Bare necessities

I’m wandering around in the little apartment that is a temporary home, looking for things I know I brought over, wondering how anything could be lost in this small space.

There’s nothing like a move to put me in perpetual hide and seek mode. Why is it I can see exactly where the thing I want was stored in the house? And I have no idea where it landed when I unpacked boxes two weeks ago. But I knew to expect this…I’ve been through all the games before. My favorite is the one when I begin to question…could I have left something behind? Or did a box really get lost between the last address and the new one? Even though I did the last walk through the house and know there was nothing there, not one thing…still, inevitably, I’ll wonder.

You know the feeling when you’ve looked everywhere twice, and you know you put it in…some item that wasn’t even that important, until it’s nowhere to be found. And now it’s an obsession. Must.find.IT!

I once lost some little collectibles for about a decade, didn’t find them for two moves. They had been so carefully wrapped and stored in a little cedar chest that they lived, quite safe, but totally lost to me, until I was doing a sort for a third move. Well that was a mystery solved! I had long ago thought they fell off the moving truck and given up looking for them.

Another thing I find happens with a move…I almost immediately begin to forget what I own. Not the big stuff…I can certainly remember the big items. And some of the little things…sentimental stuff, or sometimes just random odds and ends. One good thing about storing most of the things from the house…it will feel like Christmas when I open the boxes.

I’m always surprised when it comes to unpacking, how out of sight is quickly out of mind. In some ways I feel good…maybe I’m not too attached to the stuff if I don’t carry a mental imprint around, waiting till I see the real things again. On the other hand…maybe I’m not as attentive as I like to think…if I could forget about half of what I own so easily, maybe I’m not paying enough attention to the details of life?

Well, that hardly seems right. In fact, sometimes I feel consumed by detail. That’s the effect of a move…I feel reduced to lists and to-dos, to the tedious chores of the day-to-day.

I’m ready to live simply for a while. Good thing, because it will be a while before I unpack the bulk of the boxes, make a new nest.

For now, I’m a minimalist, and I think I’m enjoying it.

This apartment is furnished with a hodge-podge of furniture…bits and pieces that are functional and practical, but not gathered into a cohesive look or style. The kitchen is basic too. With a variety of folks coming through to work at the clinic, and this apartment being one of the landing spots for the temporary help, the kitchen is outfitted to work camp standards but little more. There’s a crock pot, a toaster, a basic cook top and oven, a basic fridge and microwave. No dishwasher. The cookware is a combination of left-behinds and inexpensive non-stick pieces. The times I’ve been in this apartment in the past have been for a few days or a weekend here and there. No ongoing need to cook or make the kitchen functional beyond a few meals.

But since I may be here for months, I needed to do a little better than that. So I brought a few things.

I chose some favorite sheets and a quilt for the bed, and my own pillows. Nothing sleeps like good linens that are just the right weight. A few other homey touches made the list…scented candles for the coffee table, some favorite books, my Rowenta iron, some glasses and plates.

I brought a few of my cast iron pans to see me through.

The cast iron pieces, and my Kitchen Aid mixer…yes, I hauled it over, and it will drive out with me eventually. I brought favorite utensils, a couple of good knives, a sharpener, my coffee maker, a small blender. I brought my herbs and spices…well, what good would they do me to in storage? NO food items can go to storage.

I must admit, I likely won’t need a lot of them. But I figured I could leave those behind for someone else to use. (This is an apartment that benefits from past users’ leftovers, and I’ve been fortunate to find a just-opened bottle of olive oil or other pantry item I freely used because I didn’t have my own jar of whatever…a convenience of sharing a community space. The rules? If it’s yours, put your name on it. If you’re not coming back, or you don’t mind sharing, just leave it in a common space.)

Moving creates these crazy conversations in my head…keep or get rid of, what to do, what to do, what to do?!

So now I have a ton of spices on the shelf here, just in case I’m inspired to whip up anything exotic, and this week I had to buy a hook to hang on the bathroom door…one of the things that I can’t find, even though we had several at the house, and I thought they were in one of the boxes I hauled over.

Silly, really, but when I’m feeling a bit displaced, it’s the little things that begin to irritate…like not having an easy place in the bathroom to hang a robe, or drape a towel.

