they have been restored to their historic beauty or because people have remodeled them to be really funky and fun. In some ways, it reminds me of the Highlands in Louisville, though most of the houses are much smaller and much father apart. It's more of a feeling than a look.

Our house has tremendous potential. I think it will be beautiful once we've done all we want to, and that I'll love showing it off once those things are done. This is a neighborhood where it's normal to put raised beds in the front lawn for vegetables (the back yard is too dark for what I want to grow), and I can't wait to really garden again, something I haven't gotten to do since I lived in Austin. There's room for a green house in the front as well. I have a great idea for replacing part of the fence along the side of the house. And the backyard is going to be a great place for corn hole and grilling out, especially on very hot days. There's a big patch of bamboo, and I have all sorts of ideas for harvesting it and using it in various ways.

So... we bought a house!