I hung my plastic hook on the door last night and put my morning robe on it, and felt a little better. It was a familiar sight, and that feels good. However small, a sight of home is still a sight of home.

In the past when we’ve stayed here, I’d fall back on a combination of soup and sandwich meals, simple warm-up dishes, even stocked up on some of the more upscale frozen pizzas. But now I’m doing my style of cooking, making real food that satisfies more than the quick and easy stuff of call weekends.

That’s not to say I’m whipping up gourmet fare. No, this kitchen isn’t inspiring heights of creativity. But a few familiar dishes, along with the other little touches that add comfort, and I find myself relaxing, de-stressing, catching my breath.

I find myself feeling grateful for an easy place to transition, never mind that the look won’t be featured on Pinterest.

It’s not a forever home. But even a temporary spot can be a shelter from the storm, and in the mornings, drinking hot coffee and wrapped in a cozy robe, I know it will do for the in-between time.

And maybe, before I’m done here, I’ll find what I’m looking for.

In Between

I’m in the land of in between. That is, I’ve left my last permanent home, and I’m not sure of where the next will be. That’s ok, and was part of the plan. Now that I’m here, temporarily situated in a small apartment, thinking about next consumes a lot of my time and energy. I’m working, finishing some projects that I’d begun for this small clinic, so I’m busy enough. But after hours and on weekends, the task is to focus, to research, to outline.

We’ve had a nomadic course through life, staying put in some locations for years…I think 12 years was the longest time we lived in one location. Other places were home for two, or three, or five years. We’ve roamed about the country, sampling different regions and climates, and there’s been good about most of our choices.

Now, I’m feeling the pull of family again, feeling the need for a road system, and for a choice that can serve for the years to come.

Closing in the on the year, the goal is simple: pick a ferry date for January, and a plan for driving out. We’ll keep work going in Alaska, but it’s time to invent a new formula for living. And that means a new location for the down time.

We’re looking for four seasons, a soft winter climate, something on the western side of the country. Looking for a smaller community but with access to a regional airport. We’ve considered everything from Sonoma County, CA to Lane County, OR, to Walla Walla, WA, to Grand Junction, CO…and we’re still looking, still sorting.

So, anyone have a suggestion? Where would you choose to live if you could go anywhere?

“Even the smallest actions are steps in the right direction.”    

“This is the beginning of anything you want.”

Selling a house, packing a home

Tomorrow the movers come. I’m not quite ready. And by not quite, I mean I have a few days’ worth of work left to do. Somehow I’ll power through, just like I’ve done for past moves. There’s an adrenaline born of sheer panic that kicks in, and suddenly the stacks begin to disappear into boxes. I’m more ready than it appears to the eye. But still, there’s a lot to accomplish in the next 24 hours.

The good thing is: this is an Alaska move. That means: the things I’m shipping out go to Seattle by barge, and by sheer good luck I chose to have the movers come on the day the barge comes through town for pick up. I’m missing tomorrow’s barge. But that’s a good thing. Because that means that the bulk of my shipment will go down to the container at the barge line yard, but I’ll have access to it and can add the boxes that I’m not quite done with later tomorrow, or even Friday.

Friday is D day, because that’s the last day we have the use of the house. So I have to be done by 4:00 on Friday.

And it’s good to have a deadline…otherwise, this could stretch out for another week, or even longer.

The definition of moving is: one big decision, followed by a million little ones.

I think I’ve looked at everything I own. Twice. Maybe three times. If I have to make another decision about what to do with anything, it may be the end of me. I think there are only so many decisions in a person, and I’ve surely reached my limit with this move.

I’m doing another multi-sort…store, sell, donate, trash, keep with me. I have different areas of the house designated for each stack, and as I progress, some of the stacks have diminished. The sell/donate/trash area is almost done. I have a couple of things being picked up at the last minute, but most of those items are dispersed.

The things to store are in decent shape, although I have a few hours left for the final touches.

The things I’m keeping with me for the in-between are the ones that are causing me a little angst…I think I have more than I can fit in my car. I could be in a wee bit of trouble.

Fortunately I have friends in town I can ask to hold a box or two, or ten, until I can get back to pick up. Initially I’m just going about 15 miles to another community. This is a soft landing, a temporary apartment that we can use while we sort out the long term plan.

While I do my last emptying of this drawer and that cupboard, I wipe down, and clean, and think.

Just when I’m all ready to do this, I get a lump in my throat, and the simple act of wiping down my kitchen range makes me weepy.

It’s been a home, and a good one.

It’s been a source of some conflict. Rob never wanted this house, and I did, and it’s been a source of angst between us. No doubt about that.

And yet, it’s been home too, a grand old lady, born in 1920, standing proud almost a century later. A comfortable nest in a rainy spot, it’s seen us through family holidays, quiet nights of talking, movie nights of laughter, teary nights of conflict. It’s been home the past almost-six years.

It’s taught me the value of good bones of an old structure, and the reality that the gracious and sturdy character of craftsman building are worth having, if you can get them.

I’m not particularly excited to hand it over to the buyers. They’re getting it with a low offer, born of my need to sell and a constellation of issues that made even a low offer palatable. But still, they seem difficult and cheap, and I have to admit, I feel a bit of a grudge handing over my home to people that don’t seem worthy.

Now that’s judgmental, isn’t it?

They’re probably lovely. I just feel irritated that they seem to disrespect this old house with their low offer and their difficult demeanor during the buying process. But it’s done, and now it’s time for me to dredge up some graciousness and present the house and the keys with a generous spirit.

That’s what I think the house deserves. Silly, I know. Houses are things, albeit big things. They don’t feel, or know, or think.

Do they?

I know that truth with my head, but tell that to my heart.

I wipe down surfaces and want to present it with its best foot forward. Because that’s what I think is due the house, never mind the buyers. I’m doing this because this is a lovely old place, and it deserves to be handed over in good style.

Silly, I know. But somehow I feel that leaving it in its best shape honors the house, and the way I’ve felt about it. And it’s the right thing to do, so I’m doing it.

I’ve had a fire sale to get out of town. It’s so expensive to ship out of state I’ve sold almost all the furniture and a lot of the household stuff I’ve accumulated. I’m leaving Alaska with eight small pieces of furniture and a lot of boxes. And that’s it. No appliances, no dining or living room or bedroom furniture. Just sold it all and waiting to see what “next” looks like.

Some minutes I feel I’m resetting, embarking on a great adventure. And the next minute I wonder where my mind has gone. Only time will tell which is the version of the story that’s true.

I know one thing…there’s nothing like moving and paying for it yourself to make you evaluate everything you own. And though I’ve said goodbye to some things I loved, I feel lighter, and free-er, and the flicker of excitement because I don’t know what the next chapter looks like.

I hope I’m brave enough and old enough for this adventure! At 54, I ought to be old enough for anything. But I’ll admit, changing the pattern without much of a plan in place, other than the temporary apartment, is a bit drastic, even for me. I hope I don’t get lost in the big world.

I hope my house will be in good hands, and will have a long life, looking out over the Tongass Narrows, watching the cruise ships come and go each season, and the float planes and other sea-going traffic buzzing round.

There’s a part of me that wants to say: RIP. But that hardly seems appropriate, much less gracious. I’m leaving the house, but it’s not going anywhere.

So I’ll just say: goodbye, 1320 Water Street. You were a good place to land.

Closed!

The sale of the house was final today. We have it for another week, but as of today, we’re guests, not owners.

It feels good to be done and ready to look toward next. I wish we hadn’t lost money on the sale, but it was time to make this change.

For now work will continue to be in SE Alaska, and home will be ??? Working part time allows for travel and wandering, discovery and the unexpected.

I’m spending next week finishing the packing, selling some things, organizing for storage. I should be feeling unsettled, but instead I feel on the brink of adventure.

It’s a good day, and a good place to be, and I’m going to sleep soundly tonight.

Birthday joys

Today is my birthday, and I’ve already heard from so many of my family and friends. So fun to see the notes on Facebook or the texts on my phone, to have morning calls and birthday cards. All sweet!

I had an amazing pre-birthday last weekend, and that was sweet too. Spent a long weekend in Sonoma County and soaked up warmth, sun, delicious food, biking, and beautiful scenery. What a treat that was! Driving the winding country roads, seeing the grapes hanging ready for harvest, stopping to make a photo of a picturesque view or beautiful winery was the perfect way to end the summer. More about that later…that trip deserves much more than a passing mention in today’s post!

Looking across the valley

Looking across the valley outside Healdsburg, CA

DSC00788

Chateau Montelena, Calistoga, CA

Harvest time!

Harvest time!

And on Thursday this week, I accepted an offer on the house. This is from the same couple that looked at it before, so we’ve already gone through the nitty-gritty of inspection, appraisal, offer and counter. They came back with a better deal, so now closing looks set for October 10th.

Aaahhh.

I remind myself again..life works out. Not always as I thought, and certainly not always neat and tidy, or even as I’d like. The house is still selling at a loss. But it is selling, and I won’t have to live through a 2+ year street replacement project. (Apparently that doesn’t trouble these buyers.) If I thought this was a forever home, it would be worth it. But that’s not the case.

As to what’s next, that’s still up in the air. For now, completing some fall work commitments, a break for the holidays, spending time catching up with family, and taking time out to make a good decision is the plan. The things that will ship out will go to storage in Seattle, so that’s an easy solution for a while.

Aaahhh.

I’ll admit my anxiety level has been high. Nice to see some light peeking through the clouds, and to acknowledge: it’s important to step back, take a breath, await events. I learn again that solutions sometimes come, not at once, but at last. And there’s probably a reason for that.

I can’t see the reason at the moment. I certainly can’t make sense of the house selling at a loss, and I’m not suggesting that there’s divine meaning behind everything. Just that I find it helpful to evaluate…is there a lesson here? Some takeaway I should file for future reference? Sometimes I get it, and sometimes not. Or maybe I’m overthinking.

But regardless…today is a good day, and I’m thankful to be spending at least a part of it sorting and boxing, taking up that task again.

And I think about “next” and the options on the horizon. There’s a piece of my brain that wonders about all this. I’m 54 today. Shouldn’t I be snug and dug in?

Yes, that would make sense, so of course that’s out.

The funny thing is I don’t see myself as the adventure loving type, not really. I’ve stumbled into some interesting choices, but I’ll be honest to say that’s been more a result of following the leader, rather than my own instincts.

But I’m curiously excited by the chance to mix it all up again, to live in anticipation, to wonder where the next birthday will be. And today, it’s enough that I can dream as I sort, letting my imagination roam at will, thinking about the constants in my life that keep me sane, regardless of the mailing address.

Faith. Family. Friends. That’s security, and that’s continuity.

The rest is just temporary anyway, and I know that more surely today than on any of my previous birthdays. It’s a good thing to understand, a good place to land.

Containers

If you can’t win one way, you look for another path. So the house is available for lease now, as well as for sale…whichever comes first I’ll take. I talked to my realtor about leasing options a couple of weeks ago, but felt I had to wait on the outcome of the offer on the table at the time.

I don’t want to own a house in Alaska forever, but for now, if I lease it that will be sufficient. So another waiting game begins.

I’m ready to take the subject of house off the table for a while and focus on other things. In the long run, as this whole ordeal has reminded me, a house is a thing. It’s a big thing, an expensive thing, as things go. And certainly houses are also homes.

But the real meaning of home travels around in the bodies of the people I love, and isn’t housed within four walls. Any four walls. Walls are just containers, really, like the containers you put your flour or sugar in to store in your pantry. The containers come in different shapes, and are made of different materials. But when I recognize walls of a house for what they really are…just containers for the people who live inside…suddenly, those walls take on their proper perspective.

I’m not going to tell myself I don’t like beautiful homes, and lovely walls. I do. And I’m not going to say that the structure I live in has no meaning. Of course our life experiences are shaped by location and the physical surroundings of our day-to-day.

But those surroundings don’t have to define experience, our very lives. And though I’ve known that, this has reminded me, again: I am not the house I live in. I don’t have to let it control the major decisions of my life.

I’ve found a spark of rebellion, and a healthy one I think. I’m ready to pull out of my slump and come back to the positive side of life. I’ve been trying to do that for a while.

Today it seems doable.

Today I’m reminded there are so many people who have issues larger than mine. It’s not about comparing, but it is about perspective. I want to always, always, come back to recognizing how much I have to be grateful for.

Life, any life, has troubles. I have my share of those, sure enough, and my share of sorrows. But gratitude resets me, grounds me, and oddly enough, allows me to take the focus off myself.

Today I am grateful for the freedom I have to believe as I choose, to express myself, to travel, to live where I want, to make of life what I can. I’m grateful for the people who keep freedom for me, and all who live in this country.

Thank you, thank you, for all you do.

Now that’s the proper perspective.

~ Sheila

When life knocks you flat…

It’s been a week. Short weeks always work out to be long in the end. I don’t know why or how, I only know it’s true. And this one has been no exception.

I knew it was a long shot. Usually I’m built to be positive. But this house offer…just didn’t feel right from the beginning. On Wednesday the buyers decided to walk away. It was disappointing. And it was a relief, oddly enough. I didn’t feel good about the offer, and the whole thing felt too rushed. Well, I may have time to regret that one if I sit with a house on Water Street for a long time to come. But when it’s right, it will be right…no forcing it. That’s never a good feeling.

So, in the spirit of cheering myself up and putting myself back on track I thought about the steps forward. What do I need to do to right myself? That’s the image I always see in my mind…my body upside down, somehow needing to find the way back up, back to hope, back to future.

It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t sitting surrounded by empty shelves and dreading unpacking a house I just rushed to pack.

When has my efficiency ever backfired so spectacularly?!

But there are silver linings. I got a free inspection and a free appraisal out of the process, thanks to the would-be buyers. And though the appraisal cost me the sale in the end, at least it helps to price more in line with the current market value. I tell myself things work out in the end. Isn’t that what you tell yourself when you’re disappointed?

I am disappointed, but there’s nowhere to go with that. The best cure for disappointment is action. And since I love the word “grace,” for all it’s meanings to my life, I created a little acronym to help me get going:

Grace

Happy weekend! I’ll be unpacking a bit, staging the house for future showings, and finding grace. And if you’re feeling in need of that gift, I hope you’ll find it too.

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

Hello September!

I know the official start to fall is still ahead of us, but for me, that’s always been the first day of September, so here we are again: in the season of falling leaves and pumpkins and apple crisps and cozy soups. These are a few of my favorite things.

Normally I would be pulling out autumn decor, moving my summer season look to the back of the cupboard and putting out the accents that hint at chill in the air and the smell of wood fires. But at the moment all of that stuff is boxed and I can’t bring myself to unearth it just yet.

I countered the offer I got last week and should have an answer by Wednesday. If the counter offer is rejected, that’ll be soon enough to pull out a few things to bring some fall color to the rooms. After all, the house will still be on the market, and selling is about staging, right? So it will be worth doing a little work to set the right tone. The goal is to have anyone who sees the house imagine themselves living here. And how could anyone do that in September without a little fall foliage to add some color?

In best September form, the sun is warm and strong today, the light lingering and offering hope that the fall rains won’t begin until October. Of course, no month in Ketchikan is free from rainfall. But some years September is an extension of summer, and others it feels like November.

I’m always tempted to look at school supplies in the fall, though I don’t have kids at home now. I look at the school lists in the stores and remember how many years we did that, stocking up and getting ready for the first big day of the new grades. Must run in the family. I know my mom and my daughter are school supply lovers too…just something about a pristine new notebook or box of crayons that have all their tips intact.

I think the calendar year should begin in September instead of January. It would take so much pressure off that month, and the holiday season in general. Maybe we should sign a petition?

Here’s hoping for good weather, a house sold, and the magic of fall, all coming together this week. I could really get excited about that. And it would be a small miracle, especially the house piece. But I’m open to that.

Fall bouquet

Fall bouquet

 

 

Real Estate 101

This has been a week of body blows. I’m lucky to be standing upright.

After I steeled myself to accept a low ball offer on the house, lower than we paid five years ago, because I thought it was worth it to move on to the next chapter, all the pieces began to fall into place. We made it through the inspection and a couple of minor repair issues intact, and I started thinning out, boxing up, and getting excited.

I thought I was going to change paths, go to culinary school in January and take my writing focus from healthcare to something I love, and to an industry that offers endless variety and opportunity. I wanted to experience training in a professional kitchen, work in the food industry, and create legitimacy and credibility for me to transition to that world.

And then the appraisal came in low. I didn’t see that coming.

In all the real estate transactions we’ve had over the years, we never had a property that appraised lower than the agreed on purchase price. To be honest, I guess I thought it was really a formality of the process. Never occurred to me that in one fell swoop, an appraisal could knock $40,000 off the value of my home.

Five  years ago we paid $379,000, and there was never a peep of concern about the house appraising high enough to meet that price. Now when I’ve got an offer of $365,000 on the table the appraisal comes in at $340,000. How is that possible?!

I know there are all sorts of technicalities and variables that appraisers consider, and I know the appraisal has to hold up to the scrutiny of the lender’s underwriters. I understand it’s not personal, or based on subjective impressions about the property. But the thing is, the end result is personal to me. I just got knocked down by $40,000, and that’s before the realtor commission and closing fees.

It’s very personal.

The buyers came back with another offer, the exact amount of the appraisal. So now instead of a sucky $365,000, I’m looking at a horrible $340,000.

But wait, there’s more!

We met with the project consultant for our street replacement this week. The street we live on is built on top of a wooden trestle, and that structure is reaching the end of its safe life. It’s scheduled to be replaced, with the work starting next summer. This is a joint project between the city, state, and the federal government. And of course it’s all done under “eminent domain,” which means that we don’t have any choice in what happens. We take the value that is offered for the easement rights during construction, and for the damages that will occur to our property. The offer on the table is $20,000, most of which will cover the replacement costs for the garden and the planters in front of the house. And guess what? If we sell, that goes to the buyer. So we take a $40,000 hit, from the purchase price we paid to the price we’re offered, we still pay commission and our share of closing costs, and the new buyers would immediately receive $20,000 to compensate for the road project.

And…after we were told a year ago that the utility cables strung in front of our house, and actually all along the street, would be moved under the new bridge as part of the project, we’ve now learned that the move of the cables will end at our house. At. Our. House! Is this a conspiracy? I can’t believe that the view we’ve been looking forward to…ok, the view is great, but it would be much better without cables in the way…has now been cut, due to government budget constraints. But the rest of the street still gets that perk. It’s only the last few homes that will get to keep the street level utilities. What were they thinking when they made that decision?!

Our lovely view and unlovely cables

Our lovely view and unlovely cables

I think my head is going to explode.

I can’t impact the issues of the street construction. But I’m not selling like this. I’m not desperate. I don’t know what the answer is, what it could be. But it’s not going to work like this. I’m already feeling bled out. I can’t take any more.

The other fun fact is that we’ll have approximately 4-6 MONTHS that we won’t be able to drive to our house. We’ll have to park way down the street and walk in. Then we’ll have to hire our own contractor and come up with a design for replacing the structures that will be removed during the road and new sidewalk construction, so we’ll have that to sort out too.

My house is already about two-thirds packed and boxed. I’m in chaos at every level, I’ve neglected a lot of my personal priorities…blog, family, friends, changed travel plans at the last minute… in the past few weeks to make all this happen, and now it’s just a mess. I can’t accept this offer…too wrenching. But I also know that the appraisal is out there, and any other offer I get is going to face the same hurdle. It doesn’t matter what offer I have in hand with this appraisal number, and that’s impacted by recent sales in the area of homes with similar square footage and amenities.

How is it fair that my home’s value is impacted by other sales in the area? I understand there’s a process in place to protect buyers and to look at fair market value. But how is it fair that I’m losing all this equity? Where’s the fairness to me?!

I need to breathe, need to regroup, need to think. And I have to decide if I keep packing boxes or start unpacking.

I don’t have the answers today. I probably won’t have them tomorrow, or even next week. But I need to slow down, make a good decision, and then find my resolve.

And one thing I’ve learned…if I should ever have a house to sell again, I’ll pay for my own appraisal before it goes on the market so I know exactly what I have to work with. I don’t want to go through this cycle ever again. And let me be a cautionary tale to the rest of you. At least someone should benefit from this experience, and it looks like it isn’t going to be me. At least not financially.

But maybe this is giving me other skills, other strengths. I hope so. I surely need to find the silver lining, and the sooner the better.

Strength: a river cuts through rock not because of its power but its persistence.